WASHINGTON – After taking over Afghanistan, the Taliban on Tuesday declared “amnesty” for government officials and promised to uphold the rights of women under Islamic law – promises met with skepticism in Washington.
Prior to the US-led invasion in 2001, women had virtually no rights under the oppressive rule of the fundamentalist Taliban. Most were forced to quit their jobs and stay at home, denied access to education and health care, and endured high rates of illiteracy and maternal mortality.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said at a news conference on Tuesday that they were working to form a government and that “no one will be harmed.” Mujahid said the Taliban’s goal is to ensure that “Afghanistan is no longer a battleground for conflict.”
“We have pardoned all those who have fought against us. The enmities have come to an end,” he said. “We do not want to have problems with the international community.”
Hours after the Taliban news conference, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States would not take the group at its word but would see its actions when it comes to human rights.
“This is not about trust. This is about verifying, “Sullivan said in the White House.” And we will see what the Taliban end up doing in the coming days and weeks. “
Interpreters, drivers and others who helped US and NATO forces fear that the Taliban will “slaughter” them and consider them traitors.
Many Afghans remain so afraid of the Taliban regime that they rushed departing planes after the militant group gained control of Kabul. Chaos unfolded a day earlier at Hamid Karzai International Airport, where thousands desperate to flee the country forced the United States and other countries to halt the evacuation of diplomats and Afghan civilians helping U.S. troops.
Mujahid said the militant group is “committed to women’s rights under the system of sharia (Islamic) law”, but stressed that they would work and study “within our framework.”
“They are going to work shoulder to shoulder with us. We want to assure the international community that there will be no discrimination,” he said.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan does not want the women to be the victims anymore,” said Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s culture commission.
The Taliban regime was known for particularly violent enforcement of draconian rules. For example, women seen in public without a male relative could be raped, abducted, and forced into marriage. Women who were raped could be executed.
In May, a bomb attack on a girls’ school in Kabul killed dozens, many of them students between the ages of 11 and 15. Although the Taliban denied responsibility, the Afghan government blamed them.
Sullivan said the United States has the tools – including sanctions, international condemnation and isolation – it can put in place if women in Afghanistan are abused.
Although Sullivan said his heart goes out to Afghan women and girls, he argued that the choice was not between rescuing or leaving them. The decision to keep a U.S. military force in the country would have been associated with human costs for U.S. soldiers.
“These are the choices a president has to make,” he said.
The United States is cooperating with the Taliban, which said it would provide safe passage to Kabul airport for Americans and others trying to leave.
“I come to this without expectations,” Sullivan said of whether the Taliban are different from the way they were in 2001. “It will be up to the Taliban to show the rest of the world who they are and how they have thought. “Continue. The track record has not been good.”
Frank McKenzie, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command, said in a statement that air traffic controllers and ground handling assistants at Kabul airport “are rapidly upscaling operations to ensure a steady flow of military reinforcements to the airport and the evacuation of U.S. and civilian partners.”
McKenzie said on Sunday he made it clear to Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar’s capital, that interference in the evacuation or any attack “would be met with overwhelming force in the defense of our forces.”
“The protection of American civilians and our partners is my highest priority,” he said, “and we will take all necessary steps to ensure a safe and effective withdrawal.”
Mujahid said private media could maintain independence, but journalists “should not work against national values.”
The White House froze Afghan reserves on Sunday in an attempt to block the Taliban’s access to money in US banks, according to The Washington Post.
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Evacuation flights from Kabul underway
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Kabul airport was open again, and as many as 800 people were evacuated overnight, including 165 U.S. citizens, said Army General William Taylor, a Joint Staff official.
U.S. military leaders in Kabul are communicating with Taliban officials outside the international airport to enable the safe evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghans, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.
Kirby declined to characterize the discussions, but said that “the results speak for themselves.”
Evacuation flights can transport as many as 9,000 people out of Afghanistan a day, Taylor said. The airport has been secured by U.S. Marines and soldiers, and more than 4,000 troops will be on the ground by the end of Tuesday, he said.
Biden’s remarks attract bipartisan criticism; $ 500 million pledged to refugees
President Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw US troops despite the rapid collapse of the Afghan government.
The president returned to Camp David, the Maryland president’s retreat, and remained largely out of sight as he drew criticism from two parties for the administration’s handling of the evacuations.
Following his remarks, the White House announced that Biden had allocated $ 500 million from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to help refugees fleeing Afghanistan.
The funds will be used to meet “unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs of refugees, conflict victims and other people at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan, including applicants for special immigrant visas,” according to a White House statement.
“We plan to be on the ground there in Afghanistan in the next few weeks,” Kirby said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “It’s not just about moving Americans out. It’s very much about fulfilling our moral and sacred obligations to the Afghans who have helped us over the last 20 years and getting as many of them out as we can. . ”
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Starring: Associated Press