Biden still ‘hopes’ to complete Afghan evacuations by August 31

US President Joe Biden says any American in Afghanistan who wants to come back home will be able to.

US President Joe Biden said evacuating Americans from Kabul is the 'first priority' of his administration [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

US President Joe Biden said Sunday he was still planning to finalise the dramatic evacuation from Afghanistan by August 31, but left the door open to extending the deadline if necessary.

In a televised address from the White House on the chaotic exit, Biden said his “hope is we will not have to extend.”

The Pentagon has said that it is formally seeking airlift help from commercial airlines to relocate evacuees from Afghanistan once they have gotten out of their country.

The British military on Sunday acknowledged at least seven deaths at the airport the previous day.

Meanwhile, the Taliban said on Sunday that “hundreds” of its fighters were heading to the Panjshir Valley, one of the few parts of Afghanistan not yet controlled by the group.

Ahmad Massoud, whose forces control the last major anti-Taliban holdout, told Reuters news agency that while he hoped to hold talks with the group, his forces were ready to fight if the Taliban tried to take over Panjshir Valley.

Here were the updates on Sunday:

Biden says still hoping for Afghan airlift to end by August 31

US President Joe Biden said he was still planning to finalise the dramatic evacuation from Afghanistan by August 31, but left the door open to extending the deadline if necessary.

In a televised address from the White House on the chaotic exit, Biden said his “hope is we will not have to extend.”

But he added that “we’ll see what we can do” if he is asked by foreign leaders to push back the deadline.

Biden says first priority is to get Americans out

US President Joe Biden has said evacuating Americans from Kabul is the “first priority” of his administration.

Under my direction, the state department continues to reach to remaining Americans … to ascertain their whereabouts and their plans,” he said in remarks made from the White House.

“We’re working hard and as fast as we can to get people out. That’s our mission. That’s our goal.”

Biden added that the US was also evacuating citizens of NATO allies and Afghan allies. Since August 14, more than 28,000 people had been evacuated.

US President Joe Biden said any American who wants to come back home will be able to [Ken Cedeno/Reuters]

Kuwait approves the passage of 5,000 evacuated Afghans to the US

Kuwait has approved the passage of 5,000 Afghans who will be evacuated to the United States, the Gulf country’s foreign ministry said.

Last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the subject of relocating Afghan interpreters came up during meetings he held in Kuwait.

Inside Story: Who stands to benefit from the US exit from Afghanistan?

For years, the US military presence in Afghanistan gave it an advantage over rivals in the region.

It also allowed civil and military contractors to make millions of dollars. And the long war opened a window for mineral exploration, estimated to be worth billions.

Now, Moscow and Beijing do not seem alarmed by the Taliban’s takeover and they have already shown interest in supporting the future of Afghanistan.

So, what does this mean for the region?

Taliban spokesman says al-Qaeda not present in Afghanistan: Saudi media

Taliban political office spokesman Mohammed Naeem said in an interview with Saudi-owned Al Hadath TV that al-Qaeda is not present in Afghanistan and that the movement has no relationship with them.

He added that talks are ongoing with the United States and other countries regarding the situation in Afghanistan.

‘All Afghans’ should feel safe under Taliban, says security chief

Khalil Ur-Rahman Haqqani, a leading Taliban figure currently in charge of security for Kabul, has echoed the group’s claims that “all Afghans” should feel safe under their Islamic Emirate, and that a “general amnesty” has been granted across the nation’s 34 provinces.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday, Haqqani, whose associates are also taking a leading role in establishing security in the capital, said the Taliban is working to restore order and safety to a nation that has seen more than four decades of war.

But many Afghans are sceptical that a leader of the Haqqani Network, known to be the most brutal and violent group associated with the Taliban, will bring security to Afghanistan – especially as reports of house-to-house searches and violence allegedly committed by the Taliban continue to pour in, including in Kabul.

Read more here.

UN agencies call for ‘humanitarian airbridge’

The World Health Organization and UNICEF are calling for a “humanitarian airbridge” to be set up immediately to allow the unhindered delivery of medicines and other aid supplies to Afghanistan.

The two UN agencies said in a statement on Sunday that they are “committed to stay and deliver for the people of Afghanistan”.

But they added that “with no commercial aircraft currently permitted to land in Kabul, we have no way to get supplies into the country and to those in need”. They noted that other humanitarian agencies face similar problems.

Turkey can’t bear Afghan refugee burden for EU: Erdogan

Turkey cannot bail out the EU by taking in Afghans who worked for Western countries in Afghanistan as the Taliban take power there, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

“We have received a request to welcome local employees of a European Union mission in Afghanistan,” a Turkish government statement quoted Erdogan as saying to European Council President Charles Michel in a telephone call.

“The member states only open their doors to a tiny portion of the people who served them and who are in difficulty,” he said.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has urged all countries, especially European countries, to take in some Afghan refugees [File: EPA]

Taliban blame US for airport chaos as Afghans face ‘impossible’ race to flee

The Taliban blamed the United States for the chaotic evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans and foreigners from Kabul, one week after the group returned to power in a rapid victory that stunned the world.

The US has warned of security threats and the European Union admitted it was “impossible” to evacuate everyone at risk from the Taliban.

“America, with all its power and facilities … has failed to bring order to the airport. There is peace and calm all over the country, but there is chaos only at Kabul airport,” Taliban official Amir Khan Mutaqi said.

Taliban says ‘hundreds’ of fighters heading for holdout valley

The Taliban said on Sunday that “hundreds” of its fighters were heading to the Panjshir Valley, one of the few parts of Afghanistan not yet controlled by the group.

“Hundreds of Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate are heading towards the state of Panjshir to control it, after local state officials refused to hand it over peacefully,” the group wrote on its Arabic Twitter account.

Anti-Taliban leader Massoud says negotiation ‘only way forward’

Ahmad Massoud, leader of Afghanistan’s last major outpost of anti-Taliban resistance, said he hoped to hold peaceful talks with the group that seized power in Kabul a week ago but that his forces were ready to fight.

“We want to make the Taliban realise that the only way forward is through negotiation,” he told Reuters news agency by telephone from his stronghold in the mountainous Panjshir Valley northwest of Kabul, where he has gathered remnants of regular army units and special forces as well as local militia units.

“We do not want a war to break out.”

Ahmad Massoud, son of Afghanistan’s slain anti-Soviet resistance hero Ahmad Shah Massoud [File: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

Taliban not rushing to form government ‘a positive thing’: Analyst

Political and security analyst Fahim Sadat believes the Taliban not rushing to announce a new government was a “positive thing”, as they continue to hold consultations with various local politicians and groups in the country.

“I’m saying this because this means the Taliban know the situation and as well as the importance of a broad-based, inclusive government that will not only add to their legitimacy inside [the country], but also to their legitimacy and political mission outside,” he told Al Jazeera.

A Taliban delegation led by the head of the negotiating team Anas Haqqani, centre right, meeting with former Afghan government officials including former president Hamid Karzai, centre left [Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan/AFP]

Britain says has evacuated 5,000 people so far

Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan says British authorities have managed to evacuate more than 5,000 people, with 1,000 in the last 14 hours alone.

In a statement on Twitter, Laurie Bristow said the “huge effort” to move evacuees out of Afghanistan is “gathering pace” but that there is still “a huge amount of work to do”.

Bristow said he is in the evacuation handling centre in Kabul where soldiers, diplomats and forces have been “working around the clock to get our British nationals, Afghan colleagues and embassy staff to safety”.

In addition to the 4,000 or so UK nationals, there are thought to be around 5,000 Afghan allies, such as translators and drivers, who are earmarked for a seat on a British plane.

A US Air Force security forces raven, assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, maintains a security cordon around a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of Operation Allies Refuge at Hamid Karzai International Airport [Taylor Crul/US air force/AFP]

French academic says she had to bribe Taliban to escape house arrest

Victoria Fontan, professor of peace studies at the American University of Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera about her experiences of escaping from Kabul.

“On Tuesday morning we were put under house arrest by the local Taliban commander, who threatened to arrest us if we were to leave the compound where we were. So it took us two days to negotiate our exit – there were large sums of money exchanged and also a large amount of equipment left behind in order for us to leave for the airport,” she said.

Fontan, speaking from Paris, was able to to leave Kabul on Friday morning and said she has since received a lot of information from staff and students that remain in Kabul who are worried about searches by the Taliban taking place in their neighbourhoods.

“There have not been any direct threats, but there have been house searches being carried out to figure out who is working for whom and who had links with coalition forces,” she said.

“And then people are placed on a list and they are afraid that when the eyes of the international community are elsewhere, there is going to be the beginning of a massive wave of repercussions against those people.”

Committee to address media concerns in Kabul: Taliban spokesman

A committee will be setup in Kabul to address concerns of the media in the Afghanistan capital, a Taliban spokesman said on social media.,

“A three-members committee has been set up in Kabul to reassure media. A member of the Cultural Commission, a member of the Union of Journalists and media outlets and a member of the Kabul Police Department will participate as members,” Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, who is also a member of the group’s negotiating team posted on Twitter.

OIC it will seek to help achieve peace in Afghanistan

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) pledged on Sunday to help achieve peace in Afghanistan.

The organisation urged “the future Afghan leadership” and the international community to work together to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used as a platform or safe haven for “terrorists”.

“Terrorist organisations are not allowed to have a foothold (in Afghanistan),” said a final communique, issued after the Saudi Arabia-based organisation held a special meeting called by Riyadh to discuss the situation in the war-torn country.

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan [Rahmat Gul/AP Photo]

Putin criticises placing Afghans in Central Asia

Russia’s president has criticised Western nations for seeking to temporarily house Afghan refugees in Central Asian countries, citing security concerns for Russia.

Speaking at a meeting with top officials of the Kremlin’s United Russia party on Sunday, Vladimir Putin blasted what he described as a “humiliating approach” by Western states.

The Russian president noted that there are no visa restrictions between Russia and its Central Asian allies, and said that Moscow doesn’t “want militants appearing (in Russia) again under the guise of refugees”.

“We don’t want to repeat, even in part, something what we had in the 90s and in the mid-2000s, when there were hostilities in the North Caucasus,” Putin said.

Afghanistan’s Massoud refuses to surrender to Taliban and warns of war: Al-Arabiya

The son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was one of the main leaders of Afghanistan’s anti-Soviet resistance in the 1980s, said he will not surrender areas under his control to the Taliban, Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV channel cited him as saying.

Ahmad Massoud called on the formation of a comprehensive government to rule the country with the participation of the Taliban, warning that war will be “unavoidable” if the group refuses dialogue, the TV channel said.

Italy flies more than 200 from Kabul amid evacuation operation

Italy flew 211 Afghans out of Kabul, bringing the number of Afghan workers and their families who have been safely evacuated from Afghanistan by Italian missions to around 2,100, according to the Defence Ministry.

Of those, 1,100 have been brought to Italy.

Italy launched Operation Aquila Omnia in June, and has deployed 1,500 servicemen and women to operate an airbridge from Kabul to Kuwait, aboard four C130J aircraft, and to ferry evacuees to safety in Italy aboard four KC767s.

UK calls G7 meeting on Tuesday to discuss Afghan crisis

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had called a G7 leaders’ meeting on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan and urged the international community to find ways to prevent it from escalating.

“It is vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years,” Johnson said on Twitter.

The United Kingdom currently holds the rotating leadership of the G7, which also includes the United States, Italy, France, Germany, Japan and Canada.

Infographic: How many people evacuated from Afghanistan so far?

Thousands of people have tried to flee Afghanistan, with many crushed to death, as Afghans fear reprisals and a return to a strict rule under the Taliban.

Crowds have grown at the airport in the heat and dust over the past week, hindering operations as the United States and other nations attempt to evacuate thousands of their diplomats and civilians as well as numerous Afghans who worked for them.

According to official statements and local reports, at least 28,000 people have been evacuated so far.

Read more here.

Biden administration to use commercial airlines to carry Afghan evacuees

US President Joe Biden’s administration said that commercial aircraft would be used to help ferry people who have been evacuated from Afghanistan.

A Pentagon spokesman said the 18 aircraft, including from United, American Airlines, and Delta, would not fly into Kabul but would be used to transport people who have already been flown out of Afghanistan.

This is the third time such a move has been made under the “Civil Reserve Air fleet”.

Afghanistan shows ‘limitations’ of US military, experts say

The United States’ longest war is coming to an unceremonious end.

US troops are leaving Kabul with the Taliban once again in charge of the capital of Afghanistan, which American soldiers captured nearly 20 years ago.

The rapid collapse of the Afghan government after 20 years of US support shows the limits of Washington’s military power, several experts have said, boosting arguments against US foreign interventions and “endless wars”.

Read more here.

Majority of Germans in favour of granting Afghans protection

Nearly two-thirds of Germans are in favour of granting protection in Germany to people from Afghanistan who are under threat from the Taliban, a survey by the opinion research institute YouGov has found.

The online survey commissioned by the aid organization Seebruecke found that 63 per cent supported the German government helping vulnerable people in Afghanistan, such as women and those facing political persecution.

Sixty-four per cent of respondents also opposed deportations of persecuted or endangered persons to Afghanistan. However, such deportations would not be legally permitted anyway.

According to the government, the most recent deportations were of male criminals or terrorists; however, deportations to Afghanistan have been suspended altogether.

And 84 per cent believe those remaining in Afghanistan will face persecution due to their political views, gender, sexual orientation or religious affiliation following the takeover by the Islamist Taliban.

According to YouGov, the 1,048 respondents to the poll, which was taken on Thursday and Friday, were representative of the German adult population.

At least 20 deaths in last week during Kabul airport evacuation effort: NATO official

At least 20 people have died in the past seven days in and around the Kabul airport during the evacuation effort after the Taliban’s takeover of the capital.

“The crisis outside the Kabul airport is unfortunate. Our focus is to evacuate all foreigners as soon as we can,” the official, who sought anonymity, told Reuters news agency.

Crowds have grown at the airport every day over the past week, hindering operations as the United States and other nations attempt to evacuate thousands of their diplomats and civilians as well as numerous Afghans.

“Our forces are maintaining strict distance from outer areas of the Kabul airport to prevent any clashes with the Taliban,” the NATO official added.

Taliban leader Abdul Qahar Balkhi speaks about group’s future

Abdul Qahar Balkhi from the Taliban’s Cultural Commission has spoken to Al Jazeera in the group’s first official interview since the armed group took over Kabul a week ago.

Balkhi revealed his face for the first time on Tuesday at the Taliban’s first press conference, during which he translated for spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. He remains without an official title, as his role is one of many still to be decided in the new government.

The Taliban leader said the group wants to move forward and hopes stakeholders – both domestic and international – can cooperate on common interests.

Click here for the full interview.

Taliban retakes Afghanistan, but 6 challenges face the group

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan last week, 20 years after it was removed from power in a US-led military invasion.

Winning that war might just turn out to be the easy part, as maintaining peace and governing the conflict-wracked and impoverished country will be a tough nut to crack, analysts and Afghan officials say.

Al Jazeera takes a look at six challenges facing the armed group as it prepares to rule the country of 38 million for the second time since 2001.

Afghan security forces either surrendered (after mediation from local tribal elders) or withdrew, giving the Taliban fighters a walkover in some northern and western provinces [File: Rahmat Gul/AP]

Europe fears Afghan refugee crisis after Taliban takeover

Haunted by a 2015 migration crisis fuelled by the Syrian war, European leaders desperately want to avoid another large-scale influx of refugees and migrants from Afghanistan.

Except for those who helped Western forces in the country’s two-decade war, the message to Afghans considering fleeing to Europe is: If you must leave, go to neighbouring countries, but don’t come here.

“It must be our goal to keep the majority of the people in the region,” Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said last week, echoing what many European leaders say.

Read more here.

Ex-UK PM Blair slams American ‘abandonment’ of Afghanistan

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who in 2001 took Britain into war in Afghanistan alongside the United States, condemned the “abandonment” of the country as “dangerous” and “unnecessary”.

In his first public comments on the crisis since the Afghan government collapsed last weekend, Blair criticised the US motives for the withdrawal as “imbecilic” and “driven not by grand strategy but by politics”.

“The abandonment of Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests and not in ours,” Blair wrote in a wide-ranging article published on his institute’s website.

Read more here.

Taliban official says provincial meetings aim to ensure safety, security

Taliban commanders are set to meet former governors and bureaucrats in more than 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces over the next few days to ensure their safety and seek cooperation, an official with the group said.

“We are not forcing any former government official to join or prove their allegiance to us, they have a right to leave the country if they would like,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters news agency.

The official said the group was seeking “complete clarity on foreign forces’” exit plan. “Managing chaos outside Kabul airport is a complex task.”

The British government wants evacuation flights to continue past August 31 deadline

The British government is pushing for evacuation missions from Afghanistan to continue past an August 31 deadline.

“Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer and they will have our complete support if they do,”wrote Defence Minister Ben Wallace in a guest article for The Mail.

US President Joe Biden has maintained a goal of having all US citizens evacuated out of Afghanistan by August 31 and so far has refused to commit to an extension.

“I have said all along that no nation will be able to get everyone out,” added Wallace. “If the US timetable remains, we have no time to lose to get the majority of the people waiting out,” he wrote.

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in Kabul [Rahmat Gul/AP]

World Food Programme warns of a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan

The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that a “humanitarian catastrophe” is looming in Afghanistan.

The programme’s Afghanistan director, Mary-Ellen McGroarty, called for close coordination within the international community in light of the rapidly evolving situation.

“Otherwise, an already horrendous situation is just going to become an absolute catastrophe, a complete humanitarian disaster,” the UN representative told the British Sunday newspaper The Observer. “We have to get food in now and get it to the communities in the provinces, before roads are blocked by snow,” warned McGroarty.

The WFP estimates that of the approximately 38 million people in Afghanistan today, 14 million already do not have enough to eat.

Pakistan’s national carrier suspends flights to Afghanistan

Abdullah Hafeez Khan, the spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines said the airline has suspended flights from Kabul and is not evacuating anyone at the moment.

Hafeez Khan said that the airline has no on-ground arrangements and lacks appropriate facilities at Kabul international airport to operate evacuation flights.

He said the suspension is temporary and the airline will resume its operations once the required arrangements are made there.

Afghans need to accept Taliban rule, says Hashmat Ghani

Hashmat Ghani, brother of Afghanistan’s deposed President Ashraf Ghani, says he has accepted the Taliban’s takeover of the country but has called for the formation of an inclusive government.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from his west Kabul home on Saturday, Ghani said acknowledging the new order in Kabul was a necessity “for the people of Afghanistan” at a time when foreign forces are only days away from their final withdrawal.

Ghani, a businessman and grand chieftain of Afghanistan’s nomadic Kochi population, has been meeting Taliban leaders for the past several days. He said he agreed to recognise the transition of power as a signal to influential political and cultural figures, as well as businesspeople.

Read more here.

US, Spain agree use of military bases in Spain for Afghan refugees

US President Joe Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez agreed two military bases in southern Spain can be used to receive Afghans who have worked for the US government, the Spanish government said in a statement.

“Pedro Sanchez and Joe Biden agreed the use of the bases of Moron and Rota to host Afghans who worked with the US while in transit to other countries,” the statement read.

Sanchez tweeted on Saturday: “I have just had a meaningful conversation with President Joe Biden in which we have addressed several topics of common interest, particularly the situation inn Afghanistan and the collaboration between our governments in the evacuation of citizens from that country.”

British military: 7 Afghans killed in chaos around Kabul airport

Seven Afghan civilians have been killed in the chaos around Kabul’s international airport, the British military said.

“Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

Afghans face ‘impossible’ race against time to flee Kabul

Tens of thousands of Afghans are racing to flee their country as the US warns of security threats at Kabul airport and the EU says it is “impossible” to evacuate everyone at risk from the Taliban.

Terrified Afghans are still trying to flee, deepening a tragedy at Kabul airport where the US and its allies have been unable to cope with the huge numbers of people trying to get on evacuation flights.

“They were showing us their passports and shouting: ‘Take us with you… please take us with you’,” an AFP journalist said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies