Wednesday 9/29/21
AFGHANISTAN

Taliban promises sceptical Afghans amnesty for all, rights for women

The amnesty likely applies to those who worked supporting foreign forces in the country, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said
17 August 2021, Berlin: The flag of Afghanistan is held in front of the Reichstag building during a rally for a quick and unbureaucratic evacuation for threatened people from Afghanistan. Photo: Christoph Soeder/dpa
The flag of Afghanistan is held in Berlin during a rally for a quick and unbureaucratic evacuation for threatened Afghans. Photo: Christoph Soeder/dpa

The Taliban struck a conciliatory tone on Tuesday during the first press conference held by the militant Islamists following their takeover of Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban is not hostile to anyone, promising Afghans a general amnesty that would also apply to those who had fought against the group in the past.

"When the government is formed, then everyone will have a part in it," Mujahid said, adding that the Taliban were not simply interested in power, but were seeking to build an Islamic government.

The amnesty likely applies to those who worked supporting foreign forces in the country, Mujahid said.

When asked about innocent civilians who had been killed in the battle for the country, Mujahid said their deaths were unintentional, going on to blame the chaos in Kabul of recent days on the incompetence of the former government.

The Taliban also advocates for women's rights within the framework of Sharia law, he said, adding that women would be able to work in the fields of health, education and other areas.

He also had reassuring words for the media, saying outlets should remain impartial, but that any content should not run counter to Islamic values.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan for about five years at the end of the 20th century. Many who experienced that time are unwilling to take their chances and have desperately sought to escape the country.

An Islamist society

During their previous rule, the Taliban enforced a strictly Islamist society, which meant most women were banned from public life and men could be punished for not displaying enough piety. Perceived vices, such as alcohol and Western music, were banned.

As the Taliban tried to win over skeptics with their surprisingly mild tone on Tuesday, calls came from world leaders for the Taliban to allow those wishing to leave Afghanistan to do so in safety as well as warning them to respect human rights in general.

"The Taliban must respect and facilitate the safe departure of all those who wish to leave," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels. Kabul airport, borders and roads must be open, he said.

Though the alliance itself no longer had any military personnel on the ground, it still had a civilian representation, which was assisting with evacuation efforts, he stressed.

"We remain committed to completing evacuations including of Afghan colleagues as soon as possible," the alliance chief said, adding that allies would send additional aircraft.

The White House confirmed on Tuesday that some 3,500 US soldiers are currently deployed to secure Kabul airport after scenes of chaos and panic there on Sunday and Monday. Takeoffs and landings are possible again on both the military and civilian sections.

Evacuation

The US forces are facilitating evacuations of US nationals and former Afghan aides to the troops. The troop presence is also needed for other nations to evacuate their citizens.

Nine US Boeing C-17 transport planes have touched down in Kabul since Monday, carrying soldiers and equipment, the Pentagon said.

Seven planes have since departed again with over 700 US citizens and Afghans on board.

Currently about one plane can land and take off per hour, the Pentagon said, adding the safety of the airport was guaranteed.

As the US military continued its evacuation measures, the Taliban's co-founder and one its highest-ranking officials, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, arrived back in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

A delegation led by Baradar, who is deputy head of the Taliban and is in charge of the Taliban's political office in Doha, landed at Kandahar airport in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday afternoon, a Taliban spokesman announced on Twitter.

Baradar is the highest-ranking representative of the Islamists known to have arrived in Afghanistan so far, and is tipped by intelligence sources to be given a post similar to that of prime minister on the eventual formation of the Taliban government. In February 2020, he signed the agreement with the US on behalf of the Islamist militant organization to end the US-led military mission in Afghanistan.

Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada has not been seen in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover and his whereabouts is unknown.

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