Taliban urged to give ‘safe passage’ to refugees as US exits

·2-min read
 (US AIR FORCE/AFP via Getty Image)
(US AIR FORCE/AFP via Getty Image)

The Taliban has been urged to provide “safe passage” to refugees as the US has announced it has completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal to Afghanistan and the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens,” US General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters.

The final flight left at 1929 GMT Monday - just before the start of Tuesday in Kabul, he said.

America’s two-week-long airlift has taken more than 114,000 Afghans and foreigners and the last of its troops out of the country which is now dominated by the Taliban.

The UK’s ambassador to the UN Dame Barbara Woodward told the United Nations Security Council that the “immediate priority is ensuring all those who wish to leave Afghanistan can do so safely”.

She said: “We have been clear that the Taliban must adhere to their own stated commitments to ensure safe passage beyond August 31.”

She told the meeting in New York: “Afghanistan can never again become a safe haven for terrorists.

“We have condemned, unequivocally, the attack on Kabul airport last week and we reiterate our condolences and sympathy to the bereaved and to the injured.

“A co-ordinated approach will be vital to counter any extremist threat emanating from Afghanistan and we call on the Taliban to honour their commitments contained in the Doha agreement.”

The Doha agreement was struck between the Taliban and US in 2020.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UN Security Council resolution “makes clear that the international community stands with Afghans”.

He added: “There can be no return to repression or terror. We will push as one voice for safe passage, humanitarian access & respect for human rights.”

Rocket fire, apparently targeting Kabul’s international airport, struck a nearby neighbourhood on Monday but US military C-17 transport planes continued the withdrawal effort as 20 years of Western military presence drew to a close.

The affiliate of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan, Isis-K, claimed responsibility, saying it fired at least six rockets at the airport.

The US military said five rockets were fired at the airport on Monday morning but were intercepted.

On Sunday, a US drone strike blew up a vehicle carrying IS suicide bombers before they could attack the military evacuation at Kabul’s airport, American officials said. Reports suggested at least 10 civilians, including children, were among the dead.

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