UK warns Taliban against sealing Afghanistan off from the world

London, United KingdomUpdated: Aug 25, 2021, 10:54 PM IST

The Taliban have been re-imposing repressive laws based on their version of Islamic Sharia law they enforced during their last regime from 1996 to 2001. Photograph:(AFP)

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Dominic Raab noted that the Afghan border was "rugged and wide-ranging" and any attempt to isolate Afghanistan from the rest of the world would fail

Britain on Wednesday warned the Taliban against attempts to coercively seal off Afghanistan from the rest of the world and urged the militant group to keep its borders open.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said attempts by the Taliban to shut down the country could trigger a "refugee crisis" once Western forces withdrew from Kabul airport on August 31, as migrants make their way to neighbouring countries.

He noted that the Afghan border was "rugged and wide-ranging" and that efforts to isolate the country from the rest of the world would fail.


"If the Taliban leadership, as they were saying overnight, want to avoid the brain drain, they're not going to be able to do that by coercively blocking the border," he told Times Radio.

"You'll just see a larger flow of refugees going out and they'll have to be processed. They're not going to be able to avoid the refugee crisis by just a few roadblocks, they're not going to be able to hermetically seal the Afghan border, which is rugged and wide-ranging," he said.

During a series of interviews on Wednesday, Raab also sought to dismiss media reports of him "lounging on the beach" on holiday at the height of the Afghan crisis earlier this month.

He stressed that he had been constantly in virtual contact with the COBRA [Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms] meeting and officials to ensure the airlift of British nationals and supporters from the country. He said that the UK has evacuated more than 9,000 people from Afghanistan since August 15, including 2,000 people in the last 24 hours.

"I think it's going right the way up to the end of the calendar month," Raab said, in reference to efforts to airlift a further 4,000 people ahead of the Taliban's August 31 exit deadline. This also includes a Royal Marine veteran Paul "Pen" Farthing, who has been seeking evacuation with all the animals from his rescue shelter in the region.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had earlier said he could not prioritise animals over humans in the rescue mission but in a latest tweet he held out some hope for Farthing.

"If he arrives (at Kabul Airport) with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane. If he does not have his animals with him he and his staff can board an RAF (Royal Air Force) flight," said Wallace.

The UK and other allies, including through an emergency G7 meeting on Tuesday, had urged the US to stay beyond August 31 to allow more time for evacuation flights. But the Taliban remains staunchly opposed to any such extension and US President Joe Biden has also said the airlift had to come to an end by then because of the growing risk of an attack by the Islamic State group in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who chaired the G7 virtual meet, told reporters following the talks that the West's number one condition for releasing the frozen assets was "safe passage" for people fleeing the country. Last week, the US froze USD 9.5 billion in assets belonging to the central bank of Afghanistan.

"If those huge funds are going to be unfrozen eventually for use by the government and people of Afghanistan, then what we're saying is Afghanistan can't lurch back into becoming a breeding ground of terror, Afghanistan can't become a narco state, girls have got to be educated up to the age of 18," said Johnson.

"Those are important things that we value. Those are things we fought for years in Afghanistan, for which people in this country gave their lives. We remain committed to those values and we remain committed to Afghanistan. The No 1 condition we're insisting on is safe passage," he said.

The G7 joint statement also revolves around the central concern of the safe exit of foreigners and Afghans eligible for evacuation for having supported the US-led NATO operation in the country.