Taliban say no more evacuations until life improves for Afghans abroad

The Taliban will not allow more Afghans to be evacuated until the situation improves abroad for those who have already left, their spokesman said on Sunday.

Families who want to leave in the future also need a good excuse to do so, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a news conference.

More than 120,000 Afghans and dual nationals were evacuated until August 31, when the last US-led troops withdrew, two weeks after the hardline Islamists took Kabul.

After that, hundreds more were allowed to leave with flights, but the last official evacuation by air was on December 1.

Mujahid said the Taliban had received reports of thousands of Afghans living “in very bad conditions” in Qatar and Turkey.

“The government has a responsibility to protect the people, so this will be stopped until we have assurances that their lives will not be in danger,” he said.

He responded to a question about reports circulating on social media that border officials had been told no one would be evacuated, including by road.

After taking power, the Taliban promised that Afghans would be allowed to come and go as they pleased – as long as they had passports and visas for their destination.

But they also let thousands of people leave without travel documents — mostly families of individuals who have worked for US-led troops, embassies or other Western organizations for the past 20 years.

Thousands of people with similar ties are still in Afghanistan, but they are desperate to leave and fear they could be targeted by the Taliban as “collaborators”.

Widespread reprisals have so far not been reliably reported, but the United Nations says more than 100 people with ties to the former Western-backed regime have been killed by the Taliban.

Mujahid said the Taliban have never promised to allow evacuations to last indefinitely.

“Initially, we said the Americans… could take in people they were concerned about,” he said.

“But this is not an ongoing promise.”

He said families who had no “excuse” to leave the country should not be allowed to do so.

Mujahid also said that women are not allowed to travel abroad unless accompanied by a male chaperone.

“This is the order of Islamic Sharia,” he said, adding that officials were exploring ways to ensure it wouldn’t affect women who may have scholarships to study abroad.

Restrictions introduced

Women are already banned from traveling between towns and villages unless with a close male relative.

After seizing power, the Taliban promised a softer version of the harsh interpretation of Islamic rule that characterized their 1996-2001 rule.

But slowly restrictions were put in place – if not by a national edict, then implemented at the whim of local officials.

Even Afghans with no ties to the former regime are trying to leave the country, which has been plunged into economic crisis since the Taliban takeover.

Thousands of people daily try to cross the border into neighboring Iran in search of work, or in an attempt to reach European Union countries and in the hope of asylum.

The United States has seized $7 billion in Afghan assets held abroad.

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