Taliban close Kabul airport road to Afghans to block their evacuation
No extensions for US evacuations in Afghanistan, warn Taliban
CIA chief held secret meeting with Taliban leader in Kabul
‘Not in favour’ of allowing Afghans to leave homeland: Taliban spokesman
KABUL: The Taliban have moved to prevent Afghans from leaving the country by joining the US-led airlift, declaring the route to Kabul airport only open to foreigners.
The Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: “The road that ends at Kabul airport has been blocked. Foreigners can go through it but Afghans are not allowed to take the road.”
The decision is likely to leave tens of thousands of Afghans who had been hoping to escape trapped under Taliban control.
A number of cases had emerged in recent days of Afghans heading to the airport being turned back at Taliban checkpoints, including those with approval from western countries to join the air bridge as the group seeks to tighten its grip on the airport and the capital.
Mujahid offered contradictory justifications for the policy. He said on the one hand that the Taliban had stopped Afghans from going to the airport for fear that people might be killed in a stampede, but on the other that the evacuation was taking out experts such as engineers and doctors.
“We ask [the Americans] to stop this process,” he said. “This country needs their expertise. They should not be taken to other countries.”
Mujahid repeated the Taliban’s earlier announcement that they would not allow the US to extend next week’s deadline for a complete withdrawal.
“They have planes, they have the airport, they should get their citizens and contractors out of here,” he said. His comments came despite a visit to Kabul by the CIA director, William Burns, who reportedly met the Taliban leader in secret on Monday in the highest-level diplomatic encounter since the group took over.
Burns met the Taliban leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, according to unnamed US officials, as the Biden administration continued efforts to evacuate US citizens and other allies.
The CIA declined to comment on the meeting, but the report speculated that a likely subject of discussion was the impending 31 August deadline for the US military to conclude its airlift.