UK armed forces begin to leave Afghanistan and will take a small number of Afghans on remaining flights.
US President Joe Biden on Saturday promised further attacks against an ISIL affiliate in Afghanistan in retaliation for a deadly bombing outside Kabul airport, describing the situation on the ground as “extremely dangerous”.
“Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours. I directed them to take every possible measure to prioritise force protection,” Biden said in a statement.
Thursday’s bombing killed at least 175 people, including 13 US service members, was claimed by the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K).
The US military on Saturday said it killed two members of the group in a drone attack on the group’s eastern stronghold.
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Below are the key developments from Saturday, August 28:
Situation remains ‘fragile, dangerous’: Al Jazeera correspondent
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Washington, DC, said it is “very unusual” for a US president “to verbalise to the American people that an attack is potentially imminent against US interests”.
But that is what Biden did on Saturday as he warned in a statement that “an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours” in Afghanistan.
“It just shows you how delicate and fragile, and quite frankly dangerous, the situation is there and how seriously the White House is looking at it,” Elizondo said about Biden’s comments, which came after an attack at Kabul airport on Thursday killed at least 175 people, including 13 US soldiers.
Last UK military flight leaves Kabul
The final flight carrying British military personnel out of Afghanistan has left Kabul airport, the UK defence ministry said on Twitter.
The last British flight evacuating civilians from Afghanistan left Kabul earlier on Saturday, ending an operation that airlifted nearly 15,000 Afghan and British citizens in the two weeks since the Taliban took control of the country.
The final flight carrying UK Armed Forces personnel has left Kabul. To all those who served so bravely under enormous pressure and horrendous conditions to safely evacuate the most vulnerable of civilians: Thank you. pic.twitter.com/8DaRrpjWjq
— Ministry of Defence Press Office (@DefenceHQPress) August 28, 2021
UNHCR hopes neighbours keep borders open
The UN refugee agency is hoping that Afghanistan’s neighbours, like Pakistan and Iran, will keep their borders open to Afghan refugees.
“We hope that those neighbours will keep their borders open for those who need international protection and in the eventuality of significant numbers, moving over the borders,” Matthew Saltmarsh told Al Jazeera from London.
“If the needs will be huge, there’ll be a need for big humanitarian flows of aid, obviously food, shelter, medical support and day-to-day items,” he added.
Hundreds of Afghans protest in Athens
Afghans in Athens have marched to the US embassy, making a plea to the international community for peace and holding banners reading, “Afghanistan is bleeding” and “Hands off our land”.
“We are tired of war, we are tired of violence, we are tired of seeing dead bodies. We all came here together, we want peace from the world, we want to end this war,” said Omey Naziam, 24, who joined the peaceful protest in the Greek capital.
Other protesters shouted, “Stop killing Afghans” and “We want justice”.
Ukraine evacuates 400 people
The Ukrainian government has evacuated about 400 people from Afghanistan, including 80 Ukrainian citizens.
One military and one civilian aircraft landed at Boryspil airport near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and another civilian plane is expected later on Saturday, officials said.
New attack on Kabul airport ‘highly likely’: Biden
Biden is promising further attacks against ISKP in retaliation for a deadly bombing outside Kabul airport and warned that the situation on the ground still carries risks, including threats to Kabul airport.
“The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high. Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.
On Afghanistan, Pakistan walks tightrope of optimism and caution
Pakistan’s government, long accused of providing logistical and other support to the Taliban, will walk a fine line between optimism at having a more friendly government in Kabul and potential security blowback on its own soil, analysts say.
Pakistani officials, however, told Al Jazeera the country has no favourites in Afghanistan and continues to back “a negotiated political settlement” that would see “an inclusive government” formed in its northwestern neighbour.
Read more here.
France in talks with Taliban over evacuations
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday that discussions were under way with the Taliban through Qatar to “protect and repatriate” Afghans at risk since this month’s takeover by the group.
Evacuations are planned jointly with Qatar and may involve “airlift operations”, Macron said at a news conference after a summit in Baghdad.
He added that France, which ended its evacuations from Afghanistan on Friday, had evacuated 2,834 people since August 17.
Taliban condemns US drone attack
The Taliban condemned the US drone attack against ISIL fighters following Thursday’s suicide attack outside Kabul airport, with a spokesman describing the operation as a “clear attack on Afghan territory”.
Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban expected to take full control of Kabul airport very shortly, once US forces leave, and would announce a full cabinet in the coming days, Reuters news agency reported.
He said officials had already been appointed to run key institutions, including the ministries of public health and education and the central bank. He also said he expected the serious economic turbulence which has hit the Afghani currency to ease soon.
Two Afghan Paralympians arrive in Tokyo
Two Afghan athletes have arrived in Tokyo to compete in the Paralympic Games, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said.
The team – Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli – had flown from Kabul to Paris before continuing on to Tokyo, the IPC said.
Read more here.
US troops have begun leaving Kabul airport: Pentagon
US troops have begun their withdrawal from Kabul airport, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Cash crunch in Kabul an ‘ominous sign’: AJ correspondent
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride says life in Kabul is a “very mixed picture, and you see some conflicting signs that make you wonder, two weeks after the Taliban took control of Kabul, which way the country is headed”.
He said many government ministries have reopened and schools and universities remain closed.
“More significantly perhaps for many people in Kabul, and it’s not a good sign, the banks once more are closed. This has been an ongoing problem – this cash crunch here in Kabul since the collapse of the government,” he said.
UK general: ‘Heartbreaking’ to leave people behind
UK’s Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter calls the country’s withdrawal from Afghanistan “heartbreaking”.
A Royal Air Force plane carrying UK diplomatic staff and soldiers landed at the RAF Brize Norton airbase northwest of London early on Saturday morning. Flights bringing UK citizens and Afghan civilians from the Afghan capital have largely ended.
Carter expressed regret that the UK had not been able to evacuate all the Afghans who had aided British forces over the years.
Read more here.
Kabul evacuations ‘in the end game’: AJ correspondent
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Kabul, said the US military has been pulling back its forces since Friday evening and giving up its guard posts to the Taliban on the outer perimeter of Kabul airport – and in some positions inside the airport itself – before the final troop withdrawal.
“You do get a sense this Saturday evening here in Kabul that this long, drawn-out, often chaotic and traumatic evacuation process [is] finally in the end game,” he said.
Read more here.
‘Evacuation of Turkish personnel, citizens from Kabul done in less than 48 hours’
Turkish troops and citizens who wanted to leave Afghanistan have been evacuated from Kabul in less than 48 hours, Turkey’s defence minister announced.
At a welcome ceremony in the capital Ankara for the returning troops, Hulusi Akar said the evacuation was through an air bridge between Kabul and Pakistan’s capital Islamabad with eight planes and two helicopters.
Iran’s Khamenei blames US for Afghan conflict
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is blaming the US for the conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan and the standoff over the Iranian nuclear programme, saying there is no difference between US President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump.
In his first meeting with the newly-appointed cabinet led by President Ebrahim Raisi, Khamenei said there is a “predatory wolf” behind the scenes of US foreign policy that “sometimes turns into a cunning fox”.
UK, Germany seek common G7 approach on Taliban
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the situation in Afghanistan and agreed on the need for international aid and a common approach by the G7 to the future government of Afghanistan.
“The Prime Minister and Chancellor resolved to work, alongside the rest of the G7, to put in place the roadmap on dealing with any new Afghan government,” Johnson’s office said in a statement.
“The Prime Minister stressed that any recognition and engagement with the Taliban must be conditional on them allowing safe passage for those who want to leave the country and respecting human rights,” the statement added.
Last UK civilian evacuation flight ends
The last British flight evacuating civilians from Afghanistan has departed.
The UK’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow, said earlier the time had come to end airlifting, which led to the evacuation of almost 15,000 Afghan and British citizens over the past two weeks.
“It’s time to close this phase of the operation down but we haven’t forgotten the people who still need to leave, and we will do everything we can to help them,” he said in a statement at Kabul airport released by the foreign ministry.
Read more here.
Taliban deploys extra forces around Kabul airport
The Taliban has deployed extra forces around Kabul’s airport to prevent large crowds from gathering.
The group set up new layers of checkpoints on roads leading to the airport, some manned by uniformed fighters with military vehicles and equipment captured from Afghan security forces.
‘Just the clothes on me’: Afghans escape to new US life
Wazhma left everything behind to escape after the Taliban took control, aspiring for a life “free of threats” in the US.
In a facility in the UAE temporarily hosting Afghan evacuees heading to other countries, the 21-year-old medical student struggles to overcome the terror she experienced during the last days at home.
“My husband worked for the US embassy,” Wazhma told the AFP news agency hours before she was due to board a US-bound flight. “I only took the clothes on me. Nothing more.”
NATO ambassador: Italy ‘not abandoning’ those left
The Italian NATO ambassador in Afghanistan, Stefano Pontecorvo, stressed the country was “not abandoning” those it had been unable to evacuate from Afghanistan.
Italy’s final evacuation flight landed at an airport in Rome carrying 58 Afghan citizens.
Speaking at the airport after the flight’s arrival Pontecorvo said authorities “did our best, under these circumstances” to evacuate as many people as possible.
Afghans protest at Kabul Bank
Hundreds of Afghans have protested outside a bank in Kabul as others formed long lines at cash machines.
The protesters at New Kabul Bank included civil servants demanding their salaries, which they said had not been paid for the past three to six months.
They said in spite of banks reopening three days ago, no one has been able to withdraw cash. ATMs are still operating, but withdrawals are limited to about $200 every 24 hours, contributing to the formation of long lines.
Two more planes of Afghan evacuees land in Albania
The Albanian government says 154 Afghans have landed in two separate planes in the capital Tirana.
A government spokesman confirmed the arrival of the first plane with 95 Afghans and the second with 59 Afghans, without giving more details.
After they landed, the Afghans were taken to a student campus where they will stay for a two weeks before moving to hotels in other cities.
UN issues appeal for humanitarian assistance
A UN agency warns that worsening drought in Afghanistan threatens the livelihoods of more than seven million people.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued an appeal for humanitarian assistance. Adding to the plight of what the agency termed “severe drought” is the economic impact of COVID-19 and the widespread internal displacement of Afghans amid conflict.
Earlier this month, the UN World Food Programme estimated that some 14 million people – roughly one out of every three Afghans – urgently need food assistance.
Evacuee: World has ‘abandoned’ Afghanistan’s new generation
Until last week, Shabeer Ahmadi was busy covering the news in Afghanistan. But after an excruciating decision to leave his country for an uncertain future in Spain, he is helplessly glued to news feeds on his mobile phone, following every twist in the dramatic end of the evacuation of Afghans from Kabul.
“There is a feeling of desperation in Afghanistan,” he said.
“Imagine if you had made a building for 20 years now, that building is getting destroyed and you cannot go out from that building. It feels very bad. Our education, our hopes for ourselves, for our children, for our future, for our country is all destroyed.”
UK to end evacuation on Saturday
UK troops will end the evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan on Saturday, armed forces chief General Nick Carter said.
“We’re reaching the end of the evacuation, which will take place during the course of today. And then it will be necessary to bring our troops out on the remaining aircraft,” he told the BBC.
“We haven’t been able to bring everyone out… there have been some very challenging judgements that have had to be made on the ground.”
Italy’s final Afghanistan evacuation flight arrives
Italy’s final evacuation flight of refugees from Afghanistan has landed in Rome.
The Italian Air Force C-130J with 58 Afghan citizens on board arrived some 17 hours after its departure from Kabul and a planned stopover.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Italy was prepared to work with the UN and the countries bordering Afghanistan on what he described as the “more difficult phase”.
OPINION: The threat of ISKP in Afghanistan has been underestimated
On August 26, two suicide bombers killed many Afghans and US soldiers at Kabul airport amid evacuation efforts. The ISKP claimed responsibility for the attack, putting itself in the international spotlight.
Two aspects of this attack need to be considered. First, ISKP attacked the airport primarily to discredit its rival, the Taliban, another escalation of the conflict between hardline Sunni armed groups.
Second, ISKP made clear that the Taliban will find it hard to keep its promise to ensure the safety of civilians, especially women and minorities, under its rule.
Read more here.
NATO and US forces ready for more attacks
Western forces running the Afghan airlift braced for more attacks after the US launched a drone attack that killed an ISKP “planner”. The White House said the next few days are likely to be the most dangerous.
“We certainly are prepared and would expect future attempts,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington, DC. “We’re monitoring these threats… virtually in real time.”
Taliban says female public health workers can return to work
Taliban announced that female workers from the ministry of public health can return to work, according to Al Jazeera’s Ali Latifi, reporting from Kabul.
The announcement comes a few days after Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said all female government employees should stay at home until the Taliban can guarantee their safety.
Report: US attack carried out to prevent future ISKP attacks
A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency that the US drone attack was against an ISIL-affiliated group planning “future attacks”.
A Reaper drone, which took off from the Middle East, reportedly struck the target while he was in a car with an associate, the official said.
Both are believed to have been killed, the official added.
Most of new Afghan refugees ‘likely’ to end up in Iran, Pakistan
Most of the new Afghan refugees fleeing the country are likely to end up in Iran and Pakistan, which already hosted 2.2 million refugees from Afghanistan, a refugee group said.
Hardin Lang of Refugees International in the US told Al Jazeera on Saturday that “very difficult weeks and months are coming ahead” for the refugees.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR earlier said up to half a million Afghans could flee in a “worst-case scenario”.
US drone attack kills ISKP ‘planner’ in eastern Afghanistan
An American drone attack in eastern Afghanistan killed a “planner” of the ISIL-affiliated group, a day after an attack outside Kabul’s airport that killed at least 175 Afghans and 13 US troops.
“Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties,” a US military statement said late on Friday.
US President Joe Biden promised to retaliate for the suicide blasts in Kabul, confirming the bombings were carried out by ISKP.
Read more here.
CENTCOM Statement on Counterterrorism Strikehttps://t.co/L3UgtvPa6k
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) August 28, 2021
US embassy in Kabul warns Americans to avoid airport
Americans should avoid travelling to Kabul airport because of security threats, and those near the gates should “leave immediately”, the US embassy said in a statement.
A senior Taliban commander said some ISKP members had been arrested in connection with the Kabul attack. “They are being interrogated by our intelligence team,” the commander said.
US says it evacuated 4,200 people in 12 hours
The US says it has evacuated about 4,200 people in 12 hours on Friday, following the deadly suicide attack near the airport in Kabul.
“Since August 14, the US has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 109,200 people,” the White House said in a statement. “Since the end of July, we have re-located approximately 114,800 people.”
France ends its evacuation operation
France has ended its evacuation operation in Kabul, government ministers announced citing the “security conditions” and looming withdrawal of US troops.
“In exceptionally difficult circumstances, France evacuated nearly 3,000 people,” a joint statement by Defence Minister Florence Parly and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
The ministers added Paris will continue to help the people of Afghanistan “by all possible means” and will work with Taliban officials to ensure that departures from the country are not impeded after August 31.