Planes carrying hundreds of evacuees from Kabul arrived in the United Kingdom and Germany on Wednesday as Western nations stepped up evacuation efforts and the Taliban promised women’s rights, media freedom and amnesty for government officials in Afghanistan.
A British Royal Air Force plane carrying British nationals and embassy staff landed at an air base in Oxfordshire, UK, while a German government chartered Lufthansa flight carrying 130 evacuees landed in Frankfurt in Germany.
The United States said its military flights had evacuated 3,200 people from Kabul so far, including 1,100 on Tuesday alone.
In Kabul, the Taliban sought to strike a conciliatory tone at their first press conference since their lightning seizure of the Afghan capital, promising to respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law and expressing a desire for peaceful relations with other countries.
“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, the armed group’s main spokesman.
The Taliban announcements, short on details but suggesting a softer line than during their rule 20 years ago, came as one of the group’s co-founders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, returned to Afghanistan for the first time in more than 10 years.
Here are the latest updates:
Australia evacuates 26 people in first rescue flight
Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, said the first Australian rescue flight has flown out 26 people out of Afghanistan.
“This was the first of what will be many flights, subject to and weather and we do note that over the back end of this week, there is some not too favourable weather forecast,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
Australia said on Monday it would send 250 military personnel to Kabul to evacuate it citizens and an unspecified number of Afghans who had been given visas after working for Australia.
Planes with Afghan evacuees arrive in UK, Germany
Planes carrying evacuees from Kabul have landed in the UK and in Germany.
A British Royal Air Force plane carrying British nationals and embassy staff arrived at an air base in Oxfordshire in the UK early on Wednesday morning. It is not clear how many people were on board the British plane.
The German government chartered Lufthansa flight was carrying 130 evacuees from Kabul, according to DPA news agency. It had taken off from the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, and landed in Frankfurt in Germany early on Wednesday morning.
A spokesman for Lufthansa told DPA that the airline, in consultation with the German government, will also offer evacuation flights from Doha in Qatar and possibly from other countries bordering Afghanistan
UN refugee agency wants to keep working in Afghanistan
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says it wants to continue working in Afghanistan.
“We want to stay in the country because the people there need help now more than ever,” said Katharina Lumpp, the UNHCR representative in Germany.
“Most of the Afghans who have been displaced in the past few months are currently internally displaced in their own country,” she told the German daily Die Welt. “They now urgently need support and humanitarian aid.”
UK announces plan to resettle 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan
The United Kingdom says it will welcome as many as 20,000 Afghans under a new resettlement programme that will give priority to women, girls and religious and other minorities, according to British news outlets.
The scheme aimed at those seen “most at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban” will offer a safe and legal route to Britain, the Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.
About 5,000 people are expected to arrive in the UK in its first year.
Read more here.
White House says 1,100 citizens, permanent residents evacuated on Tuesday
The White House says about 1,100 Americans, permanent residents and their families were evacuated by military aircraft from Afghanistan on Tuesday.
“Now that we have established the flow, we expect those numbers to escalate,” a White House official said in a statement.
The US has evacuated 3,200 people in total, it added.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.
For key developments from yesterday, August 17, go here.