WASHINGTON – The Taliban on Monday called on Afghans who worked as interpreters or in other jobs for US-led forces to show “remorse” for their actions, but said they were not in danger now that American troops are leaving the country.
The Taliban have long threatened and killed Afghans who worked for the United States and NATO allies or with organizations supported by the West. Since 2014, at least 300 Afghans who served as interpreters have been murdered by the Taliban, according to No One Left Behind, a veteran-run nonprofit dedicated to helping Afghan and Iraqi interpreters.
But amid growing calls in Washington for an evacuation of the thousands of Afghans who served alongside US troops and diplomats, the Taliban issued an unusual statement. The group, which portrayed the Afghans who cooperated with the presence of NATO troops as traitors and infidels, said these former US partners had nothing to fear.
Afghans who have worked with NATO troops “should show remorse for their past actions and should not engage in such activities in the future which constitute a betrayal against Islam and the country,” he said. the Taliban statement declared, calling itself an “Islamic emirate”.
“But no one should desert the country right now. The Islamic Emirate will not disturb them, but calls on them to resume a normal life and if they have expertise in any area, to serve their country. They will not be in danger from us, ”the group said.
It was not clear whether the Taliban were offering security in return for Afghans renouncing their past work with the Americans, but human rights activists said insurgents’ promises could not be trusted. given their well-documented abuses and attacks against civilians, civil society activists and prominent women in public life.
“There is no reason for Congress or the Biden administration to take the Taliban at their word, because the Taliban and associated groups are already responsible for the murder of hundreds of Afghans affiliated with the United States,” Adam said. Bates, Policy Advisor at International Refugee Assistance. Project.
“Afghans can make their own assessment of the good faith of Taliban press statements; the Biden administration and Congress must strive to provide every avenue possible to ensure the safety of vulnerable Afghans as the United States withdraws, ”Bates said in an email to NBC News.
The Taliban statement said that the withdrawal of American troops, which must be carried out before the 9/11 deadline under the orders of President Joe Biden, had changed their attitude towards the Afghans who worked with the Americans.
“We saw them as our enemies when they stood directly in the ranks of our enemies, but when they abandon the enemy ranks and choose to live like ordinary Afghans in their homeland, they will not face any problem, so they should not. not remain fearful and should continue to live a peaceful life in their own country, ”the Taliban said.
The Taliban’s statement came as US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and other senior US officials visited the region and held talks with representatives of the Taliban and Afghan government leaders.
On Monday, the editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal spoke out in favor of an evacuation of Afghan partners, and the Washington Post endorsed the idea in an editorial on Friday.
There are approximately 18,000 Afghans attempting to obtain a US visa under a program established in 2009 by Congress for former US government employees in Afghanistan. But the special immigrant visa program has faced chronic delays and a massive backlog. Applicants often have to wait several years for a decision, although by law the process should not take more than nine months.
During a congressional hearing on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the administration was adding 50 more employees to help speed up applications for the SIV program.
But Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the top GOP member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said there was not enough time to process visa applications before US troops left. by September 11.
“That means these people will have a target and a target on our backs from the moment we leave the country,” McCaul said.
When asked if the administration is planning a possible evacuation of Afghan partners to a third country where their requests can be considered, Blinken said it is possible.
“We’re looking at all the options, yes,” Blinken said, without further details.
But Blinken said it was not taken for granted that the security situation in Afghanistan would collapse soon after the withdrawal of US forces.
“I would not necessarily equate the departure of our forces in July, August or early September to some sort of immediate deterioration of the situation,” he said.
Abigail williams contributed.