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Stranded Afghans hopeful as Kabul airport opening timetable to be shared in days

Qatar’s foreign minister has said they are engaging with the Taliban to look at gaps and risks for having the airport up and running again. Afghans are hopeful despite being currently trapped under the Taliban regime

A timetable for reopening Kabul airport could be revealed within days

A timetable for reopening Kabul airport could be revealed within days, giving hope to Afghans stranded under the Taliban regime.

Speaking alongside Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in Doha, Qatar’s foreign minister said: “We are… engaging with [the] Taliban to identify what are the gaps and the risks for having the airport back up and running.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani added: “We remain hopeful that we will be able to operate it as soon as possible. Hopefully in the next few days we will hear some good news.”

The diplomat said it would be a “very strong statement” if the Taliban could commit to “freedom of movement for the people of Afghanistan”.

Mr Raab, who flew to the Middle East on Wednesday night after a mauling from MPs on the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, was asked whether he felt “guilty” about leaving behind Afghans who had helped UK forces during their 20-year deployment.



Afghan women hold placards as they take part in a protest in Herat
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Image:

AFP via Getty Images)




He said: “I do think we feel a responsibility to make sure that the remaining British nationals and Afghan workers can come to the UK. That’s why we watch with great interest what may be possible at Kabul airport.”

His comments came as Afghan women in Herat protested at oppressive elements of the Taliban regime.

They reportedly told Taliban officials they would accept wearing all-encompassing burqas in return for their daughters being allowed to be educated.





Mr Raab was today due to announce a £30million aid package to provide shelters and sanitation facilities for those who have fled Afghanistan. He said: “It is vital that we help those fleeing Afghanistan and do not allow the crisis to undermine regional stability.”

The Foreign Secretary is expected to fly to other countries in the region, including a two-day stay in Pakistan.

He said countries “need to put a grouping together that can exert maximum, moderating influence on what the Taliban does next”.

But he admitted: “We need to adjust to the new reality.” Mr Raab faced anger over the Government’s handling of the crisis yesterday.



An Afghan woman protester speaks with a member of the Taliban during a protest in Herat
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Image:

AFP via Getty Images)




Details emerged of a leaked Foreign Office document that warned Kabul could fall to the Taliban amid “rapid advances” by the militants.

It warned of the UK’s counter-terrorism capability being reduced, and predicted “enabling the flow of narcotics and illegal migration”.

The document also raised humanitarian concerns and said the entire region, especially Pakistan, could be destabilised and the UK’s and NATO’s global reputations damaged.

A former NATO Secretary-General and UK defence minister was heavily critical of the Afghan pullout.



Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab talks to staff at a resettlement programme for Afghanistan refugees in Doha Qatar
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Image:

Simon Dawson / No10 Downing Street)




George Robertson recalled his “pride” at invoking NATO’s Article V after 9/11, which says an attack on one member is an attack on all.

But the peer added: “My sense of pride is being replaced by shame, by dismay and with a lot of sadness.

“In Afghanistan, which followed on from Article V, so much has been achieved by so many people, at so much human and financial cost.

“But all of that, I fear, is now being placed in jeopardy by what can only be described as a hasty, crassly handled, surrender to the very people that we… defeated 20 years ago.”



Prime Minister Boris Johnson
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Image:

REUTERS)




Former Cabinet Secretary and ex-national security chief Mark Sedwill said the Afghan pullout was “a bad policy, badly implemented” and “an act of strategic self-harm”.

He warned of “a really significant refugee flow” out of Afghanistan.

Retired US Army General HR McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, accused successor President Biden of “thrusting Afghanistan into hell” by helping pave the way for a “jihadist terrorist state”.

At the Merville Barracks in Colchester, Essex, yesterday Boris Johnson seemed unable to say how many people Britain might have left behind in Kabul. But the PM told troops they should
be proud of the Kabul evacuation, “the biggest-ever humanitarian airlift” in UK history.

He added of the Taliban: “They have got to understand that if they want engagement with the West… then the first priority for us is safe passage for those who want to leave.”




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