US, allies warn of ‘high terror threat’ at Kabul airport

US, UK, Australia warn their citizens against going to the Kabul airport, cite ‘high threat’ of a ‘terrorist’ attack.

The United States has urged crowds trying to access Kabul airport to leave the area, as the British and Australian governments warned of a “high threat” of a “terrorist” attack.

The warnings late on Wednesday and on Thursday came as Western troops hurried to evacuate as many foreign nationals and Afghans as possible before a withdrawal deadline on August 31.

“Those at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” the US State Department said in an alert, citing “security threats”.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs also cited an “ongoing and very high threat of terrorist attack” and told people not to travel to the airport.

The British foreign office gave similar advice, saying: “If you can leave Afghanistan safely by other means, you should do so immediately”.

“There is an ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack”, the statement added.

Meanwhile, US Army Major General William Taylor told a news briefing that there were more than 10,000 people at the Kabul airport waiting to be evacuated from Afghanistan.

The Pentagon claimed it evacuated some 19,000 people in the past 24 hours. More than 80,000 people, foreigners and Afghans, have been evacuated since August 14, the day before the Taliban swept into Kabul.

This blog is now closed. Below are the updates from August 26, as they happened:

Area around Kabul airport ‘incredibly crowded’, says diplomat

A Western diplomat told Reuters news agency that huge crowds continued to throng the gates of Kabul airport despite warnings of possible attacks by the ISKP.

The diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said evacuation flights will pick up on Thursday after slowing down on Wednesday.

Blinken says 1,500 American citizens still in Afghanistan

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there are still about 1,500 US citizens left in Afghanistan, and that the government is working to either contact them or has already given them instructions on how to get to Kabul airport.

“Over the past 24 hours, we’ve been in direct contact with approximately 500 additional Americans and provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely,” he said on Wednesday.

“For the remaining roughly 1000 contacts that we had, who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we’re aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day, through multiple channels of communication.”

So far, Washington has evacuated 4,500 US citizens and their families as President Joe Biden’s deadline of August 31 to withdraw US troops is fast approaching.

Taliban ‘continues to provide security’ outside Kabul airport

Taliban guards continue to protect civilians outside Kabul airport, an official from the group told Reuters, adding that Western forces must stick to a deadline of completing evacuations from Afghanistan by the end of the month.

“Our guards are also risking their lives at Kabul airport, they face a threat too from the Islamic State group,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

California students and families stranded in Afghanistan

Several dozen schoolchildren and adult relatives, all Afghan refugees newly resettled in California, ended up stranded in Afghanistan after travelling back to their homeland over the summer to visit loved ones, according to a Reuters news agency report.

Six families consisting of about 16 adults and 24 students from the Cajon Valley Union School District in San Diego were among thousands clamouring to leave Afghanistan amid the Taliban takeover as US troops began pulling out, school officials told Reuters.

Michael Serban, head of the district’s Family & Community Engagement (FACE) programme for immigrant students, said one of the six stranded families – comprising four students, a 2-year-old child and two adults – had since made it out and returned safely to California.

The fate of the five other families was not immediately known, he said.

More than 80,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since August 14, but huge crowds remain outside Kabul airport hoping to flee the threat of reprisals and repression from the Taliban [Donald Allen/US Air Force via AFP]

Australia urges people to leave Kabul airport area over ‘terror’ threat

Marise Payne, the Australian foreign minister, said there was a high threat of  terrorist attack near the airport in Kabul and urged Australian citizens and those with a visa for Australia to leave the area.

“There is an ongoing and very high threat of a terrorist attack,” Payne said in Canberra.

The warning heightens the risk that scores of Afghans holding visas for Australia could be left behind as Canberra readies to end its evacuation programme.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has previously said Australia will unlikely be able to evacuate everyone, declined to comment on whether Australia would continue flights up to the August 31 deadline the Taliban insists must be adhered to.

South Korea evacuates Afghan staff, family members

A South Korean military plane headed back to Seoul, carrying Afghans evacuated from the war-torn nation, as part of an operation to bring a total of 391 Afghan staff and their family members.

According to Yonhap news agency, the KC-330 transport aircraft took off from an airport in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad early on Thursday, and is expected to land at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul on Thursday afternoon.

“All but 13 have departed on a KC330,” a foreign ministry official told Yonhap on condition of anonymity, suggesting that 378 Afghans are on the plane. “They were unable to board the plane due to a lack of seats.”

The 13 remain in Islamabad and will be transported to South Korea on a separate plane, the official said.

Of the total, nearly half, or some 180, are under the age of 10, including 100 infants, a defence ministry official told Yonhap, adding that the evacuees are comprised of 76 families.

US military ‘unable to rescue stranded Americans outside Kabul’

John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said the US military does not have the capability to rescue stranded Americans and Afghans who want to leave the country but are unable to get to Kabul.

“I don’t want to set the expectation that we’re going to be able to fly all over the country to pick-up people,” Kirby told reporters.

The Pentagon has confirmed the US military used helicopters to airlift people into the airport on three occasions and said the US government is receiving calls for help from others.

Among them are a group of 40 Afghans from San Diego, California, who have been unable to reach Kabul, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper.

“There’s a limit to the capability we have here,” Kirby said. “But when we can help, and if we need rotary-wing aircraft to help, we’ll do it.”

Turkish military begins evacuations

Turkey’s military began evacuations from Afghanistan, the defence ministry said, after the Taliban asked Ankara for technical help to run Kabul airport, but insisted it withdraw its military by the end of August.

The Reuters news agency reported that the Taliban wants Ankara to withdraw its military fully by the end-August deadline, even though President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government had said for months it could keep a presence at Kabul airport if requested after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.

Read more here.

Belgium ends evacuation flights

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

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

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

People disembark from a Belgian military plane, after being evacuated from Afghanistan, as it arrives at Melsbroek Military Airport in Melsbroek, Belgium, Wednesday, August 25, 2021 [Olivier Matthys/AP Photo]

White House ‘not aware of US legislators’s visit to Kabul’

The White House was not aware of two US congress members’ visit to Kabul before their departure, press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Representatives Seth Moulton, a Democrat, and Peter Meijer, a Republican, had used charter planes designated for evacuees to fly in and out of Kabul.

“Our guidance continues to be to all American citizens, including elected officials: This is not the time to travel to Afghanistan,” Psaki said.

Erdogan says Taliban’s actions, not words will determine Afghanistan future

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the Taliban’s actions and not words will determine the future Afghanistan process.

Addressing ambassadors at a ceremony marking the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Malazgirt, which marks the beginning of the first Turkish settlements in Anatolia, Erdogan said the Turkish government approaches the messages from Taliban leaders with cautious optimism for now.

Underlining the importance of attaining stability in Afghanistan, Erdogan said Ankara continues to be in “close dialogue” with all parties in the country with this purpose.

Blinken says regional countries engaged in ‘active effort’ to keep airport open

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there is an “active effort” by regional countries to play a role in keeping the airport in Kabul open after the departure of US troops, set for August 31.

“That’s happening very actively right now,” he told reporters, without identifying the countries involved in the effort. He said the US and the international community have a “strong interest” in ensuring a functioning airport in Afghanistan “primarily for the purpose of making sure that anyone who wants to leave can leave”.

The Taliban has also indicated that it wants to keep the airport open, Blinken added.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about Afghanistan during a media briefing at the State Department, Wednesday, August 25, 2021, in Washington [Alex Brandon/Pool/AP Photo]


Blinken says most US citizens looking to leave have been evacuated

The US has evacuated at least 4,500 American citizens from Afghanistan since August 14 – the majority of Americans looking to leave the country, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Blinken said the Department of State originally assessed that 6,000 US citizens were seeking to evacuate the country, but the number could be “significantly lower”.

“We’ve been in direct contact with approximately 500 additional Americans and provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely,” Blinken told reporters.

As for the remaining 1,000, the top US diplomat said the State Department is “aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day” to give them instructions to reach the airport.

Italy evacuates 1,000 Afghans in 24 hours

Italian military planes have transported nearly 1,000 Afghans out of Kabul in the last 24 hours, bringing to 4,400 the number of Afghan nationals who worked with Italian institutions and charities flown to safety, according to Italy’s defence ministry.

A total of 3,959 Afghans have been flown onward to Rome during the air bridge, comprised of 63 flights since June, it said.

An Afghan girl waits after arriving at Fiumicino airport in Rome, Italy [File: Italian Ministry of Defence/Handout via Reuters]

Turkey begins evacuating troops

Turkey has started evacuating its troops from Afghanistan, the Turkish Ministry of National Defence said.

“Turkish Armed Forces is returning to our homeland with the pride of successfully fulfilling the task entrusted to them,” the ministry said in a statement.

Since 2002, the Turkish Armed Forces have operated in Afghanistan under UN, NATO, and bilateral agreements to contribute to the peace, welfare, and stability of the Afghan people, the statement said.

Russia’s Putin, Pakistan’s Khan discuss Afghan conflict

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke on the telephone and discussed the way forward in Afghanistan, according to a statement from the Pakistani leader’s officer.

“The Prime Minister [Imran Khan] stressed that a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan was vitally important for Pakistan and regional stability,” the statement said.

“Besides ensuring safety, security and protection of rights of Afghans, an inclusive political settlement was the best way forward. The Prime Minister underscored that the international community must stay positively engaged in support of the people of Afghanistan, to help address humanitarian needs and ensure economic sustenance.”

Putin’s office did not immediately release a statement following the talks. The conversation comes after Putin held “an in-depth discussion” with Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier.

Afghan people wait at the Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan to go to Pakistan after the Taliban’s takeover on August 24, 2021, in Torkham, Pakistan [Muhammed Semih Ugurlu/Anadolu Agency]

Afghans who worked with Lithuania arrive in Vilnius

Two planes carrying Afghan interpreters who earlier worked with Lithuanian forces in Afghanistan and their families touched down in Lithuania.

A total of 170 people have been evacuated to the Baltic country from Kabul through Warsaw, in Poland.

In Norway, two planes from Afghanistan with a total of 278 passengers landed in Oslo, the Norwegian news agency NTB reported.

US forces are communicating evacuee credentials to Taliban checkpoints

US military commanders in Kabul are communicating regularly with Taliban authorities about the specific credentials people need to get into the airport to leave the city, Pentagon officials said.

“We’ve been very clear with Taliban leaders about what credentials we want them to accept. It’s American citizens, SIV applicants and vulnerable Afghans,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, referencing the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programme for Afghans who worked for the US.

“We have shared what the proper credentials are and by and large – not saying it’s been perfect – but by and large, the people that we have made clear to the Taliban we want to have access through the checkpoints, have been able to get through,” he said.

There have been reports of people with credentials being blocked from the airport, and the Pentagon has acknowledged sending helicopters on three occasions to extract people from the city.

Germany says Taliban agrees to let Afghans leave after August 31

Germany said it has received assurance from a Taliban negotiator that Afghans who have the right documents will still be allowed to leave Afghanistan after the US withdrawal deadline on August 31.

Germany’s envoy Markus Potzel said on Twitter that he had met with Taliban deputy chief negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who “assured me that Afghans with legal documents will continue to have the opportunity to travel on commercial flights after August 31”.

Berlin has said that the current military operation carried out by NATO allies to evacuate Afghans in need of protection cannot continue once the Americans pull out.

US military developing ‘options’ for extending Kabul timeline

The US military is continuing to prepare for a full withdrawal of US forces from the airport in Kabul by August 31, but is developing “options” to remain longer if necessary, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

“One of our main jobs is to make sure that the president has options, and as he made clear yesterday, he wants to see this mission complete by the end of the month,” Kirby told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.

“We are still working towards that goal, but we will be drafting up potential what we call in the military ‘branches and sequels,’” he said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby [File: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

Poland halts Afghan airlift over safety concerns

Poland is ending its evacuations from Afghanistan, according to an official, making it one of the first Western countries to halt operations helping people flee the Taliban takeover as a full US withdrawal looms.

Marcin Przydacz, a Polish deputy foreign minister, said that a group taken from Kabul, and now in Uzbekistan, was the last group evacuated by Poland.

Read more here.

US has airlifted 19,000 people from Kabul in last 24 hours: general

The US military has airlifted 19,000 people from the airport in Kabul in the past 24 hours as the pace of the US evacuation effort increased, according to US Army General Hank Taylor.

There were 11,200 people evacuated on 42 US military flights and 7,800 transported on charters and by other countries, Taylor said. Presently, there are about 10,000 people at the airport inside the security perimeter awaiting departure, he said.

“This is a snapshot in time and, as we said yesterday, will continue to change as more people are able to come on to the airfield and as flights depart,” Taylor said.

In this image provided by the US Marine Corps, a Marine soldier with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit walks with a family during ongoing evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 24, 2021 [Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/US Marine Corps via AP Photo]

Taliban faces ‘strange period’, says senior journalist

Saad Mohseni, the head of Afghanistan’s biggest independent broadcaster, Tolo News, said Afghanistan’s future remains uncertain “because we have no clarity in terms of what the Taliban will do with the media, with women at work, education of women.”

Speaking on Fox News, Mohseni said it was a “strange period” for the Taliban, who have to win over the political opposition, consolidate their rule over the country and win hearts and minds.

“Most important of all, they have to convince people like you, internationals, that they are people you can do business with,” he said.

Because of that, Mosheni noted, the Taliban may behave very differently today than they do in six months.

“This forever war that is ending for you is going to continue for us,” he said.

Scenes of ‘chaos’, ‘panic-stricken’ people at Kabul airport

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford reported scenes of “chaos” at the Kabul airport as “panic-stricken people” attempt to leave the country.

“We had a team on the southern gate of the airport a couple of hours ago,” he said from Kabul. “They describe a scene of chaos. The Taliban are doing their best to keep people back, firing in the air, using water hoses and tear gas.”

He added: “One lady told the team she had all the paperwork she was legitimate in her plight to get out according to the kind of requirements that the US and NATO are needing. But she said two things are being made difficult by many people who are going. They’re just taking a punt … so desperate to get out, even though they don’t have the paperwork. But she said that she was willing to take a bullet or risk taking a bullet if it meant she could get on one of these planes.”

In this photo provided by the US Marine Corps, Canadian coalition forces are seen during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 24, 2021 [Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/US Marine Corps via AP Photo]

Pelosi says US legislators’s trip to Afghanistan ‘not…a good idea’

Nancy Pelosi, the US House speaker, said a secret trip to Afghanistan by two US legislators – a Democratic and Republican – was “deadly serious”.

“It was not, in my view, a good idea,” Pelosi said. “We don’t want anybody to think that this was a good idea and they should try to follow suit.”

Representatives Seth Moulton and Peter Meijer flew in and out on charter aircraft and were on the ground at the Kabul airport for several hours on Tuesday. They have since sought to deflect criticism that their trip diverted resources from evacuees.

ISKP could be a problem for Taliban in coming days: Analyst

Julie Norman, an academic and analyst at the University College London, said she believed there is “certainly a possibility” for the ISIL-affiliated group, Islamic State in the Khorasan Province, to pose a threat to the Taliban in coming days.

The ISKP “has been active in Afghanistan for over five years now; they are considered a rival of the Taliban, that you have essentially been at war with initial battles in 2015 and again in 2017,” she told Al Jazeera.

The group can be expected to take advantage of what is a “security vacuum” in Afghanistan, she added.

“They will be trying to take advantage of the Taliban needing to move on to governance of trying to consolidate power in different ways, and they’ll be looking to fill that vacuum with personnel on the ground, as well as trying to bring in fighters and also resources from Syria and Iraq,” she said.

Afghan stuck in Belarus border camp ‘risks dying’

A 52-year-old Afghan woman stuck in a makeshift migrant camp on the border between Belarus and Poland risks dying without urgent help, a charity helping migrants told AFP news agency.

The group of some 30 people has been stuck on the European Union’s eastern frontier for more than two weeks, with Polish border guards and soldiers preventing them from entering to make asylum claims.

While Poland has flown in hundreds of evacuees from Afghanistan in recent days, the government has ruled out allowing in migrants who it says are being forced across the border by the Belarusian regime in a “hybrid attack” on the EU.

Migrants wait in an area between the borders of Belarus and Poland near the village of Usnarz Gorny, Poland, on Augugst 20, 2021 [Michal Kosc/AP Photo]

Bulgaria welcomes 70 Afghan refugees

Bulgaria will grant asylum to some 70 Afghan citizens and their families, the country’s caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev told reporters.

He said the Afghan nationals have previously worked at the Bulgarian embassy in Kabul or within the Bulgarian military missions in Afghanistan.

He did not elaborate about the timing and the route of the evacuation.

Mexico receives fleeing Afghan media workers including from NY Times

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

They arrived at Mexico City’s international airport where Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard waited to greet them.

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

Putin, Xi agree to jointly combat Afghanistan ‘threats’

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have agreed their countries will step up efforts to counter “threats” emerging from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover, the Kremlin says.

In a phone call, the two leaders “expressed their readiness to step up efforts to combat threats of terrorism and drug trafficking coming from the territory of Afghanistan,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

They also spoke of the “importance of establishing peace” in Afghanistan and “preventing the spread of instability to adjacent regions”.

Pakistani FM discusses Afghanistan with Uzbekistan counterpart

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is continuing his four-country tour of Afghanistan’s other neighbours on Wednesday, meeting with his Uzbekistan counterpart in the capital Tashkent.

A Pakistani foreign ministry statement on the meeting echoed words from Qureshi’s earlier meetings with Tajik leaders earlier in the day, saying Qureshi “remarked that peace in Afghanistan would bring stability in the region, promote trade and facilitate people to people linkages.

“It was therefore important that neighbours of Afghanistan coordinate closely on the situation in Afghanistan.”

Next on Qureshi’s tour will be Turkmenistan, followed by a visit to Iran, which is both Pakistan and Afghanistan’s southwestern neighbour.

Afghan all-girl robotics team members land in Mexico

Five members of an all-girl Afghan robotics team have arrived in Mexico, fleeing an uncertain future at home after the recent collapse of the US-backed government and takeover by the Taliban armed group.

“We give you the warmest welcome to Mexico,” Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister Martha Delgado said on Tuesday evening as she greeted them during a news conference at Mexico City’s international airport.

Read more here.

Members of Afghanistan’s robotics team attend a news conference after arriving in Mexico [Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry/Handout via Reuters]

Taliban shows off ‘special forces’ in propaganda blitz

The Taliban has been showing off its own “special forces” on social media, soldiers in new uniforms equipped with looted American equipment who contrast sharply with the image of the usual Afghan fighter.

Pictures and videos of fighters in the so-called “Badri 313” unit show men in uniforms, boots, balaclavas and body armour similar to those worn by special forces around the world – and unlike the shalwar kameez, turban and sandals of the traditional Taliban fighter.

Rather than a battered Russian-designed Kalashnikov rifle slung over their shoulder, the men of Badri 313 hold new US-made rifles such as the M4, sometimes with night-vision goggles and advanced gunsights.

A video grab taken from Afghan TV RTA shows propaganda images of Taliban’s Badri 313 Special Forces patrolling streets in an unidentified location in Afghanistan [RTA TV/AFP]

South Korea takes in 390 Afghan staff on ‘special merit’

South Korea plans to take in about 390 people from Afghanistan as part of its evacuation operation in the wake of the Taliban takeover.

According to the foreign ministry in Seoul, they are local personnel who worked at the South Korean Embassy in Kabul or in facilities, including hospitals, built by South Korea in Afghanistan before the Taliban took power.

The Afghans are expected to arrive in South Korea on Thursday along with their families, vice foreign minister Choi Jong Moon said. They had asked to come to South Korea because of the insecurity in Afghanistan, he said.

Afghan resistance leader promises ‘no surrender’

The leader of a resistance movement to the Taliban has promised to never surrender but is open to negotiations with the new rulers of Afghanistan, according to an interview published by Paris Match.

Ahmad Massoud, the son of legendary Afghan rebel commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, has retreated to his native Panjshir valley north of Kabul along with former vice president Amrullah Saleh.

“I would prefer to die than to surrender,” Massoud told French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy in his first interview since the Taliban took over Kabul. “I’m the son of Ahmad Chah Massoud. Surrender is not a word in my vocabulary.”

Ahmad Massoud, son of the slain hero of the anti-Soviet resistance, Ahmad Shah Massoud, speaks during an interview at his house in Bazarak [File: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

Plane with 240 evacuated Afghan nationals lands in Budapest

A plane carrying 240 evacuated Afghan nationals, including 126 children, landed in the Hungarian capital Budapest, the state news agency MTI reported, citing a statement from the interior ministry.

MTI said a convoy carrying the evacuees had left Budapest’s international airport to an immigration facility on the border with Serbia where they will be placed in quarantine and go through immigration checks.

Germany to help Afghans seeking to leave beyond deadline

Germany will try to help Afghans who worked with its soldiers and aid organisations and wish to leave Afghanistan even after an August 31 deadline to end a US-led military evacuation operation, Chancellor Angela Merkel says.

“The end of the air bridge in a few days must not mean the end of efforts to protect Afghan helpers and help those Afghans who have been left in a bigger emergency,” Merkel told the German parliament.

“We are working intensively at all levels to find how we can protect those who helped us, including through the civilian operation of the airport in Kabul,” she added.

Merkel delivers a speech on the situation in Afghanistan at the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin [Michele Tantussi/Reuters]

Poland halts Afghan airlift over safety concerns

Poland says it has halted its airlift evacuations from Kabul’s airport over safety concerns.

Marcin Przydacz, a Polish deputy foreign minister, said the decision was made after consulting with US and British officials. He added that a group that had been taken from Kabul to Uzbekistan was the last evacuated by Poland. Another plane is on its way to Warsaw.

“After a long analysis of reports on the security situation we cannot risk the lives of our diplomats and of our soldiers any longer,” Przydacz said. Some troops will remain briefly to carry out duties such as closing the base, he said.

Afghans on board a Spanish military plane evacuating them from Kabul [Ministry of defence of Spain/Handout via Reuters]

About 1,000 Afghans receive permission to travel to Russia: RIA

Russia has allowed about 1,000 Afghans to enter the country from Afghanistan, RIA news agency reports, citing a Moscow-based organisation of Afghan expatriates.

Among those who received permission to travel are holders of Russian passports or those with permanent residence rights and students of Russian universities, it said.

UNICEF Afghanistan: 10 million children in desperate need

Ten million children in Afghanistan are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance since the Taliban swept to power this month, a UNICEF Afghanistan spokesperson says.

Children in Afghanistan already survive on humanitarian assistance and about one million are expected to suffer life-threatening malnutrition this year, according to UNICEF.

The organisation said it expects the humanitarian situation in the country to worsen due to a severe drought, the onset of winter and the coronavirus pandemic.

Afghan IDPs who fled the fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces take refuge in a Kabul public park [Rahmat Gul/AP]

‘Afghanistan lost its most educated and capable generation’

Bilal Sarwary, an independent Afghan journalist who left Kabul on an evacuation flight to Qatar, told Al Jazeera fleeing his country was “a painful decision”.

“I have been covering the story of my country and my people over the last 20 years. I was shocked how quick Kabul fell to the Taliban without a fight,” he said. “And then I had the Taliban come at my door several times. They obviously know who I am, I am very active on social media … I was feeling not safe along with my family.”

“Although I have studied in the West, I never thought of leaving behind my life, my country… On the flight that I came in, I saw everyone that has represented Afghanistan over the last 20 years in media, civil society, art, history. All I could think of was the loss for the country, the brain drain. It was the unbelievable pain … not only have we lost everything, Afghanistan also lost its most educated and capable generation.”

China’s Xi and Russia’s Putin discuss Afghanistan

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin exchanged views on Afghanistan in a call, according to Chinese state newspaper People’s Daily.

Xi urged all parties in Afghanistan to build an open and inclusive political framework, implement moderate, stable policies and cut ties with all “terrorist” groups, it said.

Hundreds endorse open letter by Arts for Afghanistan

Hundreds of organisations and cultural workers have endorsed an open letter by a group called Arts for Afghanistan, calling on the US government to evacuate Afghan artists, performers, writers, filmmakers, photographers and other cultural workers.

The letter’s authors said cultural workers have been taking grave risks in depicting the experiences and articulating the aspirations of Afghans, often with the encouragement and direct support of the US government.

Afghans kept in wretched conditions at US base in Qatar

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby says the US is working on improving conditions for Afghan evacuees at a US airbase in Qatar after video obtained by media outlets showed them living in inhuman conditions.

Photos and video footage shared with Al Jazeera showed hundreds of Afghans crowded together in unsanitary conditions in a hangar at Al Udeid airbase.

Read more here.

Afghan refugees at US army base in Qatar [Image obtained by Al jazeera]

Russia begins Afghan evacuation, holds military drills in Tajikistan

Russia has begun evacuating more than 500 people from Afghanistan and holding military exercises for its tank forces in neighbouring Tajikistan.

Russia’s defence ministry said it had deployed a number of T-72 tanks to Tajikistan’s mountains and practised long-range firing at moving targets, Interfax news agency reported.

The ministry also said it was evacuating more than 500 people from Afghanistan, including Russians and citizens of Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

Anti-Taliban fighters dig in to defend Panjshir Valley

Atop a craggy mountain that has withstood foreign invaders for decades, anti-Taliban fighters fire a mounted heavy machine gun into a deep valley.

They are members of the National Resistance Front (NRF) – the most prominent Afghan opposition group to emerge since the Taliban captured Kabul nine days ago.

Read more here.

Afghan resistance forces install a heavy weapon system at an outpost in Kotal-e Anjuman, Paryan, Panjshir [Ahmad Sahel Arman/AFP]

Planes leaving Kabul with empty seats: WSJ

A group of American veterans, military contractors, aid workers and former spies is scrambling to get as many people out of Afghanistan as they can before President Biden shuts the window for rescues in coming days, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“Erik Prince, the American defence contractor, said he is offering people seats on a chartered plane out of Kabul for $6,500 per person. U.S. and NATO forces are sending special rescue teams into Taliban-controlled areas of the city to spirit their citizens into the airport. And countless Afghans who thought the US would protect them after having assisted the US-led coalition forces in the past two decades are now realizing that they will most likely be left behind, to face Taliban wrath alone,” the report says.

“Private rescue efforts are facing growing obstacles this week, just as the urgency grows. Chartered planes are flying out of Kabul with hundreds of empty seats. New Taliban checkpoints on the road to Pakistan have made driving out of the country increasingly risky.”

As thousands flee Afghanistan, some earlier refugees want to return

From trucks stuffed with carpets, bedding, clothes and goats, about 200 Afghan refugees look towards Spin Boldak in their country’s south, waiting to return home from Pakistan.

“We emigrated from Afghanistan during bombing and hardships when Muslims were in trouble, now, praise be to Allah, the situation is normal, so we are returning to Afghanistan,” Molavi Shaib told the AFP news agency at the border.

“People want to return but they are not allowed to cross, we request the Pakistani government to allow us to cross the border because there’s no war, and peace has been established,” Muhammad Nabi said.

(Al Jazeera)

Taliban preventing Afghans from reaching Kabul airport

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Kabul, said “the situation has changed overnight” around the airport.

The Taliban have set up a checkpoint 5km (3 miles) from the northern gate of the Kabul airport, where most of the Afghans hoping to flee the country have gathered over recent days, he said.

“They are not allowing anybody unless they… have a US visa, US passport or invitation from either the US or any of the NATO countries,” he said. “We understand there is a similar situation at the eastern gate. The Taliban have set up a checkpoint there, preventing people getting through without the requisite documents… There is a sense of increasing panic,” he said.

Afghan refugees arrive in Uganda: foreign ministry

A flight carrying Afghan evacuees has touched down in Uganda where they will be given temporary refuge, government and diplomatic officials say.

“The Government of the Republic of Uganda this morning received Fifty One (51) evacuees from Afghanistan who arrived aboard a privately chartered flight at the Entebbe International Airport,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It said this followed a request from the US government to temporarily host “at-risk” Afghan nationals and others who are in transit to the US and other destinations worldwide.

Evacuees sit in a Royal Canadian Air Force transport plane flying to Canada from Kabul [Canadian Armed Forces/Handout via Reuters]

Nearly all UK citizens without dual nationality evacuated: Raab

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says that almost all British citizens without dual nationality had been evacuated from Afghanistan.

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

He said in the last 24 hours, some 2,000 people had been brought to Britain from Kabul.

Afghan Paralympians evacuated and safe: IPC

Afghanistan’s two Paralympic athletes have been safely evacuated from the country, the International Paralympic Committee says, declining to specify their destination.

The two taekwondo athletes, Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli, were originally due to represent their country at the Tokyo Paralympics. But with the swift fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, they were among the tens of thousands trapped and unable to leave the country.

IPC spokesman Craig Spence said the two would not be competing at the Games, and their focus at the moment was on their wellbeing.

WFP calls for urgent aid as millions of Afghans face starvation

Millions of Afghans face the risk of starvation and a “catastrophe on top of a catastrophe” the head of the UN World Food Programme has warned, saying the agency needs $200m by the end of the year to continue its operations in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley spoke to Al Jazeera on Tuesday while touring a compound in Doha housing more than 500 refugees who fled Afghanistan.

Read more here.

Is Afghanistan-made methamphetamine about to flood Europe?

Afghanistan is already the world’s largest supplier of opium. But opium, which is used to make heroin, is not the only illegal drug produced by the war-torn nation.

Over the past four years, Afghans have also been getting better at making methamphetamine, known colloquially as speed, crystal or meth.

Read more here.

Airbnb and other US firms step up to help with Afghan refugees

US companies, including Airbnb and Walmart, are lending a hand to the people of Afghanistan.

Home-sharing company Airbnb said on Tuesday it would provide temporary housing to 20,000 Afghan refugees worldwide.

Read more here.

Read the news updates from August 24 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies