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Britain in talks with Taliban over safe passage of remaining nationals

AFP/London
Filed on September 1, 2021
Members of the British armed forces disembark a Royal Air Force Voyager at RAF Brize Norton, west of London. Photo: AFP

Senior civil servant Simon Gass to meet with Taliban representatives in Doha


Britain has opened talks with the Taliban over the "safe passage" of its remaining nationals and allies out of Afghanistan after the group's quickfire takeover of the country last month.

The British government confirmed to AFP it has dispatched senior civil servant Simon Gass to meet with Taliban representatives in Doha.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under fire after many Afghans who helped NATO - and are eligible to move to Britain - were believed to have been left stranded in Afghanistan, where they are at the mercy of the Taliban.

Gass is "meeting with senior Taliban representatives to underline the importance of safe passage out of Afghanistan for British nationals, and those Afghans who have worked with us," a government spokesperson told AFP on Wednesday.

It is the first publicly disclosed diplomacy between London and the Taliban since Britain joined the United States in the mammoth airlift of more than 100,000 people out of the country after the Afghan military's capitulation.

The Taliban has pledged to allow Afghans to come and go in the face of calls from the international community to honour that commitment in the days after the US withdrawal on Tuesday.

More than 8,000 Afghans who helped NATO forces made it out of Afghanistan and the British government said they would be given indefinite leave to remain.

But criticism was levelled at the government for not evacuating hundreds more.

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab was also condemned by the opposition Labour party for not immediately leaving a beach holiday when the Taliban took control.

An unnamed British minister told the Sunday Times that he believed the UK could have evacuated "800-1,000 more people" in the chaotic airlift.

Johnson's government sought to extend the US withdrawal deadline of August 31 but ultimately failed to persuade President Joe Biden.





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