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Last hours to end evacuation in Afghanistan and formation of new Taliban government

Turkey has announced that it will no longer provide security at Kabul airport after the withdrawal of US forces
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PHOTO/ Twitter/DAVID_MARTINON vía REUTERS  -   A crowd waits outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 25, 2021

Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport has become the main news focus in Afghanistan, while the rest of the central Asian country has been plunged into media obscurity. The airfield, the main source of information, maintains interest as it is where the bulk of foreign troops are based, but once the deadline for the withdrawal of international troops on 31 August is reached, Kabul airport will cease to be in the news along with the rest of Afghanistan.

Countries around the world are rushing in the last hours before the deadline stipulated by both the US and the Taliban for the departure of all foreigners. Several countries have already announced that they will not be able to evacuate all personnel, mostly Afghan collaborators. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a press conference that 1,500 Americans remained out of 6,000 when evacuations began in Afghanistan.

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AFP/CROWN COPYRIGHT 2021/MOD - Members of the British and US Armed Forces at work at Kabul airport August 21, 2021

Day by day the evacuations become more and more complicated, thousands of people are crowded at the airport entrance with the only hope of being able to leave the country, while the Taliban announced that they would only allow foreigners to enter the airport. The Islamists have set up a checkpoint just five kilometres from the airfield that can only be passed with a foreign passport or visa. The Taliban have accused other countries of encouraging 'economic migration'.

The Taliban have urged the US to stop taking "Afghan experts" such as engineers and doctors out of Kabul. "This country needs their expertise. They should not be taken to other countries," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a news conference in the Afghan capital. The Islamists, faced with the refusal to extend the deadline for the departure of international troops, have assured that after 31 August commercial flights will resume at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport, and that all those who have their papers in order will be able to travel.

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PHOTO/REUTERS - Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan

Zabihullah Mujahid told Efe-Epa that they hope to form a "government" before the end of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. Although the composition of the new government is still unknown, some vital posts have already been designated, including that of the new governor of the Central Bank of Afghanistan, Haji Mohammad Idris. According to Mujahid, his duties will include "helping to organise the institutions and to address the economic problems facing the population". Afghanistan's economy has been severely damaged and is heavily dependent on international aid, which has been completely blocked since the Taliban came to power.

The US has frozen Afghan assets - more than $9 billion - deposited in US banks, increasing the financial pressure on the Taliban. Meanwhile, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund announced the suspension of aid and loans to Afghanistan, pending the fundamentalists' new policies. Faced with this delicate financial situation, the new authorities have banned foreign dollar transfers, and banks have reopened after more than a week of closure.

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PHOTO/AP - Afghans wait outside the Kabul Bank in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday Aug. 25, 2021

Another key post in the new administration is the Ministry of Defence, where Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir has been appointed as Afghanistan's interim defence minister, according to Al Jaazera news channel. Abdul Qayyum Zakir is a veteran Taliban commander and also a close associate of Taliban founder Mullah Omar. He was captured by US-led forces in 2001 and was detained at Guantanamo Bay until 2007, according to Reuters.

Since the takeover of Kabul on 15 August, the Taliban have yet to form a government, although possible names for the country's future leader are gradually coming to light, as well as the appointment of key posts such as the governor of the Central Bank and the defence minister. The Islamists have insisted on their idea of creating an "inclusive government" but it remains to be seen whether this initiative will go ahead. For now, the Taliban have met on several occasions with the chairman of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, Abdullah Abdullah, and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, both of whom could be part of the new administration.

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AP/RAHMAT GUL - Afghan women in burqa walk down a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 22, 2021

The role of women in Afghan society is another issue of considerable concern. The main Taliban spokesman, Zabihulla Mujahid, assured during a press conference a few days after the capture of Kabul that women would not be discriminated against and that their rights would be respected, but always "within the framework of Islamic law". Despite these promises, Mujahid himself has urged women in recent days not to leave the house "until further notice" because of "the concern that our forces, not yet well trained, might mistreat women. We don't want our forces, God forbid, to harm or harass women".

Another big question is what will happen to the Panjshir Valley, the only Taliban pocket of resistance. Apparently, in response to rumours that the Taliban are about to launch an offensive against this province, the fundamentalists have announced that they are holding talks with local leaders, including Ahmad Massoud, son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, nicknamed the "lion of Panjshir" and one of the main leaders of the Afghan anti-Soviet resistance in the 1980s, and that they are close to reaching an agreement "without the need for war".

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PHOTO/TURKISH PRESIDENCY via AP - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a ceremony in Ahlat, eastern Turkey, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021

As the situation in Afghanistan becomes clearer, international troops continue their evacuation with the intention of completing their withdrawal by 31 August, the deadline imposed by the Taliban. Turkey, which has offered to administer Kabul's international airport after the departure of the US troops, has also decided to withdraw all its men. The Eurasian country has abandoned its intention to remain at the airfield and the Turkish Defence Ministry has announced that it will not continue to provide security at Kabul airport after the withdrawal of US forces, following the Taliban's warning that there will be "consequences" if all foreign troops are not withdrawn by the deadline.