Taliban announce ‘amnesty’,
fear in Kabul, chaos at airport

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KABUL: The Taliban have declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government on Tuesday, trying to calm nerves across the tense capital city of Kabul that only the day before saw chaos at its airport as people tried to flee the Taliban rule.

Afghan leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar

The comments by Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, represent the first comments on governance from a federal level across the country after their blitz across the country.

While there were no major reports of abuses or fighting in Kabul, many residents have stayed home and remain fearful after the insurgents’ takeover saw prisons emptied and armories looted. Older generations remember their ultraconservative views during their rule before the US-led invasion in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Back then, women were barred from attending school or working outside the home. They had to wear the all-encompassing burqa and be accompanied by a male relative whenever they went outside. The Taliban banned music, cut off the hands of thieves and stoned adulterers.

Kabul Airport

“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims,” Samangani said, using the Taliban’s 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.”

Afghan leader Mullah Baradar

Samangani remained vague on other details, however, implying people already knew the rules of the Islamic law the Taliban expected them to follow.“Our people are Muslims and we are not here to force them to Islam,” he said.

The insurgents have sought to project greater moderation in recent years, but many Afghans remain skeptical.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Stefano Pontecorvo, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, posted a video online, showing the runway empty with American troops on the tarmac at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. What appeared to be a military cargo plane could be seen in the distance from behind a chain-link fence in the footage.

Afghan leader Mullah Baradar

Overnight, flight-tracking data showed a US Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules plane at the airport and later taking off for Qatar, home to Al Udeid airbase and the US military Central Command’s forward headquarters. There were no other immediate flights seen in Afghan airspace, which has been taken over by the American military as commercial flights have been halted in the country.

On Monday, thousands of Afghans rushed into Kabul’s main airport, some so desperate to escape the Taliban that they held onto a military jet as it took off and plunged to their deaths. At least seven people died in the chaos, US officials said.

Across Afghanistan, the International Committee of the Red Cross said thousands had been wounded in the fighting. Security forces and politicians handed over their provinces and bases without a fight, likely believing the two-decade Western experiment to remake Afghanistan would not survive the resurgent Taliban. The last American troops had planned to withdraw at the end of the month.

US reaches out to Pakistanj, India,

 China and Russa on Afghan situation

The US has reached out to Pakistan and half a dozen other countries it believes can influence the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban appear to be consolidating their hold after capturing Kabul.

Kabul Airport

The foreign ministers of Pakistan, China, Russia, India and Turkey and the foreign secretary of Britain were among the top diplomats the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with on Monday, his office announced in a statement. He also spoke with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s secretary general and European Union’s (EU) high representative, the statement added.

Pakistan shares a 2,252-kilometre-long border with Afghanistan, while China shares a shorter but sensitive border along the Wakhan corridor — a narrow strip of territory in Afghanistan.

Russia does not share any border with Afghanistan but has built a close relationship with Afghan insurgents since the withdrawal of its troops from the war-torn country in 1989.

Turkey, too, has traditionally maintained good relations with Afghanistan and Britain has leverage there as well.

Taliban controlling Afghanistan

The EU has partnered with the US in providing economic assistance to Afghanistan and has been supporting America’s military presence there.

In reaching out to China, the US overcame its concerns that Beijing may exploit the latter’s withdrawal from Afghanistan to further expand its influence in the region.

US policymakers believe that problems in the Muslim majority Xinjiang province of China provide an opportunity for cooperation between Beijing and Washington. They say that like them, China also does not want religious insurgency in the region as it will have an adverse impact on Xinjiang.

Mullah Abdul Ghani along with Taliban leaders

Washington believes that India can also be useful in Afghanistan where it retains pockets of influence in various places.

But policymakers and scholars in Washington have repeatedly said that none of these countries match the depth of Pakistan’s ties with Afghanistan. Both Trump and Biden administrations have publicly acknowledged Pakistan’s support in concluding the February 2020 peace deal with the Taliban.

Moreover, Washington is aware of the struggle between India and Pakistan for influence in Afghanistan and wants both countries to not allow their rivalry to further strain an already tense situation in a sensitive region. In this connection, Blinken called his Indian and Pakistani counterparts on Monday.