Afghanistan news – live: UK ministers challenged over MP left in Kabul, as Taliban urged to fight terrorism

·42-min read

The government has been threatened with legal action over its failure to respond to requests for help from a progressive female MP and a leading woman judge who are both in hiding in Afghanistan.

British lawyers have sent a warning letter to ministers stating that if they do not issue visas for the two women – who cannot be named to protect their identities – by 2pm on Wednesday, they will launch an emergency legal challenge to “compel them to do so”.

Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, who has been supporting the two women, told The Independent they had been “let down” by the British government, describing the situation as “shameful”.

It comes as Qatar’s foreign minister publicly encouraged the Taliban to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and, following a meeting with the militant group, called on the international community to protect Afghan civilians. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani was speaking at a press conference in Doha.

Key Points

  • UK opens talks with Taliban over safe passage out of Afghanistan

  • ‘We are not done with you yet,’ Biden warns Isis-K

  • Govt faces legal challenge over female MP and judge trapped in Kabul

  • Raab denies UK evacuation plan increased risk of airport attack

  • Gay man ‘raped and beaten by Taliban’ after being duped into meeting

  • Thousands of Afghans face ‘ruin’, warns former defence staff chief

Taliban celebrate ‘complete independence' as last US troops leave Kabul

05:45 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Marking the exit of the US troops and “complete independence,” celebratory gunfire rang throughout Kabul as the Taliban took over the city’s airport on Tuesday.

In a video clip, the Taliban were also seen entering the airport after the last US troops left Kabul before midnight, ending evacuation operations and culminating the US’s 20-year presence in the country.

“The last US soldier has left Kabul airport and our country gained complete independence,” Qari Yusuf, the Taliban spokesperson said.

The US’s longest war killed an estimated 240,000 Afghans, 2,500 of their soldiers and cost nearly $2 trillion.

“Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended,” US president Joe Biden said in a statement. He also thanked the US military for carrying out evacuations.

Last US soldier leaves Afghanistan

05:58 , Rory Sullivan

The Pentagon tweeted a photo of Major General Christopher Donahue and identified him as the final US soldier to leave Afghanistan.

A handout provided by the US Central Command shows Maj Gen Donahue boarding the plane, which also carried Ross Wilson, the ambassador to Afghanistan.

Maj Gen Donahue is the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, the US Central Command said.

This marked the end of what many say has been a humiliating exit for the US and its NATO allies after 20 years in a war that took the lives of more than 240,000 Afghans and nearly 2,500 US troops.

Last US forces leave Afghanistan, bringing an end to a 20-year war

US drone strike killed a Kabul family

06:16 , Maroosha Muzaffar

A US drone strike on Sunday wiped out a family of ten in Kabul.

The US claimed it had destroyed an explosive-laden vehicle in an airstrike thwarting a bid by Isis to detonate a car bomb at Kabul airport.

Reports said a missile hit the car and instantly killed 10 people including children.

Ezmarai Ahmadi pulled his sedan in the driveway on Sunday after which children in the house, including his sons and daughters, nieces, and nephews all came out to greet him. He handed the keys to his elder son and asked him to park.

Reports said the youngsters all piled into the car for fun, while Mr Ahmadi watched from the side.

“The rocket came and hit the car full of kids inside our house,” Aimal Ahmadi – Ezmarai Ahmadi’s brother – said. “It killed all of them.” The brother said 10 members of the family died in the sir strike including his own daughter.

Taliban warns India and Pakistan to ‘keep Afghanistan out’ in their internal fight

06:31 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, said to be the Taliban’s foreign affairs chief, has asked India and Pakistan to “keep us out” and not use Afghanistan in their “internal fight”.

When asked about the Taliban turning hostile towards India, Mr Stanikzai said the media is “often wrong”.

“We hope they do not use Afghanistan in their internal fight. They have a long border, they can fight amongst themselves on the border. They should not use Afghanistan for this and we will not let any country use our land for this,” he said, adding the Taliban want “good relations with all their neighbours.”

Afghan TV presenter reads news while surrounded by Taliban militants

06:41 , Maroosha Muzaffar

A video clip shared online shows an Afghan TV news presenter reading out the headlines while being surrounded by Taliban fighters.

BBC’s Yalda Hakim tweeted a clip of the news report on Sunday afternoon and wrote: “Afghanistan TV - surreal”.

Reports said the video clip was shared online by the TV studio after the Taliban entered the building and demanded the news anchor praise them.

The news anchor also carried out a debate with the Taliban militants on air.

During the show, which is called Pardaz, the anchor was heard urging Afghans to co-operate with the militants.

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The end of Afghanistan’s bitter war

07:19 , Rory Sullivan

The US has withdrawn from Afghanistan after two decades of military presence in the country.

Our defence editor Kim Sengupta, who has been reporting from Kabul in recent weeks, reflects on the west’s failures and looks at the uncertain future facing Afghans:

‘Please, please help’: How I witnessed the Afghanistan war’s bitter end

Military action in Afghanistan led to ‘real gains’, claims Raab

07:41 , Rory Sullivan

The UK’s military involvement in Afghanistan led to “real, tangible gains” for the Afghan people, foreign secretary Dominic Raab has claimed.

The minister told Sky News that 10 million more children are now in education and fewer women are dying in pregnancy or childbirth.

“So there were real, tangible gains for all that sacrifice. Of course, now the focus is to recognise the new reality, learn the lessons of course from it but also focus on what we can do going forward,” he said.

RAF could strike Isis-K targets in Afghanistan

08:00 , Sam Hancock

The RAF could launch strikes against Isis-K in Afghanistan, an air chief marshal has said.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Sir Mike Wigston said the British military would work to root out terrorism anywhere in the world.

“Ultimately what this boils down to is that we’ve got to be able to play a global role in the global coalition to defeat Daesh, whether it’s strike, or whether it’s moving troops or equipment into a particular country, at scale and at speed.

“If there’s an opportunity for us to contribute I am in no doubt that we will be ready to - that will be anywhere where violent extremism raises its head, and is a direct or indirect threat to the UK and our allies.”

His comments come as the US and its western allies left Afghanistan after 20 years of military operations there.

Here’s our report on Sir Mike’s comments.

RAF prepared to strike against IS in Afghanistan, officer says

Hundreds of Britons remain in Afghanistan

08:20 , Rory Sullivan

Roughly several hundred British nationals remain in Afghanistan, the foreign secretary has confirmed.

"I know that the number of UK nationals, the particular responsibility of the Foreign Office, is now down at a very low level...low hundreds given that we taken in total 5,000 out," Dominic Raab said.

The US has admitted that several hundred Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan are stranded there.

American withdrawal from Kabul one of worst ‘foreign security blunders’ in decades, says former vice chief of staff

08:40 , Rory Sullivan

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan is one of country’s “most serious foreign security blunders” in the past 40 years, a former vice chief of staff has said.

General Jack Keane told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was “unforgivable” that the US allowed a “terrorist organisation” to take power, putting hundreds of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans at risk.

“I understand nobody expected the regime in Afghanistan to collapse this quickly but why wouldn’t we change the date we get out? I can’t identify with what we have just done. I’m ashamed of it. It’s a fundamental betrayal,” he added.

Raab denies UK evacuation plan increased risk of Kabul airport attack

08:55 , Rory Sullivan

The UK’s evacuation plan at Kabul airport did not increase the likelihood of last Thursday’s terrorist attack, Dominic Raab has said.

Hundreds of Afghans, 13 US soldiers and several Britons died in the Isis suicide bombing by Abbey Gate.

A Politico report on Monday suggested the American troops kept it open for longer than they wanted to help Britain with its evacuations.

“We got our civilian stuff out of the processing centre by Abbey Gate, but it’s just not true to suggest that, other than securing our civilian staff inside the airport, that we were pushing to leave the gate open,” Mr Raab said.

Biden to blame for terror attack, says Duncan Smith

09:10 , Rory Sullivan

Joe Biden is responsible for the decisions which led to the suicide bombing at Kabul airport, a former Tory leader has said.

Iain Duncan Smith told LBC: “President Biden was responsible for those decisions which, I believe, were critical in the course of the events that we’ve seen unfolding.

“I do think now to attempt to try and brief against the UK on the suicide bombing is reprehensible really, because, you know, if the American government or the American military were very serious about shutting the gates, they would have shut the gates.

“I think this idea that it was down to the idea that the British were begging them to keep them open, I think is a little bit mean-spirited on them and probably wrong.”

Taliban to form government ‘within days’, says Pakistan’s foreign minister

09:20 , Rory Sullivan

The Taliban will form a government within days, Pakistan’s foreign minister has said.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters on Tuesday: “We expect that a consensus government will be formed in the coming days in Afghanistan.”

This comes after two weeks of uncertainty, following the fall of Kabul on 15 August.

Thousands of Afghans face ‘ruin’, says former defence staff chief

09:35 , Rory Sullivan

Thousands of Afghans now face “ruin” rather than “hope”, a former chief of the British defence staff has said.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Lord David Richards said: “A lot of lives have been lost, not just British service lives, also many Afghans, and hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives are now facing ruin when they had some hope.

“I’m afraid our political leadership, and in particular president Biden over the last six months, have let those people down, us and the Afghans.”

He added that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was far from successful, saying that those who denied this “should start writing novels”.

Can the Taliban keep control?

09:55 , Rory Sullivan

For those who missed it, here’s our international correspondent Borzou Daragahi with a piece on the Taliban’s “network of eyes” in Afghanistan.

He examines how the militant group swept to power so easily and whether they will manage to retain it:

The Taliban has taken Afghanistan – but can it keep control? | Borzou Daragahi

Taliban fighters enter hangar of abandoned US helicopters

10:11 , Rory Sullivan

The Taliban entered a hangar of abandoned US helicopters at Kabul airport after western troops withdrew from Afghanistan on Monday night.

Before they departed, the American military “disabled” scores of aircraft.

Republican congressman Jim Banks, who served in Afghanistan, said the Taliban now has access to $85 billion worth US weapon, 75,000 vehicles, 200 planes and helicopters, as well as 600,000 small arms and light weapons.

“They have more Black Hawk helicopters than 85 per cent of the countries in the world,” Mr Banks warned.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar reports:

Video shows Taliban fighters entering abandoned choppers after last US flight leaves

Raab denies showing ‘no interest’ in taking calls from Pakistani and Afghan ministers

10:25 , Rory Sullivan

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has hit out at claims that he showed “no interest” in speaking to Afghan and Pakistan ministers in the months before the evacuation from Kabul.

The allegations were made by an unnamed Pakistani official and were published in the Sunday Times.

The government worker told the paper that Mr Raab considered Afghanistan “yesterday’s war”.

In response, the foreign secretary told Sky News: “Anyone that is toddling off to the Sunday Times or any other newspaper at a time of crisis, including the evacuation which has been two weeks running, giving buck-passing briefings either at me or the FCDO is, frankly, not credible and it is deeply irresponsible.”

He added that he had spoken to Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi “more intensively given the evacuation”. However, he was unable to name times before August in which he had conversations with his counterparts in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Photos from Kabul airport

10:40 , Rory Sullivan

The Taliban took control of Kabul airport as soon as US troops left yesterday.

Here are some photos from Tuesday:

Taliban Badri special force fighters are pictured at Kabul airport (AFP via Getty Images)
Taliban Badri special force fighters are pictured at Kabul airport (AFP via Getty Images)
A Taliban fighter sits in the cockpit of an Afghan Air Force plane (AFP via Getty Images)
A Taliban fighter sits in the cockpit of an Afghan Air Force plane (AFP via Getty Images)

Eight Taliban fighters killed in Panjshir, says opposition group

11:01 , Rory Sullivan

Eight Taliban fighters were killed and a similar number were wounded in fighting in Panjshir valley, an opposition group has claimed.

The area north of Kabul is the only place in Afghanistan to remain outside of Taliban control, after its fighters swept across the country in August.

A spokesperson for the National Resistance Forces (NRF) said the Taliban had attacked their western positions on Monday night but had been repulsed.

The NRF forces are loyal to Ahmad Massoud, whose father was a anti-Soviet mujahideen commander killed by al-Qaeda.

No future for women in Afghanistan, says exiled Afghan football player

11:18 , Rory Sullivan

National Afghanistan football player Fanoos Basir fled her home country because she did not see a future under Taliban rule.

She is now at a refugee reception centre in France.

“We had lots of dreams for our country, for our future, for the future of women in Afghanistan,” she told Reuters.

“This was our nightmare, that the Taliban would come and capture all of Afghanistan. There is no future for women... for now.”

Afghan refugee, 6, to have liver transplant after eating poisonous mushrooms in Poland

11:40 , Rory Sullivan

Doctors in Poland will perform a liver transplant on a 6-year-old Afghan refugee after he and his family ate poisonous mushrooms shortly after their arrival in the country.

His 5-year-old brother remains in a coma, while their 17-year-old sister and other family members are in a stable condition.

The family found the death cap mushrooms in the woods near the refugee centre where they are staying in Podkowa Lesna.

The father worked for the British in Afghanistan and his family was evacuated by Poland at the UK’s request.

Government to answer unread emails about trapped Afghans ‘within days'

12:05 , Rory Sullivan

The government will answer all unread emails about people with ties to Britain who remain trapped in Afghanistan “within days”, foreign secretary Dominic Raab has promised.

Around 9,000 people who were eligible to escape due to their work with British officials were not able to leave, according to reports.

“We will go over all of those emails [and] make sure they’re properly answered in days,” Mr Raab told Sky News.

We will answer unread emails about trapped Afghans ‘within days’, says Raab

Up to 40,000 left in Afghanistan with right to German residency, says Merkel

12:30 , Rory Sullivan

There could be as many as 40,000 Afghans who still have the right to be evacuated to Germany, Angela Merkel has said.

The chancellor admitted that many local allies who worked for German development organisations remain in Afghanistan.

She told reporters on Tuesday: “For us the focus at the moment is local staff and that’s not 300 people, that’s probably more like 10-40,000 people, and we will have to see how many of them want to leave the country and how many not.

“As we’ve seen, nobody takes the decision to leave their home lightly.”

US embassy in Kabul suspends operations ‘indefinitely’

12:52 , Rory Sullivan

The US has closed its embassy in Kabul “indefinitely” after withdrawing its final troops from Afghanistan.

“While the US government has withdrawn its personnel from Kabul, we will continue to assist US citizens and their families in Afghanistan from Doha, Qatar,” the embassy said on its website.

US embassy in Kabul ‘suspends operations’ indefinitely

Pakistan calls on international community to prevent ‘economic collapse’ in Afghanistan

13:08 , Rory Sullivan

The world should prevent an “economic collapse” in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover, Pakistan’s foreign minister has said.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his German counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the international community it should remain engaged with Afghanistan at this “pivotal moment” in its history.He added that his country did not have the resources to accommodate more refugees, having hosted more than 3 million Afghans over the last few decades.

UK to increase staff numbers in countries neighbouring Afghanistan

13:20 , Rory Sullivan

The UK is increasing staff numbers in the countries bordering Afghanistan to help with evacuations, Downing Street has said.

Exact numbers have yet to be given.

Announcing the move on Tuesday, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said: “We are beefing up the number of staff in neighbouring countries, Foreign Office and other staff, to support that.

“That’s something that we’re in the process of arranging, these surge staff.”

Former British soldier plots escape with 400 Afghans

13:40 , Rory Sullivan

A former British soldier plans to flee Afghanistan with hundreds of Afghans - including his staff - after crossing Taliban-controlled land.

Ben Slater, 37, did not receive the necessary visas for the group to leave by air evacuation.

He told the Daily Telegraph that he was “massively let down” by the British government, adding his hope that the Foreign Office will speak to officials in their destination country before their arrival.

British ex-soldier stranded in Afghanistan plots escape with 400 Afghans

‘Too early’ to say whether UK will work with Taliban against IS, says No 10

13:57 , Rory Sullivan

It is too early to say whether the UK will work with the Taliban against Islamic State in Afghanistan, Downing Street has said.

A prime minister’s spokesperson said such co-operation would depend on whether the Taliban respected human rights.

“At this stage it is too early to dictate if and how we would work with the Taliban going forward. A lot will depend on their actions from now. As we have said throughout, we intend to put pressure on them to uphold these standards and claims,” they said.

EU ministers meet to discuss Afghan refugees

14:12 , Rory Sullivan

EU ministers are meeting on Tuesday to discuss Afghanistan and the flow of refugees from the country.

This comes the day after the US withdrew their last soldiers from Kabul.

Prior to the meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the European commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johnsson said: “It’s important that we are in a position where we can avoid a humanitarian crisis, migratory crisis and a security threat from Afghanistan.”

EU ministers meet to discuss Afghanistan, refugees

US to continue evacuation efforts despite withdrawal

14:30 , Rory Sullivan

The US will continue its evacuation efforts despite the withdrawal of all American soldiers from Afghanistan, the US national security adviser has said.

Jake Sullivan said Washington’s position had moved from “a military mission to a diplomatic mission”, adding that the Biden administration had “considerable leverage” over the Taliban to get its remaining citizens out of the country.

So far, the US has evacuated more than 120,000 people from Kabul, according to the White House.

EU takes hard stance on accepting refugees

14:45 , Rory Sullivan

Afghanistan: EU signals hard line on accepting migrants

How much US military equipment does the Taliban have?

15:05 , Rory Sullivan

The US rendered dozens of aircraft unusable during their hasty departure from Kabul airport.

However, lots of US military equipment seems to be in the hands of the Taliban, with the group appearing to fly Black Hawk helicopters over Kandahar.

Tom Batchelor takes a look at what else was left behind:

What American equipment has been left for the Taliban?

Canada to take 5,000 Afghan refugees evacuated by US

15:25 , Rory Sullivan

Canada will resettle 5,000 Afghan refugees who have been evacuated from Kabul by the US.

These people will be included as part of Canada’s previously announced plan of taking in 20,000 vulnerable Afghans.

“We know there is more to do with allied evacuation operations ending. We’re pulling out all the stops to help as many Afghans as possible who want to make their home in Canada,” immigration minister Marco Mendicino said.

India holds talks with top Taliban leader

15:40 , Rory Sullivan

In India’s first formal engagement with the Taliban since it swept to power, the country’s ambassador to Qatar met with a senior figure from the hardline Islamist group.

The meeting was arranged at the request of the Taliban, India’s foreign ministry said.

The conversation touched on the safety of Indians stranded in Afghanistan and fears militants could use the country as a base to launch attacks against India, it added.

Biden to address the nation over Afghanistan withdrawal

16:00 , Rory Sullivan

Joe Biden will address the nation on Tuesday at 1.30pm EST (6.30pm BST) about Afghanistan.

He is expected to say he made the correct decision to withdraw US troops from the country, despite widespread criticism about his actions.

Hours before his speech, a former vice chief of staff for the US army called the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan one of the “most serious foreign security blunders” in the past 40 years. General Jack Keane added that it was “unforgivable” to put American and Afghan lives in danger by allowing a “terrorist” organisation to seize power.

What time is Biden addressing the nation over Afghanistan withdrawal

Afghan Paralympians compete in Tokyo

16:11 , Rory Sullivan

Two Afghan Paralympians are competing at the games in Tokyo this summer, after being evacuated from Kabul.

Hossain Rasouli took part in the long jump in the T47 class on Tuesday, while his compatriot Zakia Khudadadi will compete in taekwondo on Thursday.

Her appearance in the women’s 44-49-kilogram weight category will be the first time a female Afghan athlete has taken part in the Paralympics since 2004.

This comes two weeks after the IPC was told the Afghan team would be unable to travel to Tokyo. The announcement sparked a “major global operation that led to their safe evacuation from Afghanistan”, IPC president Andrew Parsons said.

Afghan refugees ‘should be kept in hotels for as little time as possible’

16:21 , Sam Hancock

The length of time Afghan evacuees have to spend in hotels should be as short as possible to avoid a detrimental impact on their mental health, a charity worker has said.

People arriving from Afghanistan initially have to stay in quarantine hotels due to Covid-19 rules and will then move into other hotels around the country before securing more permanent accommodation with the help of local authorities.

Jon Featonby, refugee and asylum policy manager at British Red Cross, told the PA news agency that the uncertainty around how long hotel stays for migrants could last has been a worry.

“Eventually what will happen is that those families will go into housing around the country, which will then be their more permanent homes and where they’re really able to become part of that local community,” he said, but added: “What we don’t know yet is exactly how long it might take for some of that accommodation to be sourced.”

He continued: “Some of it will depend on the make-up of particular families, the size of families, if there are any disabilities within those families, accommodation will need to be suitable for that as well. So, some of that can just logistically take a little bit of time to get in place.”

Mr Featonby said the charity has previously seen people going through the UK asylum system accommodated in hotels for “several months”, adding they have seen the “detrimental impact” that scenario can have on people.

“It’s why while people are in those hotels it’s really important that support is in place to give families, particularly children, activities and things that they can do, opportunities to get out of the hotel and start to do things in the local area as well,” he said.

“But then, yeah, absolutely, really important that that stay in hotels, which we accept is necessary when people have been moved, when people have been evacuated from a country so quickly, but that that period of time that people are now in hotels to be as short as possible.”

Watch: Afghan TV presenter surrounded by armed Taliban

16:37 , Sam Hancock

In case you missed this from earlier, a striking clip shows members of the Taliban holding guns as they appeared on live Afghanistan TV.

The news presenter the insurgents stood around was in the midst interviewing Taliban commander Qari Samiullah.

Mr Samiullah used the slot to tell Afghans still trying to flee the country that they should remain at home.

“Stay and live in your homeland,” he said.

Watch the full clip here.

Gay man ‘raped and beaten by Taliban’ after being duped into meeting

16:47 , Sam Hancock

Taliban members have been accused of beating and raping a gay man after tricking him into meeting them.

Two militants had pretended to be a friend that could help the man, who was in hiding, escape Afghanistan.

The victim, whose name has not been revealed to protect his identity, met them in Kabul after three weeks of talking online.

The Taliban members assaulted and raped him, the man’s friend and LGBT+ activist Artemis Akbary told ITV. They also forced the man to give them his father’s phone number, so that they could tell him his son is gay.

Lamiat Sabin has the full report:

Man ‘raped and beaten by the Taliban in Kabul after he was duped into meeting them’

Trudeau confirms Canada will take on 5,000 Afghan refugees

17:06 , Sam Hancock

Canada has said it will resettle up to 5,000 of the Afghan refugees evacuated by the US during its evacuation mission in Kabul.

It comes as Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s government moved to address an issue critics say has been neglected during his campaign for re-election.

“We know there is more to do with allied evacuation operations ending,” immigration minister Marco Mendicino told a briefing. “We’re pulling out all the stops to help as many Afghans as possible who want to make their home in Canada.”

Canada evacuated 3,700 people from Kabul in recent weeks, of which some 2,000 were Afghans - and their families - who had helped Canadian soldiers and diplomats in the past.

Some 54 per cent of Canadians think Ottawa should have acted more quickly to help Afghans, according to a Postmedia/Leger Marketing poll published last week.

The 5,000 refugees evacuated by the US will be resettled as part of a previously announced Canadian plan to accept more than 20,000 vulnerable Afghans who had already left the country - including women leaders, human rights workers and reporters.

“We want to welcome Afghan families who have helped Canadians, who have who fought for justice, who fought for rights for the LGBT+ community, for women, for journalists,” Mr Trudeau told a campaign event on Tuesday.

Trudeau listens to protestors during a campaign event in Cambridge, Ontario, on Sunday (AFP via Getty Images)
Trudeau listens to protestors during a campaign event in Cambridge, Ontario, on Sunday (AFP via Getty Images)

American woman trapped in Afghanistan ‘tear-gassed at airport’

17:26 , Sam Hancock

An American woman, and former military interpreter, has spoken to the media as she remains trapped in Afghanistan after the last US flight departed.

The US citizen, who goes under the pseudonym Sara, spoke to CNN’s Chris Cuomo from Kabul on Monday night, outlining how she attempted to get to US checkpoints but was tear-gassed.

Sara and 37 Afghans ... were approaching the airport when tear gas was deployed. Amid the gas, Sara kept moving and managed to message her contact who was supposedly going to let her through the US checkpoint, she asked why they were being gassed. “They said ‘they are putting the gas for you so you can get closer to the gate’,” explained Sara.

As they were approaching the airport, Sara “started shouting, ‘I’m an American, please open the gate I’m here to go home.’” But no one opened the door, writes Jade Bremner.

American woman trapped in Afghanistan: ‘The last flight is gone, we’re left behind’

Woman describes ‘meaningful’ experience of working Afghan evacuation

17:46 , Sam Hancock

A government worker involved in the airlift from Kabul has described the experience as the “most meaningful” of her professional lives.

Nora, who was part of the UK’s Rapid Deployment Team, was based inside Kabul airport in Afghanistan as the UK aimed to evacuate as many eligible people as possible.

In a clip shared by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, she said this was the “most meaningful work I’ve ever done in my life”, because it was an “extraordinary circumstance”.

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US veteran launches private operation to rescue Afghan allies

18:04 , Sam Hancock

As the last US military plane took off from Kabul just after midnight on Tuesday, it left behind an estimated 60,000 Afghan allies and hundreds of American citizens who had been unable to escape in time.

For Retired LTC Scott Mann, who served multiple tours in Afghanistan, it was not something he was prepared to live with. “We know instinctively, you know, in our gut, in our solar plexus, that we don’t leave our friends. We don’t leave anybody behind and we keep our promises” he told The Independent. .

Mr Mann, along with other Afghan veterans, is launching Operation Recovery, a major mission to continue the evacuation and resettlement of the Afghan partners and their families that were left behind.

Helen Elfer has all the details:

US veteran launches major private operation to rescue remaining Afghan allies

Sketch: ‘Raab’s explanation for his Afghanistan failures can’t be silly season stuff’

18:24 , Sam Hancock

Out political sketch writer Tom Peck gives his verdict on Dominic Raab’s latest reasoning for his personal Afghanistan failures:

It’s all silly season stuff, this you know. It seems to come around every year. This year’s silly season classic, at least according to foreign secretary Dominic Raab on the morning news, is the fall of Kabul, the evacuation of Afghanistan and the concomitant end of the west’s century-long fight to uphold the values of liberal democracy around the world. Where, pray tell, is a parascending donkey when you need one?

Still, at least this partly explains Raab’s reluctance to curtail his Cretan holiday even while the Taliban was busily overrunning the Afghan presidential palace. No doubt we can assume the foreign secretary was acting on top intel that a middle-aged lady on a suburban street in Coventry was about to drop a cat in a bin and so the Afghanistan stuff would soon just blow over.

“Silly season stuff” really was the foreign secretary’s best explanation for his own highly detailed uselessness as laid out in the Sunday newspapers.

Read the full piece:

Raab’s explanation for his Afghanistan failures? ‘Silly season stuff’ | Tom Peck

Taliban must cooperate to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, says Qatar

18:48 , Sam Hancock

World leaders must unite in an international bid to protect Afghan civilians, Qatar’s foreign minister said today.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani also said Afghanistan is in a “very difficult phase”.

The Taliban should cooperate to fight terrorism, he added.

The minister of foreign affairs issued the statement as Taliban fighters celebrated the final withdrawal of US troops (AFP via Getty Images)
The minister of foreign affairs issued the statement as Taliban fighters celebrated the final withdrawal of US troops (AFP via Getty Images)

Taliban ‘open to proposals for Afghan govt’ - Qatar foreign minister

19:03 , Sam Hancock

More from Qatar’s foreign minister now. Speaking at the same press conference in Doha, alongside his German counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said the Taliban had showed they were open to proposals for a comprehensive Afghan government.

He also said security and operational talks related to Kabul’s airport were still ongoing.

It comes as reports on Tuesday revealed the airfield was back in the hands of the militant group.

Watch: Biden slammed for ‘knowingly leaving Americans’ in Afghanistan

19:15 , Sam Hancock

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy slammed Joe Biden’s administration today for “leaving Americans behind” in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has admitted as many as 250 Americans who wanted to leave Kabul are stranded there after the US flew its final evacuation out of the country on Monday.

“Never in my lifetime would I ever believe America would have an administration knowingly make a decision to leave Americans behind,” Mr McCarthy said. “Just two weeks ago, the president promised this nation that he would not leave until every single American was out.”

Watch the clip here:

Watch: McCarthy slams Biden administration for 'knowingly leaving Americans behind' in Afghanistan

Govt faces legal challenge over female MP and judge trapped in Kabul

19:20 , Sam Hancock

The UK government is facing legal action over its failure to respond to requests for help from a progressive female MP and a leading woman judge who are both in hiding in Afghanistan and fearing for their lives.

British lawyers have sent a warning letter to ministers stating that if they do not issue visas for the two women by 2pm on Wednesday they will launch an emergency legal challenge to “compel them to do so”.

The women, who cannot be named to protect their identities, have been trying to seek help from the government for more than two weeks but to no avail.

Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, who has been supporting the two women, told The Independent they had been “let down” by the British government.

Our social affairs correspondent May Bulman reports:

UK facing legal challenge over failure to evacuate female MP and judge from Kabul

UN chief urges global aid to Afghans in ‘hour of need’

19:50 , Sam Hancock

The United Nations chief is urging all countries to help the people of Afghanistan “in their darkest hour of need,” saying almost half the population needs humanitarian assistance to survive and the country faces the threat of basic services collapsing completely.

Secretary-general Antonio Guterres expressed “grave concern at the deepening humanitarian crisis in the country” in a statement today, the first day of Taliban rule after the final withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

He offered some grim statistics of the looming “humanitarian catastrophe”, saying: 18 million Afghans need aid to survive, one in three do not know where their next meal will come from, over half of all children aged five-and-under are expected to become “acutely malnourished” in the next year, and every day people are losing access to basic goods and services.

Mr Guterres said that “amid a severe drought and with harsh winter conditions on the horizon, extra food, shelter and health supplies must be urgently fast-tracked into the country”.

Stephane Dujarric, a UN spokesperson, added that the current $1.3bn (£945.2m) UN humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan is only 39 per cent funded.

Taliban fighters patrol along a street in Kabul earlier today (AFP via Getty Images)
Taliban fighters patrol along a street in Kabul earlier today (AFP via Getty Images)

Watch: Pentagon releases photo of last soldier to leave Afghanistan

19:55 , Sam Hancock

All American service members have now departed after the last of its military planes took off from Kabul airport.

A photo, appearing to have been taken through a night-vision lens, captures Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, boarding a C-17 cargo plane.

The Department of Defence shared the green image as they confirmed the completion of the evacuation mission late on Monday.

Kate Gill has all the details here:

Watch: Pentagon releases photo of last soldier to leave Afghanistan

Transcript of call between Biden and Ghani

20:15 , Sam Hancock

Excerpts from a call between US president Joe Biden and former Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani, which took place on 23 July, have been published by Reuters.

At that time,

Biden: Mr President. Joe Biden.

Ghani: Of course, Mr. President, such a pleasure to hear your voice.

Biden: You know, I am a moment late. But I mean it sincerely. Hey look, I want to make it clear that I am not a military man any more than you are, but I have been meeting with our Pentagon folks, and our national security people, as you have with ours and yours, and as you know and I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban.

And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.

Biden: If you empower Bismillah [defence minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi] to execute a strategy focused on key parts of the population centres, and I’m not a military guy, so I’m not telling you what that plan should precisely look like, you’re going to get not only more help, but you’re going to get a perception that is going to change in terms of how our allies and folks here in the States and other places think you’re doing.

You clearly have the best military, you have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well, we will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is and what we are doing.

But I really think, I don’t know whether you’re aware, just how much the perception around the world is that this is looking like a losing proposition, which it is not, not that it necessarily is that, but so the conclusion I’m asking you to consider is to bring together everyone from [former vice president Abdul Rashid] Dostum, to [former president Hamid] Karzai and in between, if they stand there and say they back the strategy you put together, and put a warrior in charge, you know a military man, [defence minister Bismillah] Khan in charge of executing that strategy, and that will change perception, and that will change an awful lot I think.

Ghani: Mr President, we are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15,000 international terrorists, predominantly Pakistanis thrown into this, so that dimension needs to be taken account of.

Second, what is crucial is, close air support, and if I could make a request, you have been very generous, if your assistance, particularly to our air force be front loaded, because what we need at this moment, there was a very heavily reliance on air power, and we have prioritised that if it could be at all front-loaded, we will greatly appreciate it.

And third, regarding procedure for the rest of the assistance, for instance, military pay is not increased for over a decade. We need to make some gestures to rally everybody together so if you could assign the national security advisor or the Pentagon, anyone you wish to work with us on the details, so our expectations particularly regarding your close air support.

And the last point, I just spoke again to Dr Abdullah earlier, he went to negotiate with the Taliban, the Taliban showed no inclination. We can get to peace only if we rebalance the military situation. And I can assure you... I have been to four of our key cities, I’m constantly traveling with the vice president and others, we will be able to rally. Your assurance of support goes a very long way to enable us, to really mobilise in earnest. The urban resistance, Mr President [has] been extraordinary, there are cities that have taken a siege of 55 days and that have not surrendered. Again, I thank you and I’m always just a phone call away. This is what a friend tells a friend, so please don’t feel that you’re imposing on me.

Biden: No, well, look, I, thank you. Look, close air support works only if there is a military strategy on the ground to support.

The US president has been dividing his time between the Afghanistan withdrawal and the fallout from Hurricane Ida (AFP via Getty Images)
The US president has been dividing his time between the Afghanistan withdrawal and the fallout from Hurricane Ida (AFP via Getty Images)

White House pool reporters wait for Biden to begin Afghanistan speech

20:24 , Sam Hancock

Reporters have begun to gather below a White House podium, though there is currently no sign of Joe Biden.

The US president was due to speak about ending the war in Afghanistan at the revised time of 2.45pm ET (7.45pm BST), so we continue to wait.

We’ll bring you more details when Mr Biden’s speech begins.

Councils ‘scrambling’ to meet needs of Afghan refugees

20:25 , Sam Hancock

The Home Office’s plan to resettle Afghan refugees has come under fire from local councils who say they have been left “scrambling” to meet the urgent needs of new arrivals due to a “lack of clarity” from central government.

A letter from Labour ministers to the home secretary and the housing minister, seen by The Independent, has also warned that the government must “step up and play its role in providing national coordination, leadership and support” to local authorities receiving Afghan arrivals, warning of “substantial challenges” for these refugees if it fails to do so, reports our social affairs correspondent May Bulman.

In some cases, houses that have been procured for evacuated families have remained empty for more than a week despite the Home Office saying the process would take one day, councillors said.

Read the full report here:

Councils ‘scrambling’ to meet needs of Afghans amid ‘lack of clarity’

‘Burn in hell’: Biden faces criticism from families of soldiers killed in Kabul

20:31 , Sam Hancock

Joe Biden was told to “burn in hell” following a supposedly “scripted and shallow” meeting in which families were agitated by a president who they say checked his watch and spoke more about his own dead son than the 13 troops killed last week in Afghanistan, writes Justin Vallejo.

As Mr Biden left Dover Air Force Base after meeting families who had just received the bodies of their loved ones from Kabul airport, one woman screamed: “I hope you burn in hell! That was my brother!”

The raw and emotional scene was described by Mark Schmitz, father of 20-year-old Jared Schmitz, in The Washington Post. “When he just kept talking about his son so much it was just – my interest was lost in that. I was more focused on my own son than what happened with him and his son,” Mr Schmitz said.

Biden told to ‘burn in hell’ after meeting with families of 13 killed in Kabul blast

Biden labels Afghan evacuation a ‘success’

20:37 , Sam Hancock

Following my earlier post, Joe Biden is now addressing the world’s media at the White House.

Speaking about the “historic” withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the US president called the mission an “extraordinary success”.

Turning to those left behind, Mr Biden said “around 100 to 200” US citizens remained in the south-central Asian nation. He said the “majority” of those not eligible to be flown back were “dual citizens who opted to stay in Afghanistan due to their family ties - then some changed their mind”.

“But 90 per cent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave, got to leave,” he said proudly, before appearing to put some of the blame on those stranded people who stayed behind to ensure the safety of their families’ lives.

We’ll have more highlights for you soon.

Biden speaks about the end of the war in Afghanistan (YouTube/The White House)
Biden speaks about the end of the war in Afghanistan (YouTube/The White House)

Biden claims US was ‘ready’ for hasty withdrawal from Kabul

20:45 , Sam Hancock

Joe Biden is claiming that the US was ready for “every eventuality” in its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“Even this one,” the president said, referring to the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country.

The “assumption was that the Afghan government would be able to hold on” for some time after the 31 August departure of the US military and diplomats, ahead of the previously-stated deadline of the US withdrawing completely from the country by 11 September, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks against the US.

That assumption “turned out not to be accurate,” Mr Biden said in his address to the nation.

He then suggested it was a choice between “leaving or escalating” the ongoing war.

“I was not extending this forever war,” he said.

‘We are not done with you yet,’ Biden warns Isis-K

20:55 , Sam Hancock

In a clear warning to the terror group which claimed responsibility for killing 13 US troops in Kabul last week, Joe Biden has said his armed forces are not done with Isis-K “just yet”.

“Let me be clear,” he said from a White House podium. “We will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down to the ends of the Earth and you will pay the ultimate price.”

Mr Biden went on to say his focus now was making sure Afghanistan “can never be used” to launch attacks on the US.

“My fellow Americans, this war is over,” he said, before making a reference to his own son, Beau, a former Army officer, who died in 2015.

“It was time to end this war,” Mr Biden repeated in his closing remarks of an address given from the state dining room at the White House. “It was the wise decision and it was the right decision for America.”

When finished, the president turned around and walked away without asking any of the questions being hurled at him by reporters.

Biden walks away from the podium, ignoring the dozens of questions being asked by reporters (YouTube/The White House)
Biden walks away from the podium, ignoring the dozens of questions being asked by reporters (YouTube/The White House)

Biden gives robust defence of his handling of Afghanistan

21:03 , Sam Hancock

President Joe Biden offered his strongest defence yet for his administration’s management of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan on Tuesday, hours after the last US planes left the country.

In a national address from the White House marking the end of the US occupation of Afghanistan, Mr Biden explained that he was not ready to let a “forever war” turn into a “forever exit”, while arguing that the US managed to extract most Americans from the country before the final flights departed.

His remarks were the president’s most direct response yet to criticism from some in his own party as well as many in the media and throughout the GOP over the handling of the evacuations.

Here’s our Washington correspondent John Bowden on everything you need to know from the address:

Biden defends his handling of Afghanistan exit in national address

21:14 , Conrad Duncan

You can find video footage below of US president Joe Biden’s comments on the situation in Afghanistan tonight:

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UK opens talks with Taliban over safe passage out of Afghanistan, report says

21:22 , Conrad Duncan

The UK has opened talks with the Taliban about safeguarding the passage of Afghan nationals and British citizens out of Afghanistan, according to The Times’ political editor.

Steven Swinford reports that Boris Johnson's special representative for Afghan transition, Simon Gass, met with senior Taliban representatives in Doha in recent days.

“UK talks with the Taliban are a significant moment as UK attempts to help thousands more people leave Afghanistan,” Mr Swinford said.

“Simon Gass is one of UK’s foremost experts on Afghanistan and is impeccably connected.”

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UN chief urges all countries to help people of Afghanistan in ‘darkest hour’

21:43 , Conrad Duncan

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres is urging all countries to help the people of Afghanistan “in their darkest hour of need”, warning that almost half the population needs humanitarian assistance to survive as the country faces the threat of basic services collapsing completely.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Guterres expressed “grave concern at the deepening humanitarian crisis in the country” following the Taliban’s takeover.

He warned that 18 million Afghans needed aid to survive, one in three do not know where their next meal will come from, and more than half of all children under age 5 are expected to become “acutely malnourished” in the next year.

Mr Guterres added that “amid a severe drought and with harsh winter conditions on the horizon, extra food, shelter and health supplies must be urgently fast-tracked into the country.”

According to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, the current $1.3bn UN humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan is only 39 per cent funded.

21:59 , Conrad Duncan

You can find more details below on the UK’s talks with the Taliban over the safe passage of British nationals out of Afghanistan, which has now been confirmed by Downing Street:

UK in talks with Taliban over British nationals in Afghanistan, No 10 says

Analysis: President attempts to articulate his ‘Biden doctrine’

22:25 , Conrad Duncan

US president Joe Biden’s speech on Afghanistan today was an attempt to articulate a clear mission for foreign policy during his presidency, according to our reporter Eric Garcia.

Eric writes:

“Throughout Mr Biden’s speech, wherein he outlined the failures of the Afghan government before it fell to the Taliban and the shortcomings of his predecessor Donald Trump, the president continuously emphasised why long-term military commitments like the one in Afghanistan were not in America’s best interests.”

You can find his full piece below:

President attempts to outline the ‘Biden doctrine’ at the end of the Afghanistan War

US general delivers emotional tribute to service members lost in Kabul attack

22:46 , Conrad Duncan

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff has delivered an emotional tribute to the 13 service members who were killed by a suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan last week.

General Mark Milley said that the 11 Marines, one soldier and one Navy corpsman who died in the attack “gave their tomorrows for the tomorrows of 124,000 people.”

He added that the US military's counterterrorism efforts over the past 20 years and the evacuation of thousands of people from Afghanistan in the last 20 days were the legacy of US service members.

“All of us are conflicted with feelings of pain and anger, sorrow and sadness, combined with pride and resilience,” Mr Milley added.

“But one thing I am certain of, for any soldier, sailor, airman or Marine and their families, your service mattered. It was not in vain.”

22:50 , Conrad Duncan

That’s all from The Independent’s live coverage of the crisis in Afghanistan for today - we’ll be back with more updates tomorrow.

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