The United States and the United Kingdom expressed alarm this week about the Taliban administration’s announcement that it would limit Afghans from leaving the country under certain circumstances, fearing that it would stymie ongoing evacuation attempts.
At a press conference on Sunday, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid warned that Afghans would not be permitted to leave the country unless they had a specific destination in mind, and that women would not be allowed to study abroad without a male guardian.
Hugo Shorter, the UK charge d’affaires for Afghanistan, confirmed they had read the Taliban’s claims in a Tweet on Monday.
“These constraints on freedom of travel would be intolerable,” he remarked. “I urgently request that the Taliban clarify their words.”
It was unclear whether the plans would stymie international efforts to evacuate thousands of Afghans who had worked with foreign embassies, troops, and projects and were eligible for refuge in Western nations but remained in Afghanistan.
Late Monday, a US State Department official claimed the US was in talks with the Taliban about the situation.
“We have voiced our concerns with the Taliban after seeing the Taliban statements publicised in the news,” the official said.
“Our ability to assist our Afghan partners in relocating is contingent on the Taliban honouring their promise of unfettered passage,” the official continued.
Mujahid stated that the Taliban’s travel limitations would apply to Afghans who worked with NATO and American forces, but he did not specify under what conditions, if any, they would be able to flee.
“We won’t let Afghans leave the country unless we know where they’re going,” Mujahid stated.
Mujahid blamed bad conditions in countries where some Afghans were detained while their visas were processed after international forces withdrew in the aftermath of the Taliban’s takeover of the country in August. Thousands of Afghans were evacuated, some without finalised visas.
Regular US evacuation flights via Qatar were mostly halted in December when the Taliban administration disagreed on who should be allowed to board, according to sources.