White House expects qualified Afghans to leave country despite Taliban request

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Members of Taliban forces sit at a security tower of the interior ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan August 17, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

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WASHINGTON, Aug 24 (Reuters) - The Biden administration expects that some Afghans who qualify for special visas will not be barred from going to Kabul airport to evacuate in coming days, even as the Taliban asks the United States to stop helping them leave, press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.

A Taliban spokesman said on Tuesday that the group wants the United States to stop encouraging Afghans to leave and foreign countries to stop taking Afghan experts out of Afghanistan.

"We are asking Americans to change your policy and please don’t encourage Afghans to leave. ... Do not take them out to foreign countries," the spokesman said, according to a BBC translation.

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The White House said the Biden administration expects Afghans who qualify for U.S. visas will still be allowed to leave the country.

"The individuals we have prioritized ... who are eligible for special immigrant visas ... our expectation is that they will be able to reach he airport," Psaki said.

The United States is evacuating thousands of people from Afghanistan, including Afghan citizens who helped the U.S. government there.

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Reporting by Heather Timmons; editing by Rosalba O'Brien, Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis

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