London, United Kingdom:
Britain has entered talks with the Taliban over the “safe passage” of its remaining Afghanistan nationals and allies after the hardline Islamist group’s swift takeover of the country last month.
The British government has confirmed to AFP that it has sent senior official Simon Gass to meet with Taliban representatives in Doha.
Much of the group’s senior leadership lived in exile in the Qatari capital until the overthrow of Afghanistan’s western-backed government after 20 years of war.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under fire after many Afghans who helped NATO — and who qualify to move to Britain — were believed to be stranded in Afghanistan, where they are at the mercy of the Taliban.
Gass is “meeting senior Taliban officials to underline the importance of safe passage out of Afghanistan for British citizens and the Afghans who have worked with us,” a government spokesman told AFP on Wednesday.
It is the first public diplomacy between London and the Taliban since Britain joined the United States in the massive airlift of more than 100,000 people out of the country after the capitulation of the Afghan army.
The Taliban have pledged to let Afghans come and go despite calls from the international community to honor that commitment in the days following the US withdrawal on Tuesday.
More than 8,000 Afghans who helped NATO forces leave Afghanistan and the British government said they would be given indefinite leave to stay.
But the government has been criticized for failing to evacuate hundreds of others trapped in the war-torn country when the Taliban took control.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was also condemned by the opposition Labor party for not immediately leaving a beach holiday when the Taliban took control.
An unnamed British minister told the Sunday Times he believed the UK could have evacuated “800-1000 more people” in the chaotic airlift.
The Johnson administration attempted to extend the US’s August 31 withdrawal deadline, but ultimately failed to convince President Joe Biden.
After the Taliban invaded Kabul in mid-August, the British Prime Minister said the Taliban should be judged by its “actions rather than its words” and insisted Britain could not have stayed in Afghanistan without US support.
(This story was not edited by NewsMadura staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)