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France, UK seek Kabul ‘safe zone’ to safeguard humanitarian aid after US withdrawal

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The five permanent members of the United Nation’s Security Council – France, Britain, the United States, Russia and China – will on Monday meet to discuss the creation of a “safe zone” in Kabul to be put in place after the US completes its withdrawal on August 31. The emergency resolution will be put forward by France and Britain in a bid to protect humanitarian operations.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced the proposal on Sunday, saying it “would provide a framework for the United Nations to act in an emergency”, and allow the international community “to maintain pressure on the Taliban”, who are now in power in Afghanistan.

Macron’s comments came as international efforts to airlift foreign national and vulnerable Afghans draw to a close.

France ended its evacuation efforts on Friday, Britain did so on Saturday and the United States is set to complete its withdrawal on Tuesday.

‘To maintain pressure on Taliban’

FRANCE 24’s International Editor Armen Georgian said that very little is yet known about how the proposed safe zone would actually work.

“We don’t have the practical details. We don’t know exactly which airport will be used, what regional countries would be used, and crucially, who will guarantee security?”

According to Georgian, security “is obviously going to be the biggest issue for those who are lucky enough to be approved for travel. They have to get into a convoy, but they have to feel safe in that convoy arriving at the airport, they also have to feel safe, of course, while waiting in the airport for their flight to take off.”

Another big issue, he said, is how the UN will be able to persuade the Taliban to agree to such a safe zone.

“Perhaps with a quiet promise of recognition a little down the line by western countries,” he said, noting that even if such an agreement were made, those needing to leave Afghanistan are put at greater risk by seeking entry to the safe zone.

“Officially, the line is that if you have documents you can travel, but of course that’s very much in theory. And how does an Afghan actually get these documents, particularly those Afghans who are in fear of their lives now. Are they going to risk coming out of the shadows to apply for documents and where do they apply to, the western embassies have all closed down in Kabul.”

Georgian also said that many of the same people that worked with the West and who now feel threatened by the Taliban “are exactly the people that the Taliban want to stay, they want to keep them in Afghanistan, because they don’t want a brain-drain”.

The “safe zone” proposal has already been rejected by the Taliban’s spokesperson Suhail Shaheen. 

Shaheen told France Info on Sunday that there was no need for a safe zone as Afghans in possession of a passport and a visa would be able to travel freely after August 31. 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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