Seven Afghan civilians were killed on Sunday amid crowding at Kabul’s airport as the country witnesses a rising refugee crisis.
The Taliban is set to announce a new government framework for Afghanistan “in the next few weeks”, a spokesman from the militant group told Reuters on Saturday.
“Legal, religious and foreign policy experts in the Taliban aim to present the new governing framework in the next few weeks,” said the official.
Since the insurgents took over Kabul last week, former Afghan president, Hamid Karzai and the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah have been leading discussions with the Taliban over the formation of an inclusive government.
The latest meeting took place on Saturday at Abdullah’s house.
“[Both sides] exchanged views on the current security and political developments, and an inclusive political settlement for the future of the country,” said Abdullah’s office, without providing additional details about the meeting.
Karzai and Abdullah also met with Abdul Rahman Mansour, the Taliban’s acting governor for Kabul to discuss “the security of the citizens of Kabul” while agreeing on prioritising the protection of “the life, property and dignity of the citizens”.
They also stressed that the safety of citizens will help Kabul return to normalcy.
On 15 August, the Taliban captured Kabul after a week of capturing provincial capitals in Afghanistan amid an ongoing US and NATO troop withdrawal, forcing former president Ashraf Ghani to flee to Tajikistan and the UAE.
“I was not surprised that the UAE is hosting Ghani and his family since it has a sizeable Afghan expat community most of whom are opposed to the Taliban. Moreover, the UAE has played a critical role in facilitating corruption in Afghanistan by allowing ill-gotten wealth,” Dr. Farhan Chak, Associate Professor of Political Science at Qatar University told Doha News last week.
On Thursday, Taliban member Wahidullah Hashemi said that there is a chance that Afghanistan will be led by a council led by the authority of the militants’ leader, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada.
“Discussions haven’t been conducted on what it will be like—perhaps we will establish a council. What you call a president we will call ‘the head of ministers.’ We will have ministers, and all these ministers will be appointed by the head of the council,” said Hashemi.
So far, the European Union said it refuses to recognise the Taliban’s regime and rejected plans to hold talks with the militants.
The formation of Afghanistan’s governance remains unclear and more Afghans are attempting to flee the country.
Distressing scenes have continued to emerge from Hamid Karzai International Airport where thousands of Afghans are awaiting evacuation. In the last few days, an image showing parents handing their infants to soldiers over a barbed wire wall has gone viral online.
On Sunday, the British military said at least seven people died at the airport.
“Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement, as quoted by the Associated Press [AP].
Foreign forces in Kabul noted a threat from an IS affiliate in the country, forcing the US military to accelerate its evacuations.
US officials declined to provide further information about the perceived IS threat but confirmed it is “significant”. No attacks have been reported as of yet.
Eight days since the banks closed in Kabul and across Afghanistan. ATM machines are empty. pic.twitter.com/DQzbyPXG8r
— BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) August 21, 2021
Beyond Kabul airport, Afghans are facing a worsening economic situation in Afghanistan. Banks in Kabul have remained closed since the Taliban entered the city last week. ATM machines are empty.
Qatar’s evacuation efforts
Meanwhile, Qatar is currently working with the UN, the US and other international partners to ensure Afghans and foreigners are safely evacuated from Kabul following a US and NATO troop withdrawal and the subsequent Taliban takeover.
Doha’s Assistant Foreign Minister and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lolwah Al-Khater dismissed claims made by Western media over Qatar’s alleged refusal to accept more Afghans.
“I can only speak on Qatar evacuation missions, they will continue! In the past 72 hours we evacuated over 300 mostly female students and over 200 media personnel; many of them with their families & kids who are now safe in comfortable accommodation in Doha,” said Al-Khater, responding to a tweet by CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward.
Qatar’s Deputy Director of Qatar’s Government Communications Office [GCO] Thamer Al Thani said the Gulf state’s armed forces are working on evacuating hundreds of Afghan civilians including families, children, female students, professors and international journalists.
Among the evacuees were members of an Afghan girls’ robotics team, all of whom arrived in Qatar safely on Tuesday and will remain in the Gulf state to continue their education.
“The Digital Citizen Fund [DCF], the team’s parent organisation, is deeply grateful to the
government of Qatar for their outstanding support, which included not only expediting the visa process but sending a plane after outbound flights from Afghanistan were repeatedly cancelled,” read a statement by the team’s organisation.
Hundreds of civilians have already arrived in Doha with more expected to land over the next few days. Refugees have been placed in the US’ Al Udeid Air Base, hotels, or have been safely transferred through the Hamad International Airport to their final destination.
Qatar is providing evacuees with PCR testing, access to quarantine, healthcare facilities and vaccination to ensure their safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the refugees could also apply for jobs and residency in Doha per the country’s rules and regulations.
Qatar has joined over 50 countries worldwide in calling for “a safe and orderly departure” for Afghans and foreign nationals wanting to flee the country.
Doha was the only Gulf state on the list and joined Yemen as the only two Arab countries to sign the joint statement.
The UN estimated that at least 400,000 people in Afghanistan have been forced to flee their homes since the beginning of 2021, with the number expected to rise due to ongoing political instability.