The United States withdrew four American citizens from Afghanistan on Monday (6) via a land route to a neighboring country, in the first evacuation organized by Washington since the end of military occupation in the Central Asian country a week ago.
“We facilitated the exit of four US citizens from Afghanistan via an overland route. Our embassy greeted the Americans after they crossed the border into a third country,” a US government official told Reuters news agency, without specifying the destination country.
Another US official told the AFP news agency that the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group that took control of Afghanistan amid the US withdrawal, was informed of the evacuation and “did not stop” the citizens from leaving.
US Representative Ronny Jackson said on social media that the four citizens are from his Texas state district, and that the evacuation took place after “several life-threatening attempts.”
Last month, the administration of President Joe Biden led the evacuation of about 124,000 people through a mega-operation at Kabul airport, ending 20 years of US presence in Afghanistan. Dozens of people died in the confusion on the runway and around the airport.
According to US officials, about 100 US citizens who wish to leave the country still remain in Afghanistan.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Doha (Qatar) on Monday to participate in negotiations with Qatari and German authorities, allies of the Americans in the withdrawal from Kabul, about the future of Afghanistan.
Qatar, which is home to a Taliban political office, has become the main mediator between the extremist group and Western governments amid the power transition in Afghanistan.
DISPUTE IN PANJSHIR VALLEY
Also on Monday, the Taliban claimed to have taken control of the Panjshir valley, a region that has seen clashes between the fundamentalist group and the so-called National Resistance Front, a coalition that brings together militia members and soldiers from the deposed government of Ashraf Ghani.
“Panjshir, which was the fugitive enemy’s last hiding place, has been captured,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding that there will be no “discriminatory actions” against residents of the region.
Images posted on social media show Taliban fighters outside the gate of the provincial government palace in Panjshir.
However, the leader of the Front, Ahmad Massoud, did not recognize the victory of the extremists and stated that his fighters are still operating in the Panjshir valley.
“We are in Panjshir and the resistance will continue,” Massoud said on Twitter. He also said he is safe, without giving his location.
On Sunday (5), the Front leader said he was prepared to resume negotiations with the Taliban to end fighting in the Panjshir valley.
Over the past week, the group even claimed victory over opponents in the region, information denied by the Front.
Surrounded by mountains, the terrain of the Panjshir Valley makes invasions difficult and was the only part of Afghanistan that remained outside the control of the Taliban during the extremist group’s first regime, between 1996 and 2001. This time, however, the region is completely surrounded by fundamentalists.
Massoud is the son of the military man who led the rebels at that time, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the “Lion of Panjshir”. Another of the current Resistance Force commanders is former Vice President Amrullah Saleh.
Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said he had received information that Massoud and Saleh had fled to neighboring Tajikistan. The information could not be verified.
The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan 20 years after being ousted by a US-led coalition in the wake of 9/11. The Americans accused the group of harboring al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the attacks. Faced with the prospect of the withdrawal of American troops from the country, concluded last Monday (30), Taliban fighters conducted a massive offensive in the country, advancing on various provincial capitals until retaking Kabul.