Afghanistan news – live: 2,000 still await UK airlift from Kabul amid ‘very real possibility’ of terror attack

·35-min read

The RAF still needs to airlift out of Kabul nearly 2,000 Afghan interpreters and other staff who worked for Britain as thousands try to flee the Taliban.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said he was unsure how many people would left behind, but admitted the British government would not be able to evacuate everyone it wants to.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have claimed calls and emails from desperate Afghans have gone unanswered by the government.

“If we cannot get them out, they risk being hunted down and killed by the Taliban” Sarah Olney MP said, adding that “it is morally negligent” for ministers not to have set up a workable system.

Meanwhile, around 10,000 people are currently at Kabul airport trying to get out of Afghanistan, the Pentagon has said.

And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned of the “very real possibility” of an attack from ISIS-K.

Read More

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Boris Johnson put a brave face on the G7 meeting – but it was a discussion about how to present failure

Key Points

  • 10,000 people are still at Kabul airport waiting for evacuation - Pentagon

  • US Secretary of State Blinken warns of ISIS-K threat

  • RAF still needs to airlift 2,000 Afghans from Kabul

  • 10,000 evacuated by UK, says PM

  • Poland halts evacuation flights

  • Up to 1,500 Americans still in Afghanistan, State Department says

  • Raab denies paddle-boarding as Kabul fell

  • Western powers plan end to airlifts

Two US Congressmen made ‘secret’ trip to Kabul amid evacuation chaos

Wednesday 25 August 2021 05:39 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Two US Congressmen made a “secret” trip to Afghanistan on Tuesday amid the evacuation chaos, irking the White House officials.

Representatives Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) travelled to Kabul on Tuesday and said in a joint statement that “as Members of Congress, we have a duty to provide oversight on the executive branch. There is no place in the world right now where oversight matters more.”

The joint statement noted that “We conducted this visit in secret, speaking about it only after our departure, to minimise the risk and disruption to the people on the ground, and because we were there to gather information, not to grandstand.”

The statement added: “We left on a plane with empty seats, seated in crew-only seats to ensure that nobody who needed a seat would lose one because of our presence.”

However, Associated Press reported that the Biden administration officials, the department of state and the defence departments were “furious” with their trip.

The two former military veterans were also rebuked by Nancy Pelosi.

Taliban spokesperson urges women to stay home

Wednesday 25 August 2021 05:50 , Maroosha Muzaffar

A Taliban spokesperson on Tuesday urged women to stay home — at least for now — since their ‘fighters’ have not been trained to respect them.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson called it a “temporary” measure “intended to protect women. He said: “We are worried our forces who are new and have not yet been trained very well may mistreat women.”

He added: “We don’t want our forces, God forbid, to harm or harass women.”

Mr Mujahid said that women should stay home “until we have a new procedure” and added that “their salaries will be paid in their homes.”

Deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural affairs committee had told the New York Times this week that the Taliban had no problem with working women as long as they wore hijabs.

World Bank halts financial support to Taliban

Wednesday 25 August 2021 06:05 , Maroosha Muzaffar

The World Bank has dealt a blow to the Taliban by halting all its financial support to Afghanistan amid fears about women and their rights under the militant group.

Marcela Sanchez-Bender, World Bank spokesperson said in a statement: “We are deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and the impact on the country’s development prospects, especially for women.”

The statement added: “We have paused disbursements in our operations in Afghanistan and we are closely monitoring and assessing the situation in line with our internal policies and procedures.”

According to the World Bank website, the agency has committed more than $5.3 billion for development projects in Afghanistan.

And the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund — which is administered by the World Bank — has raised more than $12.9 billion.

Veteran groups pop up across the US to help ‘rescue’ Afghan interpreters

Wednesday 25 August 2021 06:17 , Maroosha Muzaffar

The US military veterans are leading a mission to evacuate their former interpreters from Afghanistan.

Several veteran groups are popping up across America, NBC reported, and these groups are responding to frantic SOS calls from their former interpreters and their families.

One former Marine was quoted as saying: “We can’t leave them behind.”

Another recounted the phone call from his Afghan interpreter. “I need help. The Taliban are trying to hunt me,” the person on the phone told him.

The recently retired Marine, who is leading the rescue efforts from California said: “He said he was already getting death threats and he was worried about his family.”

Meanwhile, reports said that the US was “on pace” to withdraw from Afghanistan by 31 August.

16 out of 78 Afghan evacuees that landed in India test positive for Covid-19

Wednesday 25 August 2021 06:28 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Sixteen out of 78 evacuees that landed in India from Afghanistan yesterday have tested positive for Covid-19.

Authorities said that all 78 have been quarantined.

All 16 positive cases, however, are reported to be asymptomatic.

Three of the evacuees were those who carried copies of the Sikh holy scriptures back to India from Kabul.

Mr Puri told the media that so far a total of 626 people — including 228 Indian citizens — have been evacuated from Afghanistan. He said that 77 among them were Afghan Sikhs.

White House claims Afghanistan evacuation ‘a success'

Wednesday 25 August 2021 07:16 , Rory Sullivan

The US evacuations from Kabul cannot be called “anything but a success”, the White House’s press secretary has claimed.

Speaking on Tuesday, Jen Psaki told reporters that the operation was set to become “the largest airlift in US history”, adding that the vetting processes in places were “stringent”.

Her comments come as Joe Biden insisted that the withdrawal deadline of 31 August would not be extended, despite requests from its allies.

Psaki says Afghanistan evacuation cannot be called ‘anything but a success’

Biden rebuffs requests for Afghanistan evacuation extension

Wednesday 25 August 2021 07:39 , Rory Sullivan

Joe Biden has rejected requests from Boris Johnson and other leaders to delay his 31 August exit deadline.

Following an emergency meeting of the G7 on Afghanistan, the US president said his country was “on a pace” to finish its evacuations by Tuesday, adding “the sooner we can finish the better”.

He cited security concerns as a reason for his decision, saying that “each day of operations brings added risk to our troops” from potential terrorist threats.

Mr Biden has been strongly criticised for his swift withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in recent months, which allowed the Taliban to sweep to power.

UK evacuates 2,000 people in 24 hours

Wednesday 25 August 2021 07:47 , Rory Sullivan

The UK has evacuated around 2,000 people from Kabul in the last 24 hours, Dominic Raab has said.

The foreign secretary added that almost all British citizens without dual nationality had now been flown out of Afghanistan.

“The lion share, almost of them who want to come out, have been brought home,” he told Sky News.

In total, Britain has airlifted 9,000 people out of Kabul since the Taliban took power in the capital on 15 August.

Raab denies he was paddle-boarding while Kabul fell

Wednesday 25 August 2021 08:16 , Rory Sullivan

Last week, Dominic Raab resisted calls to resign as foreign secretary over his handling of the Afghanistan crisis. He was particularly criticised for not calling his Afghan counterpart to ensure the safety of local allies before the Taliban seized Kabul.

And now, he has fended off allegations that he was paddle-boarding on holiday in Crete when Kabul fell.

Here’s our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn with more details:

Raab dismisses calls to resign as he denies he was paddle-boarding while Kabul fell

UN vows to remain in Afghanistan

Wednesday 25 August 2021 08:38 , Rory Sullivan

The UN will stay in Afghanistan amid the political upheaval, its secretary-general Antonio Guterres has said.

“We remain in the country and will continue to remain and do everything we can, both for the safety of staff, and to deliver for the Afghan people who have suffered so much,” he promised.

Russia to evacuate 500 people from Afghanistan

Wednesday 25 August 2021 08:53 , Rory Sullivan

Russia will airlift 500 people out of Afghanistan, a report has suggested.

The country’s defence ministry said it will use four military planes to evacuate citizens from Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, according to the Interfax news agency.

The government added that it wants to put on flights in September for Afghan students planning to study in Russia.

Opinion: Only way to defeat Taliban is by not recognising its rule

Wednesday 25 August 2021 09:08 , Rory Sullivan

The international community must remain committed to its promise of not recognising the Taliban, writes Roh Yakobi.

He warns that the hardline Islamist group is “incapable of change”, despite its assurances that it will respect women’s rights this time around.

Read his full piece here:

Opinion: The only way to defeat the Taliban to not recognise its rule in Afghanistan

Only a quarter of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of Afghanistan crisis

Wednesday 25 August 2021 09:21 , Rory Sullivan

Just one in four Americans approve of Joe Biden’s handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, a poll has found.

However, more than 50 per cent of the survey’s respondents said they were in favour of their country’s exit from Afghanistan.

John Bowden has this report:

Just one in four Americans approve of how Joe Biden is managing the Afghan withdrawal

Unclear how many people will be left behind in Kabul, says Raab

Wednesday 25 August 2021 09:48 , Rory Sullivan

It is unclear how many people will be left behind in Kabul who the UK would like to airlift out of the country, the foreign secretary has said.

Dominic Raab said the number would depend on how quickly people could be processed in the coming days, with the evacuations deadline of 31 August fast approaching.

“It’s also how many want to come, as there are some finely balanced cases,” he told ITV.

After the Taliban captured Kabul, British ministers admitted they would not be able to fly everyone out.

UK evacuation total over 10,000, says PM

Wednesday 25 August 2021 09:57 , Rory Sullivan

The UK has evacuated more than 10,000 people from Kabul over the past 13 days, Boris Johnson has announced.

“British forces are working tirelessly to support the evacuation operation in Kabul,” the prime minister said.

His announcement comes after Joe Biden triggered a final desperate scramble to leave Afghanistan by refusing to budge on his 31 August deadline for the withdrawal of US troops.

Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has the details:

More than 10,000 evacuated in UK airlift from Afghanistan, says Boris Johnson

Biden administration’s rhetoric ‘doesn’t match’ reality, says former Obama official

Wednesday 25 August 2021 10:28 , Rory Sullivan

The Biden administration’s rhetoric about the calm nature of US evacuations from Kabul does not match the chaos seen on the ground, a former State Department official has said.

Jenna Ben-Yehuda, who worked at the department for 12 years under Bush and Obama, told Politico: “I don’t think the president’s rhetoric matches the conditions on the ground.”

US government officials have been keen to highlight the “success” of the evacuation efforts, with national security adviser Jake Sullivan saying on Monday that the country was “overperforming” in terms of the numbers airlifted out of Afghanistan.

Hopes for Pen Farthing’s bid to rescue cats and dogs from Kabul

Wednesday 25 August 2021 10:48 , Rory Sullivan

Former British marine Pen Farthing runs an animal shelter in Afghanistan.

He has made headlines in recent days with his attempts to evacuate his staff as well as hundreds of cats and dogs from the country.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace gave him hope on Wednesday by saying that the animals would be allowed to board a flight once they made it through the airport.

Here’s an update from my colleague Celine Wadhera:

Afghanistan: Hope for Pen Farthing’s bid to rescue 200 dogs and cats from Kabul

PM says Kabul evacuations will continue ‘until last moment’

Wednesday 25 August 2021 11:03 , Rory Sullivan

Boris Johnson says Afghanistan evacuations will continue ‘until the last moment’

Afghan female boarding school relocates to Rwanda

Wednesday 25 August 2021 11:23 , Rory Sullivan

Afghanistan’s only female boarding school will resume lessons in Rwanda after pupils and staff fled Kabul, its co-founder has said.

Shabana Basij-Rasikh confirmed that 250 students, staff and family members were en route to the African country via Doha. She thanked the US, Qatar and Rwanda for making this possible.

“My heart breaks for my country. I’ve stood in Kabul, and I’ve seen the fear, and the anger, and the ferocious bravery of the Afghan people. I look at my students, and I see the faces of the millions of Afghan girls, just like them, who remain behind,” she added.

Covid vaccinations drop by 80 per cent in Afghanistan

Wednesday 25 August 2021 11:43 , Rory Sullivan

Covid-19 vaccinations have fallen by 80 per cent in Afghanistan under the Taliban, with many doses nearing their expiry date, the UN has said.

A Unicef spokesperson told Reuters that 30,500 people were vaccinated in the seven days to 22 August, compared with 134,600 the previous week.

“The drop is understandable, as in situations of chaos, conflict and emergency, people will prioritize their safety and security first,” they said.

Unicef is urging Afghan healthcare workers - including women - to return to work.

240 evacuated Afghans land in Hungary

Wednesday 25 August 2021 12:00 , Rory Sullivan

A plane carrying 240 evacuated Afghans reached the Hungarian capital Budapest on Wednesday, the country’s interior ministry has said.

The group, which includes 126 children, will quarantine at a facility on the Serbian border before going through immigration checks, it added.

Poland halts evacuation flights amid safety concerns

Wednesday 25 August 2021 12:17 , Rory Sullivan

Poland has decided to stopped its evacuations from Afghanistan amid safety concerns.

Marcin Przydacz, the country’s deputy foreign minister, confirmed that a flight which landed in Uzbekistan would be its last from Kabul.

“After a long analysis of reports on the security situation, we cannot risk the lives of our diplomats and of our soldiers any longer,” he explained.

Former Navy Seal’s take on Afghanistan exit goes viral

Wednesday 25 August 2021 12:27 , Rory Sullivan

Watch: Retired Navy Seal’s Afghanistan exit strategy goes viral amid withdrawal chaos

Banks reopen in Kabul

Wednesday 25 August 2021 12:34 , Rory Sullivan

Banks have reopened their doors in Kabul for the first time since the Taliban captured the city on 15 August.

Photos from the capital show long lines of people queueing up outside different branches.

Raab’s excuses ‘bizzarre’, say Liberal Democrats

Wednesday 25 August 2021 12:45 , Rory Sullivan

Earlier today, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said he was not advised to fly home from holiday when the Taliban were approaching Kabul.

In response, the Liberal Democrats hit out at what they describe as a “bizarre” claim.

Layla Moran, the party’s foreign affairs spokesperson, said: “Dominic Raab must come clean. He must publish the exact advice he received which gave him permission to head to the beach whilst the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

“Based on Dominic Raab’s bizarre media interviews this morning, we can only presume this advice flew in the face of the situation that was playing out on the ground in Afghanistan – and on TV screens around the world.”

The foreign secretary has insisted he was working in his hotel room rather than relaxing at the beach.

US evacuates 19,000 from Kabul in 24 hours

Wednesday 25 August 2021 12:59 , Rory Sullivan

The US evacuated roughly 19,000 people from Afghanistan in 24 hours, the White House has said.

This brings the total number of people airlifted out of the country since 14 August to 82,300.

Joe Biden has said that evacuations must end by Tuesday, after refusing to delay the withdrawal of US troops.

First Afghan refugees land in Uganda

Wednesday 25 August 2021 13:05 , Rory Sullivan

A total of 51 Afghan refugees arrived in Uganda on Wednesday, the first group to be evacuated there from Kabul.

Last week, the African country accepted a US request to temporarily house 2,000 people fleeing the Taliban, until they are permanently resettled elsewhere.

Uganda is currently home to around 1.4 million refugees, the majority of whom come from neighbouring South Sudan, which has been beleaguered by ethnic violence and civil war since it became an independent country in 2011.

France to end evacuations in ‘coming hours or days’

Wednesday 25 August 2021 13:06 , Joanna Taylor

France will end evacuations from Afghanistan in the coming hours or days, a spokesperson for the government has said.

The spokesperson was unable to provide a precise date for the end of the operation.

US: More than 82,000 evacuated from Kabul

Wednesday 25 August 2021 13:23 , Joanna Taylor

More than 82,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, US officials say.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also said that a total of 87,900 people have been airlifted from the country on US military and coalition planes since the end of July.

Lib Dem MP accuses government of leaving calls from Afghanistan unanswered

Wednesday 25 August 2021 13:44 , Joanna Taylor

The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of leaving calls and emails from people trying to flee Afghanistan unanswered.

Sarah Olney, Lib Dem MP for Richmond Park, said that she had been approached by constituents whose families are trapped in the country and cannot reach the government for help.

“My team and I are working incredibly hard to try and get these people help, yet the government’s inboxes are nothing but black holes, and there are numerous reports of desperate calls going straight to voicemail,” she said.

“Without swift and co-ordinated action being taken by Government, we risk condemning thousands of vulnerable people - including many who helped our service personnel - to potential death at the hands of the Taliban.”

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has previously said that the Foreign Office’s emergency response centre is processing calls “as fast as we physically can”.

France: evacuations will continue ‘as long as possible’

Wednesday 25 August 2021 14:00 , Joanna Taylor

A spokesperson for the French government has said that evacuations from Kabul will continue “as long as possible”, but stressed that they must end before US troops are pulled from Afghanistan on 31 August.

“We will likely need to anticipate a few hours, maybe a few days ahead,” spokesperson Gabriel Attal said.

“We will continue as long as possible,” he continued. “Due to extreme tension on the ground ... and the scheduled departure of American forces, these evacuations are a true race against time.”

The governments of Germany and Hungary have also said that they plan to end evacuations soon, while Poland has already begun to stop airlifts.

Afghan pop star describes harrowing escape from Kabul

Wednesday 25 August 2021 14:15 , Rory Sullivan

“I got lucky to get out of Afghanistan. But what about the rest of the people that are there?” Afghan pop singerAryana Sayeed says.

Peony Hirwati has more details on her escape here:

Afghan singer speaks about harrowing escape from Kabul in ‘all-enveloping veil’

European leaders vow to help Afghanistan despite US withdrawal

Wednesday 25 August 2021 14:30 , Rory Sullivan

Europe's leaders vow to help Afghanistan despite US refusal to delay pullout

Former CIA officer blasts two congressmen for ‘Instagram trip’ to Kabul

Wednesday 25 August 2021 14:45 , Rory Sullivan

Two congressmen were irresponsible to fly to Kabul on a secret “oversight” mission, a former CIA analyst has said.

Philip Mudd, who also worked as a senior intelligence adviser at the FBI, told CNN that Democrat Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Republican Peter Meijer of Michigan should be removed from their committees as a punishment.

Describing their trip, Mr Mudd said they had decided to “bypass Disneyland and take an Instagram trip to Afghanistan because they want some eye candy for a bunch of constituents”.

In a previous joint statement, Mr Moulton and Mr Meijer said their aim had been to “conduct oversight” of the evacuation process.

Former CIA officer blasts two ‘reprehensible’ congressmen for surprise visit to Kabul

RAF still needs to airlift 2,000 Afghans from Kabul

Wednesday 25 August 2021 15:00 , Rory Sullivan

The British military wants to airlift a further 2,000 Afghans who worked for the UK out of Kabul.

Although they have gained security clearance, they remain in the Afghan capital, according to the PA news agency.

The end of evacuations is fast approaching, with US and other western forces set to leave the country by the end of the month.

Afghans in Kabul wait to be processed by UK

Wednesday 25 August 2021 15:18 , Rory Sullivan

As mentioned earlier, hundreds of Afghans with UK evacuation permission remain on the ground in Kabul.

Here’s LA Times foreign correspondent Nabih Bulos with footage from the Afghan capital:

Afghan families met with ‘avalanche of love’ in UK, says British Red Cross

Wednesday 25 August 2021 15:40 , Rory Sullivan

Afghans reaching the UK have been greeted with an “avalanche of love”, the British Red Cross has said.

The charity is welcoming families at the airport and are providing them with warm clothes and hygiene kits.

Edmore Hute, the organisation’s refugee support manager, thanked the British public “for the avalanche of love and warmth and support that the Afghan evacuees have been reporting into us”.

He said that hundreds of new refugees had arrived “fresh from a harrowing journey, leaving behind homes and loved ones in uncertainty”.

“First and foremost we are providing kindness and reassurance that they are in a safe place, in a place of safety,” he added.

Afghan journalist who escaped Taliban

Wednesday 25 August 2021 15:59 , Rory Sullivan

Ramin Rahman, a 27-year-old journalist, was evacuated from Afghanistan to Qatar in a US military jet along with more the 800 other refugees.

He is now stuck in Doha, his life put on hold.

“Life is hard here. They are doing their best, but people are facing difficulties – if you want to get food you need to stay in line for four hours, sometimes you don’t get food because people are taking food two or three times,” he tells The Independent.

Richard Hall reports:

How an Afghan journalist escaped from Kabul - and into limbo

10,000 people are still at Kabul airport waiting for evacuation - Pentagon

Wednesday 25 August 2021 16:08 , Joe Middleton

A senior US military official has told a news briefing at the Pentagon that 10,000 people are still waiting to be evacuated from Kabul airport.

US Army Maj Gen Hank Taylor, joint staff deputy director for regional operations security, said that the focus of the operation is still to “get as many people out as efficiently and safely as possible”.

He said that in the past 24 hours, 90 US military and other international flights had evacuated 19,000 more people, bringing the total evacuation number so far to about 88,000. He said one plane had departed every 39 minutes.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said there were currently 5,400 US troops at Kabul airport.

Malala reveals she keeps piece of her own skull mounted on bookshelf as reminder of horrors of Taliban

Wednesday 25 August 2021 16:29 , Joe Middleton

Malala Yousafzai has revealed that the skull bone fragment doctors removed after the Nobel Peace Prize winner was shot by a Taliban militant nine years ago still sits on her bookshelf as a reminder of the atrocity she survived.

The 24-year-old Pakistani activist wrote in a new blog post on Podium – released as the Taliban retakes control of Afghanistan – about how she is still receiving treatments related to the shooting when she was 15 years old, writes The Independent’s Peony Hirwani.

She wrote: “Two weeks ago, while US troops withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban gained control, I lay in a hospital bed in Boston, undergoing my sixth surgery, as doctors continued to repair the Taliban’s damage to my body.”

Malala reveals she keeps piece of her own skull mounted on bookshelf

US military will prioritise removal of troops in final days before August 31 deadline

Wednesday 25 August 2021 16:40 , Joe Middleton

The US military will continue its evacuation effort from Kabul airport until the August 31 deadline if needed, but on the last couple of days it will prioritise the removal of US troops and military equipment, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

At a news conference today, press secretary John Kirby was asked about the final weeks of America’s involvement in Afghanistan on the ground.

He said: “We will continue to evacuate needed populations all the way to the end if we have to and we need to.

“But in the last couple of days we will begin to prioritise military capability and military resources to move out.

“That doesn’t mean if you’re an evacuee and you need to get out we are not going to try to get you out.”

Pentagon says congressmen’s surprise visit to Kabul ‘took time away’ from evacuation efforts

Wednesday 25 August 2021 16:48 , Joe Middleton

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has rebuked Reps Seth Moulton and Peter Meijer for their trip to Afghanistan, saying it diverted resources.

Mr Kirby said that the Department of Defense was not aware of the visit by Mr Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Mr Meijer, a Republican from Michigan.

Eric Garcia has the details.

Pentagon says congressmen’s visit to Kabul ‘took time away’ from evacuation efforts

US billionaire selling flights out of Afghanistan for $6,500 per ticket, report says

Wednesday 25 August 2021 17:07 , Joe Middleton

Erik Prince, the billionaire US military contractor, is charging $6,500 per person for flights out of Afghanistan on his chartered plane, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Nathan Place has the details on this breaking story.

Erik Prince selling flights out of Afghanistan for $6,500 per ticket, report says

The Taliban have agreed to let Afghans leave Afghanistan after the US withdrawal deadline, reports say

Wednesday 25 August 2021 17:12 , Joe Middleton

The Taliban have agreed to let Afghans leave Afghanistan after the US withdrawal deadline on August 31, a German envoy has told news agency AFP.

Pentagon officials can’t say how final hours of US evacuations from Kabul will play out

Wednesday 25 August 2021 17:23 , Joe Middleton

US officials remained vague surrounding the final days of the pullout of American troops from Kabul’s airport at a news conference on Thursday, raising concerns that the last hours could see a return of the chaotic scenes that erupted just over a week ago.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby and General Hank Taylor said Kabul’s airport would not remain under US control beyond 31 August when pressed by journalists as to how the security of the airstrip would be guaranteed when the last US troops boarded their flights.

The question as to what the presence on the ground will look like when those last troops are on their aircraft remained unclear. Gen Taylor said the airfield would be secure, and the two men dismissed assertions that the US was relying on the Taliban to guarantee a secure takeoff for the final craft.

John Bowden reports.

Pentagon officials can’t say how end of US evacuations from Kabul will play out

Mexico takes in fleeing journalists from Afghanistan

Wednesday 25 August 2021 17:35 , Joe Middleton

Mexico received 124 media workers and their family members from Afghanistan, including New York Times journalists, the government said on Wednesday, as people flee after the Taliban militant group’s takeover.

They arrived at Mexico City’s international airport early on Wednesday morning, where Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard waited to greet them.

“Mexico has decided to support human rights applications for refuge, asylum and humanitarian visas for people in Afghanistan who have asked to have this humanitarian condition,” Ebrard said.

Ebrard helped to arrange the journalists’ departure from Kabul, which included a stopover in Qatar, before their eventual arrival in Mexico, according to the New York Times.

A former Kabul and Mexico bureau chief for the Times who maintained a cordial relationship with Ebrard made the request that Mexico receive the refugees, the Times said. Other journalists from the Wall Street Journal in Afghanistan could arrive later in Mexico, the Times added.

The Mexican government touted the operation as an example of its commitment to freedom of expression, despite its past ridicule of coverage by local and international media including the New York Times.


Governments must relinquish visa requirements for people fleeing Afghanistan, letter warns

Wednesday 25 August 2021 17:52 , Joe Middleton

Governments around the world must abandon visa requirements for people fleeing Afghanistan, women’s rights activists in hiding in the country have urged.

An open letter, also signed by over 150 Afghan and international citizens, such as ex-members of the Afghan parliament, and civil society leaders around the world, warned government heads must take a “rescue now, process later” stance to evacuating Afghanistan.

The letter said overhauling existing immigration policies would ultimately save the lives of people trapped in Afghanistan as the country grapples with an “extreme and unprecedented crisis” impacting millions.

The Independent’s women’s correspondent Maya Oppenheim reports

Governments must relinquish visa requirements for Afghans fleeing, warns letter

The Taliban ‘threatened and beat UN staff’

Wednesday 25 August 2021 18:09 , Joe Middleton

The Taliban stopped an Afghan United Nations staff member as he tried to reach Kabul airport on Sunday. They searched his vehicle and found his UN identification. Then they beat him.

On Monday, three unknown men visited the home of another UN staff member who was at work at the time. They asked his son where his father was, and accused him of lying: “We know his location and what he does.”

The incidents are among dozens contained in an internal UN security document seen by Reuters that describes veiled threats, the looting of UN offices and physical abuse of staff since August 10, shortly before the Taliban swept to power.

While the Islamist militant movement has sought to reassure Afghans and Western powers that they will respect people’s rights, reports of reprisals have undermined confidence, not least among those associated with foreign organisations.

The Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters on the UN incident list.

Turkish military begin Afghanistan evacuation

Wednesday 25 August 2021 18:23 , Joe Middleton

Turkey’s military has begun evacuating from Afghanistan, state-owned Anadolu Agency said on Wednesday, citing the defence ministry.

President Tayyip Erdogan’s government had said for months it could keep a presence at the Kabul airport if requested after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.

But Reuters reported earlier on Wednesday that the Taliban have asked Turkey for technical help to run Kabul airport after the departure of foreign forces but insist that Ankara’s military also withdraw fully by the end-August deadline.

Sign up to our free exclusive virtual event ‘Afghanistan: A nation abandoned?’

Wednesday 25 August 2021 18:37 , Joe Middleton

The Independent has provided decades of award winning journalistic coverage from the ground in Afghanistan.

And now we are holding a webinar Afghanistan: An abandoned nation? to discuss the future Afghanistan faces and what lessons can be learned from the past.

The panel will be hosted by foreign editor David Harding and the panel will consist of foreign correspondent and commentator Patrick Cockburn, Camelia Entekhbifard, editor of Independent Persian, Lieutenant General Sir Simon Mayell, a commander who was the Middle East advisor in the Ministry of Defence and The Independent’s Defence and Diplomatic Editor Kim Sengupta.

Afghanistan: A nation abandoned? Sign up to our exclusive virtual event

Woman who escaped Taliban death sentence says they will never change: ‘They are the enemy of the world’

Wednesday 25 August 2021 18:49 , Joe Middleton

Fariba Akemi discovered her husband was a Taliban member when he started selling off their daughters to fighters.

She fled to India, where she tells Shweta Sharma she doesn’t believe the Islamist group’s ‘hollow promises’ on women’s rights.

Afghan woman who escaped Taliban death sentence says they will never change

Afghan family recounts harrowing escape from Kabul to US

Wednesday 25 August 2021 19:04 , Joe Middleton

An Afghan family have recounted their harrowing escapes from Kabul and to the US after the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

Mother-of-one Lida Sameh described the city as “terrifying” before revealing a man was shot dead outside Kabul Airport in front of her four-year-old daughter, whose face she was covering.

Her husband Shariff was a US contractor, who, after fearing the Taliban would come for him, secured a US visa for his family.

After spending days fighting through the crowds outside the airport, the family were able to reach the US troops and board a flight to Qatar before heading onto America.

Watch: Afghan family recounts harrowing escape from Kabul to US

Russia and Pakistan discuss Afghanistan crisis

Wednesday 25 August 2021 19:30 , Joe Middleton

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan discussed Afghanistan in a phone call today.

They discussed the formation of a government, which would take into account the interests of all groups in the population, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

The importance of promoting intra-Afghan dialogue, which would facilitate creation of an inclusive government, was underscored during the talk, it said in a statement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Russia, China, the United States and Pakistan were interested in serving as mediators in resolving the crisis in Afghanistan.

Top Afghan general points finger at Trump, Biden and Ghani for Taliban victory

Wednesday 25 August 2021 19:39 , Joe Middleton

Donald Trump, Joe Biden, former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani — these are just a few of the people who “betrayed” Afghanistan and “doomed” the country to Taliban rule, according to a scathing post-mortem of the war effort from a former top general in the Afghan military.

“We were betrayed by politics and presidents,” Sami Sadat, a three-star general who once commanded Afghanistan’s special forces, wrote in an opinion piece in The New York Times on Wednesday. “This was not an Afghan war only; it was an international war, with many militaries involved. It would have been impossible for one army alone, ours, to take up the job and fight. This was a military defeat, but it emanated from political failure.”

Josh Marcus has the details.

Top Afghan general says Trump, Biden and Ghani ‘betrayed’ his country

Fears of terror attack as UK evacuation operation enters final stage in Kabul

Wednesday 25 August 2021 20:03 , Joe Middleton

Britain was making a final push to bring nearly 2,000 Afghan interpreters and staff out of Kabul on Thursday in what was expected to be the final day of the RAF’s airlift operation.

With tensions rising as the 31 August deadline for the withdrawal of foreign forces approaches, one military source said there was “a very high risk of a terrorist attack” by suicide bomb or small arms fire against the UK’s 1,000-strong contingent in the final days before their departure.

The Independent’s political editor Andrew Woodcock has the details.

Fears of terror attack as UK evacuation operation enters final stage in Kabul

Up to 1,500 Americans still in Afghanistan, State Department says

Wednesday 25 August 2021 20:15 , Joe Middleton

‘Unexpectedly high number’ of children handed to troops - British Army surgeon

Wednesday 25 August 2021 20:25 , Joe Middleton

A British Army surgeon said that an “unexpectedly high number” of children handed over to troops in Afghanistan.

Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Caesar, a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon from 16 Medical Regiment, Royal Army Medical Corps, has been working in a hospital set up for injured personnel and Afghans going through the evacuation process at Kabul airport.

And he said the injuries he had been treating ranged from gunshot injuries, flashbang injuries, and people who have been crushed in the crowd, to those who had run out of medication and those suffering in the heat.

“There have also been an unexpectedly high number of children being passed to us and being dealt with by the hospital,” Lt Col Caesar said.

Viral images have shown babies and young children being handed over to troops, often over walls topped with barbed wire at Kabul airport.

“Both the Norwegians, the US and ourselves took turns taking care of those children and offering them the pastoral care that they needed while they waited to be either shipped on to a safe destination or reunited with their parents,” Lt Col Caesar said.

US Secretary of State Blinken warns of ISIS-K threat

Wednesday 25 August 2021 20:36 , Joe Middleton

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has today warned of the possibility of an attack from ISIS-K.

ISIS-K are an offshoot of the terrorist group who once held large parts of Syria, and are sworn enemies of the Taliban.

Blinken told reporters today: “It is hard to overstate the complexity and the danger of this effort. We are operating in a hostile environment, in a city and country now controlled by the Taliban, with the very real possibility of an ISIS-K attack.”

He added the United States is “taking every precaution” but that this is “very high risk”.

Up to 1,500 Americans still in Afghanistan, State Department says

Wednesday 25 August 2021 20:55 , Joe Middleton

As many as 1,500 American citizens could still be in Afghanistan, the State Department has revealed, but the exact figure is still unknown.

With six days remaining until the US is due to withdraw all of its forces from the country, secretary of state Anthony Blinken said there were around 6,000 Americans who wanted to leave when evacuations began on 14 August. Since then, roughly 4,500 have been evacuated. He added that the department was still trying to determine the precise number, and of that number, how many still wanted to leave.

The Biden administration has been under pressure to reveal how many American citizens were still in the country as the 31 August deadline for a complete US withdrawal approaches.

Richard Hall reports.

Up to 1,500 Americans still in Afghanistan, State Department says

President Biden briefed on contingency plans for evacuation

Wednesday 25 August 2021 21:10 , Joe Middleton

President Joe Biden was briefed on Wednesday on contingency plans for the Afghanistan evacuation as well as the threat from the ISIS-K militant group, according to the White House.

Biden has said the United States is on track to finish its effort in the country by August 31 but also ordered the development of alternative plans that could be used should that date be extended.

Blinken says news of 2-year-old girl being trampled to death in Kabul was ‘like getting punched in the gut'

Wednesday 25 August 2021 21:18 , Joe Middleton

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken lamented news reports of the 2-year-old daughter of an Afghan translator who was trampled to death on the way to the airport in Kabul.

The New York Times reported that the girl, who was a daughter of an Afghan interpreter who was trying to make her way to the airport, died after a crowd of people slammed the entire family to the ground.

“I’ve got two small kids of my own,” he said. “Reading that story and others like it were like getting punched in the gut.”

Eric Garcia has the details.

Blinken laments 2-year-old girl’s death on way to Kabul airport

Crete hotelier puzzled by Raab’s claim sea was ‘closed’ during Kabul crisis

Wednesday 25 August 2021 21:38 , Joe Middleton

Hoteliers and meteorologists in Crete say they are baffled by Dominic Raab’s claim that he couldn’t have been paddleboarding on holiday while Kabul fell because the sea was “closed”.

The foreign secretary denied reports that he was seen swimming and using a paddleboard on the last day of his holiday on the Greek island.

He has faced strong criticism for not returning when the situation in Afghanistan began to deteriorate and the Taliban took control of Kabul.

Celine Wadhera has the details.

Crete puzzled by Raab’s claim sea was ‘closed’ during Kabul crisis

Belgium ends evacuation flights to Afghanistan

Wednesday 25 August 2021 21:48 , Joe Middleton

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo says the country has ended its evacuation flights carrying people from the Afghan capital of Kabul to Pakistan.

De Croo tweeted Wednesday that “the federal government took the decision to bring an end to evacuations from Kabul airport given the evolution of the situation in Afghanistan and in agreement with its European partners.”

He says five flights operated between Kabul and Islamabad on Wednesday and all personnel involved in the operation and those evacuated are now in Pakistan.

De Croos says that “Belgium will continue to repatriate to our country those people evacuated” in the days ahead. More than 1,100 people have been flown to Belgium in recent days.

UK nationals warned to stay away from Kabul airport amid ‘high threat of terrorist attack’

Wednesday 25 August 2021 22:56 , Joe Middleton

Britain has issued a new alert to UK nationals to stay away from Kabul airport due to an “ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack”.

“The security situation in Afghanistan remains volatile,” the foreign office said in an update.

“Do not travel to Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport. If you are in the area of the airport, move away to a safe location and await further advice.”

UK nationals told to avoid Kabul airport amid ‘high threat of terrorist attack’

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