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Saturday, January 22, 2022

France’s Macron in talks with Taliban via Qatar over further evacuations


The French president confirmed he was holding discussions with the Taliban on possible evacuations after the group took over Afghanistan.

French President Emmanuel Macron discussed with Qatar on how it might re-establish a pathway for Afghan evacuations at a security summit in Baghdad where he was attending with several Middle Eastern leaders on Saturday.

Macron also confirmed that France was holding discussions with the Taliban about the situation in Afghanistan and the evacuation of more people following the group’s takeover of the country on August 15.

Turkey in meetings with Qatar, G7 to discuss Kabul airport as Biden warns of ‘high threats’

“We are in the process of holding discussions, which are still fragile and provisional, with the Taliban regarding humanitarian evacuations to repatriate Afghan men and women at risk,” said Macron.

Details on the potential evacuations have yet to be confirmed, but they will be planned in coordination with Qatar and may involve airlift operations, according to the French president.

So far, France has evacuated 2,834 people from Afghanistan since August 17.

As the host of the Afghan peace process, Qatar has established good contact with the Taliban and has taken on a pivotal role to help the international community and global organisations arrange evacuations from Kabul.

On Thursday, more than 100 Afghan civilians and US troops were killed in multiple explosions that rocked Kabul airport in an attack claimed by an Islamic State (IS) group affiliate.

The blast came during the final days of US-led evacuations from Afghanistan after the Taliban’s lightning takeover.

While in Baghdad, Macron also held talks with Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on a possible role for Doha in organising further evacuations beyond the August 31 deadline set by Washington to withdraw its troops.

US troop withdrawal

Chaos has erupted in Afghanistan since US President Joe Biden announced his decision to withdraw all American and NATO forces by 31 August.

The announcement triggered crossfire between the Taliban and US-trained Afghan forces as foreign troops departed the country. By the second week of August, the Taliban had entered Kabul, with former President Ashraf Ghani fleeing to the UAE.

The speed at which the events in Afghanistan developed led to rushed evacuations, with the US and its allies conducting one of the biggest air evacuations in history, moving more than 100,000 people out of the country.

So far, Qatar has evacuated more than 40,000 people from Afghanistan with the number expected to increase over the next few days and weeks.

There have been several concerns over the August deadline, with little time left to evacuate the thousands who remain in Afghanistan.

“We wish we could have stayed longer and rescued everyone,” the acting chief of Canada’s defence staff, General Wayne Eyre, told reporters, with Canada saying it could no longer continue its airlift.

Several foreign forces have called on the Biden administration to extend the deadline though the Taliban has warned of consequences if such an extension occurs.

Speaking to Doha News on Wednesday, Taliban spokesman in Qatar Suhail Shaheen said the extension would be a “second violation” by the US.

“You see, if they violate this, it will be the second violation. First, they violated the agreement because they were to withdraw completely by May 1. Then they announced, President Biden, that he will withdraw his forces by 31 of August. Now if he violates it, it will be a second violation and it will create suspicion of course,” he said.

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