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Britain In Direct Talks With Taliban To Ensure 'Safe Passage' For Nationals, Allies


Simon Gass, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's special representative for Afghan transition

Britain is in direct talks with the Taliban seeking to secure "safe passage" of its remaining nationals and allies out of Afghanistan after the group's takeover of the country.

The British government told news agencies that it had sent Prime Minister Boris Johnson's special representative for Afghan transition, Simon Gass, to Doha, Qatar, to meet with Taliban representatives.

Many of the Taliban’s leaders lived in Qatar after they were driven out of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led invasion 20 years ago.

Johnson has been under pressure as critics say many Afghans who helped Western officials may have been left behind in Afghanistan and are at risk of Taliban retaliation.

A government official said Gass is "meeting with senior Taliban representatives to underline the importance of safe passage out of Afghanistan for British nationals, and those Afghans who have worked with us."

The United States completed its military withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30, ending 20 years of war that led to the Taliban's return to power.

Britain ended its mission on August 28, with its last military flight leaving Kabul after evacuating more than 15,000 people in the two weeks since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

The Taliban has promised to allow Afghans to leave and return to the country, but many Afghans and others remain in doubt about the group's intentions.

After the Taliban swept into Kabul in mid-August, the British prime minister said the Taliban must be judged on its "actions rather than by its words."

Johnson said his country owed "an immense debt" to Afghans who worked with NATO forces and that they will be welcomed as they look to rebuild their lives in Britain.

"We owe an immense debt to those who worked with the armed forces in Afghanistan and I am determined that we give them and their families the support they need to rebuild their lives here in the U.K."

"I know this will be an incredibly daunting time, but I hope they will take heart from the wave of support and generosity already expressed by the British public," he added.

The government said the measures "will give Afghans the certainty and stability to rebuild their lives with unrestricted rights to work and the option to apply for British citizenship in the future."

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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