Taliban ask Americans not to encourage Afghans to leave country: ‘We need their talent’

‘We ask the US, don’t encourage Afghans to leave,’ says Islamist group’s spokesperson

Tom Batchelor
Tuesday 24 August 2021 18:01
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Related video: British and American forces work together at Kabul Airport as Afghanistan evacuations continue

The Taliban have appealed to the US not to encourage Afghans to leave the country, saying their “talent” was needed as part of the rebuilding effort.

At a news conference, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said crowds at the airport should go home amid chaotic scenes and reports of at least 20 killed in recent days.

“We ask the Americans, don’t encourage Afghans to leave... We need their talent,” he said.

He added that the Taliban were “not in favour” of allowing Afghan citizens to leave the country and that the 31 August deadline for evacuations from Kabul by Western and other nations was unlikely to be extended.

The focus for the Taliban now was on clearing up and improving security, he said.

In an appeal to those still trying to leave that they would be safe if they remained in Afghanistan, the spokesperson added: “We guarantee their security.”

Many Afghans fear reprisals and a return to the harsh version of Islamic law that the Taliban enforced when in power from 1996 to 2001, in particular the repression of women.

Seeking to ease such fears, the Taliban spokesperson said it was trying to come up with a procedure so women could return to work. He also said there was no list of people targeted for reprisals. “We have forgotten everything in the past,” he said.

However, Taliban fighters have set up checkpoints throughout Kabul stopping motorists to ask where they are headed or checking car papers, and reports suggest some fighters have been going door to door in search of former government workers and activists. 

The promise of security for Afghan nationals came on the same day that the UN’s human rights chief warned of “credible” reports of severe abuses in areas under Taliban control.

The allegations included “summary executions” of civilians and security forces who had laid down their arms and restrictions on women. 

Michelle Bachelet urged the Human Rights Council to take “bold and vigorous action” to monitor the rights situation in Afghanistan.

“At this critical moment, the people of Afghanistan look to the Human Rights Council to defend and protect their rights,” she said.

“I urge this council to take bold and vigorous action, commensurate with the gravity of this crisis, by establishing a dedicated mechanism to closely monitor the evolving human rights situation in Afghanistan.” 

Days earlier, a Norway-based private intelligence group that provides information to the UN said it had obtained evidence that the Taliban have rounded up Afghans on a blacklist of people they believe worked in key roles with the previous Afghan administration or with US-led forces. Several Afghans are in hiding, saying they fear such reprisals.

Additional reporting by agencies

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