According to a US official, 200 Americans and other foreigners who remain in Afghanistan will leave the war-torn nation on charter aircraft from Kabul on Thursday after the new Taliban administration consented to their evacuation.
The planes will be among the first international flights to exit Kabul airport since Islamist militias seized control of the capital in mid-August, sparking a chaotic US-led evacuation of 124,000 foreigners and at-risk Afghans.
The action comes only two days after the Taliban declared a temporary government made up of of ethnic Pashtun males, including wanted terror suspects and Islamist hardliners, shattering foreign expectations for a more moderate government.
According to a US official who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, the Taliban were pressured to accept the exit of US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad.
The official could not specify whether the American citizens and other foreign nationals were among those who had been trapped for days in Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, since their private charters had been denied permission to exit.
The Taliban’s declaration of a new government on Tuesday was generally seen as a hint that they were not trying to extend their base and project a more tolerant image to the world, as they had promised before their military takeover.
On Wednesday, foreign countries greeted the temporary administration with caution and dismay. Dozens of women came to the streets in Kabul to protest.
Many opponents urged the leadership to uphold fundamental human rights and rebuild the economy, which is on the verge of collapse due to high inflation, food shortages, and the threat of foreign assistance cuts as countries strive to isolate the Taliban.
No one in the Biden administration, according to White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, “would argue that the Taliban are regarded and cherished members of the global community.”
The European Union expressed its displeasure with the selections, but stated that it will continue to provide humanitarian help. Longer-term assistance would be contingent on the Taliban maintaining basic human rights.
Saudi Arabia expressed optimism that the new administration will assist Afghanistan in achieving “security and stability while rejecting violence and extremism.”
According to analysts, the cabinet’s composition might stymie recognition from Western countries, which is necessary for greater economic involvement.
Former inmates from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay are among the new interim Cabinet members, while the interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is sought by the US on terrorist charges and has a $10 million bounty on his head.
His uncle is the minister for refugees and repatriation, and he has a $5 million reward on his head.