(Kabul) Fear is still growing on Wednesday among thousands of Afghans ready to do anything to leave their country through the Taliban after US President Joe Biden confirmed the end of evacuations next week.
Posted on Aug 25, 2021 at 8:20 am Updated at 4:16 pm
David FOX Agence France-Presse
In front of the capital’s airport, secured by more than 6,000 American soldiers, thousands of Afghans were crammed into a tense atmosphere for days. Some camp there as whole families. They all hope to get into the complex and catch a plane.
Despite a chaotic situation, 88,000 people have been evacuated since the airlift was set up on August 14, shortly before the Taliban invaded Kabul and seized power, the White House said.
According to General Hank Taylor of the US Joint Chiefs, “58,000 to 60,000” left Afghanistan through the US alone.
The operations have intensified in the last few hours: a total of almost 19,000 people were exfiltrated within 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday, 11,200 of them from the USA and 7,800 from other countries.
Many of these tens of thousands fled because they feared for their lives during the Twenty Years’ War while working for the overthrown government, Western forces, or civilians.
At a virtual summit on Tuesday with other G7 leaders, Biden rejected the idea of the US military presence in Kabul over the 31. The airport.
“We are well on the way to complete the” mission “by August 31st to” evacuate people as efficiently and safely as possible, “said the US President.
However, adherence to this deadline “depends” on the Taliban’s cooperation to give the departure candidates access to the airport, he warned, warning them of “obstacles” to these extremely difficult operations.
The head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, assured on Wednesday that the Taliban pledged to keep endangered Americans and Afghans in the country after August 31.
“The Taliban have made a public and private commitment to enable Americans, other foreigners and vulnerable Afghans to travel safely after August 31,” he said.
Several countries pushed for the deadline to be extended beyond August 31 to evacuate anyone who so wishes. Especially since the withdrawal can take effect on that day if the evacuations have to be interrupted earlier and the United States has to repatriate its military apparatus.
Belgium, therefore, announced that evacuations of its nationals and the Afghans it protects would cease on Wednesday evening, and France warned that the airlift would cease on Thursday evening if the August 31 date is respected.
For its part, Turkey announced the withdrawal of its soldiers who, together with the American military, were guarding Kabul airport.
Before Mr Biden’s speech, the Taliban had emphatically reiterated their “firm” opposition to extending the evacuations after the end of August.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid accused the United States and its allies of draining the country of vitality by evacuating the Afghans who worked with them, often among the most experienced.
Many Afghans, often urban and educated, fear that the Taliban will establish a regime that is just as fundamentalist and brutal as it was when they came to power between 1996 and 2001.
“The beliefs of the people in Afghanistan have changed over the past twenty years. […] Afghan women want to live, to work. Young people live in a different world, not that of the Taliban. The Taliban are now the most isolated group in the country, ”Ahmad Wali Massoud, brother of the late commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, a figure in the fight against the Taliban, told AFP.
“People think Afghans are backward, that they will accept the Taliban’s version of Sharia law, but that is no longer the case,” he added in an interview with AFP in Paris, where he is visiting.
According to him, peaceful or armed “resistance” has “spread enormously” across the country.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that the international community should continue the “dialogue with the Taliban” in order to preserve the achievements of recent years.
Fear for the economy
The Taliban know that they have to rely on existing administrative structures and do not have the necessary know-how to govern the country alone and, in particular, to revive an economy that was destroyed by war and heavily dependent on international aid.
Outside of Kabul, in the countryside and in some cities, people are relieved that the decades of conflict are coming to an end. But women and ethnic minorities are concerned about their plight.
In some places the Islamists have introduced a form of separation between men and women in the workplace or in school. Under their previous regime, women could not work or study.
A humanitarian worker from Khost (southeast), a region acquired by the Taliban, describes them as more accommodating than in the past. So far, “the Taliban’s stance is much more flexible than expected,” he says, but people are “afraid for the economy.”
The Taliban have not formed a government and are waiting for the last foreign soldier to leave the country. With no country-wide laws, the rules differ from region to region.
In Kabul at least, the Islamists try to present themselves in a more moderate light, often without convincing.
On Wednesday, the presidents of Russia and China, Vladimir Poutine and Xi Jinping, announced their intention to intensify their cooperation against “terrorism and drug trafficking from Afghanistan”.