UK in talks with Taliban to evacuate British citizens, Afghans
Sept 1, 2021: The UK has begun negotiations with the Taliban to secure a “safe passage” from Afghanistan for its citizens and Afghans who have worked for the British government.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s special envoy for Afghan transition, Simon Gass, arrived in Doha, Qatar, late Tuesday to meet with Taliban representatives, according to a government statement.
Until the overthrow of Afghanistan’s Western-backed government after 20 years of war, most senior Taliban leaders lived in exile in the Qatari capital.
“Gass is meeting with senior Taliban representatives to highlight the importance of a safe passage out of Afghanistan for British citizens and Afghans who have worked with us over the past 20 years,” the statement said.
This is the first public statement on diplomacy between London and the Taliban since UK joined the United States on the mass evacuation effort of carrying more than 100,000 people outside the country following the capture of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
The Taliban has promised to allow the Afghan community to come and go in the days following the US withdrawal on Tuesday.
More than 8,000 Afghans who helped NATO forces were expelled from Afghanistan and the UK government said they would be given an indefinite leave to stay.
But UK PM Johnson came under fire after many Afghans who helped NATO – and are eligible to relocate to Britain – are believed to be stranded in Afghanistan, where they are at the mercy of the Taliban. An unnamed British minister told the Sunday Times that he believed Britain could have evacuated “800-1000 more people” during the chaotic evacuation.
UK PM Johnson’s administration tried to extend the US withdrawal deadline to after August 31, but ultimately failed to persuade President Joe Biden.
After the Taliban entered Kabul in mid-August, the UK’s prime minister said the Taliban should be judged on their actions, not their words, and insisted that Britain could not stay in Afghanistan without US support.
UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was also condemned by the opposition Labor Party for not leaving the beach holiday he was on immediately after the Taliban took control.
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