Afghanistan: Taliban heaps praise on New Zealand over $3 million humanitarian donation

A Taliban representative has heaped praise on New Zealand after the Government gave $3 million in aid to organisations assisting the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. 

Abdul Qahar Balkhi from the Taliban's Cultural Commission spoke to Al Jazeera's Charlotte Bellis - a Kiwi - about New Zealand's humanitarian profile, during the first sit-down interview with the militant group since it took back control of Afghanistan. 

"I've recently witnessed reports that New Zealand has announced a $3 million aid, humanitarian aid, to the Afghans in this time of crisis, and we thank the generous offer of New Zealand in this time of crisis and time of need for our people, most of whom are living below the poverty line," the Taliban representative said. 

"New Zealand has been the first, the leading country, as it has always been during humanitarian causes, has been the leading country to announce humanitarian aid to the Afghan people."

Bellis says one of the reasons she was able to secure the interview with the Taliban representative was because she is from New Zealand. The ultra-hardline Islamists say they want peace and will respect women's rights within the framework of Islamic law.

"I would like to say as a representative of the people of Afghanistan, I would like to immensely thank the people of New Zealand and the Government of New Zealand for showing empathy with their fellow human beings," Abdul Qahar Balkhi told Al Jazeera.

But many Afghans are fleeing over fear of reprisals and a return to a harsh version of Islamic law the Muslim group exercised while in power two decades ago.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced the aid last week, saying $3 million will go to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Refugee Agency in Afghanistan.

"The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is dire, with millions in need of assistance and hundreds of thousands displaced by the recent conflict - 80 percent of whom are reported to be women and girls," Mahuta said. 

"In Afghanistan the Red Cross is currently focusing on protection of civilians and provision of essential services including emergency health care, water and sanitation.

"The UN Refugee Agency is providing a range of protection and assistance support to internally displaced Afghans. It is also supporting Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries.

"It is vital that humanitarian agencies are allowed access to affected populations."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced plans last week to send a C-130 Defence Force plane to the Middle East to bring back an estimated 53 Kiwis and 37 Afghan nationals who have assisted New Zealand, along with their families. 

Up to 80 Defence Force personnel were deployed to assist with international efforts to evacuate New Zealanders and other eligible nationals. A group of Kiwis were successfully transported to the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, and some have been evacuated by Australian forces

The first group of New Zealand citizens, their families and other visa holders evacuated from Afghanistan will arrive in New Zealand on Monday, Defence Minister Peeni Henare said. 

It came after the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001 and was accused of aiding Al-Qaeda, captured the capital Kabul last week, forcing thousands of Afghans to flee to the airport in harrowing scenes, desperate to be evacuated. 

The Taliban had been making significant advances in Afghanistan for weeks, after the United States under former President Donald Trump signed a deal with the insurgents, promising to withdraw after 20 years in exchange for security assurances. 

The Taliban is listed as a terrorist organisation in New Zealand, and last week Ardern said whether the Government will recognise the new Taliban administration will depend on how it treats its citizens. 

"What we want to see is women and girls being able to access work and education. These are things that have traditionally not been available to them where there has been governance by the Taliban," Ardern said. 

"The whole world is watching. The Taliban is making claims about the type of administration they wish to be. We would implore them to allow people to leave safely. 

"It's not a matter of trust - it's going to be all about the actions, not the words."