Taliban co-founder in Afghan capital as evacuation scramble continues

World

Published: 2021-08-21 10:33

Last Updated: 2024-04-20 18:28


Credit: AFP
Credit: AFP

The Taliban's senior leadership was gathering in the Afghan capital Saturday to map out a future "inclusive" government, as desperation deepened for thousands still scrambling to leave the country via a chaotic evacuation operation.

A senior Taliban official told AFP that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar -- who co-founded the group -- would meet "jihadi leaders and politicians for an inclusive government set-up."

Taliban officials said they included a top official of the Haqqani network, which has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United States with million-dollar bounties on its leadership.

Six days after the hardline Islamist movement swept to power, the flow of people trying to flee continued to overwhelm the international community.

Roads leading to Kabul airport were choked with traffic, while families hoping for a miracle escape crowded between the barbed-wire surrounds of an unofficial no man's land separating the Taliban from US troops and remnants of an Afghan special forces brigade helping them.

Video of a US soldier lifting a baby over a wall at Kabul's airport offered the latest imagery of utter despair, following horror footage of people hanging onto the outside of departing planes.

"Please, please, please help me... where should I go, what should I do," one man, who said he worked for the US embassy in the mid-2000s, wrote on a WhatsApp group set up for people to share information on how to get out.

"I have tried to get there (to the airport) for some days, but I cannot reach. Please save me."

Thousands of US soldiers are at the airport trying to shepherd foreigners and Afghans onto flights, but President Joe Biden admitted the troop presence offered no guarantees of safe passage.

"This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history," Biden said in a televised address.

"I cannot promise what the final outcome will be, or... that it will be without risk of loss."