98 Countries Reach Deal With Taliban

Agreement will allow at-risk Afghans to leave country after deadline, joint statement says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2021 12:40 PM CDT
98 Countries Announce Travel Agreement With Taliban
Taliban fighters stand guard near the gate of Hamid Karzai international Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021.   (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

The US and 97 other countries, from Albania to Zambia, have announced a deal with the Taliban that will allow people, including their citizens and at-risk Afghans, to depart Afghanistan after the American military withdraws. "We will continue issuing travel documentation to designated Afghans, and we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries," the nations said in a joint statement released by the State Department. The countries said they had "received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries" will be allowed to proceed to departure points in a "safe and orderly manner."

The group includes more than half the world's countries, with Russia and China the most notable omissions. The statement does not mention any consequences if the Taliban reneges on the agreements, and analysts say it is far from clear whether the Taliban will keep promises not to retaliate against Afghans who worked for the US and other Western nations, the New York Times reports. "Most of the guys that we're tracking now are terrified to even try to go through Taliban checkpoints," says former CIA officer Michael P. Mulroy, who predicts that once the world's attention is elsewhere, the group will "probably prosecute, and in many cases execute" those who worked closely with the US.

Taliban negotiator Sher Mohammed Abas Stanekzai said Friday that the group had "no issue" with Afghans traveling abroad, though he said they will need to obtain passports from the interior ministry first. The Times notes that this could take years—and possibly "alert the Taliban as to who does not want to live under their rule." The evacuation from Kabul's airport is now in its final hours ahead of President Biden's Tuesday withdrawal deadline, the AP reports. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday that there is "still time" for Americans still in the country to get to the airport for evacuation flights.

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The Pentagon says the exact timeline of the end of the evacuation effort is being kept secret for security reasons, but the last flights with civilians are expected to depart Monday before military personnel depart and hand control of the airport to the Taliban, reports the Wall Street Journal. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that it has been in talks with the Taliban about providing assistance to keep the airport open after Tuesday. (Five rockets fired at the airport were intercepted Monday.)

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