Taliban block Afghans’ access to Kabul airport

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In his second press conference since the takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban called on the United States to stop “urging” Afghans to flee the country and said it would block access to Kabul airport on Tuesday.

“Our people, our engineers, our doctors, professors and those who have been educated. The country needs their talent, and they should not be taken to foreign countries,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said. the Wall Street Journal.

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Mujahid said Afghan citizens would be banned from entering Hamid Karzai International Airport and alleged that large crowds of people trying to flee the country put lives at risk.

President Biden last week estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 Americans and 50,000 to 65,000 Afghans at risk were trying to flee the country before the August 31 deadline, when all US troops must withdraw.

However, some human rights groups estimated that at least 200,000 Afghans were seeking to evacuate the country.

The White House announced Tuesday that since Operation Allies Refuge began last week, 70,700 people have been evacuated, including 12,000 people who have been evacuated in the past 12 hours.

The Taliban spokesman did not say when the ban would go into effect, but his comments contradict what State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Friday.

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“The Taliban… have assured us that they will allow Afghans who wish to leave the country to do so after August 31,” Price said. “They at least say they agree with us that a functional, safe and operational airport is essential for the well-being of the Afghan people and the maintenance of the Afghan economy.

Biden said on Tuesday he aimed to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by August 31.

But the president said he had asked the State Department and the Pentagon for contingency plans in case the US military presence had to be extended to remove all evacuees.

“We are currently on a pace to finish August 31st. The sooner we can finish, the better,” he said. “But completion by August 31 depends on continued Taliban cooperation and permission to access the airport.”

The president said that he and other world leaders from NATO, the European Union, and the Group of Seven (G7) countries have said they “stand united” when it comes to tackling the Taliban on the world stage.

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“We agree that neither of us will take the Taliban at their word, we will judge them on their actions, and we will remain in close coordination on any steps we take to move forward in response to the behavior of the Taliban,” said the president.

The Taliban have said they will not agree to an extension beyond the August deadline and it is still unclear how many more are waiting to be evacuated from Afghanistan.

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