On August 18, 2021, people await their evacuation from Afghanistan at the airport in Kabul after the breathtaking takeover of the country by the Taliban. (Photo by – / AFP) (Photo by – / AFP via Getty Images)
– | AFP | Getty Images
Evacuations from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport picked up on Wednesday after a hectic and deadly start to the week as foreigners and Afghans scramble to leave the country now under Taliban control.
Thousands of diplomats and aid workers have been evacuated along with at least several hundred Afghans, according to Western governments, although the exact numbers are still unclear.
According to Reuters, citing an anonymous security officer, more than 2,200 diplomats and other civilian workers were evacuated on military flights, although the nationality of the evacuees has not been confirmed and it is not known whether that number includes the more than 600 penned Afghans on a U.S. C. -17 plane that took them to Qatar.
Evacuees populate the interior of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft that is bringing about 640 Afghans to Qatar from Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15, 2021.
Courtesy Defense One | Handout via Reuters
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The UK government says it is evacuating around 1,000 people from Afghanistan every day. “We are still bringing out British nationals … and the Afghan nationals who are part of our local program,” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC on Wednesday.
The Pentagon’s goal is to bring 5,000 to 9,000 people out of Kabul every day, Army Major Hank Taylor, deputy director of the Joint Staff for Regional Operations, said at a news conference Tuesday. Taylor expects a US military cargo plane to take off every hour. He said about 4,000 U.S. soldiers were stationed in the capital to assist with evacuation efforts and provide security.
Taliban promise rights, amnesty
The missions are carried out while the Taliban tell the world what their leadership should be.
In a somewhat surreal press conference on Tuesday evening, a spokesman for the militant Islamic group, notorious for its brutal executions and suppression of dissidents, women and anyone who violates their ultra-conservative rules, promised rights for women and the press and amnesty for government officials .
“I want to assure the international community, including the United States, that no one will be harmed,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters. “We don’t want internal or external enemies.”
He said the Taliban would ensure the safety of anyone who laid down their arms, regardless of their previous affiliation, and would allow women to work and go to school, but “within the framework of Islam” – a vague parameter given the extremes Interpretation of the religion for which the group is known.
Reports of human rights abuses by Taliban fighters have surfaced in other parts of the country in recent weeks, and many Afghans are desperate to flee the country for fear of reprisals for their role in supporting the US and Allied forces. Whether the group will stay true to their word is still open.
Reports of violence, blocked routes to the airport
In contrast to the conciliatory image that Taliban officials tried to convey during their press conference on Tuesday, reports of beatings and shooting of civilians and women who were excluded from educational institutions by Taliban members have surfaced from Kabul and across the country.
Despite promises of a “safe passage” to Kabul airport for those trying to leave the country, the foreign ministry has received reports of people being turned away, pushed back and beaten trying to get into the airport, the national security adviser said Jake Sullivan told reporters Tuesday.
Photos released on Wednesday by NBC and taken by a Los Angeles Times reporter show bloody adults and children in Kabul after being beaten by Taliban fighters. The group’s officials deny that their militants participated in such acts of violence and insist that they were carried out by men posing as the Taliban.
Women also report that they have been banned from their workplaces and educational institutions by Taliban members, contradicting the group’s pledge to allow women to continue to work and go to school.
“The Taliban have not allowed my ex-colleague here on @TOLOnews and the famous host of the state-run @rtapashto Shabnam Dawran to start work today,” wrote Miraqa Popal, news chief of Afghan broadcaster Tolo News, on Twitter on Wednesday, along with one of them Video of his colleague narrating the event.
“Despite wearing a hijab and correct ID, I was told by the Taliban: The regime has changed. Go home,” says Dawran, the female presenter, according to Popal in the video.