Qatar calls on Taliban to protect civilians

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Kabul, Afghanistan — Qatar’s foreign minister called on the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha to ensure civilians in Afghanistan are protected, during a meeting in the Gulf state on Tuesday.

Doha has increased pressure on the Taliban, which has a political office in Qatar at the invitation of the government, to respect rights and protect civilians in recent weeks.

The latest call followed a meeting in Doha between the minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, and the head of the Taliban’s political office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

“The meeting reviewed the latest security and political developments in Afghanistan, stressing on the protection of civilians, intensifying the necessary efforts to achieve national reconciliation, working for a comprehensive political settlement and a peaceful transfer of power,” Qatar’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The importance of preserving the gains made by the Afghan people” was also discussed, it added.

Baradar, the Taliban’s co-founder and deputy leader, is seen as a possible future leader of Afghanistan under the rule of the militants.

Doha had facilitated on and off meetings between the militants and the former Afghan government for months, with the status of Kabul’s former negotiating team now thrown into doubt following the Taliban’s seizure of power.

On Saturday, Qatar called for the Taliban to adopt a ceasefire but instead the militants consolidated their nationwide military gains and marched into Kabul a day later when government forces capitulated.

Tens of thousands of people have tried to flee Afghanistan to escape the hardline Islamist rule expected under the Taliban, or fearing direct retribution for siding with the US-backed government that ruled for the past two decades.

Evacuation flights from Kabul’s airport restarted on Tuesday after chaos the previous day in which huge crowds mobbed the tarmac, with some people so desperate they clung to the outside of a US military plane as it prepared for take-off.

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