According to a US official, 200 Americans and other foreigners who remain in Afghanistan will leave the war-torn country on charter planes from Kabul on Thursday after the new Taliban leadership consented to their evacuation.
The flights will be among the first international flights to exit Kabul airport since the Taliban took control of the capital in mid-August, prompting a frantic US-led evacuation of 124,000 foreigners and at-risk Afghans.
The action comes just two days after the Taliban proclaimed an interim government made up mostly of ethnic Pashtun men, including wanted terror suspects and Islamist hardliners, crushing international hopes for a more moderate government.
According to a US official who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, the Taliban were pressured to accept the travels of US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad.
The official could not tell whether the American civilians and other foreign nationals were among those who had been stranded for days in Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, since their private charters had been denied permission to exit.
The Taliban’s introduction of a new government on Tuesday was generally interpreted as a hint that they were not aiming to widen their base and project a more tolerant image to the world, as they had promised before their military takeover.
On Wednesday, foreign countries greeted the interim administration with caution and dismay. Dozens of women took to the streets in Kabul to protest.
Many critics urged the leadership to uphold basic human rights and resuscitate the economy, which is on the verge of collapse due to high inflation, food shortages, and the threat of foreign aid cuts as countries strive to isolate the Taliban.
No one in the Biden administration, according to White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, “would claim that the Taliban are regarded and cherished members of the global community.”
The European Union expressed its displeasure with the nominations, but stated that it will continue to provide humanitarian relief. Longer-term assistance would be contingent on the Taliban preserving basic human rights.
Saudi Arabia expressed optimism that the new government will assist Afghanistan in achieving “security and stability while rejecting violence and extremism.”
According to analysts, the cabinet’s composition could stymie recognition from Western countries, which is necessary for expanded economic participation.
Former detainees from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay are among the new acting Cabinet members, while the interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is wanted by the US on terrorism charges and has a $10 million price on his head.
His uncle is the minister for refugees and repatriation, and he has a $5 million bounty on his head.
Women were barred from working and girls were barred from attending school when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. The gang carried out public executions and imposed a harsh interpretation of Islamic law through its religious police.
Taliban officials have promised to uphold people’s rights, especially women’s rights, in accordance with Islamic sharia law, but those who have gained more liberties in the last two decades are concerned that they may be taken away.
A top Taliban official told SBS News in Australia that women would not be permitted to play cricket, a major activity in Afghanistan, or maybe any other sport since it was “unnecessary” and their bodies would be exposed.
If the Taliban refuses to allow women to play cricket, Australia’s cricket board has threatened to cancel a planned test match against the Afghan men’s squad.
In Kabul, a group of women protested in the Pul-e Surkh neighborhood, holding posters that read, “A Cabinet without women is a failure.” On Tuesday, larger gatherings were dispersed when Taliban fighters fired warning bullets into the air.
“There were no women in the Cabinet when it was announced. A number of journalists who had come to cover the protest were detained and transported to a police station “In a video that was circulated on social media, a woman remarked.
According to a statement from the Taliban’s new Interior Ministry, anyone planning a protest should ask for clearance 24 hours ahead of time to avoid disruptions and security issues.