Afghanistan news: Taliban call for surrender of final rebel province as Raab seeks global coalition

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The Taliban has called for the surrender of the last province of Afghanistan held by rebel forces.

The Panjshir Valley rebels, fighting behind local leader Ahmad Massoud, clashed with Taliban forces on Thursday. Both sides have claimed that the other suffered heavy losses.

The rebels said they woould refuse to surrender, the Taliban said their forces were surrounding all sides of the mountainous valley region and rebel victory was impossible.

In Doha, foreign secretary Dominic Raab called for the creation of an “international coalition”, including regional states as well as Western powers, to exert “maximum moderating influence” on the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

He also said the UK should “engage” with the Taliban and “adjust to the new reality” in Afghanistan but added that the British government would not recognise the new rulers in the “foreseeable future”.

The comments came as the Taliban was expected to form a government and to name Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada — the group’s top religious leader — as the country’s new supreme authority.

The US, the EU and others have stressed that formal recognition of this government depends on its action, with Victoria Nuland, US undersecretary of state, saying: “We’re not going to take them at their word, we’re going to take them at their deeds.”

Meanwhile, defence secretary Ben Wallace said he warned his ministerial colleagues in July of a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, and countered the foreign secretary’s claim that a failure in intelligence was to blame for the UK’s slow response to the crisis.

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Key Points

  • Boris Johnson defends government’s conduct in Afghanistan withdrawal

  • UK must ‘engage’ with Taliban, insists Raab

  • Taliban call for surrender of final rebel province

  • Wallace says he warned ministers in July ‘game was up’ in Afghanistan

  • Report warned Dominic Raab in July of fast advance of Taliban

  • Taliban set to form government

  • Afghanistan could run out of food stocks by the end of this month, says official

  • Sign our petition calling on Britain to take more refugees

British foreign secretary to head to the region near Afghanistan for rescue talks

05:39 , Maroosha Muzaffar

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab is heading “to the region” around Afghanistan to talk about the rescue of those left behind in the country’s national capital Kabul.

The cabinet minister, however, did not reveal where exactly he was going for security reasons.

“We’re always very careful about signaling travel movements because of the security implications. But I can tell you I’m leaving after this committee to go to the region,” Mr Raab said.

Reports indicated he might be heading to Pakistan for the talks.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace had described the evacuation efforts as “Dunkirk by WhatsApp”, with officials scrambling to contact Afghans who worked with the British military.

Taliban all set to name Afghanistan’s supreme authority

05:52 , Maroosha Muzaffar

The Taliban are all set to form an Islamic government in Afghanistan and are planning to name Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada – the group’s top religious leader – as the country’s new “supreme authority”.

It, however, remains unclear exactly when the Taliban will make the announcement and whether it will include a more inclusive council, The New York Times reported.

Afghanistan’s new regime under the group is going to face huge challenges, including humanitarian and economic crises.

In fact, a senior UN official has said that Afghanistan might face food shortage by the end of this month.

A senior Taliban official said the announcement may come as soon as Thursday.

It was reported that Sheikh Haibatullah’s “supreme authority” will be a theocratic role similar to that of Iran’s supreme leader.

Afghanistan can run out of food stocks by the end of this month, says official

06:08 , Maroosha Muzaffar

A senior UN official has warned food stocks in Afghanistan could run out “as soon as this month.”

Ramiz Alakbarov, deputy special representative and humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan said while the UN was determined to deliver, “more funding is needed to reach millions who depend on aid to survive.”

He said: “It is extremely important that we prevent Afghanistan from descending into a further humanitarian catastrophe by taking the necessary steps to provide essential items which this country needs right now. And that is to support food, health and protection services, and non-food items, to those who are in extreme need.”

Mr Alakbarov pointed out that more than a third of Afghan citizens are not getting enough to eat and that more than half of those below five years of age are “suffering from extreme malnutrition.”

He warned that the country could run out of food stocks by the end of September and hence “for us to keep the current demand, we need at least $200 million only for the food sector, to be able to provide food to the most vulnerable.”

Pentagon leaders ‘wary’ of working with the Taliban

06:34 , Maroosha Muzaffar

The Pentagon’s top two leaders on Wednesday expressed wariness in continuing to work with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and said they are working with them on “a very narrow set of issues.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin III told reporters: “We were working with the Taliban on a very narrow set of issues. I would not make any leaps of logic to broader issues. It’s hard to predict where this will go in the future with respect to the Taliban.”

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A Milley also expressed his reservations. “This is a ruthless group. Whether or not they change remains to be seen. In war, you do what you must.”

Meanwhile, US officials believe fewer than 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan.

Many thousands of Afghans who assisted the US over the past two decades, however, still remain in the country.

Visa program ‘not designed’ to accommodate evacuated Afghan allies, says Pentagon chief

06:51 , Maroosha Muzaffar

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said the special immigrant visa programme (SIV) “perhaps should be looked at going forward”, citing the long process involved in clearing them to come to the US.

“The SIV program is obviously not designed to accommodate what we just did in evacuating over 100,000 people,” he said.

“For the type of operation that we just conducted, I think we need a different type of capability,” he added.

The US airlifted more than 124,000 people since the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden said the US will help rescue those who assisted the war effort.

Meanwhile, thousands of Afghan SIV applicants trying to escape the country are still in Afghanistan.

Report warned Dominic Raab in July of fast advance of Taliban

07:35 , Maroosha Muzaffar

A leaked report has revealed that the British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab was warned more than three weeks before the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.

He has been accused of being “asleep at the wheel” over Afghanistan, the report said.

Mr Raab had assured MPs during a parliamentary committee that the central assessment produced by the government’s Joint Intelligence Committee was that the “Taliban takeover would be slow and the Afghan capital would not fall into the militant group’s hands until next year.”

Meanwhile, the cabinet minister left for the region near Afghanistan on Wednesday to talk about the rescue of those that were left behind in Kabul.

The Principal Risk Report paper - seen by The Independent warned: “Peace talks are stalled and US/Nato withdrawal is resulting in rapid Taliban advances. This could lead to the fall of cities, collapse of security forces, Taliban return to power, mass displacement and significant humanitarian need. The embassy may need to close if security deteriorates.”

Leaked report reveals Raab was warned in July of rapid Taliban advance

EU to develop common defence after chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal

07:59 , Rory Sullivan

The European Union will develop its common defence after the chaotic withdrawal of western troops from Afghanistan, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said.

Josep Borrell added that a rapid reaction force would be part of this initiative.

Speaking to EU defence ministers in Slovenia, he said: “Sometimes there are events that catalyze history, that create a breakthrough, and I think that Afghanistan is one of these cases.

“We have to look for something more operational. The need for more, stronger European defence is more evident that ever.”

NRF says it is ‘fighting terrorism alone'

08:15 , Rory Sullivan

The National Resistant Front of Afghanistan (NRF) continues to fight against the Taliban from its stronghold in the northern Panjshir valley.

In recent days, the Taliban has launched offensives on three fronts there but the hardline Islamist group suffered “heavy casualties” and all its attacks were repelled, a NRF spokesperson told the BBC.

They added that the valley has been “impregnable” for the past half century, with the Red Army unable to conquer it during the Soviet-Afghan war.

The spokesperson also said that the NRF was not just fighting against the Taliban but also terrorists who had travelled to the country from abroad.

“It’s a war against terrorism that we’re fighting all alone without anyone helping or assisting us,” they said.

UK to discuss restoring diplomatic presence in Kabul ‘quite soon’, says former British ambassador

08:38 , Rory Sullivan

A discussion will soon be had about the possibility of the UK having a diplomatic presence in Kabul, a former British ambassador to Afghanistan has said.

Sir Nick Kay told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve got an embassy now set up in Doha for Afghanistan, but it won’t be a substitute in the end for having people on the ground who can advocate for human rights, support civil society there on the ground, liaise with others for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

“And also crucially oversee what we hope will be a safe passage programme arranged with the Taliban.”

He added that Britain needs “to be humble” and learn lessons from the past few months as well as from the last 20 years in Afghanistan.

Raab to ask about the reopening of Kabul airport

08:52 , Rory Sullivan

As previously mentioned, Dominic Raab is in Qatar for talks on Afghanistan.

The foreign secretary is expected to discuss the potential reopening of Kabul airport.

Here’s Adam Forrest with more details on Mr Raab’s trip:

Dominic Raab flies to Qatar to discuss Afghanistan evacuations

Williamson defends Raab over Afghanistan

09:08 , Rory Sullivan

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has attempted to defend his colleague Dominic Raab amid criticism of his handling of the Afghanistan crisis.

The former defence secretary said Mr Raab “has been working tirelessly” in leading the UK’s response to the Taliban’s takeover.

However, he somewhat watered down this defence by saying that he, unlike the foreign secretary, did not have time for a proper holiday this summer.

He told LBC radio: “As education secretary you tend not to have holidays.”

“I got a couple of days in Scarborough to see my mum and dad, so that was very nice.”

Defence secretary contradicts Raab over ‘failure of intelligence'

09:26 , Rory Sullivan

Defence secretary Ben Wallace has contradicted Dominic Raab’s assertion that intelligence was to blame for the UK’s failure to anticipate the speed of the Taliban takeover.

Speaking to the Spectator magazine, Mr Wallace said: “I’ve already seen some lines about the failure of intelligence.

“History shows us that it’s not about failure of intelligence, it’s about the limits of intelligence.

“When the Soviet Union crumbled, when Libya collapsed, when the actual moment came in Afghanistan, intelligence hadn’t failed. It was just limited, as it always is at the very end.”

Photos: Dominic Raab in Qatar

09:35 , Rory Sullivan

No 10 has published some photos from Dominic Raab’s trip to Doha, Qatar.

Here are a few:

Dominic Raab speaks to staff at a resettlement programme for Afghan refugees in Doha, Qatar. (Simon Dawson / No10 Downing Street)
Dominic Raab speaks to staff at a resettlement programme for Afghan refugees in Doha, Qatar. (Simon Dawson / No10 Downing Street)
The foreign secretary speaks to a pair of 15-year-old Afghan twins who will be resettled in the UK. (Simon Dawson / No10 Downing Street)
The foreign secretary speaks to a pair of 15-year-old Afghan twins who will be resettled in the UK. (Simon Dawson / No10 Downing Street)

Afghan women speak of dark future

09:50 , Rory Sullivan

Sima* is one of many at-risk Afghan women who were unable to leave their home country on evacuation flights.

With Kabul airport now shut, she has split up her family and has gone into hiding.

As a Shia Muslim, a female journalist and the wife of a man who has worked for the US, she is at triple risk of death.

Bel Trew has her story:

Afghan women left behind say they feel abandoned by the west

US cooperation with Taliban on strikes against IS ‘possible’

10:02 , Rory Sullivan

It is “possible” that the US will coordinate with the Taliban on strikes against Islamic State militants in Afghanistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said.

Army Gen. Mark Milley did not elaborate any further.

Milley: US coordination with Taliban on strikes 'possible'

Qatar to operate Kabul airport ‘soon’

10:11 , Rory Sullivan

Qatar will “soon” operate Kabul airport, after a team of experts has assessed the damage caused by the US withdrawal, it has been reported.

An Afghan civil aviation official told Al Jazeera, a news channel based in Doha, about the development.

Wallace says he warned ministers ‘game was up’ in Afghanistan back in July

10:18 , Rory Sullivan

Defence secretary Ben Wallace has said he warned cabinet colleagues in July that the “game was up” in Afghanistan, with the Taliban likely to sweep to power.

Amid an escalating row with Dominic Raab, he countered the foreign secretary’s claim that a failure in intelligence was to blame for the UK’s slow response to the crisis.

“I’ve already seen some lines about the failure of intelligence. History shows us that it’s not about failure of intelligence, it’s about the limits of intelligence,” he said.

Ben Wallace says he warned in July ‘game is up’ in Afghanistan

UK must ‘engage’ with Taliban, insists Raab

10:35 , Rory Sullivan

Speaking from Doha, Dominic Raab has said the UK has “scope for engagement” with the Taliban.

“Now of course we need to adjust to the new reality and our immediate priority is to secure the safe passage of those remaining British nationals but also the Afghans who worked for the United Kingdom and indeed others who may be at most risk,” he added.

Dominic Raab speaks at a press conference in Doha (AFP via Getty Images)
Dominic Raab speaks at a press conference in Doha (AFP via Getty Images)

Taliban approves first cricket test since takeover

10:50 , Rory Sullivan

The Taliban has allowed the Afghan cricket team to tour Australia this year, marking a policy shift from its previous rule.

Hamid Shinwari, the chief executive of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, said: “The Taliban government has been supporting cricket and all our cricket will be held as per schedule.”

Taliban approves Afghanistan’s first cricket Test since takeover

UK seeks ‘international coalition’ on Afghanistan

11:09 , Rory Sullivan

The UK wants a “international coalition” to be formed to exert “maximum moderating influence” on the Taliban, Dominic Raab has said.

At a press conference in Qatar, he added that Britain needed to be “pragmatic and realistic” in its approach to the hardline Islamist group.

He also confirmed that the UK will not recognise the Taliban in the “foreseeable future”.

Here’s a report from our politics editor Andrew Woodcock:

Raab calls for international coalition on Afghanistan on visit to Qatar

George W Bush says he was ‘right’ to go into Afghanistan after 9/11

11:25 , Rory Sullivan

Former US president George W Bush has defended his decision to invade Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks on America.

Speaking in a new BBC documentary, he said he made some “big decisions” after 11 September, 2001.

“And those decisions were not made out of anger, they were made with a goal in mind, which was to protect the American people. I think I was right,”

Shweta Sharma reports:

George W Bush defends decision to go into Afghanistan post 9/11

Tajikistan cannot afford to take in Afghan refugees, says police chief

11:40 , Rory Sullivan

Tajikistan cannot afford to accommodate the 100,000 Afghan refugees it has promised to take due to a lack of international support, its police chief has said.

Interior Minister Ramazon Rakhimzoda said the country does not have the capacity to house them, adding: “Not a single international organisation in 20 years has provided practical help in creating infrastructure to take in refugees and asylum seekers.”

The former Soviet Union state has granted asylum to a total of 15,000 Afghans in the last 15 years.

Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad is travelling to Tajikistan this week to discuss evacuations from Afghanistan.

‘We think we are going to die’: Britons stranded in Afghanistan speak of their fear

12:00 , Rory Sullivan

British nationals stranded in Kabul have said they fear for their lives.

One told The Independent: “Diplomats are gone from here and so we don’t know what we are going to do. We are in a critical position every day and every moment we think we are going to die. We have no idea what our future will be.”

My colleague Holly Bancroft speaks to some of those affected:

‘We think we are going to die’: Brits stranded in Afghanistan plead for help

Afghan refugee, 5, dies in Poland after eating poisonous mushrooms

12:20 , Rory Sullivan

A five-year-old Afghan refugee has died in Poland after he and his family ate poisonous mushrooms.

They found the death cap mushrooms in the woods close to the refugee camp where they are staying, situated near Warsaw.

The boy’s older brother remains in a life-threatening condition, despite having a liver transplant earlier this week, doctors at Poland’s main children’s hospital confirmed.

Their parents are in hospital receiving psychological support.

The Independent calls on UK to take more Afghan refugees

12:46 , Rory Sullivan

The Independent has launched a petition calling on the British government to resettle more Afghan refugees, after the harrowing scenes seen in Kabul and other parts of the country.

Boris Johnson’s current target is to accommodate 5,000 vulnerable people in the 12 months after the Taliban swept to power.

Pledge your support to our initiative by signing below:

Sign the Petition

Efforts underway to help Afghan girls football team

13:06 , Rory Sullivan

International efforts are underway to evacuate members of the Afghanistan girls football team and their families who are in danger under the Taliban.

Robert McCreary, a former staffer under George W. Bush, said: “They’re just unbelievable young ladies who should be playing in the backyard, playing on the swing set, playing with their friends, and here they’re in a very bad situation for doing nothing more than playing soccer.

“We need to do everything that we can to protect them, to get them to a safe situation.”

Most of the Afghan women’s team were airlifted to Australia last week. Their captain, Farkhunda Muhtaj, who lives in Canada, said the girls team were at risk of being targeted because they are strong role models for girls in Afghanistan. “They are devastated. They’re hopeless, considering the situation they’re in,” she said.

Qatar ‘hopeful’ Kabul airport will be operational soon

13:26 , Rory Sullivan

Qatar is “hopeful” that Kabul airport will open again soon, saying it is currently assessing how badly damaged it is.

Foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told reporters in Doha: “There is no clear indication when it is going to be fully operational yet but we are working very hard and also engaging with the Taliban to identify what are the gaps and the risks for having the airport back up and running.

“We will remain hopeful that we will be able to operate it as soon as possible.”

Taliban call for surrender of final rebel province, Panjshir Valley

13:40 , Liam James

Senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Motaqi called on fighters of the last rebel province to surrender, saying “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is home for all Afghans”.

Taliban forces and fighters loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud, fought in Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley on Thursday, with each side saying it had inflicted heavy casualties in recent days of combat in the last province resisting Taliban rule.

Following the fall of Kabul on 15 August, several thousand fighters from local militias and the remnants of army and special forces units have massed in the steep valley region.

Efforts to negotiate a settlement appear to have broken down, with each side blaming the other for the failure of talks as the Taliban prepared to announce a government.

Both sides provided varying figures for the other’s casualties, without offering evidence. It was not possible to verify the numbers of fighters on either side killed.

The Taliban says the Panjshir valley is surrounded on all four sides and a rebel victory is impossible. The rebels say they will refuse to surrender.

Church of England issues advice for helping refugees

14:08 , Liam James

The Church of England has published a “toolkit” for supporting Afghan refugees in local parishes.

Along with details of the situation in Afghanistan and the UK government’s resettlement scheme, information is provided on the state support which refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to.

Taliban and rebels give conflicting accounts of Panjshir fighting

14:31 , Rory Sullivan

Panjshir is the only province in Afghanistan not currently under Taliban control. The National Resistance Front (NRF), led by the 32-year-old son of a revered mujahideen commander, controls the 60-mile valley, which is situated north of Kabul.

The Taliban and the NRF are now fighting over the area, but reports from Panjshir give a hazy picture of what is going on.

While Afghanistan’s new rulers say they have entered the valley and overrun some of it, the NRF still claims to be in full control.

“We started operations after negotiation with the local armed group failed,” a Taliban spokesperson said. “They suffered heavy losses.”

In a different version of events, an NRF spokesperson said the Taliban has failed on multiple occasions to enter the valley through the Shotul district.

Western Union resumes services in Afghanistan

14:48 , Rory Sullivan

Western Union is resuming its money-transfer services in Afghanistan, two weeks after it suspended operations there, a senior executive has confirmed.

Jean Claude Farah, the company’s president in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told Reuters the decision was in line with the US’ desire to allow humanitarian activity under Taliban rule.

“Much of our business involving Afghanistan is low-value family and support remittances that support basic needs of the people there, so that’s the grounding that we have and why we want to reopen our business,” he said.

Evacuations from Kabul could resume in ‘near future’, claims Raab

15:08 , Rory Sullivan

Evacuations from Kabul airport could start again “in the near future”, Dominic Raab has said.

“I don’t think we’re yet able to say anything formal but that’s looking like it may happen at some point in the near future,” Mr Raab told reporters in Qatar.

This comes after airlifts stopped on Monday when the last western troops left Afghanistan, with thousands of Afghans who worked for Britain thought to have been left behind.

Tory MP predicts ‘new stage of chaos’ in Afghanistan

15:28 , Rory Sullivan

The withdrawal of western soldiers from Afghanistan marked “the beginning of a new stage of chaos”, the chairman of the foreign affairs select committee has said.

Speaking at an event run by the Policy Exchange think tank, Tory MP Tom Tugendhat said the conflict was “not over”, adding that the Taliban is fractured by internal divisions.

“The reality is, of course, this isn’t the end of a war, this is a change of nature, a change of style, a change of combatants perhaps even, but it is not the end,” he said.

Afghanistan: A nation abandoned?

15:43 , Rory Sullivan

Less than three weeks ago, the Taliban swept into Kabul and took control of Afghanistan.

Last night, The Independent ran a virtual event on Afghanistan, looking at recent development as well as what lies ahead.

Our defence editor Kim Sengupta, who reported from Kabul for much of August, said: “For the people of this land battered by decades of violence, most of it brought about by foreign powers near and far, there is now darkness only too visible.”

You can read other comments and watch a recording of the event here:

The reality of the Taliban’s Afghanistan takeover analysed by experts

Taliban set to name government

16:00 , Rory Sullivan

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, the Taliban is expected to name its government soon.

“Consultations are almost finalised on the new government, and the necessary discussions have also been held about the cabinet,” a spokesperson told Tolo News.

Here’s Alisha Rahaman Sarkar with more details:

Taliban set to name ‘supreme authority’ and form government in Afghanistan

Starvation looms for millions in Afghanistan

16:18 , Liam James

Many Afghans were struggling to feed their families and severe drought well before Taliban militants seized power last month and millions may now face starvation with the country isolated and the economy unravelling, aid agencies say.

“In the current context there are no national safety nets ... Since the 15th of August, we have seen the crisis accelerate and magnify with the imminent economic collapse that is coming this country's way,” Mary-Ellen McGroarty, World Food Programme (WFP) country director in Afghanistan, told Reuters by videolink from Kabul.

In an August video provided by the WFP, Afghan women wearing head-to-toe burqas and men in turbans line up for supplies at a UN food distribution centre in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. A bearded man leaves carrying a sack of 46kg of fortified wheat flour on his back.

“There are no crops, no rain, no water and people are living in misery. This is a great mercy from God and it really helps poor and needy people,” Delawar, who lives in Balkh province whose capital is Mazar, says in the video after getting rations for his family of eight.

Food prices have spiked since the second drought in four years ruined some 40 per cent of the wheat crop, according to the WFP.

Millions of Afghans could soon face starvation due to the combination of conflict, drought and COVID-19, it has said. It has urgently appealed for $200m (£144m), warning that WFP supplies will run out by October as winter sets in.


Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide: War and geopolitics conspire against Afghan refugees fleeing to Turkey

16:37 , Liam James

Buri and his family number 11 people. They live crammed in an apartment then rent for £61 (about $84) a month in Van’s bustling city centre. On the day journalists visited, the youngest, aged 18 months, was suffering from a fever.

They are luckier than most Afghan refugees in Turkey.

Latest from Borzou Daragahi on the ground in Turkey, where the government is collaborating with Greece and Iran to stop Afghan refugees reaching their cities:

At Turkey’s border, war and geopolitics conspire against Afghan refugees

Afghanistan withdrawal will ‘fuel terrorism’ worldwide, says former ambassador

16:54 , Liam James

The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was an act of “strategic self-harm” that will “fuel” terrorism worldwide, Lord Sedwill, the former ambassador to Kabul, has warned.

The peer, who was national security adviser until 2020, also said the move would empower the West's “authoritarian adversaries”.

Lord Sedwill said “security threats have undoubtedly gone up” since the Taliban took over last month.

“The Taliban's victory in Afghanistan will undoubtedly fuel extremism and terrorism worldwide whether or not it is directed from there,” he said.

Lord Sedwill also aimed criticism at the US for not seeing its mission in Afghanistan, which lasted two decades, through to the end.

“If you are one of our authoritarian adversaries, you will be right now going around the rest of the world to those countries that are in play and saying to them, 'You see, we told you so, we have the strategic patience and they don't',” he said.

SNP minister: 160 Afghan refugees arrived in Scotland since June

17:08 , Liam James

Scotland has welcomed around 160 Afghan refugees since June, according to an SNP minister.

Angus Robertson said the 43 families who had arrived in Scotland had been resettled in eight local authority areas.

A further 20 families, consisting of around 70 people, are expected to arrive in the first weeks of September.

US no superpower after Afghanistan withdrawal, says Wallace

17:25 , Liam James

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, suggested the US had lost its designation as a “global force” by ending its 20-year war in Afghanistan without achieving its aims.

“It is obvious that Britain is not a superpower,” he said. “But a superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn't probably a superpower either.

“It is certainly not a global force, it's just a big power.”

Biden staff break ranks over Afghanistan: ‘I am absolutely appalled’

17:44 , Liam James

White house officials have signalled their dismay over the end result of Mr Biden’s efforts to extract Americans and vulnerable Afghan civilians from the country, writes John Bowden.

In interviews with Politico published on Thursday; one of the officials told the news outlet that they were “absolutely appalled and literally horrified” that more than 100 Americans remained in the country after the last flight departed Hamid Karzai International Airport, including some who had said they wanted to leave.

“It was a hostage rescue of thousands of Americans in the guise of a NEO [noncombatant evacuation operations], and we have failed that no-fail mission,” that official added to Politico.

A second official characterised the US mission in Afghanistan as unaccomplished as long as any Americans who wanted to leave remained in the country.

Biden staff break ranks over Afghanistan: ‘I am absolutely appalled’

Italy trying to find Afghans who fled Taliban

18:00 , Liam James

Diplomats are searching for Afghans who worked with Italy but fled to Iran and neighbouring countries to avoid the Taliban.

Prime minister Mario Draghi said it was fortunate that many people had escaped but that Italy wanted to find those who worked with its military.

He did not say how many Afghans his country was looking for. Those who had already reached Italy were being given refugee status, he added.

Before Italy ended its withdrawal from Kabul on 27 August, it had evacuated nearly 5,000 Afghans who had worked with the Italian military during its 20-year-deployment in Afghanistan as well as their families and others deemed at risk now under Taliban rule.

Boris Johnson defends government’s conduct in Afghanistan withdrawal

18:19 , Liam James

Boris Johnson has defended his government's conduct during the Afghanistan withdrawal after being asked why his foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, was on holiday despite it being clear Kabul was about to fall.

During a visit to Merville Barracks in Colchester, Mr Johnson told reporters: “I think the whole government has been working continuously to make sure that we did what we could to extract people from Kabul.

“I think everybody who has taken part – I'm talking about the armed forces – in the Kabul airlift, and they've seen some pretty harrowing things and they've been exposed to people in the extremity of anxiety, of fear for their lives, and they've acquitted themselves incredibly well.

“I think they should be very, very proud of what they've done.”

Boris Johnson unable to give figure for people left in Afghanistan after end of evacuation

18:40 , Liam James

Asked why he did not have a clearer idea of the number of people yet to be evacuated from Afghanistan, Boris Johnson told reporters: “When you look at the numbers that we've helped to come out – both in terms of the eligible persons, the EP group, and the Afghan Repatriation and Assistance Programme (Arap) – we've way exceeded the numbers we thought were eligible.

“So, your question is a really good one but the answer is there are some - and we care for them very much, we're thinking about them, we're doing everything we can to help - but the extent of the evacuation, the extraction that has already happened, was really amazing.”

Estimates vary for the number of eligible people yet to be evacuated through Arap. Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said there were around 800-1,100 people remaining. But The Guardian reported that MPs had supplied figures suggesting there could be at least 7,000 eligible or potentially eligible people still in Afghanistan.

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, earlier said evacuations may be able to resume “in the near future”.

PM: Two tasks for government after UK withdrawal

18:57 , Liam James

Boris Johnson said there were two tasks for the UK following the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“The real job now is – two things we have got to do – we have got to make sure that we continue the work with local councils coming forward to help people find somewhere to live, make sure their kids have got somewhere to go to school, make sure they can be properly integrated into the UK economy and society.

“Secondly, we have got to make sure that we level with the Taliban who are the new authorities in Kabul.

“They have got to understand that if they want engagement with the west, with us, our friends, and I know that they do, then the first priority for us is safe passage for those who want to leave.”

Money transfers to Afghanistan set to resume

19:18 , Liam James

The US has told financial institutions they may again process money transfers to Afghanistan.

The Treasury said banks and transfer services can allow personal remittances, payments from migrant workers overseas which many Afghans rely on, to be sent to the country.

The news could provide some relief for the Afghan economy, which is nearing collapse after the US and other countries halted foreign aid and froze some $9bn (£6.5bn) in Afghan assets after the Taliban takeover.

Western Union Co, the world’s largest money-transfer compa, is resuming services to Afghanistan, a senior executive told Reuters on Thursday, a decision he said was in line with the US decision.

Boris Johnson says volatility of Afghanistan situation was “clear for many months” ahead of evacuation

19:40 , Liam James

Boris Johnson said it had been "clear for many months" that the situation in Afghanistan could change "very fast", and insisted the UK government's response was not "spur of the moment".

The evacuation mission, Operation Pitting, was “planned and prepared for months and months” and the Baron Hotel by Kabul airport was commissioned as the evacuation handling centre “months ago”.

“You can't do an operation like this just on the spur of the moment,” he said.

Pressed further, he added: “I think it's been clear for many months that the situation could go very fast and that's been part of the intelligence briefing.

“There have also been suggestions that the Afghan national defence force might hold on for longer. But logically you can see what happened.

“Once people felt in Afghanistan, once people in the Afghan army felt that they were no longer going to be getting that American air cover, then I think the logic for them became really to end their resistance and so things did go faster, but you can see to the extent of the planning that's been put into Op Pitting.”

19:52 , Liam James

That’s all for our live coverage of the situation in Afghanistan today.

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