Middle East/North Africa

Taliban halt evacuations of Afghans

Associated Press/Petros Giannkouris

The Taliban on Sunday announced that Afghans would not be permitted to leave the country without a good reason and women would be forbidden from traveling without a chaperone, rebuffing a key United States demand for lifting sanctions. 

“The government is obliged to find out a way to protect their people,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Sunday during a press conference, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Especially when their path is not clear and they’re not invited. They should not dive into the unknown,” Mujahid added of the Afghan people seeking to leave the country. He also cited religious laws as the reason that women could not travel alone. 

The Journal added that Taliban fighters on Monday stopped people traveling on a highway from Kabul to Pakistan and at times pulled families with suitcases aside to ask about the intention of their travel.

Thousands of Afghan people who were evacuated on U.S. military and private charter flights following the Taliban’s takeover last year remain in third countries awaiting paperwork to be processed.

While the State Department has said that it was engaging in talks with the Taliban to resolve the issues, it said it had not officially heard the information regarding barring additional departures, the Journal reported.

The Hill has reached out to the State Department for comment. 

Since the Taliban took over Kabul in August, thousands of Afghans have fled the country, especially those who feared repercussions for their past connections to the U.S.

The country has been on the brink of economic collapse and has also suffered a severe humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations warning in September that 1 million Afghan neared starvation.

“After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said of the Afghan people at that time, adding that international donors had pledged more than a billion dollars in aid to Afghanistan.

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