Taliban’s chief spokesman backtracks on comments he made suggesting Afghans would be barred from leaving the country.
The Taliban says Afghans with legal documents could travel abroad after the United States and United Kingdom raised concerns over previous comments that travel restrictions would be put in place.
“Our countrymen who have legal documents and invitation can travel abroad,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a tweet on Tuesday, adding that his previous announcement had been aimed at concerns over Afghans leaving without legal documents and travelling with smugglers.
The US State Department and the UK’s charge d’affaires sought clarity over Mujahid’s statements at a news conference on Sunday that raised concerns that travel restrictions could hinder freedom of movement and continuing evacuation efforts by Washington and other capitals.
Mujahid had originally said the Taliban’s travel restrictions would apply to Afghans who worked with NATO and American forces, but did not elaborate under what, if any, circumstances they would be able to evacuate.
The charge d’affaires of the UK Mission to Afghanistan, Hugo Shorter, said in a tweet on Tuesday evening, “Welcome clarification by Taliban spokesperson that Afghans with the right documents can still travel out of Afghanistan.
“We expect that unchanged rules mean that there is no new requirement for women leaving Afghanistan to be accompanied by a male guardian,” Shorter added.
Mujahid had said on Sunday that women could not travel overseas for education without a male guardian.
More than 120,000 Afghans and dual nationals were evacuated up to August 31 last year when the last US-led troops withdrew, two weeks after the Taliban seized Kabul.
Thousands with similar links are still in Afghanistan, however, desperate to leave and fearful they may be targeted by the Taliban as “collaborators”.
Diplomats have said efforts to evacuate thousands of Afghans who had worked with foreign governments and militaries and were eligible for visas in Western countries were getting harder in recent months.
Regular evacuation flights organised by the US via Qatar were largely stopped in December over disagreement by the Taliban administration on who should be able to board, sources had told Reuters news agency.
The last official evacuation by air was on December 1, although organised road convoys to Pakistan have taken place as recently as last week.