Taliban block Afghans’ access to airport

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ISLAMABAD: The Taliban warned on Tuesday that they would not extend the August 31 deadline announced by the Biden administration for withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan and urged the US to evacuate all its nationals by the agreed date. The group’s statement comes a day after its Doha based spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said the decision on extension beyond August 31 would be made by the Taliban top leadership.US allies have warned they will not be able to evacuate all those fleeing the Taliban by the end of the month.
Addressing a presser in Kabul on Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that they would block Afghans trying to leave the country from travelling to Kabul’s airport. “The road that ends at the Kabul airport has been blocked. Foreigners can go through it, but Afghans are not allowed to take the road,” Mujahid said, without clarifying how long that policy would be in effect. He urged the crowds of Afghans thronging the airport in hopes of leaving the country to instead go home, saying that the Taliban would “guarantee their security,” and noted that there was no list of people targeted for reprisals. But witnesses have previously described a Taliban crackdown on those who protest against the group. The Taliban is also actively seeking out Afghans who worked alongside US and Nato forces. Mujahid also called on the US “to not encourage Afghan people to flee their country,” adding, “This country needs our doctors, engineers and those who are educated — we need these talents.” He told fleeing Afghans that their lives would be in danger abroad. “Foreigners won’t care about you,” he said.
Mujahid also said that extending the deadline beyond August 31 would be a unilateral decision by the US against the agreement with the Taliban. “We won’t allow them to stay any longer and call on them to evacuate by the final date,” he said. Mujahid also asked women to stay at home for now, for their own safety. “Once security is re-established, you (women) would be able to return to work as normal,” he said. The spokesman denied reports of Taliban patrols conducting house-to-house searches to find targets for reprisals, saying: “We have forgotten the past.”
Ahead of the presser, Mujahid had posted a link to a Pashto interview of Mullah Yaqoob, son of the slain founder of the Taliban insurgent movement, Mullah Omar, and part of the group’s top decision-making council. Yaqoob, who, like his father, avoids camera appearances, blamed the US as well as European countries for the crisis at Kabul’s airport. “They have created the chaos by inviting people to settle them abroad. Majority of the Afghans fleeing see it as an opportunity to get access to Western countries that many others (illegal immigrants) have been trying hard to reach through a difficult, risky and illegal process,” Yakoob said, adding that it did not make sense to leave the county after a general amnesty had been announced. “Our fight was against the invaders and not the Afghans…,” the 32-year-old Taliban leader said. Yakoob blamed exiled president Ashraf Ghani for the crisis in Kabul, saying that the Taliban had a plan and wanted to enter Kabul through negotiations to be followed by amnesty for all. “But Ghani and his team escaped in a cowardly manner, creating a security vacuum. We had entered the city on the request of locals to restore law and order,” he claimed.
(With input from agencies)

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