Special envoy in Kabul: British meet Taliban for talks

Special envoy in Kabul
British meet Taliban for talks

Britain sends a special envoy to Afghanistan for talks. While the Taliban see it as a rapprochement for diplomatic relations, the British emphasize: The meeting does not mean recognition of the Islamists.

A high-ranking British envoy met representatives of the radical Islamic Taliban for talks in the Afghan capital, Kabul. A spokesman for the foreign ministry of the internationally unrecognized Taliban government said the meeting was “about detailed discussions on the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries”. However, a UK government spokesman stressed that the visit by the UK’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Simon Gass, did not constitute recognition or “legitimation” for the Taliban.

Instead, at the meeting with Deputy Prime Ministers Abdul Ghani Baradar and Abdul Salam Hanafi, the envoy obtained the release of Ben Slater, a former British soldier. He was arrested by the Taliban on the Pakistani border last month when he was trying to bring Afghan refugees to safety.

According to British information, Slater left Kabul together with the British delegation. The two sides also discussed how Britain can support Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism and the worsening humanitarian crisis. “They also talked about the treatment of minorities and the rights of women and girls,” added the UK spokesman.

The Taliban apparently allowed some girls to attend middle and high schools again on Tuesday. A video released by Taliban spokesman Suhail Schaheen showed dozens of schoolgirls dressed in black, some wearing a white headscarf and some wearing a black face veil. They sat in chairs and waved Taliban flags. “The girls go to secondary schools in Khan Abad,” the Taliban-appointed permanent representative at the UN wrote on Twitter. Khan Abad is the name of a city and district in Kunduz Province.

Some schools open to girls

In Kabul, however, a representative from the Ministry of Education said that secondary schools for girls were still closed. However, several school principals and teachers in Kunduz confirmed that the girls had returned. According to a teacher, the local school board had told her headmaster that the ban on girls “only applies in other provinces and not in Kunduz”.

The Afghan secondary schools reopened in mid-September, but only for boys. The new rulers had promised that girls should follow “as soon as possible”, but that they must first be guaranteed a “safe educational environment” – by which the Taliban mean gender-segregated teaching and disguise. Under these conditions, girls and women are already allowed to attend primary schools and private universities again.

During the first Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, women were largely banned from public life. The new Taliban leadership has promised a less strict interpretation of Islamic law and announced that it will respect women’s rights.

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