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The first group of 111 Afghans evacuated from their country arrive at Kosovo's capital Pristina International Airport. Visar Kryeziu

Taliban assures Ireland, US, and UK that people can leave Afghanistan after tomorrow's deadline

The US and UK have admitted that they will not be able to evacuate everyone by 31 August.

IRELAND AND OVER 90 other countries have received assurances from the Taliban that anybody wishing to leave Afghanistan after tomorrow’s deadline will be allowed to do so.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said today that the Taliban want to get Kabul airport open again and operating safely with commercial airlines, but that might take some time.

“What the Taliban have said, as of Friday evening, is that they will not prevent foreign nationals from leaving Afghanistan. They’ve also said that they won’t prevent Afghans, that have paperwork and visas to leave, and to go to other countries.

“Of course people are skeptical about that, and that is why I would say: those that are in contact with our consular team should stay in close contact with our consular team and we will work with them to try to make sure that they can travel as safely as possible.”

Coveney said that there are 60 Irish citizens or family members across Afghanistan; and that there are at least 15 Afghans with Irish residency.

There are also around 150 cases for family reunification in Ireland, who have been “prioritised” by the Department of Foreign Affairs; and 250 cases of vulnerable Afghans who would be “doing work inconsistent with the Taliban” and have been granted asylum.

British troops have already left Kabul and US military personnel will be out of Afghanistan before the 31 August deadline set by US President Joe Biden.

But there have been fears over the potentially thousands of Afghans who may have been eligible for resettlement schemes, who could not make it to Kabul airport for evacuation or were not processed in time.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday that if the Taliban regime wanted diplomatic recognition and aid funding, they would have to ensure “safe passage” for those who want to leave.

And in a joint statement from the UK, the US and Ireland, as well as 90 other countries, it was confirmed that the Taliban had said anyone who wished to leave the country could do so. The joint statement said:

We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorisation from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country.

It comes after 15,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan by UK troops over the course of nearly two weeks in Operation Pitting, which is believed to be the largest evacuation mission since the Second World War.

US-led evacuation flights have taken more than 120,000 people out of Kabul airport, and will officially end tomorrow when the last of the thousands of American troops pull out.

After official advice earlier in the week changed to advise people to stay away from Kabul airport due to the threat of a terrorist attack, ministers said anyone who could reach a third country could be processed and flown to the UK from there.

But there were concerns the Taliban would not allow this, amid reports of roadblocks.

Minister Simon Coveney said today: “It’s now shifting away from a military exercise at Kabul airport to try and get as many people out as possible, to a focused diplomatic exercise, where the international community would want to put as much pressure as they possibly can on the Taliban leadership to do a number of things.”

These include putting pressure on the Taliban to form an “inclusive” government, to allow humanitarian aid that is used by half of its 38 million people, and to allow the “meaningful participation” of women in all sections of society.

Meanwhile, officials said a US airstrike has targeted a vehicle carrying “multiple suicide bombers” from the affiliate of the so-called Islamic State, Isis-K, in Afghanistan before they could target the US military evacuation at Kabul airport, officials said.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha.

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