Taliban block evacuated planes from leaving, but it’s unclear why

The final days of the United States’ 20-year war in Afghanistan were marked by a heartbreaking airlift at Kabul airport to evacuate tens of thousands of people – Americans and their allies – who feared what the future reserves them, given the history of the repression of the Taliban, in particular of women. When the the last troops withdrew on August 30, however, many have been left behind.

The United States has vowed to continue working with the new Taliban leadership to bring out those who want to leave, and activists have pledged to allow anyone with the appropriate legal documents to leave. But Representative Michael McCaul of Texas told “Fox News Sunday” that US citizens and Afghan interpreters were being held up in six planes.

“The Taliban will not let them leave the airport,” he said, adding that he was concerned “that they are asking more and more, whether it is for money or for legitimacy. than Afghan government “. He did not offer further details.

The Afghan official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said they were four planes and their future passengers were staying in hotels while authorities sought to see if they could leave. the country. The sticking point, he said, is that many did not have the correct travel documents.

Residents of Mazar-e-Sharif also said the passengers were no longer at the airport. At least 10 families were seen in a local hotel waiting, they said, for a decision on their fate. None of them had passports or visas, but said they worked for companies allied with the US or German military. Others have been seen in restaurants.

The small Mazar-e-Sharif airport has only recently started handling international flights and so far only to Turkey. The planes in question were bound for Doha, Qatar, the Afghan official said. It was not clear who chartered them or why they were waiting in the northern city. The massive airlift took place at Kabul International Airport, which initially closed after the US withdrawal, but where domestic flights have now resumed.

Striking footage of this chaotic evacuation, including people hooked to a plane taking off – came to define the last days of America’s longest war, just weeks after Taliban fighters recaptured the country in a lightning offensive.

Since taking control, the Taliban have sought to differentiate themselves from their incarnation of the 1990s, when they last ruled the country and imposed repressive restrictions across society. Women and girls were denied work and education, men were forced to grow beards, and television and music were banned.

Now the world is waiting to see the face of the new government, and many Afghans remain skeptical. In the weeks following their takeover, the signals were mixed: government employees, including women, were asked to return to work, but some women were later ordered to return home by the Taliban. lower rank. Universities and schools were ordered to reopen, but fear drove students and teachers away.

The women demonstrated peacefully, some even discussing their rights with Taliban leaders. But some were dispersed by Taliban special forces firing in the air.

Some signs of normalcy have also started to return. The streets of Kabul are once again congested with traffic, as Taliban fighters patrol in vans and police vehicles – brandishing their automatic weapons and flying the white Taliban flag. Schools have opened and money changers are working on street corners.

Among the promises made by the Taliban, once the country’s airports were operational, Afghans with passports and visas would be allowed to travel. More than 100 countries have issued a statement saying they will ensure the new leaders keep their pledge.

Technical teams from Qatar and Turkey have arrived in recent days and are working to make the civilian airport operational.

State-owned Ariana Airlines made its first domestic flights on Saturday, which continued on Sunday. The airport lacks radar facilities, so flights are limited to daylight hours to allow a visual landing, official Shershah Stor said.

Several countries have also provided humanitarian supplies. The Gulf state of Qatar, where the Taliban has had a political office since 2013, operates daily flights to Kabul, providing humanitarian aid to the war-weary nation. Bahrain has also announced humanitarian aid deliveries.

Meanwhile, the Taliban have stepped up the assault on the last remaining pocket of resistance led by fighters opposed to their regime.

Anti-Taliban fighters in Panjshir province, north of the Afghan capital, are led by former Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who appealed for humanitarian aid to help the thousands of people displaced by the fights.

A senior Taliban spokesman tweeted on Sunday that Taliban troops had invaded Rokha district, one of the largest of Panjshir’s eight districts. Several Taliban delegations attempted negotiations with the rebels there, but the talks failed to gain ground.

Saleh fled to Panjshir after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan as the Taliban marched on the capital. The blitz of fighters across the country took less than a week to invade some 300,000 government troops, most of whom surrendered or fled.

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