The Taliban announced Tuesday an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government, trying to calm nerves across a nervous capital city that only the day before saw chaos at its airport as people tried to flee their rule.
The comments by Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, represent the first comments on governance from a federal level across the country after their blitz across the country. While there were no major reports of abuses or fighting in Kabul, many residents have stayed home and remain fearful after the insurgents’ takeover saw prisons emptied and armories looted.
Older generations remember their ultraconservative Islamic views, which included stonings, amputations and public executions during their rule before the US-led invasion that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims,” Samangani said, using the militants’ term for Afghanistan. “They should be in government structure according to Shariah law.”
He added: “The structure of government is not fully clear, but based on experience, there should be a fully Islamic leadership and all sides should join.”
Meanwhile Tuesday, Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO’s senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, posted video online showing the runway empty with American troops on the tarmac. What appeared to be a military cargo plane could be seen in the distance from behind a chain-link fence in the footage.
The runway “is open,” he wrote on Twitter. “I see airplanes landing and taking off.” Overnight, flight-tracking data showed a US Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules plane at the airport and later taking off for Qatar, home to Al-Udeid Air Base and the US military Central Command’s forward headquarters. There were no other immediate flights seen in Afghan airspace, which has been taken over by the American military as commercial flights have been halted in the country.
Across Afghanistan, the International Committee of the Red Cross said thousands had been wounded in the fighting. Security forces and politicians handed over their provinces and bases without a fight, likely believing the two-decade Western experiment to remake Afghanistan would not survive the resurgent Taliban. The last American troops had planned to withdraw at the end of the month.
“The world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
A resolute US President Joe Biden on Monday said he stood “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw American forces and acknowledged the “gut-wrenching” images unfolding in Kabul. Biden said he faced a choice between honouring a previously negotiated withdrawal agreement or sending thousands more troops back to begin a third decade of war.
“After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces,” Biden said in a televised address from the White House.
Talks appeared to be continuing between the Taliban and several Afghan government officials, including former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who once headed the country’s negotiating council. President Ashraf Ghani earlier fled the country amid the Taliban advance and his whereabouts remain unknown.
An official with direct knowledge of the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists, said senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Muttaqi had arrived in Kabul from Qatar. Muttaqi is a former higher education minister during the Taliban’s last rule. Muttaqi had begun making contact with Afghan political leaders even before Ghani fled.