Kabul: The Taliban held their first official news conference in Kabul since the city’s surprise seizure on Tuesday, declaring that they wanted peaceful relations with other countries and that they would respect women’s rights within the framework of Islamic law.
“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, the movement’s main spokesman.
Mujahid stated that women would be permitted to work and study, and that they would be “very active in society but within the framework of Islam.”
He stated that the Taliban would not seek retribution against former soldiers or members of the Western-backed government, and that the movement would grant amnesty to former Afghan government soldiers, as well as contractors and translators who worked for international forces.
“No one is going to hurt you, and no one is going to knock on your door,” he said.
He stated that private media in Afghanistan could remain free and independent, and that the Taliban was committed to media within its cultural framework.
Mujahid’s conciliatory tone contrasted sharply with remarks by Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who declared himself the “legitimate caretaker president” and vowed not to submit to Kabul’s new rulers.
The Taliban news conference came the day after the United States and Western allies evacuated diplomats and civilians from Kabul airport, where Afghans desperate to flee the Taliban thronged.
Foreign powers are assessing how to respond to the changing situation on the ground as they rush to evacuate diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the Taliban should allow all those who wanted to leave the country to do so, and that NATO’s goal was to help Afghanistan build a viable state.
The US withdrawal has been widely criticised, particularly in light of the chaotic scenes at Kabul Airport. “The images of despair at Kabul airport shame the political West,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
The Taliban agreed not to attack foreign forces as they leave as part of a US troop withdrawal agreement reached last year.
On Tuesday, US military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan resumed after the runway at Kabul airport was cleared of thousands of desperate fleeing passengers.
On Sunday, US forces took control of the airport, the militants’ only way out of Afghanistan, capping off a week of rapid advances by taking over Kabul without a fight, 20 years after they were ousted by a US-led invasion.
A Western security official at the airport told Reuters that the number of civilians had decreased. On Monday, US troops fired warning shots to disperse crowds, and people clutched a US military transport plane as it taxied for takeoff.
President Joe Biden stated that he must choose between asking US forces to fight indefinitely or implementing a withdrawal agreement negotiated by his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump.
“I stand firm in my decision,” Biden said. “I learned the hard way after 20 years that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces.”
Faced with criticism from even his own diplomats, he blamed the Taliban takeover on the departure of Afghan political leaders and the army’s unwillingness to fight.