- Hold their first official news conference in Kabul since the shock seizure of the city
- Say new government would be formalised as soon as the unstable conditions in Kabul permit
KABUL: The Taliban held their first official news conference in Kabul on Tuesday, promising to respect the rights of women, seek good relations with other countries and not to extract retribution on former members of the Afghan military.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the movement's main spokesman, echoed assurances from other Taliban officials who have sought to calm fears that the swift seizure of Kabul would lead to a repeat of the time that marked the movement's previous tenure in power two decades ago.
"We don't want to repeat any conflict, any war again, and we want to do away with the factors for conflict," he said through a translator. "Animosities have come to an end, and we would like to live peacefully. We don't want any internal enemies and any external enemies."
He said a new government would be formalised as soon as the unstable conditions in Kabul permitted.
The rights of women, one of the main focuses of international concern in Afghanistan, would be respected and they would be allowed to work and study and be active in society "but within the framework of Islam."
The Taliban led from 1996-2001, infamous for a rule in which girls could not go to school. Now the group is back in power, and seeking to project an air of restraint and moderation.
Promising an amnesty for former members of the Afghan army and police, he said translators and contractors who worked with international forces since 2001 would not be harmed.
"Nobody is going to harm you, nobody is going to knock on your doors," he said, adding that the Taliban hoped the large crowds of people frantically trying to board flights out of Afghanistan would stay and help rebuild their country.
We don't want to repeat any conflict, any war again, and we want to do away with the factors for conflict: Zabihullah Mujahid
He also pledged that Afghanistan, source of most of the world's heroin according to a UN drugs control agency, would be free of narcotics, asking the international community to help it develop alternative crops for farmers who have relied on opium poppies for their livelihood.
Mujahid added that private media could continue to be free and independent in Afghanistan, adding the Taliban was committed to the media within its cultural framework.
Mujahid's conciliatory tone contrasted sharply with comments by Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who declared himself the "legitimate caretaker president" and vowed that he would not bow to Kabul's new rulers.
Earlier, a Taliban statement said that those working in any part or department of the government should resume their duties with full satisfaction and continue their duties without any fear.
Some shops also reopened as traffic police were back on the streets, while its officials planned a first diplomatic meeting -- with the Russian ambassador.
A Taliban official also gave an interview to a female journalist on an Afghan news channel.
The Taliban news conference comes as the United States and Western allies evacuated diplomats and civilians the day after scenes of chaos at Kabul airport. Desperate Afghans attempted to flee with videos showing them clinging to the military aircraft as it took off from the runway.
As they rush to evacuate diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan, foreign powers are assessing how to respond to the changed situation on the ground.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the Taliban should allow all those who wanted to leave the country to depart, adding that NATO's aim was to help build a viable state in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, US military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan restarted on Tuesday after the runway at Kabul airport was cleared of thousands desperate to flee.
US forces took charge of the airport - their only way to fly out of Afghanistan - on Sunday, as the militants wound up a week of rapid advances by taking over Kabul without a fight, 20 years after they were ousted by a US-led invasion.
The number of civilians had thinned out, a Western security official at the airport told Reuters. On Monday US troops had fired warning shots to disperse crowds and people clung to a military transport plane as it taxied for take-off.
At least 12 military flights had taken off, a diplomat at the airport said. Planes were due to arrive from countries including Australia and Poland to pick up their nationals and Afghan colleagues.
President Joe Biden said he had to decide between asking US forces to fight endlessly or follow through on a withdrawal agreement negotiated by his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump.
"I stand squarely behind my decision," Biden said. "After 20 years I've learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces."
Facing criticism from even his own diplomats, he blamed the Taliban's takeover on Afghan political leaders who fled and its army's unwillingness to fight.