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Taliban pledge to respect women's rights 'within Islamic law'

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By Euronews with AP, AFP
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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks at at his first news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks at at his first news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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The Taliban on Tuesday sought to reassure a fearful Afghan population and a sceptical international community over human rights.

Speaking at their first news conference since sweeping to power, the militant group made declarations on women's rights, the safety of Afghan workers, and media freedom.

Women won't be 'victims'

Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban's cultural commission, indicated on Tuesday that women should also return to work. Under the Taliban's previous leadership, women were not allowed to study or work and had to wear burqas.

"The Islamic Emirate doesn't want women to be victims," Samangani said, using the militants' term for Afghanistan. “They should be in government structure according to Shariah law."

He added: "The structure of government is not fully clear, but based on experience, there should be a fully Islamic leadership and all sides should join."

Shortly before midnight local time on Monday, Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban's political office, shared a video that appeared to show Taliban members speaking to staff at a hospital, including women. He said "everyone" would be brought back to work.

In other developments, a senior White House adviser says the Taliban have agreed to allow "safe passage" out of Afghanistan for civilians hoping to join a US-led airlift out of Kabul, according to the White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Pentagon officials said dialogue with Taliban commanders was in progress over evacuations, as thousands await flights out of the country, the day after chaotic scenes at Kabul airport.

It comes as senior Taliban leaders have returned to Afghanistan from Qatar. Meanwhile, the streets of Kabul have remained quiet -- but many foreign nationals and Afghan workers are still waiting to be evacuated.

Here is a summary of key developments -- see our live blog below for the latest updates.

  • The Taliban have agreed to allow “safe passage” from Afghanistan for civilians hoping to join a US-directed airlift from Kabul, President Joe Biden's national security adviser said. Thousands are waiting for evacuation from the airport, which is under US military control.
  • Josep Borrell, the EU's top diplomat, says the bloc will have to speak to the Taliban as it has "won the war", in order to avoid a "humanitarian and migratory disaster". He denied that this amounts to recognition of the Islamist group.
  • Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid Mujahid told the news conference the militant group would honour women’s rights, but within the norms of Islamic law.
  • Mujahid also said the Taliban wanted private media to “remain independent,” but stressed journalists “should not work against national values.”
  • The Taliban insists it will build an "inclusive Islamic government", declaring a "general amnesty" for Afghan citizens, urging them to return to work.
  • Senior Taliban leaders including Amir Khan Muttaqi -- a minister when the Taliban ruled in the 1990s -- and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar -- co-founder and no2 -- have returned to Afghanistan from Qatar.
  • In a lone show of restistance, Amrullah Saleh, vice president in the ousted government, has declared himself caretaker president and called on his countrymen to join his movement in the northeast.

  • The Torkham crossing with Pakistan has reopened, allowing scores of trucks carrying commercial goods into Afghanistan.

  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has blamed the Taliban's sweeping resurgence on a "failure of leadership" by Afghan military and political heads.

  • Germany has confirmed it has stopped all state-run development aid to Afghanistan until further notice. EU member states' foreign ministers have been holding a crisis meeting.

Latest updates:

08.18.2021
00:08
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Military veterans stunned by Taliban's rapid takeover of Afghanistan

Many have watched with horror the debacle of the chaotic Western withdrawal of troops and diplomats from Afghanistan, leaving the local population to the mercy of the Taliban takeover. But for former soldiers who served in the country, the events are all the more poignant.
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08.17.2021
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UNICEF 'cautiously optimistic' over preserving education gains

UNICEF is "cautiously optimistic" over preserving the gains made in girls' education in Afghanistan, its chief of field operations in the country has told Euronews.

It comes amid concern the swift Taliban takeover of the country will reverse progress made over the last two decades.

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08.17.2021
21:51

Borrell: EU must talk to Taliban to ensure evacuations from Afghanistan

The EU "will have to speak" to the Taliban "as soon as necessary" because the militant group "have won the war" in Afghanistan, the bloc's top diplomat has said.
But Josep Borrell said it was to prevent a "humanitarian and a potential migratory disaster". But he insisted that dialogue did not imply formal recognition of the new regime by Brussels.
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Borrell: EU must talk to Taliban to ensure Afghanistan evacuations

euronewsThe EU's foreign policy chief says dialogue is necessary as the Taliban have "won the war" but does not imply formal recognition of the new Afghan regime.
08.17.2021
21:26

Merkel open to 'controlled' reception of Afghan refugees

Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that she was open to the "controlled" reception of "particularly vulnerable" Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban regime, while admitting the difficulty of finding an agreement on the subject between European partners.
The German Chancellor, whose country welcomed more than a million asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016, however indicated that regional solutions had to be sought initially in order to welcome these refugees in Afghanistan's neighbouring countries.
"Secondly, we can reflect on whether particularly vulnerable people should come to Europe (...) in a controlled manner and with support," she said at a press conference. .
08.17.2021
21:11

Taliban agree to allow civilian 'safe passage', says Biden adviser

More on the comments of top US officials on evacuations from Kabul, from AP.

The Taliban have agreed to allow “safe passage” from Afghanistan for civilians hoping to join a U.S.-directed airlift from the capital, President Joe Biden's national security adviser said Tuesday, although a timetable for completing the evacuation of Americans, Afghan allies and possibly other civilians has yet to be worked out with the country's new rulers.

Jake Sullivan acknowledged reports that some civilians were encountering resistance — “being turned away or pushed back or even beaten” — as they tried to reach the Kabul international airport. He said “very large numbers” were reaching the airport and the problem of others was being taken up with the Taliban, whose stunningly swift takeover of the country on Sunday plunged the U.S. evacuation effort into chaos, confusion and violence.

Sullivan also said that President Joe Biden has had no contact with foreign heads of state over Afghanistan since the fall of Kabul.

08.17.2021
21:03

Italy's premier vows to protect Afghans' rights via G20

Italy's prime minister is vowing that Italy will remain committed to promoting and protecting fundamental rights in Afghanistan, especially of women, following the Taliban takeover and the evacuation of Western diplomats and military forces.

Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the Group of 20 industrialized countries this year, is “the natural” forum to launch a process of collaboration among countries including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, in addition to Europe, Premier Mario Draghi said in an interview with RAI television.

He said the priority for Europe was to continue welcoming those Afghans who collaborated with the West and their families, those who worked for women’s rights in Afghanistan, and to ensure security to “prevent terrorist infiltration.”

Noting that a G20 ministerial meeting is planned later this month dedicated to women, as well as the leaders’ summit at the end of October, Draghi said: “This year of our presidency of the G20, we are fully committed to building the appropriate seat for this collaboration.” (with AP)

08.17.2021
20:21

Taliban 'ready to protect' access to Kabul airport -- White House official

The Taliban are "ready to protect" access to Kabul airport for civilians evacuated by the Americans, President Joe Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday.
Washington is negotiating with the Taliban the "timetable" for the American evacuations, he also indicated during a press conference at the White House.
Earlier Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed that US commanders are speaking with Taliban commanders, with "interactions multiple times a day".
08.17.2021
20:04

EU in 'every possible effort' to ensure safety of staff and Afghan workers

Josep Borrell's comments on the need to talk to the Taliban followed a video conference of EU foreign ministers.
The foreign policy chief told a news conference that dialogue with the militants was necessary in order to ensure the safe evacuation of EU nationals, as well as Afghans who had worked with the EU, and their families -- some 400 people.
Such dialogue would also focus on preventing terror groups from returning to Afghanistan, he said, expressing fears over links to Al Qaeda.
08.17.2021
19:39

We'll have to talk to Taliban, says EU's foreign affairs chief

Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign affairs chief, admitted on Tuesday that the bloc would have to speak to the Taliban as it had "won the war" in Afghanistan.

He also acknowledged Western intervention had failed in its objective of building an Afghan state.

"The Taliban have won the war. Therefore, we will have to talk with them, in order to engage in a dialogue as quickly as necessary to avoid a humanitarian and migratory disaster" and "prevent the return of a foreign terrorist presence" in Afghanistan, he indicated, while specifying that this did not imply a prompt official recognition of the Taliban regime.

The militant group has sought to project calm after its lightning-fast advance through the country and capture of Kabul on Sunday. But many residents in the capital are still staying at home in fear for their lives.

Older generations remember the Taliban's ultraconservative Islamic views and medieval punishments including stonings, public flogging and executions, before the U.S-led invasion that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks ended the militant group's reign.

Among the women who returned to work on Tuesday were female anchors at the 24-hour Tolo News channel.

Evacuations resume

Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO's senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, posted a video of Kabul airport on Tuesday showing an empty tarmac, in stark contrast to the chaotic scenes observed the day before.

"Runway in HKIA Kabul International airport is open. I see airplanes landing and taking off, Pontecorvo wrote on Twitter. "Situation is under control," he added.

Thousands of Afghans had crowded the tarmac on Monday. Distressing footage showed desperate Afghans attempting to flee the country by clinging to departing aircraft but later falling to their death.

Among the planes that left Kabul overnight was a French military plane. France's Minister for the Armed Forces said this first evacuation flight landed in Abu Dhabi with "French citizens and nationals of partner countries" on board.

"We are actively working to organise the next rotations," she added.

Germany's Defence Ministry announced that its first evacuation flight had only seven passengers on board. It said however that the plane "brought our own forces there."

"They are now providing security so that other people can be protected on their way to the airport," it said.

EU Foreign Ministers are scheduled to convene by videoconference at 16:00 CEST for an extraordinary meeting to discuss Afghanistan.