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Taliban to resume issuing passports to Afghan citizens

By Jack Guy and Tim Lister, CNN

Afghanistan will resume issuing passports to its citizens, its interior ministry announced Tuesday, in a first under the country’s new Taliban government.

Ministry spokesman Qari Saeed Khosti said it will provide applicants with documents physically identical to those issued by the previous government, which issued passports under the name of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The issuance of passports has been suspended since the Taliban took control of Kabul nearly two months ago.

Khosti said all the female employees of the passport department had been asked to return to their jobs. Other ministries have told female employees to remain at home while new working arrangements are established.

Reuters quotes Alam Gul Haqqani, the passport office’s acting head, as saying that it would issue between 5,000 and 6,000 passports a day — and female staff would be employed to handle the processing of female citizens’ documents.

The Taliban retook control of the Afghan capital Kabul in mid-August, and crowds of thousands flocked to the city airport to try and get out of the country.

Afghanistan’s new rulers allowed the United States and its allies to fly their citizens, as well as some Afghans with immigrant visas, out of the country in a massive and chaotic evacuation effort.

On August 24, however, the Taliban said Afghans were no longer allowed to go to the airport.

“The road, which goes to the airport, is blocked. Afghans cannot take that road to go to the airport, but foreign nationals are allowed to take that road to the airport,” said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid at a press conference.

“We are not allowing the evacuation of Afghans anymore and we are not happy with it either,” he added.

The doctors and academics of Afghanistan “should not leave this country, they should work in their own specialist areas,” Mujahid added. “They should not go to other countries, to those Western countries.”

“The majority” of Afghans who worked for the US during its two-decade military campaign were likely left behind in the rushed evacuation from Afghanistan, a senior State Department official said on September 1.

The resumption of flights by commercial airlines offered some hope to many Afghans still desperate to leave the country.

On September 9, a Qatar Airways Boeing 777 left Kabul airport for Doha, becoming the first international passenger flight to depart from the country since the Taliban retook power, followed by another Qatar Airways plane the next day. Both flights carried scores of foreign nationals.

A Pakistan International Airlines flight on September 13 was the first flight to land in Afghanistan from neighboring Pakistan since the final withdrawal of US troops.

In addition, more than 100 US citizens and green card holders, as well as nine special immigrant visa holders, were evacuated from Afghanistan via a private charter flight on September 28.

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