Taliban says people who worked for foreign forces in Afghanistan will be safe as long as they show “remorse” and should not leave the war-ravaged country.
“They shall not be in any danger on our part… None should currently desert the country,” a statement released by the armed group said on Monday.
“The Islamic Emirate would like to inform all the above people that they should show remorse for their past actions and must not engage in such activities in the future that amount to treason against Islam and the country.”
The statement came as the United States and NATO forces are continuing to pull out, after US President Joe Biden set September 11 as the deadline to end Washington’s 20-year military involvement in the country.
Thousands of Afghans worked with the international forces in the past 20 years as interpreters, security guards, and helpers in other capacities.
They fear retaliation from the Taliban once the foreign forces have left. Many have applied for special visas to leave the country.
Several countries – including the US, Germany and Britain – have programmes to resettle their local staff.
The applications of about 18,000 Afghans seeking a special immigration visa are currently pending at the US embassy in Kabul, according to embassy data.
Thousands of others have already been resettled to the countries they have worked with.
Last week, the Taliban also tried to calm foreign embassies after the Australian mission shut down in Kabul.
The group said it would provide a “safe environment” for these missions to work even after foreign forces leave the country.
According to No One Left Behind, a US non-governmental organisation, about 300 people who worked as local staff for the US military or their family members have been killed since 2016.
In the past, the Taliban said Afghans working with the “invaders” are “traitors” or “slaves”.
The group called on these Afghans to “show remorse for their past actions” and says they should not engage in such activities in the future.
“We viewed them as our foes when they were directly standing in the ranks of our enemies,” the statement added.
“But when they abandon enemy ranks and opt to live as ordinary Afghans in their homeland, they will not face any issues.”
It is questionable whether the local staff will trust these statements.
Twitter users who support the Taliban also routinely express ideas about how the local staff should be dealt with after the troops have withdrawn.
Many of those are not in line with Monday’s statement. They say, among other things, that one can never forgive those who used to work for the foreigners.
Over the past two decades, dozens of Afghan translators have been killed and tortured in targeted assaults by the Taliban.
In recent weeks, many of these Afghans have staged demonstrations in Kabul, demanding that the foreign forces and embassies that they worked with should relocate them outside of Afghanistan.
“They are tracking us,” Omid Mahmoodi, an interpreter who worked with US forces between 2018 and 2020, told AFP news agency last week.
“The Taliban will not pardon us. They will kill us and they will behead us.”
Another interpreter, Omar, who worked with the US embassy for about 10 years, feared that without leaving the country he would not evade the Taliban for long.
“I regret working for the US. It was the biggest mistake of my life,” said Omar, who asked AFP not to use his full name. “My own uncle and cousins call me an agent of America.”