The Taliban have agreed to allow “safe passage” from Afghanistan for civilians hoping to join a US-directed airlift from the capital, US President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday, although a timetable for completing the evacuation of Americans, Afghan allies and possibly other civilians has yet to be worked out with the country’s new rulers.
Sullivan acknowledged reports that some civilians were encountering resistance, “being turned away or pushed back or even beaten”, as they tried to reach the Kabul international airport.
He said “very large numbers” were reaching the airport and the problem of others was being taken up with the Taliban, whose stunningly swift takeover of the country on Sunday plunged the US evacuation effort into chaos, confusion and violence.
Pentagon officials said that after interruptions on Monday, the airlift was back on track and being accelerated despite weather problems, amid regular communication with Taliban leaders. Additional US troops arrived and more were on the way, with a total of more than 6,000 expected to be involved in securing the airport in coming days.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby disclosed that US commanders are speaking with Taliban commanders “multiple times a day” about avoiding conflict at the airport. This suggested that the new rulers of Afghanistan, who swept to power after 20 years of war against the U.S.-supported Kabul Government, plan not to disrupt the evacuation. Kirby would not discuss details of the Taliban arrangement, and Sullivan said the question of how much time the Taliban will give the evacuation is still being negotiated.
Biden has said he wants the evacuation completed by August 31. Mr. Sullivan declined to say whether that deadline would hold.
Sullivan said US officials are engaged in an “hour by hour” process of holding the Taliban to their commitment to allow safe passage for civilians wishing to leave the country. Asked whether the Biden administration recognizes the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, Sullivan said it was too soon to say and that the Taliban’s record of adhering to international human rights standards “has not been good.” – THE HINDU