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Western diplomats urge Taliban to halt offensive as US evacuations of Afghan workers begin

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The administration of President Joe Biden is evacuating 2,500 Afghan immigrants to a military base in the United States as a Taliban attack heightens fears of government collapse and retaliation against former US officials in the country.

“These are brave Afghans and their families, as we have said, whose service the United States has been certified by the Embassy in Kabul and who have undergone thorough [special immigrant visa] security vetting processes,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters during Monday’s briefing. “They will receive temporary housing and services as they complete the final steps in the special immigrant process.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is under pressure from two sides to grant visas to interpreters and other local workers as lawmakers fear a massacre of these individuals and their families after the withdrawal of US troops. The evacuation flights will begin later this month and take the immigrants to Fort Lee, Virginia – an announcement that coincided with a plea for “an urgent end to the Taliban’s ongoing military offensive” in favor of peace talks with the central government in Kabul.

US TO EVACUATE THOUSANDS OF AFGHAN HELPERS AS AFGHANISTAN TEETERS ON THE EDGE OF A FULL CIVIL WAR

“The Taliban’s offensive is in direct contradiction to their claim to support a negotiated settlement of the conflict and the Doha peace process,” the US embassy in Kabul said in a joint statement with 16 other diplomatic missions. “We join the United Nations Relief Mission in Afghanistan by calling on the Taliban and all parties to immediately end the violence, agree to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire and participate fully in peace negotiations to to end the suffering of the Afghan people and pave the way for a comprehensive political settlement that benefits all Afghans and ensures that Afghanistan does not once again serve as a safe haven for terrorists.”

Taliban forces have advanced through Afghanistan in recent months as Biden’s decision to withdraw all US troops from the country has altered the balance of power between the militants and Afghan security forces.

“The last chances remain for a political settlement and a lasting peace in Afghanistan,” Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconciliation, told local media on Monday. “The insistence on a military option shows that the necessary lessons have not been learned from more than four decades of conflict.”

Abdullah’s team has met with the Taliban in Qatar, but the militant group is reportedly demanding that Kabul release 7,000 prisoners in exchange for a ceasefire. Taliban officials insisted they wanted to negotiate a peace deal, despite their advance on the battlefield.

“Despite military gains and advances, the Islamic emirate strongly supports political settlement in the country and every possibility for the establishment of an Islamic system,” a Taliban statement said on Sunday.

Biden insists a Taliban victory is not “inevitable”. Yet the Afghan military was designed to depend on US support – particularly for the air force, which is maintained by US contractors.

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“What they will do is bring the government of Kabul to its knees,” predicted an Asia-Pacific intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan. “At that stage, when the Taliban are in a really overwhelmingly strong position, that’s a moment when they’ll say, ‘Okay, let’s talk, change the constitution’.”

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Keywords: News, Foreign Policy, National Security, War in Afghanistan, Antony Blinken, State Department, State Department, Taliban, Afghanistan

Original author: Joel Gehrke

Original location: Western diplomats urge Taliban to halt offensive as US evacuations of Afghan workers begin

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