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Sunday, December 5, 2021
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Taliban wanted India to retain its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan

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As it became apparent earlier this week that New Delhi planned to bring back its officials from Kabul, senior Taliban leader Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanekzai reached out to the Indian side with a surprise request: Would India retain its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan?

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The request was conveyed informally by the Taliban leader, who is part of the leadership of the group’s political office at Doha in Qatar, shortly before India evacuated some 200 people – including its envoy, diplomats, security personnel and citizens–in two military flights on Monday and Tuesday.

Stanekzai, who is seen as the number two in the Taliban’s negotiating team and third overall among leaders based in Qatar, has been critical of India’s role in Afghanistan in the past, and the message took Indian officials in New Delhi and Kabul by surprise, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.

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He conveyed to the Indian side in his informal message that the group was aware of Indian concerns regarding the security situation in Kabul following the Taliban takeover on Sunday, but that it should not worry about the safety of its mission and diplomats in the Afghan capital, the people said.

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