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Taliban tightens control of Kabul airport, US evacuates more than 82,000 people from Afghanistan

By PTI

WASHINGTON: The Taliban has strengthened its measures of access and control around Kabul airport, the Pentagon has said.

Hamid Karzai International Airport is the only access point for the international community to reach people in Afghanistan, which is a landlocked country.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said, “The Taliban have increased their security at their checkpoints and joined in on crowd control. Every day is a different day, and yesterday we estimated that the crowds were about the same as in previous days.” It was half.” told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.

“We still haven’t seen them to the level they were in its early days. But yes, one of the reasons is that the Taliban have strengthened their measures of access and control around the field,” he said.

Responding to questions from reporters, Kirby said the US would not be responsible for the management of Kabul airport after August 31.

He said the US embassy is currently operating from the airport.

Kirby said the Taliban are responsible for running the airport in a city where he is now the head of government.

There is no military property guarding the embassy complex.

The US embassy is operating out of Hamid Karzai International Airport and “as for the Turks, they are still assisting with this security mission at the airport that we have”, he said.

Read also | Pakistan hopes that Taliban will not allow Afghan soil to be used against any country

“I won’t speak for their intentions one way or another, but that’s not going to happen when the mission is over and when we’re leaving the airport, the airport will no longer be the responsibility of the US. How was it managed? Going forward will be something that the Taliban. Will have to manage with themselves — and I think, you know, with the international community. But it will not be an American responsibility,” Kirby said.

“The US is in daily communication with Taliban commanders about who they want to enter and what the credentials are, what they look like, what is legitimate,” he said.

“That communication happens literally every day. We are nothing with the Taliban hoping we would let them in. Again, fully acknowledge that not every step of this process is under our control. And there are going to be incidents where it doesn’t work as advertised,” Kirby said.

The British government is warning its citizens in Afghanistan to stay away from Kabul airport, citing the “ongoing and high threat” of a terrorist attack.

The Foreign Office says anyone in the airport area should “move to a safe place and await further advice”.

It is not clear how many Britons live in Afghanistan.

Britain’s military flights have evacuated more than 11,000 people in recent days, including several thousand British citizens and more than 7,000 Afghans.

Britain plans to end its evacuation before US forces leave at the end of the month.

Read also | Taliban agree to let Afghans go after August 31: German envoy

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the US has so far evacuated more than 82,000 people from Kabul, with nearly 19,000 in the past 24 hours alone in one of the “largest” airlifts in world history.

Since August 14, the day the Taliban toppled the US-backed government in Afghanistan, the war-torn country had 6,000 American citizens who wanted to leave.

In the past 10 days, about 4,500 of these Americans have been evacuated along with their family members, Blinken told reporters here on Wednesday.

“Since August 14, more than 82,300 people have been safely evacuated from Kabul. In the 24-hour period from Tuesday to Wednesday, nearly 19,000 people were evacuated by 90 US military and coalition flights. Only the US has organized a mission. And could execute. Of this scale and this complexity,” he said.

“This is one of the largest airlifts in history, a massive military, diplomatic, security and humanitarian undertaking,” Blinken said.

“Over the past 24 hours, we have been in direct contact with about 500 additional Americans and have provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely,” he said, adding that the US was aggressively targeting the remaining approximately 1,000. Accessing contacts. .

Noting that the US is operating in a hostile environment in a city and country controlled by the Taliban, in which there is a very real possibility of an ISIS-led attack, the secretary said that the US is taking every precaution, but it is a very high risk. .

The US is “on track” to complete its mission by August 31, provided the Taliban continues to cooperate and there is no disruption to the effort, Blinken said, adding that President Joe Biden has also called for contingency plans “if he determines whether we must remain in the country before that date”.

“But let me be clear about this: There is no time limit on our work to help any remaining American citizens who decide they want to do so, as well as the many Afghans who have spent these many years. Stand with us and want to leave and have been unable to do so. This effort will continue every day after August 31.”

Blinken said the Taliban had made public and private commitments to provide and allow safe passage for Americans, third country citizens and Afghans to move beyond August 31.

“The US, our allies and partners, and more than half of the world’s countries, 114 in total, have issued a statement making it clear to the Taliban that it is their responsibility to uphold that commitment and provide a safe passage for anyone Leave the country not only for the duration of our evacuation and resettlement mission, but every day after that.”

Read also | Britain warns Taliban against separating Afghanistan from the world

“We are developing detailed plans for how we can continue to provide consular support and facilitate departure for those who wish to leave after August 31. Our expectation, the expectation of the international community, is that those who wish to leave the United States are Want to leave Afghanistan after the military. Departure should be able to do that. Together we will do everything we can to see that that expectation is met,” Blinken said.

The US has said it is looking at several “options” on its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after the August 31 deadline.

August 31 is the deadline set by both the US and the Taliban for America’s withdrawal from the war-torn country.

“With regard to our own possible presence after the 31st, we are considering a number of options,” Foreign Minister Antony Blinken told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.

“I’m sure we’ll have more on that in the coming days and weeks, but we’re looking at a number of options,” he said, referring to the US diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal deadline.

Over the next few days, Blinken said, America’s focus is on security for American citizens, other Afghan partners, third-country partners — who were working with the US in Afghanistan — and security out of Afghanistan.

And for that purpose, “whether we like it or not”, it is important to work with the Taliban, who are “largely under Afghanistan’s control”, to try to facilitate and ensure the departure of all of them. For those who want to leave, said Blinken.

“And that’s really been something we’ve been focused on from the very beginning of this operation, because as a practical matter it advances our interests,” he said.

According to Blinken, the US has been diplomatically engaging with the Taliban for some time now, in efforts to advance a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan.

“There are still talks and negotiations going on between the Taliban and former members of the Afghan government, for example, regarding the transfer of power and some inclusivity in the future government. I think it is in our interest to see them where possible. supporting the efforts,” he said.

Going forward, Blinken said, the US will assess its engagement with any Taliban-led government in Afghanistan based on a simple proposition: America’s interests, “and whether or not it helps us advance them.” “.

“If engagement with the government can advance our enduring interests in fighting terrorism, it will be our enduring interest in trying to help the Afghan people in need of humanitarian assistance, our enduring interest in seeing that all Afghans have access to Rights especially women and girls are upheld, so we will do that.”

But fundamentally, the nature of that engagement and the nature of any relationship depends entirely on the actions and conduct of the Taliban, Blinken stressed.

“If a future government upholds the basic rights of the Afghan people, if it fulfills its commitments to ensure that Afghanistan is not used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against us and our allies and partners And in the first place, if it meets its commitments to release people who want to leave Afghanistan, this is a government we can work with.”

The top US diplomat said, “If that doesn’t happen, we will make sure that we use every appropriate tool at our disposal to isolate that government, and as I said earlier, Afghanistan is an untouchable.” Will happen.”

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