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Donors voice concerns over Taliban rule as UN seeks funds

GENEVA

Western governments and therefore the U.N. human rights chief voiced concerns Monday about the Taliban’s first steps as they establish power in Afghanistan.

The United Nations, meanwhile, hosted a donors conference to beat up emergency funds for beleaguered Afghans who could soon face widespread hunger after decades of conflict.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was leading the globe body’s call for quite $600 million for the remainder of this year during a “flash appeal” for Afghans after their country’s government was toppled by the Taliban and the U.S. and NATO forces exited the 20-year war during a chaotic departure.

There are concerns that instability and upended humanitarian efforts, compounded by an ongoing drought, could further endanger lives and plunge Afghanistan toward famine.

The conference will put to the test some Western governments and other big traditional U.N. donors who want to assist everyday Afghans without handing a PR victory or cash to the Taliban, who ousted the internationally-backed government during a lightning sweep.

The U.N. says “recent developments” have increased the vulnerability of Afghans who have already been facing decades of deprivation and violence. A severe drought is jeopardizing the upcoming harvest, and hunger has been rising.

The U.N.’s World Food Program is to be a serious beneficiary of any funds collected during Monday’s conference at which the U.N., alongside its partners, is seeking $606 million for the remainder of the year to assist 11 million people.

Coinciding with the conference in Geneva, the top of the U.N. refugee agency, Filippo Grandi, made a previously unannounced visit to Kabul. He wrote on Twitter that he would assess humanitarian needs and therefore the situation of three .5 million displaced Afghans — including over 500,000 who are displaced this year alone.

Officials at UNHCR have expressed concerns that some people could attempt to seek refuge in what are traditional havens for fleeing Afghans in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, which both have large populations of Afghans who had fled their country earlier to flee war and violence.

The Taliban seized power on Aug. 15, the day they overran Kabul after capturing outlying provinces within the blitz campaign. They initially promised inclusiveness and a general amnesty for former opponents, but many Afghans remain deeply scared of the new rulers. Taliban police officials have beaten Afghan journalists, violently dispersed women’s protests and formed an all-male government despite saying initially they might invite broader representation.

The world has been watching closely to ascertain how Afghanistan under a Taliban government could be different from the primary time the Islamic militants were in power, within the late 1990s. During that era, the Taliban imposed a harsh rule of their interpretation of shariah . Girls and ladies were denied an education, and were excluded from public life.

The U.N. human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, warned of a “new and threatening phase” for Afghanistan as she upbraided the Taliban for a disconnect between their words and actions.

She said her office has received credible allegations of reprisal killings by the Taliban of former Afghan security forces, also as instances during which officials within the previous government and their relatives were arbitrarily detained and later turned up dead.

Bachelet cited “multiple” allegations of Taliban forces conducting house-to-house searches trying to find specific officials within the previous government and other people who cooperated with U.S. forces and corporations . She said that over the last three weeks, women have instead been progressively excluded from the general public sphere — in contradiction to Taliban assertions to respect women’s rights.

German secretary of state Heiko Maas, chatting with the council, said the planet features a “moral obligation” to continue helping the Afghan people — and said Germany would be “significantly stepping up” its humanitarian aid for Afghanistan. But he also suggested such aid would only continue if rights are respected.

“We demand from the Taliban that they respect basic human rights, particularly the rights of girls and girls,” Maas said, saying that might be a “benchmark for us and our partners in determining our future engagement with a replacement Afghan government — including for possible development assistance.”

He also criticized the Taliban’s decision to exclude other groups from their recently announced interim government, saying it had been “not the proper signal” for international cooperation and stability in Afghanistan.

Also on Monday, a Pakistan International Airlines plane charted by the planet Bank landed at Kabul’s airport to evacuate more people, consistent with Abullah Hafeez Khan, a spokesman for the airline. Pakistan has halted commercial flights to Kabul due to security reasons, and therefore the airline has no plans thus far to resume commercial flights.

Last Thursday, an estimated 200 foreigners, including Americans, left Afghanistan on a Qatar Airways flight out of Kabul with the cooperation of the Taliban — the primary such large-scale departure since U.S. forces completed their frantic withdrawal on Aug. 30.

Many thousands of Afghans remain wanting to get out, too, scared of what Taliban rule might hold. The Taliban have repeatedly said foreigners and Afghans with proper travel documents could leave. But their assurances are met with skepticism, and lots of Afghans are unable to get certain paperwork.

Abdul Hadi Hamdani, head of Kabul’s airport, said Monday that each one domestic flights were back to their regular schedule but that “some technical problems got to be solved” before international flights can resume. Members of the border police who previously worked at the airport are called back to resume their duties.

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