Qatar jet carrying technical team lands in Kabul: Live

Group arrives in Afghanistan to discuss restarting Kabul airport operations after it was damaged in recent evacuations.

Technical teams from Qatar have landed at Kabul airport to discuss the resumption of activities after it was damaged during recent US and NATO evacuations.

The arrival on Wednesday came amid increasing concerns about the formation of a new government in Afghanistan and how the Taliban, which took over the country on August 15, intends to deal with the country’s ailing economy.

Government employees have not been paid salaries for months, and banks are barely functional as the country has been cut off from international financial institutions. More than half a million Afghans have been internally displaced due to months of deadly fighting between Taliban fighters and government forces.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Tuesday warned of a looming “humanitarian catastrophe”, adding that basic services threatened to collapse “completely”.

Here are the latest updates:


Fears raised for safety of Hazaras after Taliban takeover

The safety of Afghanistan’s minority Hazara community could be in jeopardy following the takeover of the Taliban group in the country.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Abdul Ghafoor, the director of Afghanistan Migrants Advice and Support Organization, revealed that at least 14 Hazaras were killed after they surrendered to the Taliban in Daykundi province.

“There’s no amnesty for no one to be honest with you. They are going after the journalists, they are going after the activists, after the people who were in the government,” he said.

 

 


Influential US legislator says recognition of Taliban possible

Gregory Meeks, the Democratic chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he would not rule out recognising a Taliban-led government in the future but he stressed that the group must live up to its commitments to respect human rights.

Speaking to broadcaster MSNBC, Meeks said relations with the Vietnamese government were once thought impossible after the US withdrawal from the country, but Washington now enjoys warm ties with Hanoi.

“So you never say never, but there’s a lot that the Taliban has to do to show that they’re going to really uphold the principles of … human rights,” Meeks said.


US looking at land routes to continue evacuations

The United States is exploring ways to get American citizens and Afghan allies looking to leave Afghanistan out of the country, including via land routes, US officials said.

US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said the Biden administration is engaged in “ongoing intensive diplomatic work” to help US citizens and Afghan allies wishing to leave Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

“We are looking at all possible options – air routes, land routes to continue to find ways for them to help evacuate and to support them in that,” she said.

Read more here.


Biden thanks Kuwait’s emir for help with evacuations

US President Joe Biden thanked Kuwait’s Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah for his help during a phone call on Wednesday, the White House said.

Biden called Sheikh Sabah “to express gratitude for Kuwait’s generous support for the evacuation from Afghanistan of American citizens, diplomatic staff from the United States and several partner nations, and vulnerable Afghan nationals,” the White House said in a statement.


More than 30 California children still stuck in Afghanistan

More than 30 California children are stuck in Afghanistan after they travelled to the country to see their relatives weeks before the Taliban seized power and were unable to get out before United States forces left, according to school districts where the kids are enrolled.

Officials with three school districts – one in the San Diego area and two in Sacramento – said that they have been in contact with the families who fear they have been forgotten by the US government. The officials said that some of the children were born in the United States and are US citizens.

Nearly all the children returned to Afghanistan with one or both parents in the spring or early summer to visit relatives. The families travelled on their own to the country and were not part of any organised trips.


‘Fear, uncertainty’ prevail amongst Afghans, says journalist

Speaking from Doha, independent journalist Bilal Sarwary said there was a sense of fear and uncertainty amongst people in Afghanistan.

“People are in fact very, very worried about the lack of cash in their bank accounts. Also, ATM machines are empty. This is in Kabul and other major cities,” Sarwary told Al Jazeera.

“But the majority of the population who don’t have banks and money inside their credit cards, they are worried about the high food prices, and no work, for example, I was speaking to government employees in the province of Zabul in southern Afghanistan. They hadn’t been paid for the last six months. These were teachers. So, some of these problems have been lingering for quite some time.”

The Taliban called for support from the international community to revive an economy battered by 20 years of conflict and heavily dependent on foreign aid [File: EPA]

Biden administration working to accommodate 50,000 Afghans

The Biden administration is working to build capacity to accommodate but not resettle up to 50,000 Afghan refugees on military bases, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing.

“There is capacity and we’re working towards capacity at our military bases for up to 50,000,” she said, noting that the facilities would not permanently house refugees but provide medical care and assistance and connect refugees with resettlement organisations.


Unclear if Taliban has changed, top US general says

The top US general said that it was unclear whether the Taliban had changed from the “ruthless group” they once were.

“I can tell you from personal experience that this is a ruthless group from the past and whether or not they change remains to be seen,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said during a press conference.


US coordination with Taliban against ISIL ‘possible’, says general

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley, the top US general, did not rule out future coordination with the Taliban against ISIL affiliate, the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K).

Milley said the Taliban has been “ruthless” in the past, but stressed that Washington had to work with the group to ensure the safety of the evacuation operation.

Asked if Washington would coordinate with the Taliban against ISKP going forward, he answered, “It’s possible.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, standing next to Milley, interjected saying that he would not “want to make any predictions”.

US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley discusses the end of the military mission in Afghanistan during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, September 1, 2021 [Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

Pentagon chief to travel to Gulf next week to thank US allies

United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he will travel to the Gulf region next week to thank Washington’s partners for their role in the evacuation operation.

“I’ll be travelling to the Gulf next week to thank our partners there who have done so much to help save and shelter Afghan civilians,” he said at a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday. Austin praised the evacuation mission, calling it “heroic” and “historic”.


People ‘running out of cash’

Reporting from the Afghan capital, Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride said people were scrambling for funds as many were unable to access their bank accounts.

“Cash remains a real problem. Banks largely remain closed, and when they are open, there are strict limits on how much you can take out,” McBride said.

“Outside of Kabul’s main bank, the Taliban are only allowing 10 customers at one time, as hundreds more wait their turn.”

Many customers were government employees who said they had not been paid for months and were “running out of cash”, McBride added.

“The government should have handed everything in order, instead of running away the way it did,” one Kabul resident told Al Jazeera.

People line up to withdraw money in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 1, 2021 [EPA]

Taliban approves Afghanistan’s first cricket Test since takeover

The Taliban has approved Afghanistan’s first cricket Test since its takeover, raising hopes that international matches will continue as usual.

“We have got approval to send the team to Australia,” Chief Executive of the Afghanistan Cricket Board Hamid Shinwari told the AFP news agency.

The Test match, to be played in Hobart from November 27 – December 1, was scheduled for last year but was put off due to the COVID-19 pandemic and international travel restrictions.


Taliban parade shows off plundered US hardware

A Black Hawk helicopter flew circles over the Taliban’s spiritual heartland in southern Afghanistan while below fighters stood on board captured Humvees as the group paraded their plundered US military hardware.

The Taliban’s victory lap, celebrating the final withdrawal of US troops, follows the group’s astonishing two-week takeover.

On the highway towards Afghanistan’s second-biggest city of Kandahar, a long line of green, armoured, fighting vehicles drove in single file down, most with white-and-black Taliban flags attached to aerials.

Taliban fighters rally to celebrate the withdrawal of US forces in Kandahar, Afghanistan, August 31, 2021 [EPA]

Afghanistan war a huge ‘political and ideological failure’: Activist Tariq Ali

Prominent activist and author Tariq Ali has told Al Jazeera it is time for Western powers to learn from their mistakes.

“The first thing which has to be said very clearly and bluntly is that this has been a huge political and ideological defeat for the American empire, for NATO, and for the allies. It will bring hope on that level, to many others who are still struggling, like in Palestine and other parts of the world that this is possible. This can be done,” he said from London.

Ali noted that trillions of dollars had been wasted in the war and the conflict only benefitted “the large corporations linked to the military-industrial complex”.


How Taliban return in Afghanistan triggered Islamophobia in India

The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan has given yet another excuse to India’s Hindu supremacists to unleash a new wave of Islamophobia against its Muslim minority.

Muslim politicians, writers, journalists, social media influencers and everyday citizens have become the targets of a hate campaign launched by the country’s right wing, including members of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Read more here.


UK’s Raab says intelligence was Kabul would not fall this year

The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the intelligence assessment was that it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year as he defended his country’s withdrawal from Afghanistan after the Taliban swept across the country much more quickly.

The UK, like the US, failed to predict how quickly the Afghan government would fall, meaning it had not made sufficient preparation for the chaos that would follow when the Taliban seized power.

In an emergency session of parliament’s foreign affairs committee to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan, Raab said the central assessment of the UK’s intelligence service was that the Taliban would only consolidate its control of the country in the months after Western countries had evacuated their troops.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab walks outside the FCDO in London, Britain, September 1, 2021 [Henry Nicholls/Reutrs]

Israel says US Afghan withdrawal ‘right’ move, badly done

Israel’s foreign minister said the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was “probably the right decision” but implemented in the wrong manner and its effect on regional security was not yet clear.

“It didn’t happen the way it was supposed to happen,” Yair Lapid told foreign media during a briefing in Jerusalem.

“It was probably the right decision, maybe that wasn’t performed in the right manner.”

Lapid, a centrist and the key player who forged Israel’s eight-party coalition government that took power in June, responded to concerns that the US Afghanistan pullout pointed to waning US interest in the wider region.


Dutch to move Kabul diplomatic mission to Qatar: foreign minister

The Netherlands will move its Kabul diplomatic mission to Qatar after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag said, following similar moves by the United States and the United Kingdom.

“I’ve asked his excellency very kindly agree to the relocation of the Netherlands embassy from Kabul to Doha,” Kaag told journalists after meeting her Qatari counterpart in Doha.


Qatar jet carrying technical team lands in Kabul: source

A Qatari aircraft landed in Kabul carrying a technical team to discuss the resumption of airport operations after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, a source with knowledge of the matter, told the AFP news agency.

“A Qatari jet carrying a technical team has landed in Kabul earlier today to discuss the resumption of operations in the airport,” the source said.

“While no final agreement has been reached regarding providing technical assistance, Qatar’s technical team has initiated this discussion based on the other sides’ request.

“Talks are still ongoing at the level of security and operation.”

The source said that the goal was to resume flights for both humanitarian aid and to provide freedom of movement, including the resumption of evacuation efforts.

There was no immediate comment by the Qatari government.


Afghan central bank board member asks Biden, IMF to release funds

A senior board member of Afghanistan’s central bank is urging the US Treasury and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to take steps to provide the Taliban-led government limited access to the country’s reserves to avoid economic disaster.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan with astonishing speed, but it appears unlikely that the group will get quick access to most of the roughly $10bn in assets held by Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), which are mostly outside of the country.

Read the full story here.

People line up to withdraw money from banks as banks allowed only $200 withdrawal per week from an account at their central branches in Kabul, Afghanistan [EPA-EFE]

Taliban says it surrounded Afghan resistance fighters, calls for peace

The Taliban surrounded the only remaining province resisting its rule, a senior leader said, calling on rebels to negotiate a settlement with the group.

Mountainous Panjshir has been the only province to hold out against the armed group, although there has also been fighting in neighbouring Baghlan province between Taliban and local militia forces.

In a recorded speech addressed to Afghans in Panjshir, senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Motaqi called on the rebels to put down their weapons.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is home for all Afghans,” he said.

Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces take part in military training at the Abdullah Khil area of Dara district in Panjshir province [File: Ahmad Sahel Arman/AFP]

US-Afghan foray achieved nothing but tragedy: Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the US military intervention in Afghanistan had achieved nothing but tragedy and loss of life on all sides and showed it was impossible to foist foreign values on other nations.

Speaking to teenagers at an educational facility in the Russian far east, Putin made clear that he deemed the US approach to a country once invaded by the Soviet Union to have been deeply flawed.

“US forces were present on this territory for 20 years, and for 20 years tried … to civilise the people who live there, to instil their own norms and standards of life in the widest possible sense of this word, including when it comes to the political organisation of society,” said Putin.

“The result is only tragedies and losses of life for those who did it, the United States, and even more so for those people who live on the territory of Afghanistan. The result is zero, if not a negative one, all around.”

Taliban fighters gather along a street during a rally in Kabul as they celebrate after the US pulled all its troops out of the country [Hoshang Hashimi/AFP]

Russia’s security chiefs have made clear they are deeply worried about a potential spill-over of instability into Central Asia, the possible infiltration of hardline fighters into the wider region including Russia, and Afghan drug production.

Putin, who has previously said that Moscow has learned the lessons of the Soviet Union’s own Afghan debacle and has no plans to deploy troops there, said it was important to take into account the history, culture, and philosophy of life of people like the Afghans when dealing with them.

“It’s not possible to foist anything on them from the outside,” said Putin.


Taliban should review their policies on women’s rights: Qatar

Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag (left) her Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani at a news conference [Karim Jaafar/AFP]

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani urged the Taliban to respect women’s rights and to ensure “safe passage” for citizens wanting to leave Afghanistan.

“An extensive part of the negotiations that took place in Doha was centred on women and their role … We reiterated to the Taliban that they should carefully review their policies and rhetoric towards women. They should also re-address and reconsider the issue of women’s rights and allow them to take an effective and active role,” the diplomat told reporters after a meeting with his Dutch counterpart Sigrid Kaag.

“Taliban should not back down on what they had promised,” he added, urging the armed group to ensure the departure of those wanting to leave Afghanistan. “We have always urged the Taliban to preserve the freedom of movement and to provide safe passage to all citizens, foreign and nationals,” he said.


Afghan refugees in Italy prepare for resettlement


In Jalalabad, ‘life continues as normal’

Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid gained rare access to the eastern city of Jalalabad where, he said, life has never really gone away from normal.

A deal between the city’s former governor and the Taliban, Bin Javaid reported, paved the way for a peaceful transition of power.

“Life continues as normal, Taliban guards are seen in major squares, the streets are crowded, banks are closed but unlike what is happening in the centre of Kabul, there are no real queues of people,” Bin Javaid said.

“We spoke to some people and they said it is difficult to figure out what the future holds for them, but so far, they are satisfied about the situation in the streets because there are no more mobile snatching, no more kidnappings, the crime rate is low,” he added.


Biden, Ghani did not foresee Taliban victory in their last call

In the last call between US President Joe Biden and his Afghanistan counterpart before the Taliban seized control of the country, the leaders discussed military aid, political strategy and messaging tactics, but neither Biden nor Ashraf Ghani appeared aware of or prepared for the immediate danger of the entire country falling to the armed group, a transcript reviewed by Reuters shows.

The men spoke for roughly 14 minutes on July 23. On August 15, Ghani fled the presidential palace, and the Taliban entered Kabul.

Read the full story here.


New gov’t to face mounting challenges

Al Jazeera’s correspondent Charles Stratford, reporting from Kabul, said that there are increasing concerns about the formation of a new government in Afghanistan and how the Taliban intend to deal with the country’s ailing economy.

“The talks are ongoing in Kandahar, we understand that the former president, Hamid Karzai – that we know wanted to be part of some kind of inclusive administration – is still here in Kabul,” said Stratford.

“There are increasing concerns about levels of cohesiveness, for example, within different factions of the Taliban,” he said.

“But there are also huge questions with respect to governance in terms of delivering services and managing an economy that is haemorrhaging,” he said, adding that the decision – by some international institutions, such as the Word Bank – to freeze aid disbursements to the country, will represent an other major obstacle for the Taliban.


Taliban says formation of new gov’t in its final stages

The formation of Afghanistan’s new government is in its final stages, the Taliban has said, as the US withdrew the last of its forces from the country.

“The government will take shape in the following few days,” Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban leader, told Al Jazeera.

He added that it was still too early to say who will be part of the new cabinet.

“We have covered about 90 to 95 percent and we will announce the final outcome in the following few days,” he said.

Read the full story here.


UK in talks with Taliban to evacuate British citizens, Afghans

The United Kingdom has opened talks with the Taliban to secure “safe passage” out of Afghanistan for its citizens and Afghans who have worked for the British government.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s special representative for Afghan transition, Simon Gass, flew to Doha, Qatar to meet Taliban representatives, according to a government statement late on Tuesday.

Read full story here.


Planeload of fleeing Afghans arrive in Mexico, including journalists

Afghan citizens arrive in Mexico to apply for humanitarian status at the Benito Juarez International airport in Mexico City on Tuesday night [Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry via Reuters]

A plane carrying 175 Afghans fleeing their strife-torn homeland arrived in Mexico on Tuesday night on one of the last flights to leave Kabul on the day US forces completed its withdrawal.

According to the Reuters news agency, the Afghans have been granted entry by Mexico on humanitarian grounds. The group include women and children as well as journalists from TOLO TV and Arman FM radio.


Pakistan urges international community to help Taliban reorganise army

Pakistani officials have expressed growing concern about the security situation in neighbouring Afghanistan, following the takeover of the Taliban and the withdrawal of US troops.

“The next two to three months are critical,” a senior Pakistani official told the Reuters news agency, adding that Islamabad feared a rise in attacks along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

“We (the international community) have to assist the Taliban in reorganising their army in order for them to control their territory,” the official said.

During the previous Taliban rule of Afghanistan, the armed group maintained close relations with Pakistan.


Kabul airport empty after US withdrawal

Al Jazeera’s Suhaib al-Assa, reporting from Kabul, shows the aftermath of the withdrawal of US troops from the capital’s international airport.

According to reports, Turkey and Qatar have agreed to help the Taliban operate the Hamid Karzai International Airport, which remains shut to commercial and military planes.


Afghan interpreter who helped rescue Biden: Don’t forget me here

An Afghan interpreter, who helped rescue then-Senator Joe Biden and two other US senators after their helicopter was stranded in a snowstorm in Afghanistan, is pleading for the US president to rescue him and his family.

In an exclusive interview with The Wall Street Journal newspaper, the interpreter named Mohammed said he, his wife and their four children are hiding from the Taliban, after his years of effort to go to the US got tangled in the bureaucracy.

“Don’t forget me here,” The Journal quoted Mohammed as saying.

The US, which ended its 20-year occupation of Afghanistan on August 31, had promised those who worked with US troops that they will be eligible to apply for a special visa to the US.


PM Johnson says UK owes ‘huge debt’ to Afghan refugees

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday his country owes “an immense debt” to Afghanistan and its people who worked with NATO forces as he announced “vital support” for those resettling in the UK.

But his government is coming under fire after an estimated 8,000 Afghans who helped NATO were believed to have been left stranded in Afghanistan, where they are at the mercy of the Taliban.

“We owe an immense debt to those who worked with the Armed Forces in Afghanistan and I am determined that we give them and their families the support they need to rebuild their lives here in the UK,” Johnson said.


US Treasury issued new licence to ease flow of aid in Afghanistan

The US government has issued a licence authorising it and its partners to continue to facilitate humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, a Treasury Department official has told the Reuters news agency, after the Taliban, which is blacklisted by Washington, seized control of the country this month.

The specific licence, issued by the Treasury Department last Wednesday, authorises the US government and its contractors to support humanitarian assistance to people in Afghanistan, including the delivery of food and medicine, despite US sanctions on the Taliban.

The licence, which expires on March 1, 2022, comes amid concerns that Washington’s sanctions on the Taliban could speed up an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the country, which relies heavily on foreign aid.


US denies abandoning dogs at Kabul airport

The US Department of Defense has denied reports that soldiers abandoned some of their dogs at Kabul airport during Washington’s final withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“To correct erroneous reports, the US military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, including the reported military working dogs,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby posted on social media.

He clarified that photos circulating online showed dogs in an animal shelter and not those being used by the military.

The animal rights group PETA earlier quoted “inside sources” as saying that 60 bomb-sniffing dogs and 60 other “working dogs” were left behind “suffering in the heat without adequate access to food or water”.


Biden’s speech: The full transcript

President Joe Biden mounted a defiant defence of his Afghanistan policies on Tuesday, stressing that the withdrawal was the “right decision”.

“I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” Biden said.

Read the speech here.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Afghanistan during a speech at the White House, August 31 [Carlos Barria/Reuters]

Biden signs law to aid Americans returning from Afghanistan

President Joe Biden signed into law on Tuesday a bill that would provide up to $10m in assistance for US citizens who have been evacuated from Afghanistan for the next two years.

The Senate had passed the legislation unanimously earlier in the day. The House of Representatives approved it last week.

Senator Ben Cardin said the bill increases funds for returning Americans to help them meet their immediate needs, including housing. “They’ve been uprooted, they were living in Afghanistan, so [it is] to take care of their necessities on a short-term basis,” the broadcast network CNN quoted Cardin as saying.


US progressive leaders praise Biden for withdrawal

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, praised President Joe Biden for completing the withdrawal in Afghanistan, saying that he made one of “most compelling cases against war” in his speech on Tuesday.

“A courageous, thoughtful, comprehensive and necessary articulation,” Jayapal wrote on Twitter, describing Biden’s address.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a left-wing legislator, echoed Jayapal’s comment. “President Biden is right that this decision is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” Warren said.


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Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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