Nato: Next Afghan government must protect rights of women, children and minorities

Alliance deeply concerned by reports of serious human rights breaches since Taliban takeover

Protesters with placards and flags expressed solidarity with the Afghan people outside the UK's Houses of Parliament in London . AP

Afghanistan’s next government must protect human rights, particularly those of women, children and minorities, and ensure unhindered humanitarian access, Nato foreign ministers have said.

The western military alliance held an extraordinary meeting online on Friday and voiced its concern about reports of serious human rights breaches in the country.

In a joint statement, its members called for an end to violence in Afghanistan and the safe relocation of those under threat.

The Taliban, who have captured almost all of the country in recent weeks, have been accused throughout their history of carrying out extrajudicial killings and numerous other human rights abuses, including severe restrictions of women’s rights.

Nato said the next government, which is expected to be dominated by the Taliban, must ensure that the country never again becomes a haven for terrorism.

But UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was not at the meeting, said there were circumstances in which nations could work with the movement.

He also defended British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has faced calls to resign after being on holiday when the Taliban swept into power.

“What I want to assure people is that in our political and diplomatic efforts to find a solution for Afghanistan, working with the Taliban, of course, if necessary, will go on,” Mr Johnson said.

When the Taliban first ruled Afghanistan, between 1996 and 2001, the country became a base for foreign extremists. On Friday, Nato urged Afghan rivals to work together.

“We call on all parties in Afghanistan to work in good faith to establish an inclusive and representative government, including with the meaningful participation of women and minority groups,” a statement from the Nato foreign ministers said.

“Under the current circumstances, Nato has suspended all support to the Afghan authorities.”

Harrowing footage from Kabul in recent days shows desperate Afghans and foreign nationals descending on Hamid Karzai International Airport in an effort to secure seats on evacuation flights.

There are reports that some people have been unable to pass through Taliban checkpoints en route to the airport and many flights departed almost empty.

“Our immediate task now is to meet our commitments to continue the safe evacuation of our citizens, partner country nationals and at-risk Afghans – in particular those who have assisted our efforts,” the Nato foreign ministers said.

“We call on those in positions of authority in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate their safe and orderly departure.”

The US relocation operation is set wind up on August 31, with Nato member states saying they will leave at the same time. This would essentially end direct evacuation flights from Afghanistan.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said several member states had raised the possibility of extending that date to bring more people out.

He said one of the issues was getting eligible Afghans to the airport.

Mr Stoltenberg also said he would conduct a thorough assessment of Nato’s engagement in Afghanistan.

“There are hard questions that we need to ask ourselves over our engagement in Afghanistan.

“We were clear-eyed about the risks of withdrawing our troops. But the speed of the collapse of the Afghan political and military leadership, and armed forces was not anticipated.”

He said: “North America and Europe must continue to stand together in Nato.

“The unfolding events in Afghanistan do not change this.”

Updated: August 22nd 2021, 1:29 PM