- Says has received assurance from a Taliban negotiator that Afghans who have the right documents will still be allowed to leave after the United States' withdrawal deadline
BERLIN: Germany said Wednesday it has received assurance from a Taliban negotiator that Afghans who have the right documents will still be allowed to leave Afghanistan after the United States' withdrawal deadline on August 31.
Germany's envoy Markus Potzel said on Twitter he had met with Taliban deputy chief negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who "assured me that Afghans with legal documents will continue to have the opportunity to travel on commercial flights after August 31".
Berlin has said that the current military operation carried out by NATO allies to evacuate Afghans in need of protection cannot continue once the Americans pull out.
But it wants to ensure that vulnerable Afghans, including human rights activists or former local employees of German agencies, will be given safe passage to the airport to be flown out of the country even after the August 31 deadline.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin will seek to fly people out from the civilian part of the airport beyond that date.
Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier Wednesday said the international community must maintain dialogue with the Taliban if it is to protect improvements made in Afghanistan during two decades of NATO deployment.
Pressure has increased on Afghans eyeing to leave the country after President Joe Biden confirmed US-led evacuations will end next week.
More than 80,000 people have been evacuated since August 14, but huge crowds remain outside Kabul airport hoping to flee the threat of reprisals in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Biden said Tuesday the United States would stick to his August 31 deadline to completely withdraw its troops despite warnings from European allies that not all vulnerable Afghans would be able to leave by then.
"The sooner we can finish, the better... each day of operations brings added risk to our troops," Biden said Tuesday.
"We are currently on the pace to finish by August 31."
Washington and its allies have been flying out thousands of such Afghans every day on hulking military transports, but it has become an increasingly difficult and desperate task.
Taliban urge Afghans to stay
Meanwhile, following their lightning victory that stunned the world, the Taliban have so far been content to allow the US-led operation to continue, focusing instead on consolidating control and forming a government.
They have vowed a different, more inclusive regime this time around, offering amnesty to opponents.
An aid worker in Khost, a region in the southeast that fell to the Taliban shortly before they seized Kabul, told AFP the attitude of the former insurgents has so far been "much softer" than people expected.
"But the people are afraid of a bad economic situation," he added.
The Taliban spokesman on Tuesday urged skilled Afghans to not flee, saying the country needed "expert" Afghans such as doctors and engineers.
But Zabihullah Mujahid added that women who work for the Afghan government should stay home until the security situation improves.