Biden says US troops will STAY in Afghanistan past the August 31 deadline if there are still American citizens that need to be evacuated
- Biden was pressed repeatedly in interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos
- Troops set to leave by the deadline
- Officials citing bottleneck getting paperwork
- 18 US Air Force C-17 cargo jets were used overnight to remove 2,000 people from Kabul
- The planes each can carry around 600 people and one took 640 out of Kabul on Sunday night
- The State Department is now telling people in Afghanistan to head to the airport to be put on a flight
- The only guarantee of safety is coming from the Taliban, who are already becoming more violent
- There are thousands of people waiting to be saved by the West after its decision to leave the region
- WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
President Joe Biden said when pressed Wednesday that U.S. troops were ‘going to stay’ in Afghanistan until they get American citizens out, even if it means running through an August 31 deadline order.
He made the statement despite his own order that U.S. troops will leave by an August 31 deadline, acknowledging the effort could run over if American citizens are still stuck in Afghanistan amid security and bureaucratic hurdles.
‘We’ve got like 10 to 15,000 Americans in the country right now. Right? And are you committed to making sure that the troops stay until every American who wants to be out is out?’ George Stephanopoulos of ABC News asked Biden in an interview airing Wednesday and Thursday.
‘Yes,’ Biden replied.
‘So Americans should understand that troops might have to be there beyond Aug. 31st?’ the Good Morning America host asked him.
President Joe Biden said U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan to get all U.S. citizens out of Afghanistan, suggesting they would stay even beyond an August 31 deadline if necessary
‘No,’ Biden dodged. ‘Americans should understand that we’re going to try to get it done before Aug. 31st.’
Stephanopoulos pressed him. ‘But if we don’t,’ Stephanopoulos said, ‘the troops will stay? he asked.
‘If we don’t, we’ll determine at the time who’s left,’ Biden responded, prompting his interviewer to make one more stab at an answer.
‘And?’ Stephanopoulos asked him
‘And if you’re American force – if there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay to get them all out,’ Biden responded.
ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos grilled President Biden on an August 31 deadline for withdrawing American troops
He was less direct on the fate of allied Afghans, putting their number at between 50,000 and 65,000, and scoffing at a higher estimate by his interviewer.
‘The commitment holds to get everyone out that, in fact, we can get out and everyone who should come out. And that’s the objective. That’s what we’re doing now. That’s the path we’re on. And I think we’ll get there,’ Biden said.
His answer comes after reporters have repeatedly tried to get top Pentagon officials to say what would happen if the U.S. runs up against the deadline, amid partially empty flights out of the country, even amid capabilities to get thousands out each day.
All remaining Americans in Afghanistan are being told to make their own way to Kabul airport now to be flown home and are being told that it is safe for them to make the journey despite widespread fears on the ground that the Taliban will stop them, hold them hostage or kill them.
There are still some 11,000 Americans in Afghanistan waiting to be flown home. Some are at the airport but some are too afraid to make their way there through Taliban-controlled streets. Some say they have tried and have been turned away at checkpoints.
There are also tens of thousands of Afghan nationals desperate to get out but who do not want to present themselves to the terrorists they worked against for years.
The only way anyone in Kabul can get to the airport is if the Taliban lets them through.
On Wednesday afternoon, the State Department updated its guidance to tell all remaining US citizens to make their way to the airport but it couldn’t guarantee anyone’s safety on the journey.
At a Pentagon press briefing a short time afterwards, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed troops would not go to collect anyone, saying: ‘We don’t have the capability to go out and collect up large numbers of people.’
At a separate press conference, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Ruth Helman insisted that she’d heard it was safe on the ground for Americans, and that the Taliban was holding up their end of the bargain.
She noted the thousands of Afghans who have made their way to the airport and said Americans should have no problem getting there.
‘The Taliban made a commitment to safe passage for Americans… it appears the commitment has been solid. We have heard all of the stories that many journalists are reporting about checkpoints, harassment, difficulties, jammed traffic.
‘We are trying to work through those issues but I will tell you this. In spite of the obstacles, many, many Afghans are finding their way to the airport,’ she said.
The Taliban – which has promised ‘amnesty’ and that it won’t interfere with any country trying to evacuate its people – has already abandoned its revamped image and is reverting to medieval punishment in the streets. Already there is evidence of people being beaten, shot and humiliated in the streets.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday that troops on the ground don’t have the ‘capacity’ to go and collect people around the country of Afghanistan. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Ruth Helman said it is safe for Americans to go to the airport in Kabul and that they should have no problem getting there since so many Afghans have managed it
Taliban fighters patrol in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The group is becoming increasingly violent, abandoning promises to be peaceful, and their cooperation is what the evacuation mission is relying on
There is confusion over who is being allowed through.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price suggested that the Taliban would allow anyone who wanted to get to the airport.
‘We are telling them civilians should be afforded safe passage. No one’s movements should be restricted,’ he sad.
But people on the ground say they aren’t getting through without paperwork like visas or tickets for flights.
General Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs Chairman, said on Wednesday that 500 people were being processed every hour to go on planes.
But overnight, US jets that could have taken 600 each flew out of Kabul with just 100 on board. Eighteen C-17 US Air Force jets were sent to remove US citizens, Afghan refugees and others, but they left carrying 2,000 people in total including 365 Americans.
One of them that was filmed by a CBS journalist on board was carrying around 300 people including translators, women and children. It leaves 1,700 that were removed on the remaining 17 jets – an average of 100 per flight.
The planes are fitted to take 150 soldiers and heavy cargo loads but in disaster situations like the one unfolding in Afghanistan, they can be used take 600 people without surpassing weight limits.
On Sunday, one of the jets took 640 Afghans out of Kabul and in 2013, a different ones as used to remove 670 people from a typhoon in the Philippines. And while the near-empty flights took off on Sunday, thousands of people were at the gates of the airport in Kabul, screaming, crying and begging to be saved from the Taliban.
Flights bound for Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, France and Italy also took off on Wednesday with just a few dozen people on board despite having capacity to take hundreds.
In one shocking case, a German plane with room for 150 departed Kabul on Tuesday with just seven on board.
A CBS reporter was on board one of the US jets that took off on Tuesday night. She said there were 300 people on board – half the number that were removed on the same type of jet on Sunday
One of the flights had some 300 Afghans on board. All brought luggage and there was enough room for people to lie down, stretch out and stand-up
FLASHBACK – On Sunday, a single C-17 was used to get 640 Afghans out (left). In 2013 (right), 670 were removed from a typhoon in the Philippines
This is the scene at the city entrance to the airport in Kabul. It is being controlled by the Taliban and US forces are on the inside but the people waiting to fly out can’t get through the fighters at the front, and are being given no help by the State Department
In scenes of utter desperation at Kabul airport today, people began passing babies to guards at the northern entrance hoping they will be put on flights out of the country and escape Taliban rule
Women were filmed pleading with US troops that the ‘Taliban are coming’ in footage that appeared to have been taken at Kabul airport this morning as thousands of desperate Afghans try to flee Islamist rule
The Taliban turned on the crowd at Kabul airport on Tuesday, driving the hundreds back from the airport perimeter as they pushed to flee the country. They had promised to be peaceful but have already given up on it
A young woman was shot dead for allegedly refusing to wear a hijab by marauding jihadists when they captured the northern town of Taloqan in Takhar province last week. She is seen lying in a pool of blood as her distraught parents crouch beside her body in an image shared by the Afghan Ambassador to Poland Tahir Qadry who denounced the ‘butchering of civilians.’
A man cries as he watches fellow Afghans get wounded after Taliban fighters use gunfire, whips, sticks and sharp objects to maintain crowd control over thousands of Afghans who continue to wait outside Kabul airport for a way out
A Taliban fighter patrols in Wazir Akbar Khan in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Americans cannot get to the airport, which is surrounded by Taliban fighters, and the only area where troops are is inside
Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021
Taliban fighters have now encircled the airport in Kabul and are deciding who gets to come in and who has to stay out. Checkpoints have been set up on both the civilian south side of the airport and the military north side, with gunshots fired in both locations to keep crowds back
At a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Dept. Secretary of State Wendy Ruth Sherman suggested that Americans shouldn’t have a problem getting to the airport because so many Afghans have managed to.
‘The Taliban has said that the roads are open, that people can move. We’ve heard all of the stories about checkpoints, harassment, difficulties, jammed traffic, we’re trying to work through those issues.
‘I will say, in spite of the obstacles, many, many afghans in all of the categories are finding their way to the airport,’ she said.
She said the US has processed 4,800 Americans to get them out, but it’s unclear if that number includes people who have already left before. Another 800 Afghans have been processed to be removed.
‘Our focus is on getting the people out of Afghanistan to safety.’
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby briefed reporters over the phone on Wednesday and admitted he hoped getting people to the airport would go more ‘smoothly’
At a conference call briefing with journalists on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby talked about the ongoing ‘processing’ issues and delays in getting people their necessary paperwork.
He admitted that he didn’t know how many Americans were still stuck in Kabul and said he ‘couldn’t predict’ how many would leave overnight.
‘I cant tell you the numbers of people coming and going. Our force flow gets smaller as we get more troops on the field. I cant predict how many people will be evacuated,’ he said.
‘We’re still working on the processing here…We’re not unaware that there has been issues out in town and harassment of individuals, that’s one of the reasons we’re in touch with the Taliban to try to make sure that doesn’t happen.
‘I don’t have a specific next step. We are in communication with the Taliban. We want to see this go more smoothly, we want to see this go faster,’ he said.
There are at least 11,000 US citizens still stuck in Afghanistan and tens of thousands of Afghans who helped the US in the war and are trying to get Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to be removed before the Taliban gives up on the goodwill and kills them.
There are now thought to be around 50,000 people – mostly Afghans – gathered outside two entrances to Hamid Karzai airport – the civilian south side and military north side, both of which are under Taliban control.
US troops controlling the military side fired warning shots into crowds on Tuesday night to stop the increasingly desperate people from overrunning the airfield again.
In the last 24 hours:
- The Taliban started abandoning its promise of peace and is now parading ‘thieves’ through the streets with ropes around their necks, smacking and shooting people and rounding up enemies
- 18 C-17 jets arrived and the total number of US troops at the airport rose to 4,500, including 1,300 Marines
- US jets only removed 2,000 people – 325 were American and at least 11,000 Americans remain stranded
- Other jets from the UK, Spain, Italy and Australia left with less than half of their seats full
- The Taliban has set up checkpoints around the airport and there are reports they are blocking people from getting through
- The State Department told US citizens to make their own way to the airport, with no promise of help getting there
- Joe Biden returned to the White House but he has not scheduled any kind of Afghanistan update
- Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley will speak at 3pm
Kirby also claimed the effort was ‘working’, despite US troops resorting to firing their weapons at the military entrance to the gate on Tuesday night to control the increasingly desperate crowds.
Between Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning, only 2,000 people were taken out of Afghanistan on US jets – 3,000 fewer than the Pentagon’s daily goal of at least 5,000. There are at least 11,000 Americans in Afghanistan who are yet to be removed.
THE EMPTIEST FLIGHTS OUT OF KABUL
Germany: Airbus A-400M with space for 150 people, departed Tuesday with 7 on board
Australia: Hercules C-130 with space for 120 people, departed Wednesday with 26 on board
Netherlands: Boeing C-17 with space for 150 people, departed Tuesday with 40 on board
France: Airbus A400M with space for 150 people, departed Tuesday with 41 on board
Italy: Boeing KC767 with space for up to 200 people, departed Monday with 70 on board
Spain: Airbus A-400M with space for 150 people, departed Wednesday with unknown number on board – though officials earlier said just 25 embassy staff had made it to the airport
Only 325 of the people removed overnight were American.
Faziya Nematy, a New York resident who visited Afghanistan in July and has become stuck, said on Wednesday there was no way for her to get to the airport with her son.
‘I, myself, am stuck here. I’m a U.S. citizen, can’t even get out, have my kids here.
‘There’s no help here, there’s not one single American troop here.
‘Now this whole thing is just full of people,’ she told WRGB.
The father of one Colorado family has told how his wife and daughters are hiding out, unable to get to the airport.
The wife and kids are Afghan natives but now have American citizenship.
They were visiting family and have now become stuck.
‘My wife and daughters are, for now, hiding in a house in Kabul.
‘I think it’s chaos. There are a lot of lives in danger. She called me on Saturday night, crying that the Taliban are all over the city and she wanted to get out,’ the man, who did not want to give his name said in an interview with Fox 31.
Panicked by the sudden fall of Kabul to the Islamists, the father booked a flight home from Kabul for his wife and children on Sunday, but it was cancelled hours before it was due to depart.
‘Around midnight, I got a text message from Turkish Airlines saying that her flight got cancelled. We can’t have what was going on [on Monday], people holding on to airplanes and things like that.’
Afghanistan veterans are also pleading for the safe evacuation of some of the translators and interpreters they worked with when they were there.
On Tuesday, the State Department started telling some Americans to make their own way to the airport and that they couldn’t help them or guarantee their safety on the way.
U.S. Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, arrives at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan August 17, 2021. He is in charge of negotiating with the Taliban to let people through to the airport
Inside the airport, soldiers are helping those who have been able to get through and are putting them on flights but outside, it is total chaos run by the Taliban
An Australian Hercules C-130 plane with room for 120 people takes off from Kabul airport with just 26 passengers early on Wednesday – one of several aircraft to depart half-full
The flight was mostly filled with Australian citizens but also included Afghan nationals with visas, and one foreign official working in an international agency
Footage shows an alleged car thief with his face covered in black tar and strapped up to the back of a truck, with his hands tied behind his back as people gather around to gawp.
Planes from other countries have been leaving half empty while Afghan women and refugees beg and cry for help at the gates, only to be ignored.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Wednesday morning that he didn’t know how many Americans were still in Afghanistan, and he couldn’t ‘predict’ how many would be removed on planes in the next 24 hours.
He skirted the blame for people not being allowed through the checkpoints and claimed the rescue mission was ‘working’ despite the shortage of flights.
‘We believe an important obligation to help get as many people out of Afghanistan as we can… our focus right now is on the airport and making sure the airport stays a safe and secure place where people can flow in and out of.
‘It is working. We had another 300 plus American citizens go out over the last 24 hours.
‘In that respect it’s working we are continuing to have communication with the Taliban about making sure we can continue that flow and special immigrant visa applicants are included in it,’ he said.
Kirby has been the face of the crisis while President Joe Biden keeps a low profile.
He returned to the White House on Tuesday night from Camp David and is due to give a COVID-19 speech this afternoon but has not made any public statement since his speech on Monday where he claimed he made the right decision withdrawing troops
In scenes of utter desperation today, people began passing babies towards guards stationed at the airport’s northern gate so they could be put on flights. Earlier in the day, women had stood at the same gate reaching towards US troops and begging to be allowed through, with one shouting: ‘Please. The Taliban are coming for me.’
The heartbreaking footage is a far cry from the ‘big-hearted’ response to the crisis pledged by western nations, which between them have vowed to take more than 100,000 refugees out of the country.
‘We will honour women’s rights (within Islamic law)’: Taliban spokesman holds first news conference in Kabul and promises they won’t persecute women or take revenge
The Taliban claimed that Afghan women will not be persecuted under their Islamic rule during their first press conference since their sweeping conquest of Kabul this week, as the man tipped to be Afghanistan’s next leader arrived in the country after a 20-year exile.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman, claimed ‘there is a huge difference between us and the Taliban of 20 years ago’, when female Afghans were beaten in the street or publicly executed, denied work, healthcare and an education, and barred from leaving home without a male chaperone.
During their press conference in the capital city, the Taliban insisted girls will receive an education and women will be allowed to study at university – both of which were forbidden under Taliban rule in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 before the US-led invasion.
The terror group also claimed they want women to be part of the new government after female Afghans staged a protest outside a local Taliban HQ in Khair Khana district, a suburb of north-west Kabul, while chanting ‘honour and lives are safe’ and ‘join voices with us’.
Pictured: Zabihullah Mujahid, chief spokesman for the Taliban, speaks during a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. For years, Mujahid had been a shadowy figure issuing statements on behalf of the militants
The Taliban’s war on female Afghans: Islamic group’s brutal oppression of women and girls during 1990s tyranny
A woman wearing a blue-coloured burqa walks next to the construction site of a building in Kabul on June 21, 2021
Under the hardline version of Sharia – Islamic law – that the Taliban imposed the last time they controlled the capital, women and girls were mostly denied education or employment.
Burqas – full body and face coverings – became mandatory in public, women could not leave home without a male companion, and public floggings and executions, including stoning for adultery, were carried out in city squares and stadiums.
Under threat of execution, girls were banned from mainstream education after the age of eight – forcing those who wanted to learn to do so in secret schools.
From the age of eight, girls were not allowed to be in direct contact with males other than a close ‘blood relative’, husband, or in-law.
Punishments were often carried out publicly, either as formal spectacles held in sports stadiums or town squares or spontaneous street beatings. Many punishments were meted out by individual militias without the sanction of Taliban authorities.
In October 1996, for instance, a woman had the tip of her thumb cut off for wearing nail varnish – while in 1999, a mother-of-seven was executed in front of 30,000 spectators in Kabul’s Ghazi Sport stadium for murdering her husband. She had been jailed for three years and tortured prior to the execution, but had refused to plead her innocence in a bid to protect her daughter.
Even after the Taliban’s ousting in 2001, women often remained marginalised, especially in rural areas.
The United Nations chief called for an immediate end to violence in Afghanistan and urging the international community to unite to ensure that the human rights of all people are respected.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to the Security Council at an emergency meeting on Monday ‘and the international community as a whole to stand together, work together and act together.’
He said he is ‘particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who fear a return to the darkest days’ in the 1990s when the Taliban ruled and barred girls for getting an education and imposed draconian measures on women.
Mr Guterres said ‘the world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead’ and with the country’s future and the hopes and dreams of a generation of young Afghans in the balance, the coming days ‘will be pivotal.’
At this ‘grave hour,’ the secretary-general urged all parties, especially the Taliban, ‘to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met.’
Mr Guterres said the UN continues to have staff and offices in areas now under Taliban control, and which so far have been respected. ‘Above all, we will stay and deliver in support of the Afghan people in their hour of need.’
‘We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan,’ he said.
However, women and girls remain the most at risk under the new regime, with gangs in conquered areas allegedly hunting children as young as 12 and unmarried or widowed women they regard as spoils of war – ‘qhanimat’ – being forced into marriage or sex slavery.
The Taliban has also said women will have to wear hijabs but not burkas. During the press conference on Tuesday, Mujahid did not detail what restrictions would be imposed on women, although he did say it would be a government with ‘strong Islamic values’.
Mujahid claimed: ‘We are committed to the rights of women under the system of Sharia. They are going to be working shoulder to shoulder with us. We would like to assure the international community that there will be no discrimination.’
The Taliban denied it was enforcing sex slavery, and claims that such actions are against Islam. During the 1990s, the regime established religious police for the suppression of ‘vice’, and courts handed out extreme punishments including stoning to death women accused of adultery.
Just minutes before the hour-long press conference, it was confirmed that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy leader and co-founder, had arrived back in Kandahar from Qatar, with what was described as a high-level delegation.
‘We are going to decide what kind of laws will be presented to the nation. This will be the responsibility of the government with the participation of all people,’ Mujahid claimed.
Much of the rest of Mujahid’s press conference was also aimed at quashing fears about reprisal attacks against those who supported the Western-backed government, saying the new government did not want internal or external enemies.
Earlier, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News ‘thousands’ of schools would continue to educate girls as the group announced a ‘general amnesty’ for those who previously worked in the Afghan government, saying ‘their properties will be saved and their honour and their lives are safe.’
A group of women staged a demonstration demanding the right to work and study in Kabul on Tuesday morning.
Chanting the slogan: ‘join voices with us’ the small group of women approached a local Taliban HQ in Khair Khana district, a suburb of north-west Kabul.
But rather than arresting or beating the protestors, the senior Taliban commander present tried to reassure them by telling them: ‘Don’t worry, your rights will be respected. You will be allowed to work and study.’
One observer who saw the women’s protest said: ‘The Taliban are on their best behaviour at the moment. They are keen to take control of the levers of government in Kabul with the least possible bloodshed and in the quickest time.
‘They know that to do that they need to win the hearts and minds of the people, or at least allay their fears.
‘We’ve all heard orders from their high command stating that women will be allowed to work and girls to go to school, but that’s very different from the way the Taliban have behaved in the past. The proof will be whether they continue to maintain that position over the next few weeks and months, or revert to their old ways.’
Meanwhile, MailOnline received a heartfelt video plea from a young Afghan student outlining her fears for the days ahead.
Kabul University student Rukhsar, 22, said; ‘I am disheartened by the recent situation and advance of the Taliban because I have been sitting at home and worrying about my future.
‘I have dreamed of doing a lot of things in my life but now everything has been stopped suddenly. ‘Everything has changed in a flash of light.’
She added: ‘I don’t know about my future now and the international community have turned their faces away from us. This is our right to go to university and to do work in the offices.’
Mujahid also confirmed the Taliban’s intention to form a government, and made assurances that its shape will be announced once it has been completed.
‘Afghanistan will have a strong Islamic government,’ he said. ‘What the name and makeup will be, let’s leave that to political leaders. I can assure you it will have strong Islamic values.’
When asked by a reporter whether the Taliban would renounce terrorist group Al-Qaeda, Mujahid answered evasively, saying the group would not permit foreign fighters to use Afghanistan ‘against anybody’.
‘I would like to assure the international community that nobody will be harmed,’ Mujahid said from the former government’s media information centre in Kabul, speaking into a row of microphones.
‘We do not want to have any problems with the international community,’ he added, before defending the Taliban’s right to ‘act according to our religious principles.’
‘Other countries have different approaches, rules and regulations… the Afghans have the right to have their own rules and regulations in accordance with our values.’
The spokesman suggested that the Taliban intended to put the last 20 years behind them, claiming that the group is ‘not going to revenge anybody, we do not have grudges against anybody’.
‘We want to make sure Afghanistan is not the battlefield of conflict anymore. We want to grant amnesty to those who have fought against us,’ he said.
He described the Taliban’s ’20 year struggle for freedom, emancipating the country form occupation,’ and said of the recent incursion: ‘This was our right, we have achieved our right, I would like to thank God for bringing us to this stage.’
There have also been concerns that the Taliban would restrict media and journalists within the country. Mujahid also attempted to allay those fears in Tuesdays conference.
‘I would like to assure the media that we are committed to the media within our cultural frameworks’, Mujahid said. ‘Private media can continue to be free and independent.
‘Islam is very important in our country… Therefore Islamic values should be taken into account when it comes to the media, to developing your programmes.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid answers press members questions as he holds a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan
The same group of women started protesting this morning, demanding the extremist group does not ‘eliminate’ women from society but were not approached by Taliban fighters until the afternoon
‘Impartiality of the media is very important, they can critique our work so that we can improve. But the media should not work against us’, he added.
Mujahid put particular emphasis on people being safe under the new Taliban regime, and that thing would be different from over two decades ago.
‘In your homes, nobody is going to harm you, nobody is going to be interrogated or chased, those who have knocked on doors to inspect houses are abusers, they are going to be pursued and investigated,’ he said.
‘Thousands of soldiers who fought us for 20 years, after the end of occupation, they have been pardoned. Those who are at the airport waiting, when they come back to their homes, they will be safe… we want to give them confidence.’
The Taliban’s spokesman said that the group has pardoned everybody for the stability and peace of Afghanistan,’ and said any harm caused in the recent incursion was ‘one of the side effects of conflict’.
‘A huge occupying force was defeated, it was impossible for us to emancipate the country, without injuries, without harms, without hurts.
‘Animosities have come to an end, we want to live peacefully, we don’t want any internal enemies or external enemies.’
Mujahid said that the country was at a ‘historic stage’, with consultation over the creation of the new ‘inclusive’ government to be completed soon. He also said that while there had been some riots involving people who ‘wanted to abuse the situation,’ he assured Kabul’s residents they would be protected.
He also signalled the Taliban might invite countries to return to their embassies after frantic efforts were made in the last few days by many western countries to embassy evacuate staff from the city.
‘The security of embassies is crucially important to us. The areas where there are embassies will have complete security,’ he said.
Despite the obvious PR campaign, terrified families in Kabul today handed red and white roses to the Taliban fighters who have taken their city – as they desperately tried to build bridges with them.
Footage of the men and boys approaching the armed members showed them handing the symbolic coloured flowers.
In Afghani culture red roses symbolise friendship, while the white blooms mean forgiveness.
Ironically the flowers were nearly wiped out during the last Taliban regime when gardens were left neglected.
The handing of the roses was a last gamble of families in Kabul who are anxiously waiting to see how rule under the Islamists will look.
With little else to urge compassion from them, mothers and fathers are hoping the gesture will encourage mercy.
The peaceful act is in stark contrast to the actions of Taliban fighters marauding the capital city.
They have been targeting pro-West men and women and knocking on doors to take them away.
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