Firstly, I pay tribute to all the military personnel and Foreign Office staff in Kabul, back home and around the world, who made the evacuation of 8,300 British nationals and 5,000 Afghans, together with their families, possible under operations PITTING and ARAP. The evacuation included 500 special cases of particularly vulnerable Afghans and their families, encompassing Chevening scholars, journalists, human rights defenders, campaigners for women’s rights, judges and many others.
HM Government has supported over 3,700 people to leave Afghanistan since the end of Operation PITTING. This includes over 1,200 British nationals and eligible dependents.
The Taliban must allow continued safe passage for those wishing to leave the country, uphold internationally agree standards on human rights, and ensure that Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for terrorism or narcotics. Towards these ends, the Government will coordinate with NATO, the UN Security Council (UNSC) and Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to unite the international community behind a clear plan for dealing with the new regime in Kabul, including by encouraging Muslim-majority countries to play a proactive role in the response and to seek to positively influence the Taliban.
Accordingly, the Government insists that the education of girls, employment of women and the rights of minorities must not be lost. If the Taliban continue to abuse basic human rights, particularly of women, children and ethnic and religious minorities, they cannot expect to enjoy any legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people or the international community.
I condemn the Taliban’s decision not to permit girls to return to school in March. The Foreign Secretary and her female counterparts from around the world have called on the Taliban to reverse this decision. This decision will impact the Taliban’s prospects of gaining political support and legitimacy at home or abroad, as well as limit our humanitarian assistance.
The Government will, using every possible means, engage in holding the Taliban to its commitment and to account for its actions.