US embassy tells Americans not to travel to Kabul airport amid chaos outside gates


The US government has told Americans in Afghanistan not to travel to Kabul airport due to security threats at the gates.

American citizens should only attempt to enter the airport if individually told to by a US government representative, the embassy in Kabul said in an advisory notice.

The Taliban earlier denied that they had been kidnapping foreigners, but have been questioning some before allowing them to leave Afghanistan, an official said on Saturday.

The official, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, insisted that the Taliban had not been kidnapping foreigners but said: “We are questioning some of them before they exit the country”.

“Our fighters will continue to demonstrate restraint,” he added.

The group has denied responsibility for the chaos at the Kabul airport, where around 12 people have been killed since Sunday in attempts to flee the country.

Meanwhile, one of the Taliban’s co-founders has arrived in Kabul for talks on setting up a new Afghan government, an official has said.

A senior Taliban official told AFP News Agency that Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar had arrived in the capital “to meet with jihadi leaders and politicians for an inclusive government set-up”.

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Key Points

  • Biden’s Afghanistan speech in short

  • US tells citizens in Afghanistan not to travel to Kabul airport

  • UK government will work with Taliban ‘if necessary’

  • Taliban must not harbour terrorists, says Nato…

  • …as militant group blamed for massacre of Hazara men

  • ‘Sickening to watch Afghans being displaced again,’ says Angelina Jolie

  • Taliban founder set for government talks

  • President Biden says lives may be lost in airlift evacuation from Kabul

  • Up to 15,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan

  • Taliban questioning foreigners trying to leave the country

Former UK intelligence committee chair calls for investigation into Afghanistan withdrawal

15:01 , Celine Wadhera

A former chair of the UK parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has called for its current membership to investigate whether there was an “intelligence failure” that has led to the chaotic withdrawal of allied troops from Afghanistan.

Dominic Grieve, a former Conservative MP and attorney general, told Sky News: “I think you only have to look at the scenes we are seeing today (at Kabul airport) – I can’t imagine this was what was wished for or intended by either the United States Government or the Government of the United Kingdom.

“I think if they had known this was going to happen, would the US withdrawal have proceeded in the way it did?

“The question is, why was that miscalculation made – and the Intelligence and Security Committee is in a position to review that, certainly from a United Kingdom angle and probably also from the angle of the United States.

”Whether it will be able to publish that material after it has reviewed it is another matter, but it certainly has power to ask for it in respect to both the secret intelligence service, MI6, and also defence intelligence.

“It must be an intelligence failure that one should end up with thousands of people crowding into an airport seeking to leave a country when it has been triggered by military decisions by the United States as to how it was going to conduct its withdrawal.”

PA

Former Royal Marine ‘planning to break into Kabul airport’

14:44 , Liam James

A British ex-Marine seeking to flee Afghanistan with dozens of others said he plans to break into Kabul airport to board a repatriation flight, as it remains inaccessible through ordinary routes.

Paul “Pen” Farthing, who founded the Nowzad animal rescue charity, said he and the staff of his Kabul sanctuary and their family members, 71 in total, would have to risk their lives to access the UK government’s evacuation operation.

The crisis at Hamid Karzai International Airport has been getting worse, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, after days of reports of people taking extreme measures to enter the airport, or at least secure access for their children. People must now pass through obstructive Taliban checkpoints to reach the airport.

“I actually got an email this morning,” Mr Farthing said. “It said, this is just for me, not for my staff: ‘we have a repatriation flight for you, please get to the airport’.

”How would you like me to get into the airport? I’m past angry… I’m just completely numb at the incompetence of this operation.“

Former Royal Marine ‘planning to break into Kabul airport’ for evacuation

European president calls for ‘legal and safe’ asylum routes

14:29 , Liam James

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has called for global cooperation to provide “legal and safe” asylum routes for Afghan citizens.

The commission said in a statement on Wednesday that interior ministers from member states would meet regularly to coordinate their response to the higher numbers of displaced people.

The statement said: “We should not wait until people arrive at the external borders of the European Union. This is not a solution.

“We should prevent people from heading towards the European Union through unsafe, irregular and uncontrolled routes run by smugglers.”

Ursula von der Leyen: The EU has not recognised the Taliban

14:12 , Celine Wadhera

The European Union has not recognised the Taliban, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said, nor is the bloc holding political talks with the militant group that seized power in Afghanistan.

Attending a reception in Madrid for Afghan employees of EU institutions, Ms von der Leyen also spoke about the need to increase humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, calling the situation on the ground a “tragedy” and a “severe blow for the international community”.

“We need to help,” she said. “It is our moral responsibility. And not only to help the Afghans arriving here in Spain, but also those who have remained in Afghanistan.

“I want to emphasize that the European Union is firmly committed to continue supporting the NGOs operating tin the country. Humanitarian needs are increasing with the latest developments.

“If you look at the people of internally displaced people it’s the largest number, it’s 3.7million almost and 80 per cent of them are women and girls and children and they are the most at risk.”

She said that she would propose an increase in the 57 million euros of humanitarian aid that the Commission had already allocated for Afghanistan in 2021.

US warns citizens away form Kabul airport due to potential security threats

14:02 , Celine Wadhera

Helen Elfer reports on the US travel advisory, telling Americans in Afghanistan to avoid travelling to the Kabul airport.

The advisory reads: “Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising US citizens to avoid travelling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a US government representative to do so”.

US warns citizens away from Kabul airport due to potential security threats

Germany has evacuated 2,000 from Kabul

13:54 , Liam James

The German military has evacuated almost 2,000 people from Kabul airport, the country’s defence minister said on Saturday.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said there were two light helicoptersin Kabul ready to start evacuation operations out of the city, which will be coordinated with international partners on the ground.

Germany’s chief of defence, General Eberhard Zorn, said the German air force will transport baby food and hygienic articles needed at the airport to Kabul.

Spain welcomes evacuees from Afghanistan

13:37 , Celine Wadhera

Spain has welcomed 110 evacuees from Afghanistan who arrived at a military base in Madrid.

The AM400M aircraft flew from Kabul via Dubai, carrying Afghans and their families to safety at the Torrejon airbase where they were welcomed by Spanish presidency minister Felix Bolanos.

Passengers included Nilofar Bayat, the captain of the Afghan wheelchair basketball team and her husband and three complete families of embassy personnel.

The arrival marks the second successful evacuation flight to Spain.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

US tells citizens in Afghanistan not to travel to Kabul airport

13:17 , Liam James

The US government has warned Americans in Afghanistan against travelling to Kabul airport in an embassy travel advisory as thousands try to flee the country.

The advice has been issued due to “potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport”.

Citizens should only attempt to access the airport if they are given individual instructions from a US government representative, the embassy said.

Italy evacuates 1,000 Afghans from Kabul

13:03 , Liam James

Italy says its military has evacuated nearly 1,000 Afghans from Kabul over the last five days, bringing the total number of evacuees from Operation Aquila Omnia to 1,532.

The Italian defence ministry said that two flights carrying 207 Afghans arrived in Rome on Saturday, traveling via Kuwait.

In a video distributed by the ministry, an Afghan man, speaking with his back to the camera, thanks “the Italian armed forces, who didn’t leave us alone in Afghanistan”.

“With all the difficulty they brought us away. We are tired. We are happy. We are now in a safe country.”

He added: “If Afghanistan becomes safe, we can return to our country”.

Those arriving will now complete a 10-day Covid quarantine

AP

Plan to evacuate veteran charity director, staff and animals from Afghanistan

12:46 , Celine Wadhera

A plan has been made to evacuate a former Royal Marine who now leads an animal charity in Afghanistan, as well as his 25 staff members, their families, and more than 100 dogs and cats.

Paul Farthing, who spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier today has been battling to ensure that his staff members at animal welfare charity Nowzad, their families, and the dogs and cats the charity cares for can all be safely evacuated from the country.

Dominic Dyer, who has been campaigning for Mr Farthing told PA News Agency that all 68 people in his entourage should receive visas “within the next 24 hours” and added that an airplane with “significant capacity” for them and their animals would be deployed in the coming days.

Mr Dyer said that he was seeing “a lot more cooperation from the British government” including “direct involvement” from environment secretary George Eustice.

He added that a “wealthy investor in the United States” was helping to fund the mission.

Mr Dyer acknowledged that the greatest obstable Mr Farthing and his associates would face would be “getting through the airport” noting that the UK’s lack of helicopters in the country was “absolutely ridiculous”.

“Defra are helping us now in terms of all the issues around the dogs coming – the rabies and quarantine rules,” he said.

“We have an airplane, an A340 airbus, with significant capacity for the people and the animals.

“We are hopeful that all 68 people will be approved for visas, we can’t leave anybody out, so we need that completely.”

“The one thing that we’ve begun to see is that the Americans began to deploy Chinooks, and the French and Germans have smaller capacity helicopters.

“We don’t have any helicopters in that theatre at all because we removed them all weeks before this operation started, which sounds absolutely ridiculous.”

PA

Humanitarian’s plea for help to assist Afghans stuck in the country

12:30 , Celine Wadhera

Humanitarians are warning that more needs to be done to assist Afghan citizens who took refuge in Kabul as the Taliban swept to power across other parts of the country, before seizing the capital.

The UN estimates that some 500,000 Afghans have been internally displaced since the beginning of the year.

Fatima Gailani, president of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, confirmed that while the organisation remains present across the country, they need the international community’s assistance to continue operations.

“Afghans will need more help than humanitarians originally thought,” she said.

Kate Gill reports.

Watch: Humanitarians plea for help to assist Afghans stuck in country

Nato official: 12,000 foreigners and Afghans have been evacuated from Kabul airport

12:18 , Celine Wadhera

Around 12,000 foreigners and Afghans working for embassies and international aid groups have been evacuated from Kabul airport since the Taliban seized control of the capital a week ago, a Nato official has said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official told Reuters: “The evacuation process is slow, as it is risky, for we don’t want any form of clashes with Taliban members or civilians outside the airport”.

“We don’t want to start a blame game regarding the evacuation plan.”

Merkel: Afghan army collapsed at ‘breathtaking pace’

12:00 , Celine Wadhera

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the Afghan army’s resistance against Taliban militants collapsed at a “breathtaking pace”.

Speaking at an election event on Saturday, Ms Merkel said: “We had expected the resistance to be stronger”.

“The army collapsed at a breathtaking pace.”

She added that the focus would now be on rescuing people from Afghanistan, but a discussion would need to be had later on regarding what has or has not been achieved.

 (REUTERS)

(REUTERS)

Uzbekistan accepts 400 more Afghan refugees

11:42 , Celine Wadhera

Uzbekistan has accepted around 400 more refugees from Afghanistan and housed them in temporary accommodation near the Afghan border, the Russian state news agency TASS reported on Saturday.

It remains unclear how many Afghans have fled to Afghanistan since the Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan.

The government in Tashkent has denied that senior Afghan political figures are among the refugees that have entered Uzbekistan.

On Friday, Uzbekistan said that it sent 150 Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan, referencing an agreement with the Taliban and alleged requests from the refugees themselves.

Reuters

Meeting between High Council for National Reconciliation chairman, former president Karzai and acting Taliban governor

11:24 , Celine Wadhera

A meeting has taken place between Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman for the High Council for National Reconciliation, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and acting Taliban governor of Kabul, Abdul Rahman Mansour,

Mr Abdullah’s office said on Twitter that the leaders “discussed the priority of protecting lives, property and dignity of Kabul citizens”.

Mr Abdullah told the Taliban’s acting Kabul governor: “In order to return to normality in the capital Kabul, it is imperative that citizens…feel safe & secure”.

In response, the acting governor pledged to “do everything possible for the security of the people of Kabul,” Mr Abdullah said.

Mr Abdullah has previously served as chief executive of Afghanistan, minister of foreign affairs.

New refugee crisis not a foregone conclusion, says Norwegian Refugee Council

11:06 , Celine Wadhera

The secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council has said that a new refugee crisis, resulting from the Taliban’s seizure of Afghanistan, is not a foregone conclusion.

Jan Egeland told AP News Agency: “I would warn against a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

He said that Afghans were “scared, bewildered but also hopeful that a long, long war will be over and maybe now they can avoid the crossfire”.

He added that much of what happens next depends on the Taliban allowing development and humanitarian work in Afghanistan, and on donor nations to continue funding these efforts.

“If you would have a collapse of public services and if there would be a major food crisis, there will be for sure a mass movement of people.”

Mr Egeland’s words echo the sentiments of what European Union officials told a meeting of interior ministers this week. According to a confidential memo obtained by the Associated Press, EU officials said that the most important lesson from the 2015 migrant crisis was not to leave Afghans to their own devices, and that without urgent humanitarian assistance, Afghans would begin moving.

AP

Voices: We owe Afghans a debt of honour – we need to be more ambitious in the help we offer

10:48 , Celine Wadhera

We owe Afghans a debt of honour, writes Sir David Lidington. While the former cabinet minister says that he welcomes the government’s measures to assist Afghan refugees, he says that ministers must go further “for the sake of those at risk, and for Britain’s reputation”.

He writes that while the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy has brought more than 2,000 people to the UK this year, the policy is limited in scope and excludes many who worked for Western countries and now live in fear under the Taliban.

Those who were not employed directly by UK authorities, but were employed by contractors appointed by UK authorities, are ineligible for the scheme. Guards who worked at the embassy in Kabul, and people working to promote women’s rights have been denied help because they worked for a contractor, even though that contractor was hired and paid for by the British government.

Sir David added that the government’s humanitarian settlement scheme, which will accept a maximum of 20,000 Afghans over five years, should also be more ambitious, and calls for it to be expanded.

We owe many Afghans a debt of honour – we now need to pay that back | David Lidington

Taliban questioning foreigners trying to leave Afghanistan

10:30 , Celine Wadhera

The Taliban has been questioning foreigners trying to leave the country, an official said on Saturday.

Speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, the official insisted that the Taliban had not been kidnapping foreigners but said: “We are questioning some of them before they exit the country”.

He added: “Our fighters will continue to demonstrate restraint”.

The group has denied responsibility for the chaos at the Kabul airport where around 12 people have been killed since Sunday in attempts to flee the country.

The Taliban has previously urged those without travel documents to return home.

Reuters

Two school children from Nottingham expected to return from Afghanistan in ‘next couple of days’

10:24 , Celine Wadhera

Two school children from Nottingham are expected to return from Afghanistan in the “next couple of days” their head teacher has said.

Nargas Ziahe flew to Afghanistan more than six weeks ago following the death of an uncle, but became trapped in the country with her five-year-old brother Omar and nine-year-old sister Asma, as the Taliban swept to power across the country, reported the Nottingham Post.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Omar and Asma’s head teacher at Mellers Primary School, Amanda Dawson, said: “They are still at the airport waiting for their repatriation flights, firstly to Dubai – I think here is a military flight to Dubai and then a connecting commercial flight back to the UK”.

“But they are safe,” she said, “they are in the airport and, unless the airport falls of course, they are safe and we are expecting them to be home in the next couple of days.”

“We’re absolutely frantic about their situation.”

Former Royal Marine says he cannot reach Kabul airport without putting his life at risk

10:05 , Celine Wadhera

A charity director and former Royal Marine has said that he cannot reach the Kabul airport without putting his life at risk.

Paul Farthing told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he had been told that he had a spot on a repatriation flight back to the UK, but the 25 staff from his animal welfare charity and their families did not.

He said: “The humanitarian crisis here now is getting out of control and I don’t see anybody, any politicians, at all doing anything about it”.

“We can’t leave the country because we can’t get into the airport without putting our lives at risk.

“You’ve all seen the scenes – it is not different today to any other time, it is just getting worse.

“This is ridiculous. I’m past angry, I’m past everything – I’m just completely numb at the incompetence of this operation.”

Mr Farthing added that the International Monetary Fund was preventing money from coming into Afghanistan, turning the situation into a “disaster upon a disaster”.

Taliban will not make announcements on new government until September, Afghan officials say

09:50 , Celine Wadhera

The Taliban is not expected to make any announcements on the new Afghan government until after the 31 August deadline for US troop withdrawal has passed, Afghan officials have said.

Taliban leader and co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is currently in Kabul for talks on setting up a new “inclusive” government.

His presence is significant as he was a major part of the negotiations on the 2020 peace deal with the US, and he has previously held talks with Afghan leaders like ex-president Hamid Karzai.

Earlier today, a senior Taliban official said Mr Baradar will meet with “jihadi leaders and politicians for an inclusive government set-up”.

 (AFP via Getty Images)

(AFP via Getty Images)

Only ‘slight increase’ in movement across land borders, not mass migration, observers say

09:38 , Celine Wadhera

While hundreds of thousands of people are trying to flee Afghanistan via the Kabul airport, observers have said that there are no indications yet of mass movement across land borders.

Turkish authorities say they have intercepted 35,000 Afghans entering the country illegally so far this year, compared with over 50,000 last year, and more than 200,000 in 2019.

The head of the Ankara-based Research Centre on Asylum and Migration said that there has been a small increase in arrivals across the border from Iran recently – which the Turkish government is currently reinforcing with a wall – but said that “there is no mass migration”.

Farha Bhoyroo, who works for the UN refugee agency in Iran gave a similar assessment of the Iranian border with Afghanistan. “So far the numbers are quite stable,” she said. “We have seen a slight increase in Afghan refugees coming into Iran, but we don’t qualify it as an influx.”

The UNHCR also estimates that 90 per cent of the 2.6 million Afghan refugees living outside of their homeland live in Iran and Pakistan.

AP

Taliban questioning foreigners trying to leave the country

10:28 , Celine Wadhera

The Taliban has been questioning foreigners trying to leave the country, an official said on Saturday.

Speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, the official insisted that the Taliban had not been kidnapping foreigners but said: “We are questioning some of them before they exit the country”.

He added: “Our fighters will continue to demonstrate restraint”.

The group has denied responsibility for the chaos at the Kabul airport where around 12 people have been killed since Sunday in attempts to flee the country.

The Taliban has previously urged those without travel documents to return home.

Reuters

Europe fears Afghan refugee crisis

09:20 , Celine Wadhera

Many European countries fear an influx of migrants following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The message from European interior ministers to those fleeing the militant group is: go to neighbouring countries – don’t come to Europe.

This week, Austrian interior minister Karl Nehammer said: “It must be our goal to keep the majority of people in the region”. The country has also suggested setting up “deportation centres” in Central Asian countries that neighbour Afghanistan so that EU countries can deport Afghans who have been denied asylum, even if they can’t legally be returned to Afghanistan.

French president Emmanuel Macron has said: “Europe alone cannot shoulder the consequences” of the Afghan situation and “must anticipate and protect ourselves against irregular migratory flows”.

Germany’s Armin Laschet, the candidate expected to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor next month, has warned that there must be “no repeat” of the migration crisis of 2015 which was fuelled by an exodus of Syrians fleeing the civil war.

Notis Mitarachi, Greece’s migration minister, has said that Greece won’t accept being the “gateway for irregular flows into the EU”. He added that the country considers Turkey – a country that already hosts 3.6 million Syrians and hundreds of thousands of Afghans – to be a safe place for refugees.

As mentioned earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is opposed to this line of thinking, saying on Thursday: “Turkey has no duty, responsibility or obligation to be Europe’s refugee warehouse.”

AP

‘We will get you home’: Biden vows to evacuate every American from Afghanistan

09:02 , Celine Wadhera

US president Joe Biden has reassured Americans in Afghanistan that they will be returned home.

Speaking at the White House on Friday, Mr Biden said: We will get you home”.

“As Commander in Chief, I can assure you I will mobilise ever recourse necessary.”

The president also vowed to “do everything he can to provide safe evacuation for Afghan allies, partners and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States”.

Watch: ‘We will get you home’: Biden vows to evacuate every American from Afghanistan

Up to 15,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan

08:44 , Celine Wadhera

Tens of thousands of people, including an estimated 15,000 Americans, are anxiously waiting to see whether president Joe Biden will fulfill his pledge to evacuate all Americans and Afghans who aided in America’s longest war effort.

Only ten days remain ahead of Mr Biden’s 31 August deadline to withdraw most remaining troops, and no extension has been announced.

On Friday, there was a backlog of flights at Kabul’s airport, which caused flights to stop for several hours partially due to the Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar rapidly filling up with evacuees.

On Saturday, to ease pressure and facilitate evacuations, Bahrain announced that they would allow airlift flights to use its transit facilities for the evacuation mission. The United Arab Emirates also said that they would temporarily host up to 5,000 Afghans.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken has said that so far, 13 countries have agreed to host Afghans at least temporarily, and 12 have agreed to serve as transit points for evacuees.

However, tens of thousands of Afghan translators and their families are desperately seeking evacuation from the country as videos depict chaos and violence outside the Kabul airport. An estimated 15,000 US citizens also remain in Afghanistan.

On Friday, 5,700 people were flown out of Kabul, including 250 Americans. This marks an increase from Wednesday and Thursday when around 2,000 people were airlifted out each day.

PA

Turkey builds border wall to stop Afghan refugees

08:26 , Celine Wadhera

Turkey has built a border wall to prevent an influx of Afghan refugees from entering the country.

Fearing a new wave of migration, the country reinforced its eastern border with Iran with three-metre high concrete slabs. Local media have reported that a 155km stretch of wall had already been erected, with plans for another 86km.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “Turkey has no duty, responsibility or obligation to be Europe’s refugee warehouse”.

Watch: Turkey builds border wall to stop Afghan refugees

Biden: lives may be lost in airlift

08:08 , Celine Wadhera

Speaking at the White House on Friday, president Joe Biden said that lives may be lost in the Kabul airlift evacuation.

The president said that the evacuation mission was “one of the biggest, most difficult airlifts in history”.

“Make no mistake,” he said, “this evacuation is dangerous. It involves risks to our armed forces and its being conducted under difficult circumstances.”

“I cannot promise what the final outcome will be or that it will be without risk of loss. But as commander in chief, I can assure you that I will mobilise every resource necessary.”

He added: “Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home”. In responding to reporters’ questions, he also confirmed that the US military would make the “same commitment” to he 50-65,000 Afghan allies who were hoping to leave the country, although he said that the evacuation of US citizens was the priority.

Taliban co-founder arrives in Kabul for talks on setting up government

07:59 , Celine Wadhera

One of the Taliban’s co-founders has arrived in Kabul for talks on setting up a new Afghan government, an official has said.

A senior Taliban official told AFP News Agency that Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar had arrived in the capital .

He said: “He will be in Kabul to meet with jihadi leaders and politicians for an inclusive government set-up”.

169 Americans ferried to Kabul airport in helicopters

06:00 , Lamiat Sabin

The US used three military helicopters to bring 169 Americans to the airport in Kabul from a building just 656 ft (200 metres) away, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said a decision was made to use the CH-47 helicopters on Thursday because the Americans were unable to get to the gate of the airport. They were picked up from the nearby Hotel Baron.

Mr Kirby said these were the 169 Americans rescued that President Joe Biden mentioned in his speech earlier on Friday.

It has also been reported to members of Congress by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin that a number of Americans were allegedly beaten by Taliban members on their way to the airport.

Mr Kirby said: “We’re certainly mindful of these reports, and they’re deeply troubling, and we have communicated to the Taliban that that’s absolutely unacceptable, that we want free passage through their checkpoints for documented Americans.”

MPs complain that black MP and ex-soldier not called on to speak during debate

04:30 , Lamiat Sabin

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has been criticised for not calling on the only black MP who served in Afghanistan to speak in emergency debate that took place on Wednesday, the i reports.

A group of socialist Labour MPs have written to Sir Lindsay about their “serious concern” over why he did not call on Clive Lewis to speak during the session.

The letter was signed by 15 MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Rebecca Long-Bailey.

A spokesperson for the Speaker told the i newspaper: “The Speaker was acutely aware of the very high number of members who wanted to speak in the House on Wednesday. Over 160 members wrote to request to catch the Speaker’s eye in the debate… it was regrettable that in the end over 80 members did not get the chance to make a contribution.

“The Speaker fully recognises and pays tribute to Clive Lewis MP’s service in Afghanistan. The Speaker’s office always does its best to enable members to speak and when a member has been unable to speak where possible they are given priority in future debates.”

MPs were recalled for the debate during summer recess, due to the urgency and severity of the situation in Afghanistan.

Afghan economy under Taliban will suffer, says ex-banker

03:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Afghanistan’s economic future under the Taliban looks bleak, according to the country’s former central banker.

Ajmal Ahmady, who left the central bank before fleeing Kabul on Sunday, told CNN: “Afghanistan unfortunately was already facing multiple crises.”

He referred to the coronavirus pandemic, conflict in the country, and droughts.

Mr Ahmady added: “Now on top of that there is going to be economic hardship. And for the people of Afghanistan, that is going to be very difficult to deal with.”

He said that the Taliban, which took over the country at rapid pace, will have trouble with drafting economic policy.

Mr Ahmady told the channel: “They haven’t made clear what their policy agenda is. It’s not clear who will be running the economic agenda for them.

“I think they’re going to face a lot of challenges, which they’re going to have to quickly seek to resolve.”

Reporter gives woman scarf while waiting in ‘chilly’ Kabul airfield

01:30 , Lamiat Sabin

CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward had given an Afghan woman her scarf as a blanket before flying out of Kabul.

The news network’s chief international correspondent said Afghan evacuees were sleeping on the gravel at the airport while empty US Air Force C-17 aircraft were in the background during the “chilly night”.

She said: “The fourth bird we were supposed to get on just got pulled. Going to be a long night here, especially for those we are talking to who have been here since yesterday evening.

“A woman just asked me for a blanket so I gave her my scarf.”

Ms Ward also tweeted, in relation to people being left to sleep outside: “One Afghan acquaintance tells me “it’s an insult to human dignity… I don’t know why the Americans are doing this.”Graeme Massie reports

CNN correspondent gives Afghan woman her scarf as blanket before flying out of Kabul

Evacuation process ‘messy, haphazard and disjointed’

Saturday 21 August 2021 00:02 , Lamiat Sabin

The evacuation process in Afghanistan continues to be “messy, haphazard and disjointed”, ITV’s John Irvine reported from Kabul tonight.

He said that before Afghans can reach Kabul airport, they have to go through a number of Taliban checkpoints.

Separate footage shared online shows tightly-packed crowds trying to reach the airport, while being hit by sticks by a member of the Taliban.

Colombia to temporarily host Afghan refugees

Friday 20 August 2021 23:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Colombia will temporarily host Afghans fleeing their country’s takeover by the Taliban while they await approval to enter the US, President Ivan Duque said today.

He did not specify how many Afghans would transit through Colombia –but Colombian and American media have reported that the number will be about 4,000.

Further details will be provided in the coming days, Mr Duque said in joint remarks with US ambassador Philip Goldberg.

The US will pay the cost of the Afghans’ stay in Colombia, Mr Goldberg said.

CNN journalist shares photo of her flight out of Kabul

Friday 20 August 2021 23:15 , Lamiat Sabin

A journalist has shared a photo of her flight out of Afghanistan with hundreds of other people.

Clarissa Ward is a chief international correspondent reporting on the Taliban’s takeover of the country for CNN.

She posted the image to Twitter of the inside of the aircraft as it was preparing to taxi and take-off.

Dozen countries to temporarily host Afghanistan evacuees

Friday 20 August 2021 22:48 , Lamiat Sabin

The number of countries to allow people evacuated from Afghanistan to transit through them has hit 12, the US has said.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Bahrain, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Qatar, Tajikistan, Turkey, the UAE, the UK and Uzbekistan had already begun or will soon begin transiting Americans, or in some circumstances others, through their territories.

The US is racing to get people out ahead of a 31 August deadline when its forces are supposed to leave Afghanistan.

But officials said no evacuation flights left Kabul for nearly six hours on Friday because they had nowhere to go due to an overflow at Al Udeid air base in Qatar, already sheltering 8,000 Afghan evacuees. Those flights have now restarted.

More than 18,000 people have been flown out since the Taliban militants took the capital Kabul, according to Nato.

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has spoken about the difficulty of evacuating people, saying it’s not an issue of having the planes but rather getting Afghans to the airport in Kabul and through the evacuation process.

‘More planes than people’: Nato struggles to evacuate Afghans from Kabul

Taliban websites and WhatsApp groups vanish

Friday 20 August 2021 22:39 , Lamiat Sabin

The official websites of the Taliban appeared to have vanished from the internet today.

The outage of separate websites in Pashto, Dari, Arabic, Urdu and English was first reported by The Washington Post.

It was not immediately clear whether a technical fault or something else was to blame.

All five websites previously had protection from CloudFlare, a San Francisco-based company that helps websites deliver content and defend against cyberattacks, the newspaper reported.

Numerous WhatsApp groups used by the Taliban have also been shut down, the Post added.

Journalist attacked by Taliban fighter

Friday 20 August 2021 22:20 , Lamiat Sabin

The Los Angeles Times said that a Taliban fighter physically attacked their photographer and foreign correspondent.

Marcus Yam, a Malaysian-born journalist currently based in Kabul, was taking pictures of several Afghans who were attempting to raise their national flag on Thursday when a fighter hit him in the side of the head.

He was knocked to the ground and the Taliban fighter continued to hit him.

Another militant demanded that he delete the photos.

Gustaf Kilander reports

Taliban physically attacks photographer for Los Angeles Times

Nearly 100 Afghans airlifted to Kabul Airport

Friday 20 August 2021 22:10 , Lamiat Sabin

US helicopters have today flown 96 Afghans to the Kabul airport for evacuation.

The move signals that US military flights are happening outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport’s perimeters.

Senior American military officials told The Associated Press that an American CH-47 Chinook helicopter picked up the Afghans, mostly women and children, from Camp Sullivan and ferried them to the airport.

Officials say such airlifts have been underway for days, but would not say whether they have been for security reasons.

Hundreds of people evacuated by Qatari military

Friday 20 August 2021 21:52 , Lamiat Sabin

Qatar has evacuated over 300 people from Afghanistan, Assistant Foreign Minister and Spokesperson Lolwah Alkhater posted on Twitter.

“In the past 72 hours we evacuated over 300 mostly female students & over 200 media personnel; many of them with their families & kids who are now safe in comfortable accommodation in Doha,” she said.

The video that accompanies her tweet shows Afghans – mainly women, elderly people, and children – being scanned with hand scanners before climbing into a Qatari military aircraft.

Taliban says ‘people can leave Afghanistan after 31 August’

Friday 20 August 2021 21:42 , Lamiat Sabin

The Taliban have reportedly assured the US that people will be able to leave Afghanistan after 31 August.

The date is the deadline that the Taliban has given for all US troops to leave Afghanistan, but US President Joe Biden has said that troops could remain past this date for evacuations of US citizens and Afghan allies.

The US State Department has now said that the Taliban has said that Afghans who wish to leave the country will be allowed to do so after 31 August, according to Reuters.

US weapons ‘left behind in chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal’

Friday 20 August 2021 21:27 , Sam Hancock

Black Hawk helicopters, A-29 Super Tocano bombers, armoured Humvees, drones and night vision goggles are among the billions of dollars worth of US military weaponry that has reportedly been seized by the Taliban, writes Bevan Hurley.

Images of Taliban fighters posing with M4 carbines and M16 rifles and opening crates of firearms, drones and night-vision goggles are circulating in the media, part of a propaganda victory as the militant group tries to establish their credentials as a legitimate governing force.

“Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now,” an unnamed US official told Reuters.

Were American weapons left behind in Afghanistan amid chaotic withdrawal?

Jolie: ‘It is sickening to watch Afghans being displaced yet again’

Friday 20 August 2021 21:17 , Sam Hancock

Angelina Jolie joined Instagram today to share a letter she was sent by an Afghan girl about the Taliban’s takeover.

“This is a letter I was sent from a teenage girl in Afghanistan. Right now, the people of Afghanistan are losing their ability to communicate on social media and to express themselves freely. So I’ve come on Instagram to share their stories and the voices of those across the globe who are fighting for their basic human rights,” the Hollywood actress said.

US aircraft carrying Afghan evacuees ‘to land in Germany on Friday’ – pentagon

Friday 20 August 2021 21:06 , Sam Hancock

US military aircraft conducting evacuation flights from Kabul will land in Germany on Friday, the Pentagon has said.

Army Major General William Taylor, with the US military’s Joint Staff, told a briefing that the US was grateful to its Nato ally Germany for assistance in what has been a “global” effort.

John Kirby, a spokesman for the Pentagon, also said US troops guarding the evacuation were able to help some Americans reach the inside of Kabul airfield from just outside its perimeter.

He also disclosed that the airport was closed for “six to seven hours” to allow for arrangements to be made to receive people evacuated from Afghanistan’s capital.

US Department of Defence press secretary John Kirby speaks during a news briefing at the Pentagon this week (Getty Images)

US Department of Defence press secretary John Kirby speaks during a news briefing at the Pentagon this week (Getty Images)

Biden says he has seen no ‘questioning’ of Afghan policy by allies

Friday 20 August 2021 20:53 , Sam Hancock

President Biden said he has seen no questioning of the US’ credibility amid the chaos unfolding in Afghanistan, despite numerous elected officials throughout Europe voicing objections.

“I have seen no question of our credibility from our allies around the world,” he said in a news conference on Friday. “Matter of fact, the exact opposite I’ve gotten.”

It comes after former UK prime minister Theresa May – and dozens of other MPs – criticised Mr Biden’s decision to follow through with Donald Trump’s exit plan from Afghanistan.

Eric Garcia reports from Washington DC:

Biden says he’s seen no ‘questioning’ of Afghan policy from US allies

Migrants who fled Afghanistan ‘stuck between Poland and Belarus’

Friday 20 August 2021 20:41 , Sam Hancock

Thirty-two people who fled Afghanistan before the Taliban takeover have been trapped for 12 days in an area between Poland and Belarus, according to a Polish refugee rights group. The migrants are reportedly caught in a standoff between the two neighbouring countries.

The group, Fundacja Ocalenie, called on Polish authorities to allow the people to apply for refugee status in Poland, saying they have the right to do so. However, Polish authorities are refusing to let them in and Belarusian border guards will not let them return.“

In accordance with the law … each of these people should be allowed to submit an application for protection,” Piotr Bystrianin, the president of the group’s management board, said in a statement. It is thought Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko is acting in revenge for sanctions the EU imposed over his disputed re-election and crackdown on dissent.

A deputy foreign minister in Poland, Pawel Jablonski, said the group is still on the Belarus side of the border strip, where “they have been brought by the organisers of this procedure in Belarus”. He added that Belarus has “full responsibility for this situation.” which, he said, is aimed at “destabilising the situation inside the European Union”.

Most of the recent migrants traveling from Belarus are believed to be originally from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It is an inhumane and scandalous situation that Poland, together with Belarus, condemns these people to imprisonment on the border, in conditions that offend human dignity and are life-threatening,” said Maciej Konieczny, a left-wing Polish lawmaker who joined the humanitarian workers at the border.

Lawyers with the foundation plan to submit applications for protection on behalf of the migrants, the group said.

Turkey tells Greece to help Afghans to stem flow of refugees

Friday 20 August 2021 20:25 , Lamiat Sabin

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told Greece’s prime minister that the EU should help Afghans if it wants to avoid a new influx of refugees.

In a rare phone call between the pair, he told Kyriakos Mitsotakis that “a new wave of migration will become inevitable if necessary measures are not taken”.

He advised him to help people in Afghanistan and countries, such as Iran, where Afghan migrants would head before trying to reach Turkey and Europe.

It comes as Greece announced today that it has finished its extension of a cement and barbed-wire fence on its border with Turkey. The fence was about eight-miles-long, and is now 25-miles-long with a new electronic surveillance system.

The country is concerned that the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan would lead to more refugees coming into Europe.

Greece announced the extension last year, when tens of thousands of asylum-seekers tried to cross enter from Turkey, after Ankara said it would no longer prevent them from doing so.

Newly-wed couple fear for their lives in bid to get to UK

Friday 20 August 2021 20:15 , Lamiat Sabin

A British national and his wife have been told by the Foreign Office to make their way to a hotel so that they can be evacuated – but the hotel is behind three Taliban checkpoints.

He tried to travel to the hotel with his wife last night but was brutally beaten by Taliban guards at the first check point.

Holly Bancroft reports

Briton and wife beaten at Taliban checkpoint while trying to flee Afghanistan

£5 million to be available to UK councils to help refugees

Friday 20 August 2021 20:05 , Lamiat Sabin

Funds totalling £5 million will be available to local councils across the UK to help Afghan refugees.

The money for housing and support will be paid via the Afghanistan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme, the government has announced today.

The scheme was launched in April this year and was created to help workers, such as translators, move to Britain after the government announced it was withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

So far the UK has secured the evacuation of 1,615 people since Saturday, including 399 British nationals and their dependents, 320 embassy staff, and 402 Afghan nationals under the ARAP scheme.

A separate resettlement scheme has also been set up to relocate up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghans.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We are proud to bring them to the UK, and this additional support will help make sure that those arriving from Afghanistan receive the housing and healthcare that they need as they start to build a new life here.”

UAE to temporarily host 5,000 Afghan refugees

Friday 20 August 2021 19:55 , Lamiat Sabin

The United Arab Emirates has agreed to be a temporary host for 5,000 people to be evacuated from Afghanistan.

The UAE embassy in the US said on Twitter today that the evacuees will travel to the UAE from Kabul on US aircraft in coming days.

The evacuees are to stay in the UAE for 10 days.

It comes after the UAE government announced on Wednesday that it was hosting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his family “on humanitarian grounds”, after they fled Kabul while the Taliban increased its hold over Afghanistan.

Baby hoisted over wall ‘safely reunited with father’

Friday 20 August 2021 19:45 , Lamiat Sabin

A baby filmed being lifted over a barbed wall at Kabul airport has been reunited with its father, the US Marines have said.

Footage of the months-old Afghan baby has gone viral.

It show a man lifting the infant into the air so that a US soldier standing at the top of the wall can pull the baby up and hand it to another soldier.

Graeme Massie reports

Afghan baby filmed being lifted over wall at Kabul airport reunited with father

Merkel in Moscow talks with Putin over Afghanistan

Friday 20 August 2021 19:35 , Lamiat Sabin

Angela Merkel travelled to Russia today to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan with Vladimir Putin.

The German Chancellor also has the separatist conflict in Ukraine and Moscow’s treatment of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, among other issues, on her agenda with the Russian president.

Her visit to Moscow could be one of her last trips abroad as chancellor as she is nearing the end of her almost 16-year-long leadership of Germany.

Despite stark differences, she has maintained close contacts with Mr Putin, who has been in power for more than two decades.

Ms Merkel, who speaks fluent Russian and grew up in communist East Germany, said: “Even though we certainly have deep differences today, we speak to each other – and that should continue to happen.”

She said Libya, Afghanistan, bilateral and trade relations and civil society issues would feature in the talks.

Ms Merkel plans to travel back to Berlin tonight and head to Kyiv on Sunday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Resistance to Taliban starts but chance of success is low

Friday 20 August 2021 19:25 , Lamiat Sabin

The National Resistance Front for Afghanistan has said it is prepared to continue the fight against the Taliban.

But it faces obstacles. One of its challenges is being outgunned by the Taliban’s possession of a huge number of weapons.

The Independent’s defence and security editor Kim Sengupta reports from Kabul

The fightback begins: Resistance to Taliban starts but chance of success is low

President Joe Biden’s speech in short

Friday 20 August 2021 19:06 , Lamiat Sabin

A summary of US President Joe Biden’s speech:

  • Every resource will be used to rescue US citizens and allies

  • Every American wanting to exit Afghanistan will be rescued

  • US does not know how many Americans are in Afghanistan, and is working to verify the number

  • Work has been done to evacuate 204 American journalists

  • Nearly 6,000 US troops are in Afghanistan

  • US keeping a close eye for any potential terror attacks in and around Kabul airport

  • US in constant contact with Taliban amid evacuations

  • Biden has spoken to UK PM Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron

  • World leaders will convene at G7 next week to co-ordinate “a mutual united approach on Afghanistan moving forward”

Biden pledges to get every American in Afghanistan home

UK government will work with Taliban ‘if necessary’

Friday 20 August 2021 18:25 , Lamiat Sabin

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today that his government would work with the Taliban “if necessary”.

“What I want to assure people is that our political and diplomatic efforts to find a solution for Afghanistan, working with the Taliban, of course if necessary, will go on,” he told reporters.

Mr Johnson claimed that the situation at Kabul airport, where thousands of Afghans have desperately flocked to seek a way out of the country, was getting “slightly better”.

The British government said it had secured the evacuation of 1,615 people since Saturday, including 399 British nationals and their dependants, 320 embassy staff and 402 Afghans.

US commander has ordered restart to evacuation flights

Friday 20 August 2021 18:14 , Lamiat Sabin

The US commander on the ground has ordered a restart to evacuation flights out of Afghanistan after brief pause, a senior administration official said today.

“There was a brief operational pause because we got so many people out yesterday, there was a bit of a backup as they processed people at third-party countries. The commander on the ground has issued the order to recommence,” the official said.

There have not been any C-17 evacuation flights out of Kabul’s airport in several hours because the evacuee facilities at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar are at capacity, a US official said.

The US State Department is also expected to announce that its evacuation flights out of Kabul will now be able to land in Europe due to the lack of space in the Qatar base.

UN agency able to resume food delivery in one city

Friday 20 August 2021 18:07 , Lamiat Sabin

The UN food agency said that it has been able to negotiate access with the Taliban to distribute aid in Faizabad, a provincial capital in Afghanistan.

But it hasn’t been able to resume deliveries of food to three other provincial capitals it supplies, the World Food Program said.

More than two thirds of the 39 million population of Afghanistan – including about 2 million children – are facing severe hunger.

This would be a result of the Taliban having taken hold, and the country having had its second drought in three years.

Andrew Patterson, WFP’s deputy country director, said that the agency has succeeded in negotiating access with the Taliban command in Faizabad to have a food truck “on the road the next day”.

However, the situation in Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad so far hasn’t allowed the agency to resume food distribution in those areas – Mr Patterson said.

Reporting by The Associated Press

Uzbekistan returns 150 refugees in ‘agreement with Taliban’

Friday 20 August 2021 18:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry has sent 150 Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan as per an agreement with the Taliban.

The refugees had been given security guarantees, the ministry was quoted as saying by Russian news agency TASS.

Uzbekistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan, is reluctant to take in the refugees due to concerns over security and the coronavirus – it has been reported.

Uzbekistan not keen to admit Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban

Greece extends fence to keep out Afghan refugees

Friday 20 August 2021 17:50 , Lamiat Sabin

Greece has completed a 25-mile fence and installed a new electronic surveillance system on its border with Turkey.

The country is concerned that the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan would lead to more refugees coming into Europe.

The fence is an extension to an existing cement and barbed-wire fence that was about eight miles long.

Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis said: “The Afghan crisis is creating … possibilities for migrant flows. We cannot wait, passively, for the possible impact. Our borders will remain safe and inviolable.”

The government announced the extension last year, when tens of thousands of asylum-seekers tried to cross into Greece from Turkey, after Ankara said it would no longer prevent them from doing so.

The rise of the Taliban has sparked fears of a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis, when nearly a million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond crossed to Greece from Turkey before travelling to other European countries.

Greece has hardened its migration policy this year by fencing off its migrant camps and launching EU-wide tenders to build two closed camps on the islands of Samos and Lesbos.

Migrant arrivals to Greece, either by land or by sea, have overall slowed to a trickle since 2016, when the EU agreed a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants in exchange for money.

Biden ‘should be impeached’ if US fails in evacuations

Friday 20 August 2021 17:31 , Lamiat Sabin

Donald Trump’s ally Lindsey Graham has claimed that US President Joe Biden should be impeached if any Americans or Afghan allies are left behind in Afghanistan.

The Republican senator said that the US was “duty-bound” to evacuate every US citizen and “honour-bound” to do likewise for the Afghan interpreters and contractors who aided the US soldiers.

It comes before Mr Biden is set to make a speech shortly amid criticism he has received for the US’ evacuation efforts, which critics have said are not frequent or effective enough.

Bevan Hurley reports

Lindsey Graham threatens Biden with impeachment

PM says he has full confidence in Dominic Raab

Friday 20 August 2021 17:23 , Lamiat Sabin

Boris Johnson has insisted he has full confidence in Dominic Raab after the Foreign Secretary was criticised for his handling of the Afghanistan crisis.

The Prime Minister was challenged over Mr Raab delegating a call about repatriating Afghan interpreters, a decision he made while he was on holiday with his family.

The call he delegated to a junior minister was not made, the Foreign Office has admitted.

Opposition parties have called on Mr Johnson to sack Mr Raab if he does not step down.

Asked whether he had full confidence in Mr Raab, Mr Johnson told reporters in Downing Street: “Absolutely.

“And I can tell you that the whole of the Government has been working virtually around the clock to do what we can to sort it out, to deal with a situation that has been long in gestation and to make sure we get as many people back as possible.”

Mr Raab insisted that he delegated the important call because he “was prioritising security and capacity at [Kabul] airport”.

C-17 carried record number of people in Afghanistan rescue

Friday 20 August 2021 17:12 , Lamiat Sabin

The hundreds of people evacuated from Kabul in one aircraft is the record number that the US Air Force’s C17 has carried.

It was initially estimated that there were 640 on board, but that figure only included adults.

As there were 183 children on the aircraft, the figure has been revised to 823 people – a record number on board a C-17 Globemaster III Air Force aircraft, according to the USAF’s Air Mobility Command.

Gustaf Kilander reports

US military crew set record for airplane load during Afghan evacuation

Anti-Taliban militia take hold of Baghlan province

Friday 20 August 2021 16:53 , Lamiat Sabin

Northern Alliance Forces have taken control of three districts of a province in Afghanistan.

Afghan media has reported that a “popular uprising” by anti-Taliban militia, led by Abdul Hamid Dadgar, has recaptured three districts – Pul-e-Hesar, Banu and Andarab – in the Baghlan province, just north of Kabul.

News agency Pajhwok Afghan News added: “But the Taliban have said nothing about it.”

President Biden to make speech amid evacuation criticism

Friday 20 August 2021 16:40 , Lamiat Sabin

US President Joe Biden is to give a speech today amid criticism over his administration’s chaotic evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies.

US officials had told The Associated Press that American diplomats in Kabul had formally urged Mr Biden’s administration weeks ago that evacuation efforts need to be intensified, as people were not being evacuated quickly enough.

Mr Biden has previously blamed Afghans – including Afghan PM Ashraf Ghani who fled to the UAE last weekend – for the US’ failure to get out more allies ahead of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

He has also claimed that many at-risk Afghan allies had not wanted to leave the country. But refugee groups say there are years-long backlogs of US visa applications from thousands of Afghan people.

Tens of thousands of people are waiting to be evacuated ahead of the US’ deadline of 31 August to withdraw all troops from the Afghanistan.

Mr Biden’s speech is scheduled to take place at 6pm BST (1pm Eastern Time in the US).

US to use German air base for Afghanistan evacuations

Friday 20 August 2021 16:20 , Lamiat Sabin

Ramstein Air Base in western Germany will be used as a temporary transit point to transport people from Afghanistan to the US, German foreign minister Heiko Maas said today.

Germany, like other Western countries, has sent military aircraft of its own to Afghanistan in recent days to evacuate German nationals and Afghans who worked for its forces prior to their withdrawal.

Mr Maas said in a statement on Friday that the focus is on evacuating as many people from Kabul “as is possible under the very difficult circumstances” and that Germany is working closely with its internationall allies.

He said: “We agree with all our partners on the ground that no place on our planes should remain empty.”

He said that, as a result, US flights will also take Germans or people named by German authorities to Ramstein, while Germany also will evacuate people from other nations on its own planes.

West withdrew from Afghanistan too fast, says retired Italian general

Friday 20 August 2021 16:00 , Rory Sullivan

A retired Italian general who fought in Afghanistan in 2011 has said the West’s withdrawal from the country should have been slower. Gen. Giorgio Battisti told Sky TG24 TV Frida that “it was necessary to spread out the final withdrawal, assuming one wanted to completely leave Afghanistan”. He added that western troops “left in the middle of ‘fighting season,’ left, like thieves in the night, this immense base of Bagram”, rather than waiting until the winter to do so.

Taliban must not harbour terrorists, says Nato

Friday 20 August 2021 15:52 , Rory Sullivan

The Taliban should not allow terrorist refuge in Afghanistan, Nato foreign ministers said on Friday.

After a virtual meeting, they released a statement saying: “For the last 20 years, we have successfully denied terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to instigate attacks.”

“We will not allow any terrorists to threaten us. We remain committed to fighting terrorism with determination, resolve, and in solidarity.”

Unlike the Nato secretary general’s words earlier this week, the statement did not explicitly mention air strikes.

Reports of changeover of Taliban fighters in Kabul

Friday 20 August 2021 15:40 , Rory Sullivan

Here’s an update from Kabul courtesy of Charlie Faulkner, a journalist who has previously written on Afghanistan for The Independent.

US doesn’t have ‘precise’ number of Americans in Afghanistan

Friday 20 August 2021 15:38 , Rory Sullivan

A White House spokesperson has admitted the US does not know the “precise number” of Americans currently in Afghanistan.

Here’s Eric Garcia with more on this breaking story:

White House admits it doesn’t know how many Americans are in Afghanistan

Female Afghan entrepreneur confronts the Taliban

Friday 20 August 2021 15:20 , Rory Sullivan

Asiya, 22, an entrepreneur living in Kabul, confronted the Taliban earlier this week.

“I cannot let my efforts be lost. The Taliban needs to change, otherwise, the society would not accept them, I will not accept them,” she tells The Independent.

Afghan female entrepreneur confronts Taliban over women’s rights in Kabul

Situation in Afghanistan remains ‘unpredictable’, says NATO secretary-general

Friday 20 August 2021 15:01 , Rory Sullivan

The situation in Afghanistan “remains difficult and unpredictable”, the secretary-general of NATO has said.

Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that the alliance’s priority is to keep the airport and evacuations running.

“The main challenge we face is ensuring that people reach and enter Kabul airport,” he added.

In total, more than 18,000 people have been flown out of the capital since the Taliban captured the city on Sunday.

5,800 US troops at Kabul airport

Friday 20 August 2021 14:45 , Rory Sullivan

A total of 5,800 US soldiers are now stationed at Kabul airport to help with evacuatons, a top official has said.

Defence secretary Lloyd Austin added that several hundred more were expected to arrive there within the next few days.

This comes after the US was widely criticised for its sudden troop withdrawal from the country, which allowed the Taliban to sweep into power.

US Air Force says 823 Afghans were evacuated on single flight

Friday 20 August 2021 14:29 , Rory Sullivan

It is a picture that has come to define the crisis in Afghanistan – of hundreds of refugees packed cheek by jowl on a US Air Force transport plane.

The US military initially estimated that this flight had carried 640 people out of the country to safety.

But now it has revised this figure to 823, as the 183 children onboard were previously not included in the total.

Kabul airport crowds impeding evacuations, says Spanish defence minister

Friday 20 August 2021 14:10 , Rory Sullivan

Spanish planes are leaving Kabul with unused space because of chaos at the airport, the country’s defence minister has said.

Margarita Robles told the RNE radio station on Friday that the lack of order was preventing more people from being evacuated.

She said airport corridors would help, but added this solution was impossible because “nobody’s in control of the situation”.

One Afghan family that was evacuated by Spain left without their daughter, after they lost her in a scrum at the airport.

Raab defends his actions

Friday 20 August 2021 13:52 , Rory Sullivan

Dominic Raab has issued a defiant defence of his actions regarding recent events in Afghanistan.

The foreign secretary has been accused of a “dereliction of duty” by not calling his Afghan counterpart last week to help safely evacuate local interpreters working for the UK.

In a tweet posted on Friday, the minister claimed the press’s media coverage of the issue had been “inaccurate”, adding that the call was delegated to a colleague because he had been busy “prioritising security and capacity” at Kabul airport.

As we now know, the call was never made.

Dominic Raab says he was too busy ‘prioritising security’ to make crucial call

German helicopters will only evacuate people from Kabul, general confirms

Friday 20 August 2021 13:35 , Rory Sullivan

Two German helicopters being sent to Afghanistan will only be used to evacuate people from Kabul, a general has said on Friday.

General Eberhard Zorn told reporters that the choppers, which will be ready for operations from Saturday, would not go to other cities such as Mazar-i-Sharif.

Tory MP says he does not like ‘anti-Raab witch hunt’

Friday 20 August 2021 13:26 , Rory Sullivan

A Tory MP has accused people of orchestrating “an anti-Raab witch hunt”, after the foreign secretary was urged to resign for his handling of the crisis in Afghanistan.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Sir Roger Gale claimed no individual minister “could have made the difference” and that the response was “collective responsibility of the cabinet”.

However, the Conservative backbencher did not shy away from criticising the government. “The overall handling of the situation in Afghanistan, both by Washington and by London, I think is highly questionable,” he said.

Friday 20 August 2021 13:05 , Andy Gregory

Boris Johnson will chair a Cobra meeting this afternoon “to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan”, Downing Street has said.

Friday 20 August 2021 12:57 , Andy Gregory

Here’s more on the allegations heard by Amnesty International that Taliban fighters in Ghazni “massacred” and brutally tortured nine men belonging to the Hazara group – Afghanistan’s third-largest ethnic group, which mainly practises Shia Islam.

While examining photographic evidence and interviewing witnesses, Amnesty heard accounts from residents who described escaping to the mountains as fierce fighting broke out between the Taliban and Afghan government forces in July.

Nine men were ambushed as they walked through the village of Mundarakht, witnesses said. Six were allegedly shot, and three tortured to death.

One eyewitness said that when they asked the fighters why they inflicted such brutality on their people, one replied: “When it is the time of conflict, everyone dies, it doesn’t matter if you have guns or not. It is the time of war.” My colleague Matt Mathers reports:

Taliban ‘tortured and massacred’ men from Hazara minority on march to Kabul

Book co-authored by Dominic Raab called British workers ‘among the worst idlers in the world’

Friday 20 August 2021 12:45 , Andy Gregory

As calls mount for Dominic Raab’s resignation over his failure to cut his foreign holiday short as the Taliban took over Afghanistan, it has emerged that the foreign secretary and other senior Tory MPs once suggested British workers “are among the worst idlers in the world”.

Britannia Unchained – Global Growth And Prosperity, a book co-authored by Mr Raab, home secretary Priti Patel, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and trade secretary Liz Truss in 2012, maligned “lazy” British workers.

Giving an interview at the time of the book’s release, Mr Raab said: “People who are coasting – it should be easier to let them go, to give the unemployed a chance. It is a delicate balancing act, but it should be decided in favour of the latter.”

My colleague Adam Forrest has the full story here:

Dominic Raab accused of hypocrisy after calling British workers ‘worst idlers’

Sign up to our virtual event on Afghanistan

Friday 20 August 2021 12:25 , Rory Sullivan

What does the future hold for Afghanistan now that it’s under Taliban control?

Join our panel of experts to find out the answer to this and other questions.

The free virtual event will be held on 1 September between 6.30 and 7.30pm BST.

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

Analysis: The Taliban’s moderate rhetoric mask murderous reality

Friday 20 August 2021 12:15 , Rory Sullivan

The Taliban’s brutal actions are at odds with its moderate rhetoric, commentators have noted.

Here’s Patrick Cockburn’s latest piece on Afghanistan, which looks at the group’s persecution of the Hazara:

The Taliban may feign moderation – but the reality is clear | Patrick Cockburn

Facebook moves to protect Afghans users from Taliban

Friday 20 August 2021 12:00 , Rory Sullivan

Facebook has tightened security for users in Afghanistan, amid fears the Taliban are tracking down opponents through social media.

It launched a new feature allowing people to lock their accounts more easily.

Announcing the move, Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at the tech firm, said: “When their profile is locked, people who aren’t their friends can’t download or share their profile photo or see posts on their timeline.”

Facebook moves to protect users in Afghanistan from being targeted by the Taliban

German civilian shot in Kabul

Friday 20 August 2021 11:40 , Rory Sullivan

A German civilian was shot while travelling to Kabul airport but his life is not in danger, it has emerged.

He has now been evacuated from the country, a German government spokesperson confirmed.

Government must resettle Afghan refugees ‘immediately’, say senior MPs

Friday 20 August 2021 11:20 , Rory Sullivan

The government must speed up the pace of its Afghan resettlement programme, MPs have said.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Tory MP Tobias Elwood have written to the home secretary saying the scheme should start immediately, making use of the support networks established by local authorities to welcome Syrian refugees.

Government must resettle Afghan refugees ‘immediately’ to save lives, say MPs

Anger over near-empty plane leaving Kabul

Friday 20 August 2021 10:59 , Rory Sullivan

A former British marine has posted a picture of a near-empty plane leaving Kabul, at a time when thousands of desperate Afghans are trying to flee the Taliban.

Paul Farthing, whose wife Kaisa was on the flight, described the low number of passengers as “scandalous”.

Tim Wyatt has this report:

Anger as image shows near-empty rescue flight leaving Kabul

Afghans in danger ‘have no clear way out’, says UN

Friday 20 August 2021 10:45 , Rory Sullivan

Afghans who could be in danger from the Taliban “have no clear way out” of the country, the UN refugee agency has said.

A UNHCR spokesperson called on Afghanistan’s neighbours to keep their borders open during the crisis.

“UNHCR remains concerned about the risk of human rights violations against civilians in the evolving context, including women and girls,” they added.

West should have focused on counter-terrorism in Afghanistan, says former MI5 boss

Friday 20 August 2021 10:25 , Rory Sullivan

The West should have concentrated on counter-terrorism rather than nation building in Afghanistan, a former MI5 chief has said.

Lord Jonathan Evans, who ran the security service for 6 years until 2013, said the plan was “overambitious”.

He added that terrorism would likely increase as a result of the Taliban’s power grab.

Taliban ‘always part of solution’, claims UK defence minister

Friday 20 August 2021 10:25 , Rory Sullivan

The Taliban was always going to assume power in Afghanistan despite two decades of Nato involvement, a British defence minister has said.

James Heappey said it was “inevitable the Taliban would be part of the solution”, comparing the current situation to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

My colleague Adam Forrest has more details:

Taliban ‘always part of solution,’ says minister comparing group to IRA

Journalist’s relative killed by Taliban during manhunt

Friday 20 August 2021 10:25 , Rory Sullivan

Taliban fighters hunting a journalist have shot dead one of his relations and injured another, a German broadcaster has reported.

The editor, who works for Deutsche Welle (DW), is now working in Germany.

“The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban…is inconceivably tragic, and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families in Afghanistan find themselves,” the broadcaster’s director general Peter Limbourg said.

He has called on the German government to take action.

German public broadcaster’s relative killed by Taliban as they hunted for him

Taliban tells female news anchor to stop working

Friday 20 August 2021 10:24 , Rory Sullivan

The Taliban has told a female news anchor not to work, despite saying that women would be allowed to keep their jobs under its rule.

Shabnam Dawran, a reporter at state channel RTA Pushto, tells her story here:

Indonesia evacuates 26 citizens from Afghanistan

Friday 20 August 2021 10:24 , Rory Sullivan

Indonesia has evacuated 26 of its citizens from Afghanistan, its foreign minister has confirmed.

The plane also picked up five Filipinos and who Afghans, Retno Marsudi tweeted.

“The plane is now in Islamabad to continue on to Indonesia,” she added.

Taliban responsible for massacre of Hazara men, Amnesty reports

Friday 20 August 2021 10:23 , Rory Sullivan

The Taliban perpetrated a “massacre” of nine ethnic Hazara men in the south-east of Afghanistan last month, Amnesty International has said.

Villagers from Mundarakht in Ghazni province fled into the mountains as the Taliban made ground in the region, before returning to their homes due to a shortage of food.

Taliban fighters who had been lying in wait then shot six men dead and tortured another three to death, eyewitnesses said.

“The cold-blooded brutality of these killings is a reminder of the Taliban’s past record, and a horrifying indicator of what Taliban rule may bring,” said Agnés Callamard, the human right’s group’s secretary general.

Logic of US withdrawal questioned

Friday 20 August 2021 10:23 , Rory Sullivan

A former British minister has questioned the logic of the US’ withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Former British minister Rory Stewart, who challenged for the Tory leadership in 2019, said the US was only being asked to keep 2,500 personnel in the country.

Mr Stewart, an expert on Afghanistan, added that there are 25,000 US soldiers in South Korea, and “nobody is pushing to remove them”.

Taliban is hunting down ex-government employees, report warns

Friday 20 August 2021 10:22 , Rory Sullivan

The Taliban is conducting door-to-door searches to hunt down former Afghan government staff, a report has warned.

This action goes against the hardline group’s promise that there would be “no revenge” under its rule.

In a report, the RHIPTO Norwegian Centre for Global Analyses, a group which works for the UN, said those deemed to be “collaborators” are being targeted.

“There are a high number of individuals that are currently being targeted by the Taliban and the threat is crystal clear,” the organisation said.

Taliban going door-to-door hunting for targets who worked for Western forces

Delegated Raab call never made

Friday 20 August 2021 10:21 , Rory Sullivan

The government did not call an Afghan minister last week to ensure the safe passage of local interpreters trying to flee the country, the Foreign Office has admitted.

Although it was revealed earlier this week that Dominic Raab had been “too busy” to speak to his Afghan counterpart, his department said the call had been delegated to a junior minister.

However, the truth has now emerged. “Given the rapidly changing situation it was not possible to arrange a call before the Afghan government collapsed,” it said.

Foreign Office admits no-one made Dominic Raab’s phone call for Afghan interpreters

Canada says it could take in more Afghan refugees

Saturday 21 August 2021 00:16 , Lamiat Sabin

Canada would consider taking in additional Afghan refugees on behalf of the US or other allies if asked to do so, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said on Friday.

“We should keep the door open to all possibilities,” he said in an interview.

“If there were Afghans who had assisted coalition partners during the mission that also met the criteria for our humanitarian resettlement program, I think we should be prepared to consider such an arrangement,” the minister said.

The Canadian Armed Forces flew 175 vulnerable Afghans and 13 foreign nationals out of Kabul late on Thursday, and evacuations “are scheduled to continue on a regular basis so long as the security situation permits,” according to a statement.

Canada has evacuated nearly 1,000 vulnerable Afghan nationals to date, the statement said.

Separately, last week Canada committed to resettling 20,000 Afghan refugees who have already fled the country and, on Friday, Mr Mendicino said the government was keeping “an open mind” about potentially increasing that number.



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