Biden defends Afghanistan pullout amid airport chaos

Defiant US president says he “stands squarely” behind withdrawal after 20 years in the country.

United States President Joe Biden broke days of silence on the chaotic military pullout from Afghanistan, doubling down on his decision as he fired scorching criticism at the country’s former Western-backed leadership for failing to resist the Taliban.

“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces,” he said in a televised address from the White House on Monday.

The Taliban has declared the war in Afghanistan over, after its fighters swept into the capital, Kabul, and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

Victorious Taliban fighters patrolled the streets of Kabul on Monday as thousands of Afghans mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of rule. Scores of Afghans ran alongside a US military plane as it taxied on the runway and several clung to the side as the jet took off.

Senior US military officials said that the chaos left seven dead, including several who fell from the flight.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Kabul, said the Taliban has set up a cordon to stop people getting into the terminal of Kabul airport and have been firing warning shots to keep people away from the area.

Later on Monday, US Major General Hank Taylor told reporters at the Pentagon that Kabul Airport is open again after flights were suspended earlier.

Here are the developments from Monday, August 16, as they happened.

US spent $2.26 trillion on war in Afghanistan: Study

Since 2001, the US has spent $2.26 trillion in Afghanistan, the Costs of War Project at Brown University calculates.

Yet, Afghanistan still has one of the smallest formal economies on the planet. Last year, President Ashraf Ghani said 90 percent of the population was living on less than $2 a day.

Read more here.

US seeks to manage ‘transition in the political situation’ in Afghanistan.

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is in Doha with a team of American diplomats seeking a political settlement with representatives of the Taliban and representatives of the former government of Ashraf Ghani, the former Afghan president, Al Jazeera correspondent Rosiland Jordan reports from Washington, DC.

“What the Taliban has to do, according to the US government, is try to form a government that is inclusive, that respects human rights, that respects the rights of women and girls to advance their full potential and that does not try to put harm on other people, whether within Afghanistan or in neighbouring countries,” Jordan said.

The US government has not formally recognised a transfer of power in Kabul and State Department officials have refused to say if the US still recognises Ghani as Afghanistan’s president. Ghani flew to Uzbekistan, Al Jazeera has reported.

US immigration advocates urge swift evacuation of Afghans

Biden administration officials say they will be evacuating Afghans who worked with the United States, but activists are calling for urgency.

Afghans who worked with the US in Afghanistan are among the most vulnerable segments of the population after the Taliban’s takeover of the country, US immigration advocates and lawmakers are warning.

“It’s absolutely critical that the US use all options they can to facilitate the safe and orderly departure of people affiliated with the US,” said JC Hendrickson, senior director of refugee and asylum policy and advocacy at the International Rescue Committee.

Uzbekistan gives conflicting reports over Afghan plane crash

An Afghan military plane crashed in Uzbekistan over the weekend, and Uzbek authorities issued conflicting reports on the cause.

Uzbekistan’s defence ministry initially said it was studying videos and reports of a plane crash in southeastern Uzbekistan, in the Surkhandarya region on the border with Afghanistan.

Later on Monday, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported that it was told by the ministry that Uzbekistan’s air defence system had downed the plane.

Within hours, the prosecutor general’s office in Uzbekistan issued a statement saying that an Afghan military plane had collided with an Uzbek plane that was scrambled to escort it to the airport in Termez, a city in Surkhandarya.

The office later retracted that statement, which also alleged that 22 warplanes and 24 military helicopters from Afghanistan carrying 585 servicemen “illegally crossed” into Uzbek airspace over the weekend and were forced by Uzbek authorities to land at Termez.

US says future Afghan ties depend on ‘actions of Taliban’

The United States said that it would only recognise a Taliban government in Afghanistan if it respects the rights of women and shuns “terrorists”.

“Ultimately when it comes to our posture towards any future government in Afghanistan, it will depend upon the actions of that government. It will depend upon the actions of the Taliban,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

Kabul Airport opens: Pentagon

Kabul Airport is open, with a military flight arriving on Monday with US Marines on board, US Major General Hank Taylor has told reporters at the Pentagon.

The US said it expected to have 3,000 to 3,500 troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

The US mission “now that the airfield is open, is to make sure that remains open” to continue to expedite flights in and out, Taylor said.

The US and its allies are flying out US citizens, Afghans who worked with them and “vulnerable Afghans” who might be at risk now that the Taliban control Kabul.

German evacuation plane lands in Kabul: security sources

A German military aircraft has landed in Kabul to evacuate foreign nationals and local Afghan staff, security sources have told the Reuters news agency.

The A400M was to load people to be evacuated and take them to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, one source said, adding passengers would travel on in civilian aircraft from there.

The German military uses Tashkent as a hub for its air bridge to Kabul. The German government has pledged to bring as many foreign nationals and local staff as possible out of Afghanistan while the airport is still open.

Kabul airport has reopened: US general

The Kabul airport has reopened according to a US general.

Biden’s speech ‘quite inhumane’: Analyst

Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili, associate professor of public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, has told Al Jazeera that – although she broadly agreed with Biden’s policies over Afghanistan – she was “shocked” by his speech.

“There was a refusal here to acknowledge the scope of the humanitarian crisis that is taking shape in Kabul right now and throughout the country,” she said.

“He says the buck stops with him but blamed everyone else. It can be true that other people deserve blame here, but so does the United States. I just thought the speech was quite inhumane in terms of thinking about the people of Afghanistan.”

Murtazashvili said many of the people at the airport worked for the US and fear they will be targeted by the Taliban, but Biden did not acknowledge that.

“The people who are clinging to US aircraft for dear life are fearful for their lives because they were part of our mission – they were part of an American family. And for such inhumane discussion of them – he just seems to have such deep disdain for the people of Afghanistan and I can’t understand it.”

Belgium sending evacuation flights to Kabul ‘as soon as possible’

Belgium is to send four military aircraft “as soon as possible” to retrieve roughly 100 nationals or their Afghan family members from Kabul, Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes has said.

The group had told Belgian authorities they wanted to leave, she wrote on Twitter.

“Our country has the responsibility to bring them back in the safest manner possible,” she said.

Biden: ‘There was never a good time to withdraw US forces’

US President Joe Biden has said he was faced with a choice between sticking to a previously negotiated agreement to withdraw US troops this year or sending thousands more service members back into Afghanistan for a “third decade” of war.

Biden said he will not repeat mistakes of the past and did not regret his decision to proceed with the withdrawal.

“After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces,” Biden said in a televised address to the nation from the White House East Room.

President Joe Biden speaks about Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House in Washington [Evan Vucci/AP]

Biden said he’d rather take the criticism over the fallout in Afghanistan than leave the decision to another president. He said the decision to leave Afghanistan is “the right one for America”.

He said keeping a presence in Afghanistan was no longer a US national security interest.

German military transport plane lands in Kabul for evacuation

A German Air Force A400M transport aircraft has landed in Kabul to begin the evacuation of German citizens from Afghanistan, security sources tell the dpa news agency.

Biden pledges to ‘speak out’ for Afghan women

President Joe Biden has promised to prioritise the treatment of women and girls under the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“We’ll continue to speak out on the basic rights of the Afghan people, of women and girls,” Biden said in a national address.

Biden warns Taliban not to interfere with US evacuation

President Joe Biden has warned the Taliban not to interfere with the US evacuation from Afghanistan, threatening “devastating force, if necessary”.

The response to any attack would be “swift and forceful,” Biden said in a televised address from the White House.

“We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary,” he said.

Biden acknowledges Afghan collapse quicker than expected

US President Joe Biden has acknowledged that the Afghan government collapsed more quickly than he expected even as he defended his decision to withdraw troops.

“I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” Biden said in a national address.

“We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future.”

Biden: ‘I stand squarely behind’ decision to withdraw US forces

“I stand squarely behind my decision” to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden has said in his first public comments since the Taliban took full control of the country.

Biden said the collapse of the Afghan government amid the Taliban’s rapid advance “did unfold more quickly than we anticipated”.

“If anything, the developments of the past week reinforce that ending US military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision. American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves,” Biden said.

Read more here.

Biden says ‘nation building’ was never a US goal in Afghanistan

In an address to the nation, US President Joe Biden says “our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to be nation building”.

“It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralised democracy,” Biden said.

“I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counterterrorism, not counter-insurgency or nation building.”

‘Heartbreaking’: Afghan Paralympic athletes to miss Tokyo 2020

Zakia Khudadadi would have been the first woman to represent Afghanistan at a Paralympic Games when they start in Tokyo this month, but her dream has been shattered amid the country’s turmoil.

Just two Paralympic athletes from Afghanistan were scheduled to compete in the Games set to commence on August 24 – taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi and track athlete Hossain Rasouli.

Khudadadi, 23, was to be the first woman ever to represent Afghanistan at the Paralympics.

Read the story here.

Just two Paralympic athletes from Afghanistan were scheduled to compete in the Games set to commence on August 24 – taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi and track athlete Hossain Rasouli [Issei Kato/REUTERS]

Turkey drops Kabul airport plans but will assist if Taliban ask: Sources

Turkey has dropped plans to take control of the Kabul airport after NATO’s withdrawal but is ready to provide technical and security support if the Taliban request it, two Turkish security sources have said.

In light of the “total chaos” at the airport “the process of Turkish soldiers taking up control … has automatically been dropped,” one of the sources said.

“However, in the event the Taliban asks for technical support, Turkey can provide security and technical support at the airport,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

US focused on securing Kabul airport

The United States will focus on securing the Kabul airport and additional US forces will flow into the airport on Monday and Tuesday, US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer has said.

The US has temporarily halted all evacuation flights from Kabul to clear people who had converged on the airfield, a US defence official told the Reuters news agency, but did not say how long the pause would last.

The defence official said the US aims to get tens of thousands of at-risk Afghans who worked for the US government out of Afghanistan and was looking at temporarily housing them at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Fort Bliss in Texas.

Afghan people climb up on a plane and sit by the door as they wait at the Kabul airport as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

UK sends 200 more troops to Kabul

A further 200 British troops are to be sent to Kabul to evacuate British citizens and local allies from Afghanistan, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The move brings the total number of troops sent to the capital to urgently deal with the crisis to about 800.

Former Afghan minister says he was not considered as transitional president

Former Afghan Interior Minister Ali Jalali has said he was never under consideration to become transitional president for Afghanistan and that he would never have accepted the position.

“The bottom line is that I’ve never been contacted. I’ve never been considered. I never thought about it, and I’m not interested,” Jalali, who served as Afghanistan’s first interior minister after a 2001 US-led invasion, told Reuters.

Jalali, who is a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, DC, spoke by telephone from the US capital.

He was responding to a Reuters report that quoted three diplomatic sources on Sunday as saying he would likely be named to head a transitional administration in Kabul as the Taliban took over the capital.

Pakistan says US troop withdrawal in Afghanistan is ‘logical conclusion’

Pakistan says the US’ decision to remain committed to a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite the Taliban’s lightning takeover of the country, is a “logical conclusion” to the conflict, as thousands of Afghans flooded into Pakistan at a southern border crossing.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan met the country’s top military and civilian leadership at a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Monday.

Read more here.

On Monday, thousands of Afghans flooded into Pakistan from Afghanistan at the Chaman crossing [Banaras Khan/AFP]

Merkel warns of crisis if Afghans fleeing Taliban not supported

Germany and other western countries should provide aid to countries neighbouring Afghanistan to help them deal with an influx of Afghans fleeing the Taliban or risk a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said.

“We need to make sure that the many people who have big worries and concerns even though they have not worked with German institutions have a secure stay in countries neighbouring Afghanistan,” Merkel said during a news conference.

“We should not repeat the mistake of the past when we did not give enough funds to UNHCR and other aid programmes and people left Jordan and Lebanon toward Europe.”

People try to get into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan [Stringer/REUTERS]

US Secretary of State discusses with top Chinese, Russian diplomats

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken with China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about Afghanistan, according to the State Department.

Blinken and Lavrov talked about “the security situation and our efforts to bring US citizens and vulnerable Afghans to safety,” the department said in a statement.

Macron says France is protecting EU delegate in Afghanistan

French President Emmanuel Macron has said France is currently protecting the European Union delegate in Afghanistan and that it has also given protection to the Afghan collaborators of the EU representation in the country.

“A lot of members of the Afghan civil society, defenders of rights, artists, journalists are today under threat … We will welcome them because it’s France’s honour to be alongside those who fight for freedom” Macron said in a televised address to the nation.

Macron says Afghanistan must not again be ‘sanctuary of terrorism’

Emmanuel Macron has said that Afghanistan should not become again the “sanctuary of terrorism” that it was until the US-led invasion two decades ago, after the Taliban regained control of the country.

“This is key for international security and peace … we will do everything for Russia, the United States and Europe to cooperate efficiently as our interests are the same,” Macron said in a televised address from his summer residence, adding that the European Union would set up an initiative to prevent large migrant flows from the country.

German evacuation flight can’t land in Kabul, diverts to Tashkent

The first of three German evacuation planes en route to Afghanistan has diverted to the Uzbek capital Tashkent after it could not land at Kabul airport, a German general has said.

The A400M transport plane circled for more than an hour over Kabul before changing its destination, Lieutenant General Markus Laubenthal told public broadcaster ZDF.

A foreign ministry spokesperson said earlier in Berlin that no evacuation flights were leaving Kabul airport because desperate people trying to flee the country were blocking the runway.

Afghan passengers sit as they wait to leave the Kabul airport as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the Taliban’s feared hardline brand of rule [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Biden receives security briefing

US President Joe Biden has received a briefing by top security officials on the situation in Afghanistan, the White House has said.

“This morning, the President was briefed by his national security team, including the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman Milley, on the security situation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, and ongoing efforts to safely evacuate American citizens, US Embassy personnel and local staff, SIV [special immigrant visa] applicants and their families, and other vulnerable Afghans,” it said in a statement.

The Pentagon has announced that it was sending 6,000 troops to Kabul for the evacuation mission.

UN Security Council calls for talks to create new Afghan government

The UN Security Council has called for the establishment, through negotiations, of a new government in Afghanistan that is “united, inclusive and representative, including with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women”.

The 15-member body, which met to discuss Afghanistan on Monday, also called for an immediate end to hostilities and human rights abuses and for all parties to allow immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian access.

Kabul airport remains tense as darkness falls: Correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Kabul, said the Taliban has set up a cordon to stop people getting into the terminal of Kabul airport and have been firing warning shots to keep people away from the area.

“It just gives you an idea of the real tense situation – the US military on one side, the heavily armed Taliban on the other, and between them this hugely volatile crowd of hundreds, if not thousands, of increasingly desperate passengers,” he said.

He said people were still milling around on the runway as darkness fell, with US military helicopters hovering just a few metres above the ground to manage the crowds.

“So it’s a very tense situation here.”

Turkey evacuates civilians, citizens

Turkey has evacuated civilians and its citizens from Kabul on a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul.

State broadcaster TRT Haber said 324 people had been brought on the evacuation flight.

UK’s Johnson plans virtual G7 leaders meeting

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends to host a virtual meeting of G7 leaders to discuss the situation in Afghanistan in the coming days, he has told French President Emmanuel Macron during a telephone call.

Johnson’s office said the two leaders also agreed that the UK and France should work together at the United Nations Security Council, including on a possible joint-resolution.

Russia’s Lavrov discusses crisis with USA, China

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have discussed the situation in Afghanistan by phone and have agreed to continue consultations with China, Pakistan and the United Nations, the Russian foreign ministry has said.

Lavrov also spoke by phone with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and discussed political coordination due to the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for the region, the ministry said.

Pakistan calls for political settlement

Pakistan has said it is committed to “an inclusive political settlement” in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Such a settlement was “the way forward representing all Afghan ethnic groups,” said a statement issued by the prime minister’s office.

The statement called upon all parties in Afghanistan to respect the rule of law, protect the fundamental human rights of all Afghans, and ensure that Afghan soil is not used by any terrorist organisation, the statement said.

‘Leadership was missing’ in Afghan government: Pentagon

The rapid collapse of the Afghan government and military to the Taliban was due to the lack of leadership, despite years of aid and training by the United States, the Pentagon has said.

“You can resource, you can train, you can support, you can advise, you can assist. You cannot buy will, you cannot purchase leadership, and leadership was missing,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

UK indicates Afghanistan sanctions possible

The UK will use all the means it has at its disposal to hold the Taliban to account, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said when asked about possible sanctions against the country.

Asked how he would hold the Taliban to account, he said: “Ultimately through working with our partners through everything from the sanctions that we can apply, to the ODA [Official Development Assistance] that we will hold back, pending reform and a more inclusive government. I think there are levers.”

Asked whether he was holding out the possibility of new sanctions he said: “The question of relief of existing sanctions as well. All of the financial means at our disposal will depend on the behaviour of the Taliban.”

Amnesty says Germany must admit more Afghans

The human rights organisation Amnesty International has called on the German government to step up its effort to help Afghans leave their volatile country.

“The German government must go beyond what has been promised so far,” said Markus Beeko, secretary general of Amnesty International in Germany.

In addition to local employees, journalists, women’s rights activists and human rights defenders “who are acutely exposed to particular danger must be protected and evacuated as unbureaucratically as possible”.

“It is a race against time that costs lives every minute,” he said.

Uzbekistan says hundreds of Afghan soldiers flee over border

Hundreds of Afghan soldiers have fled to Uzbekistan with 22 military planes and 24 helicopters last weekend, including one aircraft that collided with an escorting Uzbek fighter jet causing both to crash, Uzbekistan has said.

The Uzbek defence ministry earlier had said an Afghan military jet had been shot down and crashed after crossing the border.

A total of 585 Afghan soldiers have arrived on aircraft and 158 more crossed the border on foot on Sunday, the Uzbek prosecutor general’s office said in a statement.

‘China respects the will and choice of Afghan people’: Ministry

The spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Twitter that “China respects the will and choice of the Afghan people.

“China has noted that the Afghan Taliban said yesterday that the war in Afghanistan is over and they will hold talks aimed at forming an open, inclusive Islamic government in Afghanistan and take responsible actions to protect the safety of Afghan citizens and foreign missions,” it said.

“China hopes to see these remarks implemented so as to ensure a smooth transition in Afghanistan, keep at bay terrorism and criminal acts and make sure that the Afghan people stay away from war and rebuild their homeland.”

US and international forces working to clear airport: Pentagon

US forces are working with Turkish and other international troops to clear Kabul airport to allow international evacuation flights to resume, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has said.

Kirby told a news briefing Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had authorised the deployment of another battalion to Kabul that would bring the number of troops guarding the evacuation to about 6,000.

Pentagon: US sending another battalion

The Pentagon says the US is sending another battalion of about 1,000 troops to secure the Kabul airport.

Germany vows to airlift as many people as it can

Germany is working to get as many people as possible out of Afghanistan quickly, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said, adding that NATO allies had misjudged the situation when they thought Afghan government forces could hold back the Taliban.

“We want to get as many people out of the country as quickly as possible,” Maas told reporters.

He said people who had worked with German military forces in the country, human rights activists and Afghan-German dual nationals will make up the bulk of some 10,000 people Germany wants to lift out of Afghanistan.

Two gunmen killed by US forces at Kabul airport: Official

US forces protecting the airport in Kabul have killed two gunmen in separate incidents, a US official has told the Reuters news agency.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the incidents had occurred over the past 24 hours.

“Initial reports indicate armed assailants fired into the crowd,” the official said.

International community ‘misjudged’ Afghanistan situation: German minister

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has admitted NATO allies had underestimated the speed of the Taliban’s advance across Afghanistan and failed to anticipate that Afghan forces were not ready to take up the fight.

“There is no talking this up. All of us – the federal government, intelligence services, the international community – misjudged the situation,” Maas told a press conference in Berlin.

US Middle East forces chief met Taliban in Doha: Pentagon official

The head of the US Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, told Taliban officials in Doha Sunday not to attack the Kabul airport, a US defence official has said.

The official has confirmed the meeting to reporters without providing details, as thousands of US troops took control of security at Afghanistan’s main international airport to enable the evacuations of US officials.

Biden to speak on Afghanistan

US President Joe Biden who has been silent on the situation in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover of Kabul is set to return to the White House on Monday and make remarks on Afghanistan at 15:45 pm (19:45 GMT).

Biden had been scheduled to remain at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland, until Wednesday.

Russia’s UN ambassador: ‘No point in panicking’

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations has told the UN Security Council that there is “no point in panicking” as “a widespread bloodbath amongst civilians has been avoided”.

Opinion: The US, the Taliban and the stunning defeat in Afghanistan

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst writes in an opinion piece that the turn of events in Afghanistan “has been utterly shocking but hardly surprising”.

“The Taliban’s blistering takeover of the country’s main cities was breathtaking in its speed and ease, culminating in their march on the capital almost unopposed as President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

“It was expected, yes, but not so rapidly, so victoriously, so humiliatingly.”

Read more here.

Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 15, 2021 [Zabi Karimi/AP]

Evacuation flights from Kabul set to begin again: Official

Military flights taking part in the evacuation from Kabul airport are set to begin again shortly after a short pause, a US official has told Reuters.

US officials say seven killed in Kabul airport evacuation chaos

Senior US military officials say the chaos at the Kabul airport this morning has left seven people dead, including some who fell from a departing American military transport jet.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly discuss ongoing operations.

How the world reacted to Taliban takeover of Kabul

On Sunday night, more than 60 nations released a joint statement saying that those in power and authority across the country “bear responsibility — and accountability — for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order”.

The statement concludes, “The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them.”

Read here about world reactions as of Monday.

Women with their children try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan [Reuters]

World must unite to combat ‘global terrorist threat’: UN chief

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has called on the world to work together to “suppress the global terrorist threat in Afghanistan”.

“The international community must unite to make sure that Afghanistan is never again used as a platform or safe haven for terrorist organizations,” Guterres told an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan.

Afghan UN ambassador: ‘Kabul residents living in absolute fear’

Ghulam Isaczai, the outgoing Afghan government’s ambassador to the UN has said that they are “extremely concerned about the Taliban not honouring promises and commitments made in their statements at Doha and at other international forums.

“Kabul residents are reporting that the Taliban have already started house to house searches in some neighbourhoods, registering names and looking for people on their target list,” Isaczai said at the UN Security Council meeting.

“There are already reports of target killings and looting in the city. Kabul residents are living in absolute fear right now.”

Afghan UN ambassador calls for immediate cessation of violence

Ghulam Isaczai, the Afghan ambassador to the UN has called on the UN Security Council “to use every means at its disposal to call for an immediate cessation of violence and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law”.

UN chief urges Security Council to protect human rights

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on the Security Council to “use all tools at its disposal to suppress the global terrorist threat in Afghanistan” and guarantee that basic human rights will be respected.

“We are receiving chilling reports of severe restrictions on human rights throughout the country. I am particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan,” Guterres told the 15-member council.

“We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

UN chief urges countries to receive Afghan refugees

Speaking at the UN Security Council, UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged “all countries to be willing to receive Afghan refugees and refrain from any deportations”.

UN chief urges Taliban ‘to exercise utmost restraint’ to protect lives

Addressing the UN Security Council, UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged the Taliban to “exercise utmost restraint” to protect lives.

Afghans cling to moving US Air Force jet in desperate bid to flee

Extraordinary footage of Afghans clinging on to a United States Air Force plane in a desperate bid to flee the country have been described as the “defining images” of the decades-long military intervention by Western powers.

Videos shared widely on social media on Monday showed hundreds of people running alongside a US military jet as it prepared to depart Kabul airport.

One video showed several people climbing onto the plane as it progressed down the airport’s runway, some of whom appeared to be hanging off its moving front wheel.

Read more here.

Crowds have converged on Kabul airport as people seek to flee Afghanistan amid the Taliban’s resurgence in the country [Reuters]

US official: US military commander met face-to-face with Taliban

According to a US official, a US military commander met face-to-face with the Taliban to seek non-interference with Kabul airport evacuation, the Associated Press news agency has reported.

Taliban will not get access to Afghan reserves held in US: Official

The Taliban will be denied access to any Afghan reserves held in US accounts, a US administration official has told the AFP news agency.

As US forces were evacuating Kabul, the official said: “Any Central Bank assets the Afghan government have in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban.”

Saudi Arabia calls on Taliban to preserve lives, property

Saudi Arabia has called on the Taliban and “all Afghan parties” to preserve lives and property.

A statement issued by the Saudi foreign ministry on Twitter added that the kingdom “stands with the choices that the Afghan people make without any interference,” expressing hope that the situation in Afghanistan stabilises as soon as possible.

Swiss development agency workers escape on US flight

Switzerland’s last three development agency workers have been airlifted from Afghanistan on a US military plane, the foreign ministry has said, adding it is working hard to evacuate local personnel from Kabul.

The three workers left Kabul with members of staff from the German embassy and other international personnel for Doha, Qatar, arriving early on Monday morning, the foreign ministry said.

The Swiss staff, who have not been identified, were awaiting flights home.

Belgium to send four aircraft for evacuations

The Belgian Ministry of Defence has announced it is planning to send four aircraft to help with evacuations from Kabul airport.

Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder took the decision in light of the “very worrying situation in Afghanistan,” a short statement from her cabinet carried by the Belga news agency said.

Interpreters and other Afghans who worked to serve Belgian interests would have the possibility to be recognised by the European state, Belga reported, citing the same statement.

Afghan pullout is ‘biggest NATO debacle’: Merkel party chief

The withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan is the “biggest debacle” that NATO has suffered since its founding, the head of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party has said.

Christian Democratic Union chief Armin Laschet said: “It is evident that this engagement of the international community was not successful.

“It is the biggest debacle that NATO has suffered since its founding, and we’re standing before an epochal change.”

Italian diplomats, Afghans arrive in Rome

About 70 Italian diplomats and Afghans have reached Rome after being evacuated from Kabul.

The KC-767 military transport plane touched down at about 2:30pm (12:30GMT) at Rome’s Fiumicino international airport carrying some 50 diplomats and 20 Afghans who had worked with Italian forces in Afghanistan, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

India says doors open to Sikh and Hindu minorities

India will help members of Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu communities to come to India, the foreign ministry has said.

“We are in constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities. We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan,” foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.

India invested millions of dollars in development projects in Afghanistan and Bagchi said the government stood by the Afghans who had partnered in that task.

Italy committed to protecting Afghans who assisted Rome’s mission

Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said Italy is committed to protecting all Afghan citizens who had assisted Rome’s mission in the country.

In a statement, Draghi added that Rome was working with European partners to find a solution to the crisis in Afghanistan which would protect human rights, particularly those of women.

Hello, this is Mersiha Gadzo taking over the live updates form my colleague Tamila Varshalomidze. 

Planes carrying Afghan soldiers land in Tajikistan: Report

Several military airplanes carrying over 100 Afghan soldiers in total have landed at the airport in the Tajik city of Bokhtar, the Tajik foreign affairs ministry is quoted as saying.

The Tajik authorities allow the aircraft to enter the country’s airspace and land after receiving a distress signal from them, Russia’s RIA news agency quotes the ministry as saying.

Kabul near standstill on day one of the Taliban’s ‘Emirate’

The first day of what the Taliban calls the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” saw Kabul, a bustling metropolis of six million, turn into a slow, male-dominated city without police or traffic controls and with shuttered businesses everywhere.

A city that only 48 hours ago was jam-packed with cars and hundreds of people lining up outside banks, visa processing offices and travel agencies, had come to a near standstill.

Read more here.

Islamic Emirate day one [Ali M Latifi/Al Jazeera]

Afghan military jet crashes in Uzbekistan: report

An Afghan military jet has crashed after crossing the border into Uzbekistan and its pilot ejected and survived, the Uzbek defence ministry is quoted as saying.

The jet crashed late on Sunday in Uzbekistan’s southernmost Surxondaryo province adjacent to Afghanistan.

Russia’s RIA news agency cites Uzbekistan’s defence ministry as saying the pilot had ejected and was injured.

Later, the ministry said Uzbek air defenses shot the jet down as it tried to violate the border.

Read more here.

In Pictures: Kabul the day after the Taliban takeover

The Taliban is in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded power to the armed group 20 years after it was deposed in a US-led military invasion.

Here is the day of Kabul’s takeover in pictures.

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after President Ghani fled the country [Zabi Karimi/AP]

US to fly in extra forces to secure Kabul airport

The United States will spend time focused intensively on securing the Kabul airport and additional US forces will be flowing into the airport on Monday and Tuesday, the US Deputy National Security Adviser says.

Jon Finer says in an MSNBC interview that the US remains engaged in diplomatic conversations with the Taliban in Doha, and acknowledges that the situation in Afghanistan had deteriorated faster than anticipated.

Qatar doing utmost to secure safe passage of diplomats

Qatar says it is doing its utmost to help evacuate diplomats and foreign staff in international organisations seeking to leave Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, whose country has been playing a key role in trying to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan, tells a news conference in the Jordanian capital that Doha is also seeking a peaceful transition after the withdrawal of US troops.

“There is international concern about the fast pace of developments and Qatar is doing its utmost to bring a peaceful transition, especially after the vacuum that happened,” Al-Thani says.

Qatar, which has good ties with the Taliban, was also working to ensure there would be a complete ceasefire across the country and that stability prevailed, he adds.

Russia: Ghani fled with cars and helicopter full of cash

Russia’s embassy in Kabul says that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in, the RIA news agency reports.

Nikita Ishchenko, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Kabul, was quoted as saying by RIA: “Four cars were full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac.”

Ischenko confirms his comments to Reuters news agency. He cites “witnesses” as the source of his information.

Germany must evacuate 10,000 Afghans: Merkel

Germany may need to evacuate as many as 10,000 people from Afghanistan, Chancellor Angela Merkel tells party colleagues, according to party sources.

That includes 2,500 Afghan support staff as well as human rights activists, lawyers and others whom the government sees being at risk if they remain in the country after the Taliban seized Kabul.

She also says that Germany should cooperate with countries bordering Afghanistan to support those fleeing from the country now.

“This topic will keep us busy for a very long time,” she says, according to the party sources.

Women with their children try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul [Stringer/Reuters]

Does Russia have a new strategy for Afghanistan?

Nearly 40 years ago, the Friendship Bridge was unveiled with much pomp to link the USSR with its new satellite – the fledgling, socialist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

But Pyotr Gavrilenko thought the 800 metre-long steel-and-concrete construction divided two radically different worlds.

Read more here.

Iran: US ‘defeat’ in Afghanistan a chance for lasting peace

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi calls for national reconciliation in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The official IRNA news agency quotes Raisi as saying Iran will support efforts to restore stability in Afghanistan as a first priority.

He calls Iran “a brother and neighbouring nation” to Afghanistan.

He also describes the Americans’ rapid pull-out as a “military failure” that should “turn to an opportunity for restoring life, security and stable peace”.

Taliban start collecting weapons from civilians in Kabul

Taliban fighters in the Afghan capital, Kabul, start collecting weapons from civilians because people no longer need them for personal protection, a Taliban official says.

“We understand people kept weapons for personal safety. They can now feel safe. We are not here to harm innocent civilians,” the official tells Reuters news agency.

City resident Saad Mohseni, director of the MOBY group media company, says on Twitter that Taliban soldiers have come to his company compound to enquire about the weapons kept by his security team.


Kosovo, Albania to temporarily host Afghan refugees

Albania and Kosovo have accepted a US request to temporarily take in Afghan refugees seeking visas to enter the US, the country two countries say.

In Tirana, Prime Minister Edi Rama Rama says US President Joe Biden’s administration has asked fellow NATO member Albania to assess whether it could serve as a transit country for a number of Afghan refugees whose final destination is the US.

“We will not say ‘No’, not just because our great allies ask us to, but because we are Albania,” Rama says on Facebook.

In Kosovo, President Vjosa Osmani says the government had been in contact with the US authorities about housing Afghan refugees since mid-July.

“Without any hesitation and … conditioning I gave my consent to that humanitarian operation,” Osmani says on her Facebook account.

Taliban fighters stand guard along a street in Kabul [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Pakistan’s FM meets Afghan political leaders

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, is meeting with a delegation of Afghan political leaders who arrived on Sunday in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

“The Foreign Minister underlined that the region could not afford continued instability in Afghanistan which would impact negatively the objective of a peaceful and connected region,” says a Pakistani foreign ministry statement.

“He added that international community’s continued engagement in the efforts for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan would be important as it was a shared responsibility.”

The delegation includes lower house of parliament speaker Mir Rehman Rehmani, Salahuddin Rabbani, Mohammad Yunus Qanooni, Mohammad Karim Khalili, Ahmad Zia Massoud, Ahmad Wali Massoud, Abdul Latif Pedram, Khalid Noor, and Mohammad Mohaqiq, Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq says.

Stranded Afghan nationals arrive to return back to Afghanistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman [AFP]

Taliban takeover is world’s failure: UK

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan is a “failure of the international community”, Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says, assessing that the West’s intervention was a job only half-done.

“All of us know that Afghanistan is not finished. It’s an unfinished problem for the world and the world needs to help it,” he tells BBC television.

China says ready for ‘friendly relations’ with Taliban

China says it is willing to develop “friendly relations” with the Taliban after the armed group seize control of Afghanistan.

“China respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny and is willing to continue to develop … friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying tells reporters.

Taliban fighters stand guard along a roadside near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Flow of commodities to and from Pakistan disrupted

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Torkham, the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, says the Taliban has taken over the border creating a disruption in the flow of cargo traffic to Pakistan.

“This is a major logistical supply line to Afghanistan. This morning we have been seeing Afghan trucks laden with cucumber, grapes and melons being crossing into Pakistan,” he says.

“However, on the Pakistan side, the traffic that is supposed to be moving into Afghanistan, carrying meat, poultry and other commodities is stuck here because of the backlog and a border closure yesterday.”

EU coordinating with member states to evacuate local staff

The European Union is working with member states to find quick solutions for the relocation of local Afghan staff and their families to a safe place, a spokesperson says.

“The matter is extremely urgent, we take it very seriously and continue to work hard, together with EU member states, on implementing rapid solutions for them and ensure their safety,” the spokesperson for the bloc’s executive Commission tells Reuters news agency.

The Commission does not give figures for their local Afghan staff for security reasons.

Russia will evacuate some embassy staff in Afghanistan: Official

Russia will evacuate some of its Afghanistan embassy’s roughly 100 staff, Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan, tells the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

The official also says that Russia’s ambassador in Afghanistan will meet with a Taliban representative on Tuesday and discuss security for its diplomatic mission there, the Interfax news agency reports.

At least five killed at Kabul airport: Witnesses

At least five people have been killed in Kabul airport as hundreds of people tried to forcibly enter planes leaving the Afghan capital, witnesses tell Reuters news agency.

One witness says he has seen the bodies of five people being taken to a vehicle. Another witness says it is not clear whether the victims have been killed by gunshots or in a stampede.

US troops, who are in charge of the airport, earlier fired in the air to scatter the crowd, a US official says.

Read more here.

A Qatar Airways aircraft taking-off from the airport in Kabul [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Taliban regrouping to create governance structure

A Taliban leader tells Reuters news agency the Taliban fighters are regrouping from different provinces, and will wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.

The leader, who requested anonymity, says Taliban fighters had been “ordered to allow Afghans to resume daily activities and do nothing to scare civilians”.

“Normal life will continue in a much better way, that’s all I can say for now,” he tells Reuters in a message.

Nepal calls for evacuation of at least 1,500 Nepalis

Nepal’s government calls for the evacuation of an estimated 1,500 Nepalis working as security staff with embassies and with international aid groups in Afghanistan.

“We have formally written to embassies requesting them for the evacuation,” Nepal Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sewa Lamsal tells Reuters news agency in Kathmandu.

Afghans crowd at the airport as US soldiers stand guard in Kabul [Shakib Rahmani/AFP]

Lamsal says the government has also set up a panel to determine the exact number of Nepalis working in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.

“The government will make arrangements for their evacuation also,” she says.

Nepal does not have a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan but thousands of Nepali men work as security guards in diplomatic districts of the country.

UK: Taliban in control, British forces not going back

The Taliban armed group is in control of Afghanistan and British forces are not going to return to fight them, the United Kingdom’s defence minister says.

“I acknowledge that the Taliban are in control of the country,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace tells Sky News. “I mean, you don’t have to be a political scientist to spot that’s where we’re at.”

Asked if Britain and NATO would return to Afghanistan, Wallace says: “That’s not on the cards … we’re not going to go back.”

A Pakistani newspaper displaying front page news about Afghanistan [Aamir Qureshi/AFP]

Afghanistan aviation authority advises transit aircraft to reroute

Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) says that Kabul airspace have been released to the military and it advises transit aircraft to reroute, according to a notice to airmen on its website.

ACAA says any transit through Kabul airspace will be uncontrolled and it has advised the surrounding flight information regions that control airspace.

Kabul’s flight information region covers all of Afghanistan.

Commercial flights out of Kabul cancelled: official

Commercial flights from Kabul are cancelled after chaotic scenes at the airport with thousands looking for a way out after the Taliban re-took power in Afghanistan.

“There will be no commercial flights from Hamid Karzai Airport to prevent looting and plundering. Please do not rush to the airport,” the Kabul airport authority says in a message sent to reporters.

Taliban: Situation in Afghanistan ‘peaceful’, no clashes

Taliban officials say they had received no reports of any clashes from across the country a day after the armed group seized the capital, Kabul, and the US-backed government collapsed.

“The situation is peaceful, as per our reports,” one of the senior members of the Taliban tells Reuters news agency. He declines to be identified.

Afghans denounce priority evacuation of diplomats

Hundreds of Afghans invade the airport’s runways in the dark, pulling luggage and jostling for a place on one of the last commercial flights to leave before US forces take over air traffic control.

“This is our airport but we are seeing diplomats being evacuated while we wait in complete uncertainty,” Rakhshanda Jilali, a human rights activist who was trying to get to Pakistan, tells Reuters news agency in a message from the airport.

Hello, this is Tamila Varshalomidze, taking over the live updates page from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.

New Zealand to send military plane to evacuate citizens

New Zealand’s government said it was sending a C-130 Hercules military transport plane to Afghanistan to help with the evacuation of 53 of its citizens and dozens of Afghans and their immediate families who helped New Zealand troops when they were stationed there.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said they had so far identified 37 Afghans who had helped, but the number of evacuees would be in the hundreds once dependents and others were included.

Defence officials say they have planned for a month-long mission involving at least 40 military personnel tasked with servicing and protecting the plane. Ardern asked that the Taliban allow people to leave peaceably: “The whole world is watching,” she said.

Saudi Arabia meanwhile said it has completed the evacuation of all its diplomats from Kabul.

US troops fire shots in the air at Kabul airport

US forces fired in the air at Kabul’s airport to prevent hundreds of civilians running onto the tarmac, according to an official and a witness.

“The crowd was out of control,” the US official told the Reuters news agency by phone. “The firing was only done to defuse the chaos.”

A witness confirmed the development to the AFP news agency.

“I feel very scared here,” the witness said. “They are firing lots of shots in the air.”


Airlines reroute flights to avoid Afghanistan’s airspace

Large airlines including United Airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic said they were not using Afghanistan’s airspace following the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

A United spokeswoman said the change affects several of the airline’s US-to-India flights.

Flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 showed few commercial flights over Afghanistan at 03:00 GMT on Monday but many planes flying over neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.

Read more here.

Kabul streets ‘quiet’, Taliban at ‘every checkpoint’

Charlotte Bellis, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Kabul, said the Taliban was in control of the capital’s streets.

“It’s very quiet in Kabul, surprisingly,” she said from the Afghan capital.

“The Taliban say they sent in 1,000 of their special forces units overnight. They are now in control of every checkpoint and have set up additional checkpoints. I saw dozens of Taliban fighters with guns over their shoulders in police vehicles, in Afghan government vehicles patrolling the streets.”

She added: “There’s not that many people on the streets and it seems as if life can function as normal.”

Taliban fighters ride on a vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021 [Stringer/ Reuters]

Taliban says situation in Kabul is ‘normal’

A spokesman for the Taliban said “the situation in Kabul is normal” and that its fighters “are busy providing security”.

In a Twitter post, Zabihullah Mujahid also said the Taliban has deployed special units to different parts of Kabul and that the “general public is happy with the arrival of the Mujahideen and satisfied with the security”.

In an earlier tweet, Mujahid had said the Taliban have assured all embassies that foreign nationals in Kabul will not face any danger.

Emirates suspends flights to Kabul

Emirates has suspended flights to the Afghan capital until further the notice, the airline said on its website.

“Customers holding tickets with final destination to Kabul will not be accepted for travel at their point of origin,” it said.

A member of Taliban stands guard as people walk at the entrance gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021 [Stringer/ Reuters]

US completes evacuation of Kabul embassy

A spokesman for the US Department of State said the evacuation of US staff from its embassy in Kabul is now complete.

“We can confirm that the safe evacuation of all Embassy personnel is now complete. All Embassy personnel are located on the premises of Hamid Karzai International Airport, whose perimeter is secured by the US Military,” Ned Price wrote in a statement.

A US Chinook helicopter flies over Kabul [Rahmat Gul/ AP]

A US official meanwhile told the Reuters news agency that most Western diplomats have now left Kabul, but some support staff remain in the city.

“I can safely say the majority of Western diplomatic staff is out of Kabul now,” the unnamed official said.

Helicopters have been ferrying diplomats from the embassy district in the city to Kabul airport since Sunday, when the Taliban entered the city.

44,000 Afghans outside of Kabul need evacuation: US army vet

Matt Zeller, a US veteran of the Afghan war, said about 44,000 Afghans who helped Washington during the 20-year conflict are outside of Kabul and require urgent evacuation.

“This is a disaster of epic proportions,” he said, warning that Afghans who helped the US military may now be “hunted down and systematically murdered by the Taliban”.

Zeller, who co-founded No One Left Behind, a charity that helps Afghans settle in the US, said President Joe Biden must order US troops to secure the Kabul airport.

“We then must open up a secure corridor so that we can begin evacuating our Afghan and wartime allies out of Afghanistan, not just from Kabul, but from every city where they reside,” he said.

“There are 44,000 people who are outside of Kabul and in other cities. The reports from them are horrific. There are public executions in Kandahar in the stadium,” Zeller said.

“Women have been told they cannot leave their homes in Herat and the Taliban are going door to door in Mazar-i-Sharif looking for anyone who worked with the US military. This is a report we are hearing in other cities, including in Kabul.”

Australia PM ‘devastated’ by situation in Afghanistan

Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, said he’s “devastated” about developments in Afghanistan and said the cabinet’s national security committee will meet on Monday to review Australian operations out of Kabul.

Morrison said his government has already resettled 430 Afghans and their families who worked for Australia, and was planning to airlift those remaining there.

He described the situation in Afghanistan, particularly for women and girls, as “terrible”.

“Absolutely devastated about it. It’s a terrible, it’s a terrible situation,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp in Canberra.

Australia shut its Kabul embassy in May and withdrew the last of its troops in June as US and NATO forces pulled out of the Afghanistan conflict after 20 years.

Over 60 countries urge safe departure of Afghans and foreigners

Dozens of countries from around the world are calling on all involved in events in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate the departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country.

More than 60 nations released a joint statement on Sunday night citing what they call “the deteriorating security situation” in Afghanistan.

The statement says that those in power and authority across the country “bear responsibility – and accountability – for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order.”

It added: “Afghans and international citizens who wish to depart must be allowed to do so; roads, airports and border crossing must remain open, and calm must be maintained.

“The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity.  We in the international community stand ready to assist them.”

Taliban says ‘war is over in Afghanistan’

A spokesman for Taliban’s political office declared the war over in Afghanistan and called for peaceful relations with the international community.

“Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years,” Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera.

“Thanks to God, the war is over in the country.”

Naeem said the type and form of the new government in Afghanistan would be made clear soon, adding the Taliban did not want to live in isolation and calling for peaceful international relations.

“We have reached what we were seeking, which is the freedom of our country and the independence of our people,” he said. “We will not allow anyone to use our lands to target anyone, and we do not want to harm others.”

US to secure Kabul airport for departures

The Pentagon and the US Department of State said they are taking steps to secure Kabul’s international airport to enable the safe departure of thousands of US and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights.

In a joint statement on Sunday night, the agencies said the US security presence will have expanded to nearly 6,000 troops over the next two days, with a “mission focused solely on facilitating” the departures. They will also take during air traffic control.

“Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the US mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals,” the statement said.

“And we will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for US Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks.”

‘It’s shameful’: Ex-adviser slams president’s departure

Shafiq Hamdam, a former adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, slammed Ghani’s decision to flee Afghanistan on Sunday amid the Taliban’s rapid advance on Kabul.

“It’s shameful. It’s embarrassing. People feel abandoned, people feel betrayed,” Hamdam told Al Jazeera from Washington, DC.

“After so many years of effort and so many years of investment, he has put a black dark mark in the history of democracy in Afghanistan. He himself escaped with his team and he didn’t have a second thought about the millions of people who live in misery, who live in uncertainty, and who are now left behind, living under Taliban regime.”

Hamdam said the Taliban need to prove they will protect women.

“From tomorrow on, we have to see women going to schools, we have to see women civil servants and teachers, like my mother going to school and teaching. That’s what I want and that’s what the world wants. And that’s a test for the Taliban. To prove if they have changed or not.”

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

For all the key developments from yesterday, August 15, go here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies