Rebels hold out in Panjshir; Taliban set up gov’t in Kabul: Live

Taliban forces and fighters loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud fight in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, as Taliban leaders work to form government.

Taliban forces and fighters loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud have fought in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, as Taliban leaders in the capital Kabul worked on forming a government. Each side said it had inflicted heavy casualties.

Also on Thursday United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said “direct engagement” was required with the Taliban while on a visit to Doha.

Qatar, on its part, said it was working with the Taliban to reopen Kabul’s airport “as soon as possible”, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said, adding that the Gulf state was also seeking technical assistance from Turkey. “We are working very hard (and) we remain hopeful that we will be able to operate it as soon as possible … Hopefully in the next few days we will hear some good news,” Al Thani said on Thursday at a news conference with his UK counterpart Dominic Raab in Doha.

The British foreign secretary said there was a need to engage with the Taliban on Afghanistan, but the UK had no immediate plans to recognise its government, adding that he will judge the group by its actions, not by words.

Here are the latest updates:

Pakistani soldiers stand guard in front of a member of the Taliban force, in the background, during an organised media tour to the Pakistan-Afghanistan crossing border, in Torkham, Pakistan on Thursday [Gibran Peshimam/Reuters]

UN resumes humanitarian flights to Afghanistan

The UN has resumed Humanitarian Air Service flights to Afghanistan with three planes arriving in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif since Sunday, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday.

The flights, operated by the World Food Programme (WFP), link Pakistan’s Islamabad to Mazar-i-Sharif and the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. The programme aims to deliver humanitarian aid to areas that are difficult to reach.

Dujarric said WFP is looking to “step up” its operations in Afghanistan as soon as possible.

“From 2002 to 2021, the UN Humanitarian Air Service in Afghanistan served more than 20 destinations in the country; it will seek to return to these locations once security and funding permits,” Dujarric said.

US Republicans demand transcript of Biden’s call with Ashraf Ghani

Republican legislators have sent a letter to the White House requesting the release of “the full, unedited and unredacted” transcript of President Joe Biden’s call with ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in July.

The letter, signed by 12 US Congress members and sent on Thursday, including top Republican Elise Stefanik, accused the administration of engaging in a “deliberate effort” to mislead the public on the situation in Afghanistan.

The legislators argued that releasing Biden’s conversation with Ghani would increase transparency to hold the White House accountable.

“The contrast between your administration’s official spin and the reality on the ground revealed a bewildering lack of coherence, strategy and fundamental transparency,” the letter said.

Blinken discusses Afghanistan in calls with counterparts

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has discussed the situation in Afghanistan in separate phone conversations with his Saudi, Italian, Spanish and German counterparts.

The State Department said Blinken thanked Germany for its “support in facilitating the transit of thousands of people out of Afghanistan” in a call with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Thursday.

“The Secretary and Foreign Minister discussed ways to promote the safety and security of Afghan and international citizens following the withdrawal of NATO forces,” it said.

EU mulls reaction force after Kabul evacuation

European Union defence ministers weighed proposals for a European rapid reaction force after the bloc was sidelined during the US-led evacuation from Afghanistan.

Calls have grown for the 27-nation group to develop its own joint military capability to respond quickly to crises in the wake of the chaotic scenes at Kabul airport.

“Afghanistan has shown that deficiencies in our strategic autonomy come with a price and that the only way forward is to combine our forces and strengthen not only our capacity but also our will to act,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told journalists after the meeting in Slovenia.

“If we want to be able to act autonomously and not be dependent on the choices made by others, even if these others are our friends and allies, then we have to develop our own capacities.”

Germany sets conditions for Kabul presence

Germany is ready to resume a diplomatic presence in Kabul if the Taliban meets certain conditions, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

“We want to see an inclusive government [in Kabul], the respect for fundamental human and women’s rights – and Afghanistan must not again become a breeding ground for international terrorism,” Maas told reporters in Slovenia, where he met his EU counterparts to discuss Afghanistan.

Who should look after Afghan refugees?

As the Taliban works to set up a government it says will be inclusive, it faces several challenges.

The UN has warned that up to half a million Afghans could leave the country by the end of this year as governments in the region are bracing for a possible refugee crisis and the EU says it will help those nations host the refugees.

But several European leaders are concerned about a repeat of the 2015 Syrian refugee emergency, leading some Western countries to try to find temporary solutions in other nations until the Afghans are processed and relocated.

However, Pakistan and other bordering states have warned they are not prepared to take in more people.

So, could this lead to a bigger refugee crisis?

Western Union resuming services to Afghanistan

Western Union Co is resuming money-transfer services to Afghanistan, a senior executive told Reuters, a decision he said was in line with a US push to allow humanitarian activity to continue after the Taliban’s takeover.

The world’s largest money-transfer firm and MoneyGram International Inc, another global remittance provider, suspended services in Afghanistan two weeks ago after the group captured Kabul at lightning speed.

Jean Claude Farah, Western Union’s president in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the reopening of banks, plus a push by the United States to facilitate humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, had given the American company confidence to resume services.

Italy’s Draghi says still hopes to hold a G20 summit on Afghanistan

Italy still hopes to hold an ad hoc summit of the Group of 20 chief economies on Afghanistan, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said, adding that any such meeting would take place after this month’s UN General Assembly.

Italy, which holds the rotating G20 presidency this year, has previously signalled it was looking to call a one-off summit in the middle of the month. The United Nations assembly ends on September 30.

Draghi told reporters that Europe had to do a better job of confronting such crises. “It is unthinkable that things can carry on like this,” he said.

Western Union to resume money-transfer services to Afghanistan

Western Union is resuming money-transfer services to Afghanistan, the company said, after suspending its operations in the Central Asian country two weeks ago as the Taliban advanced on Kabul.

“Starting September 2, 2021, Western Union is pleased to announce that it is resuming its money transfer services into Afghanistan, enabling customers from 200 countries and territories to once again send money to their loved ones in the country,” the world’s largest money-transfer firm said in a statement posted on its Twitter account.

Read more here.

Afghans line up outside a bank to take out their money after Taliban takeover in Kabul, Afghanistan [File: Stringer/Reuters]

The UK says will engage with the Taliban

During a diplomatic mission to Qatar to ensure the safe passage of the Britons and Afghans left behind, UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said a “direct engagement” was required with the Taliban.

“The reality is we will not be recognising the Taliban any time in the foreseeable future but I think there is an important scope for engagement and dialogue,” he said on Thursday.

He added that the UK was attempting to build a regional coalition to “exert the maximum moderating influence” on the Taliban as they “adjust to the new reality” of the group in power.

Read more here.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and the UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab hold a joint news conference in Doha [Hamad l Mohammed/Reuters]

Dutch want to help Qatar, Turkey open Kabul airfield

The Dutch government wants to support Turkey and Qatar in attempts to open an airfield in Kabul to resume evacuations of Afghans, news agency ANP reported, citing Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag.

Kaag is in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, for talks on Afghanistan.

Taliban says close to forming government

The Taliban said it is close to forming a new government, as Taliban official Ahmadullah Muttaqi said on social media a ceremony was being prepared at the presidential palace in Kabul for the event.

The announcement of a cabinet, which two Taliban sources told the AFP news agency may take place on Friday following afternoon prayers, would come just days after the chaotic pullout of US forces from Afghanistan, ending the US’s longest war with an astounding military victory for the Taliban.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had said a new government was a matter of a few days away.

Second Qatar technical team arrives in Kabul

A second Qatari plane carrying technical experts has arrived in Kabul, reported Al Jazeera Arabic.

The group of experts are expected to discuss with the Taliban how to reopen Kabul’s airport as soon as possible.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Afghanistan had said earlier it would seek assistance from Qatar to restore air travel.

A Qatari technical team is assessing damage in Kabul airport as it plans to make it operational soon [Al Jazeera]

Taliban to rely on Chinese funds, spokesperson says

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has told an Italian newspaper that the group will rely primarily on financing from China following the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and its takeover of the country.

In his interview published by La Repubblica, Mujahid said the Taliban will fight for an economic comeback with the help of China.

Read more here.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, centre, said the New Silk Road – a Chinese infrastructure initiative – was held in high regard by the Taliban [File: Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Rebels hold out in Panjshir as Taliban set up gov’t in Kabul

Taliban forces and fighters loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud fought in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, as Taliban leaders in the capital Kabul worked on forming a government.

Each side said it had inflicted heavy casualties.

“We started operations after negotiation with the local armed group failed,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, adding that Taliban fighters had entered Panjshir and taken control of some territory. “They [the enemy] suffered heavy losses.”

A spokesman for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA) rebel group said it had full control of all passes and entrances and had driven back efforts to take the Shotul district.

Afghan resistance movement fighters on a Soviet-era tank as they patrol along a road in Panjshir province [File: Ahmad Sahel Arman/AFP]

Herat women protest against Taliban over right to work

Dozens of Afghan women have demonstrated in the western city of Herat to demand their rights to employment and education.

Mariam Ebram, who was in attendance at the protest on Thursday, told Al Jazeera that they took to the streets out of frustration with the lack of answers from the de facto Taliban government on women’s right to work.

Read more here.

Ex-Taliban official urges countries to recognise new Afghan gov’t

The founder and former head of the Taliban’s political bureau, Sayed Muhammad Tayyab Agha, has urged the armed group to involve people of different ethnicities when forming a new government.

Agha also said the group should include the youth, in particular, even if they had worked with the former US-backed government.

Read the full story here.


They left us so helpless, we didn’t know what to do’

Domestic flights to resume in few days: Source

A source inside Afghanistan told Al Jazeera that the Taliban is hoping domestic flights will resume in the next few days, while international flights will possibly take off in the next week or so.

“A senior Qatari source told me that initial flights will be either humanitarian or evacuation ones – that is the main focus for now – not necessarily civilians,” said Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal reporting from Doha.

A commercial aeroplane is seen at the Hamid Karzai International Airport a day after US troops withdrawal in Kabul, Afghanistan [Reuters]

Tajikistan unable to take in Afghan refugees without help

Tajikistan cannot afford to take in large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers from neighbouring Afghanistan as it promised to do earlier this year, said the police chief of Central Asia’s poorest country.

The Tajikistan government said in July that it could take in 100,000 refugees, but that it needed to create infrastructure for them.

Interior Minister Rakhimzoda Ramazon Hamro said the government had allocated areas totalling 70 hectares (173 acres) along its Afghan border to receive refugees and has appealed to the international community for assistance.

“Not a single international organisation in 20 years has provided practical help in creating infrastructure to take in refugees and asylum seekers,” he said.

Qatar working with Taliban to reopen Kabul airport ‘as soon as possible’: FM

Qatar has been working with the Taliban to reopen Kabul’s airport as soon as possible, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said, adding that the Gulf state was working with Turkey for potential technical support to restart operations.

“We are working very hard (and) we remain hopeful that we will be able to operate it as soon as possible … Hopefully in the next few days we will hear some good news,” the Qatari foreign minister said at a news conference with his British counterpart Dominic Raab in Doha.

The British foreign secretary said there was a need to engage with the Taliban on Afghanistan, but the UK had no immediate plans to recognise their government.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and the UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab hold a joint news conference in Doha [Hamad l Mohammed/Reuters]

Explainer: What leverage do US, allies have over the Taliban?

The United States and its allies may have left Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban but they still have “leverage” to make the armed group honour commitments to allow people out of the country, according to US President Joe Biden.

This was echoed by US officials and other Western leaders who believe the Taliban can be pressured into abandoning their past policies with carrot-and-stick measures given Afghanistan’s outsized dependence on imported energy, food and foreign aid, as well as its shaky economy.

Read here some of the levers the West has to pressure the Taliban to honour women’s and human rights and cooperate with other countries.

Qatar technical team to operate Kabul airport ‘soon’

A Qatari technical team is assessing damage in Kabul airport and it plans to make it operational “soon”, an official from the Civil Aviation Authority of Afghanistan told Al Jazeera.

The aviation authority said it would seek assistance from Qatar to restore air travel.

Taliban says resistance group made “irrational demands”

The Taliban says it has failed to find a peaceful resolution with the resistance movement in the Panjshir Valley due to the “irrational demands” it put forward, according to Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride reporting from Kabul.

According to McBride, the Taliban said the resistance asked to retain its weapons, while its leader Ahmad Massoud demanded 30 percent representation in the new government.

“It seems a big ask especially if you consider the relative size of this resistance movement,” McBride said, adding that the group is a “shadow” of what used to be the Northern Alliance 20 years ago which could claim support across swaths of northern Afghanistan.

Who are the Afghan refugees arriving in Pakistan?

Afghans seeking refuge in Pakistan


British top diplomat to visit Qatar

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will visit Doha on Thursday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan with Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Raab’s office said.

“The prospects of getting Kabul airport up and running and safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghans across land borders [are] top of the agenda,” the British Foreign Office said in a statement.

Pentagon chiefs defend pullout amid ‘pain and anger’

At least 60 pushbacks of Afghans reported in the past two weeks: DRC

The Danish Refugee Council has documented at least 60 alleged pushbacks of Afghans by authorities in Croatia, said the NGO’s Secretary-General Charlotte Slente.

Slente said such pushbacks, which are illegal under international law, were conducted in the past two weeks.

“This must change. Pushbacks are illegal – seeking asylum is not!” she said on Twitter.

Afghan TV morning show resumes with female host

An Afghan morning show on the country’s leading television channel, TOLO TV, has resumed broadcasting – with a female host – according to a company executive.

Saad Mohseni, director of MOBY Group which operates TOLO channel, posted the news on social media on Thursday.

There have been concerns that the Taliban will limit the public participation of women. In the past, the Taliban had labelled TOLO TV a propaganda network.

Fighting reported in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley

Fighting between Taliban fighters and those who oppose their rule has been reported in the country’s Panjshir Valley, according to a social media post by Muhammad Jalal, a Taliban official.

He said “a dozen posts have been taken by the government”, but Al Jazeera could not independently verify his statement.

The Panjshir Valley, in the Hindu Kush mountains north of capital Kabul, has long been the heart of military resistance in Afghanistan. Since mid-August, forces opposed to the Taliban have gathered in the valley under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud, son of the famed Afghan resistance fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Fitch: Chaotic US exit likely to crush Afghan economy

Afghanistan’s economy is likely to collapse following the rapid withdrawal of US forces and the Taliban’s return to power, the Reuters news agency reported, quoting Fitch Solutions.

The research arm of credit rating agency Fitch Group expects the country’s real gross domestic product to shrink by 9.7 percent this financial year, and 5.2 percent next year.

“The highly disruptive manner in which the US’s security forces left the country and the Taliban takeover will mean that the economic pains for the country will be felt acutely over the short term,” said analysts in a Fitch Solutions report.

Nurses take care of patients at Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital in Kabul on Wednesday [Aamir Qureshi/AFP]

Situation in Afghanistan is dire: Ex-US Treasury official

The former US Treasury financial attache to Afghanistan blames the Taliban for the “dire” situation in the country, saying the group’s “violent takeover” caused the current economic crunch.

“The situation … is quite dire right now. Even before this crisis, many Afghans were already living well below the poverty line,” Alex Zerden told Al Jazeera.

“The situation … is directly caused by the Taliban withdrawing from peaceful negotiations … and engaging in the violent takeover.”

Food prices have increased by about 50 percent, and petrol as much as 75 percent [West Asia News Agency via Reuters]

Taliban wrestles with Afghan economy in chaos, humanitarian crisis

The Taliban is struggling to keep the country functioning, according to Reuters, with foreign donors alarmed about an impending humanitarian crisis.

Prices have soared and crowds gather regularly to try to withdraw cash at banks that have been ordered to reopen – but strict weekly limits on withdrawals have been imposed.

The Taliban-appointed central bank head, Haji Mohammad Idris, tried to reassure banks the group wants a fully functioning financial system but has given little detail on how it will supply funds, bankers familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Fears for safety of Hazaras

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

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Abdul Ghafoor, director of Afghanistan Migrants Advice and Support Organization, said at least 14 Hazaras had been killed after surrendering to the Taliban in Daykundi province.

“There’s no amnesty … 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, Democratic chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he would not rule out recognising a Taliban-led government, but stressed that the group must live up to its commitments to respect human rights.

Speaking to 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 the Taliban has to do to show 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 evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies, including over land, US officials said.

US Under-secretary of State Victoria Nuland said the Biden administration was engaged in “ongoing intensive diplomatic work” to help US citizens and Afghan allies wishing to leave Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.

“We are looking at all possible options – air routes, land routes,” she said.

Read more here.

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Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies