Afghanistan: Taliban begins outlining how it will govern – as chaos at airport intensifies

The Taliban has begun to set out how it plans to run Afghanistan after its takeover, as chaos at the airport intensifies with Sky News seeing at least three bodies.

A Taliban official outlined on Saturday morning how separate teams will deal with internal security and the financial crisis that is set to impact the country.

It comes as the UK races to help its own citizens and Afghans who have worked with the British flee the country after US President Joe Biden indicated rescue missions must be completed within 10 days.

Sky News was at Kabul airport on Saturday morning as at least three people died in a crush as thousands of people tried to escape from the country, with the British paratroopers among those trying to help.

Sky’s chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay saw medics run from one patient to another as soldiers tried to pull men, women and especially children out of danger.

So far NATO said about 12,000 foreigners and Afghans working for embassies and international aid groups have been evacuated since Taliban insurgents entered the capital a week ago, but the security situation around Kabul airport is worsening.

The Taliban official said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s political leader, is in Kabul for meetings and will delegate responsibility to commanders and meet former leaders, local militia commanders, policymakers and religious scholars in the coming days.

“Our fighters will continue to demonstrate restraint,” the official added.

He said no foreigners were being kidnapped, but the group was “questioning some of them before they exit the country”.

“Experts from the former government will be brought in for crisis management,” said the official of the group, which follows an ultra-hardline version of Sunni Islam.

Mr Baradar has returned to Afghanistan after leading Taliban negotiations in Qatar with officials including those from the US having been in exile following his release from prison in Pakistan in 2018.

Earlier, a Taliban official said that its members would be accountable for their actions and the group will investigate reports of reprisals and atrocities carried out.

As the Taliban appeared confident about setting up a new administration, Tolo News – a previously independent news outlet based in Kabul – reported that local sources had told it anti-Taliban forces had retaken three districts from the militant group on Saturday. The districts are Pul-e-Hesar, Banu and Deh Salah in the northern Afghan province of Baghlan.

In Kabul, tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan are waiting anxiously to see whether the US will deliver on Mr Biden’s promise to evacuate all Americans and all Afghans who helped the war effort, with American helicopters picking up people from locations all around Kabul, beyond the chaotic airport and Taliban checkpoints.

A Pentagon spokesman said, so far, since it switched from its previous operation to its current “non-combatant evacuation operation”, US forces had extracted 17,000 people.

Major General William Taylor said they continue to process people at the three or four gates of the airport, but they were “metering” those coming in and going out.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby defended last week saying he saw no reason why Kabul should fall to the Taliban, and that at the time the information was accurate, but added the “threat can change by the hour” and the situation is “fluid and dynamic”.

The US said that on Saturday it had has struck agreements with several countries to host people taken out of Kabul or to allow them to transit while on their way to their final destination.

The US embassy in Kabul advised its citizens “to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so”.

According to an official from Switzerland, which has postponed a charter flight to Uzbekistan aimed at helping the evacuation effort, the security situation around Kabul airport has worsened significantly in the last hours.

Earlier, a Taliban official said the new Taliban model of Afghan government may not be democracy by the same strict Western definition, but would protect everyone’s rights.

In its dialogue with a number of different officials and groups, the spokesman said it had been discussing how to ensure Western powers leave the country on amicable terms.

A senior official in the ousted government, Abdullah Abdullah, tweeted that he and former president Hamid Karzai met with the Taliban’s acting governor for Kabul on Saturday, who “assured us that he would do everything possible for the security of the people” of the city.

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would have to “manage the consequences” of the US withdrawal from the central Asian country.

After a meeting of the 30-nation NATO group, Mr Johnson hinted the UK could be willing to work with the Taliban “if necessary” to “find a solution” after two decades of military engagement.

Meanwhile, there looks set to be two parliamentary inquiry into Afghanistan when parliament returns: one by the foreign affairs select committee and another by the intelligence and security committee.

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