Envoy travels to Doha for talks with Taliban on securing safe exit from Afghanistan for remaining British nationals and allies.
The United Kingdom has opened talks with the Taliban to ensure ‘safe passage’ from Afghanistan for its citizens and Afghans who have worked for the British government.
The special representative of Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the Afghan transition, Simon Gass, flew to Doha, Qatar, to meet with representatives of the Taliban, a statement from the government said on Tuesday.
A large part of the Taliban’s senior leadership lived in exile in the capital of Qatari until the overthrow of the Western-backed government of Afghanistan after 20 years of war.
Gass “meets with senior Taliban representatives to emphasize the importance of safe exit from Afghanistan for British nationals and the Afghans who have worked with us for the past twenty years,” the statement said.
It is the first public statement on diplomacy between London and the Taliban since the United Kingdom joined the United States in the giant lift of more than 100,000 people from the country after the capitulation of the Afghan army.
The Taliban has promised to allow Afghans to come and go in light of calls by the international community to honor this commitment in the days following the US withdrawal on Tuesday.
More than 8,000 Afghans who helped NATO forces have been evacuated from Afghanistan and the British government has said it will be given indefinite leave.
But Johnson came under fire after presumably many Afghans who helped NATO – and were eligible to move to the UK – were left in Afghanistan, where they were handed over to the mercy of the Taliban.
An unnamed British minister told the Sunday Times newspaper that he believed the UK could have evacuated ‘800-1000 more people’ in the chaotic airlift.
Johnson’s government wanted to extend the August 31 withdrawal period, but ultimately failed to persuade President Joe Biden.
After the Taliban entered Kabul in mid-August, the British prime minister said the Taliban should be judged on his “actions rather than by his words” and insisted that the United Kingdom could not remain in Afghanistan without US support.
The British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, was also condemned by the opposition Labor Party for not immediately leaving a beach holiday when the Taliban took control.