UK in talks with Taliban to secure withdrawal of British and Afghan civilians

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Stringer / EPA

It is the first official confirmation of a Western nation in contacts with Islamic extremists, which can be interpreted as a step towards recognizing the group as the highest and legitimate authority in Afghanistan.

O United Kingdom initiated talks with the Taliban to ensure “free passage” of its nationals and allies out of Afghanistan after the Islamic extremist movement took control of the country. Simon Gass, British special representative for the transition in Afghanistan, will have traveled to Doha to meet with the Taliban leaders who installed their base there.

Gass “will meet with senior Taliban representatives to emphasize the importance of free passage to out of afghanistan for the British and Afghan citizens who worked for us,” the government spokesman said in a statement. The solution can pass through neighboring countries, such as the Pakistan, O Uzbekistan or the Tajikistan — a route that is already being explored by Germany.

According to The Guardian, thousands of Afghans on the UK list as eligible for evacuation were unable to leave Afghanistan on the airlift that ran over the past few weeks and ended last weekend. It is estimated that around 1,000 interpreters and their families remain in the country, but with the desire to travel to the UK.

Downing Street has already confirmed the veracity of the reports, through a spokesperson. “The Prime Minister’s Special Representative, Simon Gass, has traveled to Doha and will meet with a senior Taliban representative to underline the importance of a safe exit from Afghanistan for British citizens and Afghans who have worked with us throughout of the last twenty years.”

This is the first public confirmation of the diplomatic moves between London and the Taliban. As such, the meeting of Simon Gass, also chairman of the committee of British intelligence agencies, can also be interpreted as an effort by the UK and its Western allies to come to an understanding with the Taliban that may culminate in the group’s recognition as the highest legitimate authority in Afghanistan.

London joined the United States in a massive operation to evacuate more than 100,000 people from Afghanistan after the Afghan army surrendered to the Taliban. However, the process did not go in the most peaceful way. Initially, reports surfaced that the British Foreign Secretary would not have ordered the evacuation of British civilians from Afghanistan before Kabul had fallen into the hands of Islamic extremists.

As reported by the British press, Dominic Raab, who was on vacation, reportedly delegated the task of contacting his Afghan counterpart (to give him the order) to a junior minister, with whom the foreign minister then in office refused to speak. Hanif Atmar even asked to postpone the phone call to the next day, in order to speak with Raab, but that would not happen in the face of the quick and unexpected advance of the Taliban.

Later, news emerged that the British managed to rescue families Afghan women whose members had collaborated with Western forces during the twenty years of the war and who, faced with the urgency to evacuate diplomatic officials and leave the embassies, found their personal data left behind and possibly in the hands of the extremist group.

More recently, senior British and US diplomatic and military positions have also been involved in exchanges of accusations about the suicide attack that caused more than 170 deaths at the entrance to Kabul airport. According to North Americans, the door (Abbey gate) in which the attack took place was open at the request of the British, who processed their eligible civilians and Afghans for evacuation via that route. Yesterday, Dominic Raab denied this thesis, claiming that all decisions were taken in coordination with US military forces.

So far, more than 8,000 Afghans who helped NATO forces have managed to leave Afghanistan, and London has given assurances that they can stay in the UK.