US says drone strike foiled another Kabul airport attack

US military says strike hit vehicle carrying Afghan ISIL affiliate suicide bombers on their way to attack Kabul airport – as it happened.

Marines process evacuees as they go through the evacuation control centre at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan [Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/US Marine Corps via AP]

The United States has carried out a drone strike against a vehicle of suicide bombers linked to the Afghan ISIL affiliate that intended to target the Kabul airport, US Central Command (CENTCOM) has said.

“Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material,” CENTCOM spokesperson Bill Urban said.

In what appeared to be a separate incident on Sunday, a rocket struck a neighbourhood just northwest of the airport, killing a child, an Afghan police chief told The Associated Press.

The US had previously warned of a “specific, credible threat” near Kabul airport as its forces rush to complete evacuations from Afghanistan by an August 31 deadline and the Taliban prepares to take charge of the key airfield.

US President Joe Biden told reporters on Saturday that his commanders had informed him another attack was “highly likely in the next 24-36 hours”.

At least 175 people, including 13 US soldiers, were killed on Thursday in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K).

This blog is now closed.

Here are the key developments from Sunday, August 29:

US to host virtual meeting on Afghanistan on Monday

The United States will host a virtual ministerial meeting on Monday with “key partners on Afghanistan”, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, Turkey, Qatar, the European Union and NATO.

“The participants will discuss an aligned approach for the days and weeks ahead,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. Blinken also will deliver public remarks on the situation in Afghanistan on Monday afternoon.

First group of Afghan refugees lands in Kosovo

The first group of Afghan refugees on Sunday arrived in Kosovo, which has agreed to temporarily shelter them until they can be permanently relocated to the United States.

The plane carried 111 people, mainly women and children, who could be seen walking on the tarmac carrying small bags.

Afghans face ‘humanitarian crisis’ as evacuation flights wrap up: Expert

As US-led evacuations of vulnerable Afghans from Kabul airport wrap up ahead of an August 31 withdrawal deadline, one expert says increasing numbers of people will try to find other ways to get out of Afghanistan in search of protection.

“The evacuation itself really only got to the tip of the iceberg of Afghans who may be feeling vulnerable or at risk under a Taliban regime,” Hardin Lang, vice president for programmes and policy at Refugees International, told Al Jazeera.

In addition to fears about potential Taliban repression, Lang said many Afghans are facing a humanitarian crisis, with over half of the country’s population in need of aid. “The ability of the international community to provide that assistance – at least temporarily – has hit a major obstacle with the advent of the Taliban controlling the country,” he said.

Five US servicemen killed just 20 years old

US President Joe Biden on Sunday took part in a “solemn and silent ceremony” at a US air force base in Delaware to honour the 13 US soldiers killed in an attack in Kabul on Thursday, Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reported.

“It’s interesting and sad to note that five of these service members were just 20 years old when they were killed,” Reynolds said.

“They were babies at the time of the first boots-on-the-ground from the US into Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks and it was their fate to be among the last US casualties in America’s longest war.”

President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and others look on as a team moves a case with the remains of Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, during a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base [Carolyn Kaster/AP]

UK government blasted over Afghan exit as hundreds left behind

The UK government has faced a torrent of criticism after its hurried withdrawal from Afghanistan ended, leaving hundreds eligible for relocation behind.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed a mission “unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes” after the UK airlifted more than 15,000 people out of the country in the last two weeks.

The Observer newspaper cited a whistleblower as saying thousands of emails from MPs and charities to the foreign ministry highlighting specific Afghans at risk from the Taliban takeover went unopened.

The Observer said it saw evidence that an official email account set up by the Foreign Office to receive such pleas regularly had 5,000 unopened emails last week.

Al Jazeera exclusive: Taliban gaining control of Kabul airport

It has been 20 years since the Taliban controlled Kabul airport.

Taliban fighters entered the capital two weeks ago and quickly encircled the airport. The armed group had an agreement with the US that it would remain outside and secure the perimeter until evacuations came to an end.

Now with only two days to go, the US footprint is shrinking.

Watch Al Jazeera’s exclusive report:

Afghan official says three children killed in US strike in Kabul

An Afghan official says three children were killed in the drone strike that US officials said struck a vehicle carrying ISIL-affiliated suicide bombers, The Associated Press reported.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.

US will retain a capacity to strike in Afghanistan: Blinken

In an interview with American broadcaster NBC, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the US will retain a capacity to strike in Afghanistan.

“We have the capacity around the world, including in Afghanistan, to find and to take strikes against terrorists who want to do us harm,” Blinken said.

“And as you know, in country after country, including places like Yemen, like Somalia, large parts of Syria, Libya, places where we don’t have boots on the ground on any kind of ongoing basis, we have the capacity to go after people who are trying to do us harm. We’ll retain that capacity in Afghanistan.”

Macron says France, the UK to propose Kabul safe zone to UN

France, the United Kingdom, and Germany are working on a United Nations proposal aimed at establishing a safe zone in Kabul to allow safe passage for people trying to leave Afghanistan, French President Emmanuel Macron has said.

Macron, who said France had begun discussions with the Taliban to explore how further evacuations might proceed, said the resolution would be brought on Monday to an emergency UN Security Council meeting of veto-wielding members.

“There are some discussions to see how flights could be re-established,” Macron said in a TV interview broadcast by France’s TF1, adding that Qatar was also helping negotiations.

“What we have proposed, and what we plan to bring to the UN Security Council along with Britain and Germany is a solution that we have used before in other operations, which would involve creating a zone allowing people to arrive at that airport.”

Read more here.

‘Extremely difficult’ for Taliban to pay government salaries: Former finance minister

With Afghanistan’s central bank assets frozen, with the IMF and World Bank freezing support and without the US sending money into Afghanistan, Omar Zakhilwal, Afghanistan’s former finance minister told Al Jazeera “it will be extremely difficult” for the Taliban to pay government salaries.

“It will be extremely difficult. The Afghan economy and the Afghan government budget are both heavily dependent on foreign aid and to untie both for the foreign aid to be able to deliver would be next to impossible,” Zakhilwal told Al Jazeera.

“We hope that the Taliban understand the magnitude of this difficulty and they understand that international assistance is needed and that certainly, it’s tied to a political settlement, and that … becomes a matter of urgency.”

Repairs needed at airport before civilian flights can begin, Turkey says

Repairs need to be made at Kabul airport before it can be opened to civilian flights, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said, as Ankara considers providing help to the Taliban to operate the airport.

Ankara has been in talks with the Taliban about providing technical help to operate Kabul airport after the August 31 deadline but said the recent bombing underlined the need for a Turkish force to protect any experts deployed there.

Cavusoglu said that inspection reports show runways, towers and terminals, including those in the civilian side of the airport, were damaged and that these needed to be repaired.

“Personnel is needed for this. Likewise, the required equipment needs to be provided,” he said.

A C-17 Globemaster takes off as Taliban fighters secure the outer perimeter of Kabul international airport [Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times]

Evacuation dialogue with Taliban does not mean recognition: Macron

President Emmanuel Macron says discussions France is having with the Taliban over the evacuation of nationals and persons in danger from Afghanistan does not indicate recognition of the hardline group as the country’s new rulers.

“We have operations to carry out in Afghanistan – the evacuations. The Taliban are the ones in control … we have to have these discussions from a practical point of view. This does not mean there will be recognition. We have set conditions,” Macron told the evening news show of TF1 television during a visit to Iraq.

Taliban ‘struggling’ with ISIL affiliate threat: AJ correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Kabul, said a lot of unanswered questions remain regarding the blasts reported on Sunday.

“What does seem clear though is that the Taliban is struggling with what many analysts say could be an increasing threat from ISIL in this country, and seem to be heavily reliant on the Americans – American air power at least – to keep that threat at bay,” he said.

“And of course that has huge implications for when the last of the NATO forces, the Americans leave in what we believe will be in the next 48 hours.”

Biden pays respects to US troops killed

US President Joe Biden and his wife Jill have embarked on a solemn journey to honour and mourn the 13 US troops killed in Thursday’s suicide attack near the Kabul airport as their remains return to US soil from Afghanistan.

US troops carried cases of the remains of 11 American service members down the ramp of an Air Force C-17 aircraft at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Crying could be heard and a woman collapsed as the remains were loaded into vans for transport to a facility where they will undergo identification and autopsies.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch as a Marine Corps carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of a Marine Corps Sgt. at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware [Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo]

Taliban agrees to allow Afghans to leave

The Taliban will allow all foreign nationals and Afghan citizens with travel authorisation from another country to leave Afghanistan, according to a joint statement issued by the UK, the US and other countries.

“We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country,” they said in the statement.

The statement said the countries, which also included Australia, Japan, France, Spain and many others, would continue to issue travel documents to designated Afghans.

Taliban supreme leader in Kandahar city: Spokesman

The Taliban’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada – who has never made a public appearance and whose whereabouts have largely remained unknown  – is in Afghanistan, deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi has said.

“I can confirm that he is in Kandahar. He will soon appear in public,” Karimi told AFP news agency.

The Taliban have a long history of keeping their top leader in the shadows.

Turkey cannot take ‘burden’ of new wave of Afghan refugees, FM says

Turkey cannot take the “burden” of a new migrant wave from Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after talks with his German counterpart.

“As Turkey, we have sufficiently carried out our moral and humanitarian responsibilities regarding migration,” Cavusoglu said, speaking in a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

“It is out of the question for us to take an additional refugee burden,” Cavusoglu said.

Turkey currently hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees as part of a 2016 deal with the European Union.

Read more here.

British forces return to UK from Afghanistan

A military plane carrying some of the last remaining US troops from Afghanistan has landed at the RAF Brize Norton military base, ending the United Kingdom’s 20-year deployment in the country.

The UK ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow, also arrived at Brize Norton, hours after the government announced that all British personnel had left Kabul.

The UK says it has evacuated more than 15,000 UK citizens and vulnerable Afghans in the past two weeks, but that as many as 1,100 Afghans who were entitled to come to the UK have been left behind.

Pakistani soldiers killed in cross border fire

Fire from across the border in Afghanistan has killed two Pakistani soldiers, the army has said.

The army said it retaliated and killed two or three attackers, a claim not verifiable because the tribal districts along the Afghan border are off limits to journalists and human rights organisations.

The incident in Pakistan’s Bajaur district is the first of its kind reported since the Taliban took over Afghanistan. The army did not say which group was behind the attack.

Read more here.

US carried out air strike in Kabul, CENTCOM confirms

The US carried out a drone strike against a vehicle threatening the Kabul airport that had been linked to the Afghan ISIL affiliate, an American military official has said.

“US military forces conducted a self-defence unmanned over-the-horizon air strike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat” to Hamid Karzai International airport, said Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US Central Command (CENTCOM).

“Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material,” he said, adding that there were “no indications at this time” of civilian casualties.

US drone strike caused ‘significant secondary explosions’

US officials say an American drone strike that hit a vehicle carrying multiple ISIL affiliated suicide bombers caused “significant secondary explosions” indicating the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material in the vehicle.

Two senior US officials told Reuters news agency the US believes it was a successful strike and that the intended target was hit.

One US official said the strike was carried out by an unmanned aircraft piloted from outside Afghanistan.

US officials: Drone strikes vehicle with ‘multiple suicide bombers’

A drone has struck a vehicle with “multiple suicide bombers” on way to Kabul airport, US officials told Reuters news agency. The threat is believed to be eliminated.

There were few initial details about the incident, as well as a rocket that struck a neighbourhood just northwest of the airport, killing a child.

US airstrike targeted suicide bomber in a vehicle: Taliban spokesman

A Taliban spokesman says a US airstrike has targeted a suicide bomber in a vehicle who wanted to strike Kabul airport.

There were few initial details about the incident, as well as a rocket that struck a neighbourhood just northwest of the airport, killing a child.

The Taliban initially described the two strikes as separate incidents, though information on both remained scarce and witnesses heard only one large blast Sunday in the Afghan capital.

Photo shows damage following an attack near the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan [EPA-EFE/STRINGER]

Blinken says 300 US citizens left to be evacuated

Only 300 American citizens still in Afghanistan are seeking to leave the country, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, just days ahead of the US deadline for evacuations.

“We are down to a population of 300 or fewer Americans who are still on the ground there, and we are working actively in these hours and these days to get those folks out,” he told ABC.

Some Americans, Blinken said, had chosen to stay beyond the August 31 deadline set to complete the evacuation, but Blinken said “they are not going to be stuck in Afghanistan”. He said the US had “a mechanism to get them out”.

US carried out military strike in Kabul, officials say

The US has carried out a military strike in Kabul, two US officials have told Reuters news agency.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the strike targeted suspected ISKP fighters. They said they were citing initial information and cautioned it could change.

Biden to receive bodies of US troops killed

US President Joe Biden is heading to Dover Air Force Base to honour members of the US military killed in the suicide bomb attack at Kabul airport last week.

Biden and his wife, Jill, will meet the families of service members killed in the attack, a White House schedule showed.

They will then witness the transfer of the troops’ remains from an aircraft flown to the base in Delaware.

Afghan police chief: Rocket hits neighbourhood, kills a child

An Afghan police chief says a rocket has hit a neighbourhood northwest of Kabul international airport amid US evacuation and has killed a child.

Rashid, the Kabul police chief who goes by one name, says the rocket struck Sunday afternoon.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Explosion heard near Kabul airport: Witnesses

An explosion was heard near Kabul airport, witnesses have said and television footage showed black smoke rising into the sky but there was no immediate word on any casualties.

Two witnesses said the blast appeared to have been caused by a rocket that hit a house in an area to the northern side of the airport but there was no immediate confirmation.

Turkey to maintain diplomatic presence in Kabul: Erdogan

The Turkish embassy in Kabul has returned to its building in the city and Ankara will maintain its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

NATO countries have been pulling out their diplomatic missions in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s victory in the country two weeks ago. Turkey has evacuated civilians and troops from Afghanistan except for a small “technical group”.

In an interview with Turkish media on a flight back from Montenegro, Erdogan said the Turkish embassy in Kabul had relocated to its building in the city after operating from the airport for two weeks.

Situation ‘normal’ near Pakistan-Afghanistan border

In Pakistan, the situation near the land border with Afghanistan “appears to be normal”, although thousands of Afghans continue to visit Pakistan on a regular basis, Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder in Islamabad said.

“The Pakistani military spokesman … said that the situation on the country’s western border was completely normal,” Hyder said.

Meanwhile, Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan’s national security adviser, said: “We’ve been spared a protracted conflict and bloodshed … The way things have evolved in Afghanistan, there hasn’t been a protracted conflict – the Taliban have literally walked in, and so there isn’t a refugee crisis on our borders.”

Afghan families continue their lives at the tents they set up at a park in Kabul, Afghanistan [Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency]

Reopening banks among Taliban’s most ‘challenging issues’: Analyst

Nasratullah Haqbal, a Kabul-based political analyst, said one of the most “challenging issues” for the Taliban leadership at the moment is reopening private banks as angry crowds continue to demand access to their money.

“People cannot access the bank or cash machines … hundreds of people are gathering in front of the banks every day,” Haqbal told Al Jazeera.

While the Taliban repeatedly asked private banks to reopen, it has been “unable to convince private banks to fully operate”, he said, adding that the banks are awaiting the opening of Afghanistan’s central bank.

In addition to this, the Taliban’s top priorities include announcing a new government and providing public services to people.

Taliban says ISIL attack ‘highly likely’

Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis, reporting from Kabul, said the threat of ISIL (ISIS) remains “very high”.

“We’re told that an ISIL attack is highly likely,” Bellis said.

“I’ve heard that now from a number of people saying definitely do not go to the airport today,” she added.

The Taliban is particularly concerned about the south entrance of the airport, which is the main entrance protected by the armed group, as well as the northwestern corner of the airport, Bellis said.

Taliban patrols outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan [EPA]

‘My heart will be bleeding’: Afghan student trying to evacuate

Al Jazeera spoke to people who are trying to flee the country, some of whom are students from the American University in Afghanistan.

They said they hope to go to Qatar, where they will become some of the almost 60,000 Afghans who have been processed outside of the US, waiting for their visas, Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis said.

Many say it was an incredibly hard decision to leave.

“My heart will be bleeding, because I have left my family,” a student who had been attempting to leave, said.

Taliban Badri fighters, a “special forces” unit, stand guard as Afghans, hoping to leave Afghanistan, wait at the main entrance gate of Kabul airport in Kabul [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

‘Far fewer flights’ to and from Kabul airport

There are “far fewer flights” arriving or departing from Kabul airport, according to Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis, who is reporting from Kabul.

“This morning … there isn’t even a single US plane on the ground at Kabul airport, and there have been far fewer in the air than there were even yesterday,” Bellis said, adding that people are “still attempting” to leave.

She added that hundreds of people were trying to get on buses this morning in what has become the latest “strategy” for attempting to evacuate.

Taliban members stand guard at a checkpoint around Hamid Karzai International Airport, the centre of evacuation efforts from Afghanistan since the Taliban took over [Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency]

Hundreds line up outside banks in Kabul

Days after banks reopened in Afghanistan, crowds have not died down.

According to Al Jazeera’s Ali Latifi, reporting from Kabul, hundreds could be seen standing outside the capital’s financial institutions, trying to gain access to the funds that had been inaccessible since the Taliban took over the country.

There have been reports of unrest outside several banks in the city, he said.

Bank account holders gather outside a closed bank building in Kabul, following the Taliban’s stunning military takeover of Afghanistan [Aamir Qureshi/AFP]

US in ‘final phase of evacuations from Kabul’

A Western security official has told the Reuters news agency that US forces are in the final phase of their evacuation from Kabul and just about 1,000 civilians remain inside the airport to be flown out before troops are withdrawn.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said the date and time for the end of the operation were yet to be decided.

“We want to ensure that every foreign civilian and those who are at risk are evacuated today. Forces will start flying out once this process is over,” said the official, who is stationed at Kabul airport.

Taliban waiting for ‘final nod’ to take control of Kabul airport

A Taliban official says the group is prepared to take charge of the Kabul airport.

“We are waiting for the final nod from the Americans to secure full control over Kabul airport as both sides aim for a swift handover,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The Taliban’s engineers and technicians were ready to take control, the official added.

Taliban members stand guard at a checkpoint around Hamid Karzai International Airport [Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu]

US warns of ‘specific, credible threat’ near Kabul airport

The US Embassy in Kabul is urging all Americans in the vicinity of Kabul airport to leave the area immediately because of a “specific, credible threat”.

The warning early on Sunday said US citizens should avoid going to the airport and avoid all airport gates. It specifically noted the South (Airport Circle) gate, the new Ministry of the Interior, and the gate near the Panjshir Petrol station on the northwest side of the airport.

US military, ally flights took 2,000 out of Kabul on Saturday: White House

US military and coalition flights took approximately 2,000 people out of Kabul on Saturday, a White House official said.

The evacuations took place more than 12 hours between 07:00 and 19:00 GMT, the official said, according to the Reuters news agency.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. For updates from yesterday, August 28, go here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies