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Updated on: Thursday, September 02, 2021, 12:31 AM IST

With Kabul airport closed, fearful Afghans scramble for border

Private efforts to help Afghans fearful of Taliban reprisals focus on arranging safe passage across the land-locked nation's borders with Iran, Pakistan and central Asian states
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Kabul: Crowds seeking to flee Afghanistan gathered on its borders while long queues formed at banks on Wednesday, as an administrative vacuum after the Taliban's takeover left foreign donors unsure how to respond to a looming humanitarian crisis.

The Islamist militia focused on keeping banks, hospitals and government machinery running after the final withdrawal of US forces on Monday put an end to a massive airlift of Afghans who had helped Western nations during the 20-year war.

With Kabul's airport inoperable, private efforts to help Afghans fearful of Taliban reprisals focus on arranging safe passage across the land-locked nation's borders with Iran, Pakistan and central Asian states.

At Torkham, a major border crossing with Pakistan just to the east of the Khyber Pass, a Pakistani official said: "A large number of people are waiting on the Afghanistan side for the opening of the gate."

Thousands of people also flocked to the Islam Qala border post between Afghanistan and Iran, witnesses said.

"I felt that being among Iranian security forces brought some kind of relaxation for Afghans as they entered Iran, compared with the past," said one Afghan who was among a group of eight that crossed into Iran.

More than 123,000 people were evacuated from Kabul in the US-led airlift after the Taliban seized the city in mid-August, but tens of thousands of Afghans at risk remained behind.

Germany alone estimates that between 10,000 and 40,000 Afghan staff still working for development organisations in Afghanistan have a right to be evacuated to Germany if they feel endangered.

In a resolution on Monday, the UN Security Council urged the Taliban to permit safe passage for those seeking to leave Afghanistan, but it did not mention the creation of a safe

zone, a step backed by France and others.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the Taliban were in talks with Qatar and Turkey about the management of the airport in the capital.

The Taliban have declared an amnesty for all Afghans who worked with foreign forces during the war that ousted it from power in 2001 for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Taliban leaders have also called on Afghans to return home and help rebuild, while promising to protect human rights, in an apparent bid to present a more moderate face than their first regime, known for its brutal enforcement of radical Islamic law.

The militia made similar promises when it seized power in 1996, only to publicly hang a former president, ban women from education and employment, enforce strict dress codes and adopt a punitive approach to the people of Kabul.

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Published on: Thursday, September 02, 2021, 12:31 AM IST
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