Afghanistan crisis updates | August 19, 2021

Afghans celebrate the 102th Independence Day of Afghanistan with the national flag in Kabul on August 19, 2021.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Afghanistan may be governed by a council now that the Taliban have taken over, while Islamist group’s supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada would likely remain in overall charge, a senior member of the group said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country, through a Facebook video denied claims by his country's ambassador to Tajikistan that he had stolen millions of dollars from state funds.

Here are the latest developments:

LONDON

Taliban will be judged by deeds, not words, says Boris Johnson ahead of G7 meet

The Taliban will be judged by its deeds rather than words, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said ahead of chairing an emergency G7 virtual meet to coordinate international response to the Afghan crisis.

Downing Street said that during the meeting Tuesday, the UK PM will call on the Group of Seven leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States to continue to stand by the Afghan people and step up support for refugees and humanitarian aid.

According to a Downing Street communique, the leaders of the world's seven major industrialized democracies are expected to reiterate their commitment to safeguarding the gains made in Afghanistan over the last 20 years – in particular on girls’ education and the rights of women and minorities.

The meeting will take place by video conference and the NATO and UN Secretaries-General have also been invited to join the discussion.

It comes as the Taliban issued a stark warning that it would not entertain any suggestion of an extension to the August 31 deadline for the US-led NATO troops to exit Kabul. - PTI

SINGAPORE

Hope Afghanistan doesn’t become ‘epicentre of terrorism’ again: Singapore PM Lee

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday said Afghanistan is a key battlefront in the global fight against terrorism from where extremist ideas have been exported to the region, hoping that the country does not become an “epicentre of terrorism” after the Taliban seized Kabul.

Lee, at a press conference here along with visiting US Vice President Kamala Harris, said that America’s intervention in the region 20 years ago has stopped terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a safe base.

“For this, Singapore is grateful. We hope Afghanistan does not become an epicentre for terrorism again,” he said. - PTI

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban say they have retaken three northern districts seized by Afghan militias

The Taliban say they have recaptured the districts of Bano, Deh Saleh and Pul e-Hesar in Baghlan province which were taken by local militia groups in one of the first signs of armed resistance to the Taliban since their seizure of the capital Kabul on August 15.

By Monday, Taliban forces had cleared the districts and were established in Badakhshan, Takhar and Andarab near the Panjshir valley, according to the Twitter account of spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Forces loyal to Ahmad Massoud, son of the anti-Soviet mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, have established themselves in the Panjshir valley, a mountainous area northwest of Kabul which resisted the Taliban before 2001. - REUTERS

GENEVA

WHO says cannot fly medical supplies into Afghanistan

The World Health Organization said on Monday that 500 tonnes of medical supplies including surgical equipment and childhood pneumonia treatments due to be delivered to Afghanistan this week are stuck because of Kabul airport restrictions.

"They were ready and planned to be delivered to Afghanistan to arrive this week. But now that the airport is closed to commercial flights, we can no longer get them in," said spokesperson Inas Hamam in an emailed statement to Reuters.

She said the WHO was calling for empty planes to divert to its storage hub in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to collect the supplies on their way to pick up evacuees from the country. - REUTERS

KABUL

Taliban won't extend Aug 31 deadline for Western forces to leave -Taliban sources

The Taliban will not extend the August 31 deadline for Western forces to leave Afghanistan, two sources in the Islamist group told Reuters on Monday.

The sources, however, said no Western government or official had approached the Taliban to extend the deadline. - REUTERS

 

NEW DELHI

Jaishankar to brief leaders of political parties on developments in Afghanistan

The government will brief parliamentary leaders of various political parties on the developments in war-torn Afghanistan.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said Prime Minister Narendra Modi instructed the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)) to brief the floor leaders of the political parties.

 

The government's briefing is expected to focus on its evacuation mission from Afghanistan as well as its assessment of the situation in that country. As part of its evacuation mission from Afghanistan, India has already brought back around 730 people including members of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities.

India on Monday brought back 146 of its nationals in four different flights from Qatar's capital Doha, days after they were evacuated from Afghanistan by NATO and American aircraft. - PTI

Jaishankar to brief leaders of political parties on developments in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON

U.S. President Joe Biden says troop withdrawal from Afghanistan was ‘logical, rational and right decision’

Facing criticism over his policy on Afghanistan, U.S. President Joe Biden has defended his move to withdraw American troops from the war-torn country, saying history will record this as a “logical, rational and right decision”.

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan on August 15, two weeks before the U.S. was set to complete its troop withdrawal after a costly two-decade war.

“Is the Taliban going to attempt to be able to unite and provide for the wellbeing of the people of Afghanistan, which no one group has ever done? And if it does, it’s going to need everything from additional help, in terms of economic assistance, trades and a whole range of things,” he said.

“The Taliban has said — we will see whether they mean it or not — they’re seeking legitimacy... to determine whether or not they will be recognised by other countries. They have told other countries as well as us that they don’t want us to move our diplomatic presence completely. All of this is all just talk now,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden said that in a 36-hour span, the U.S. has lifted about 11,000 people out of Kabul. - PTI

U.S. President Joe Biden says troop withdrawal from Afghanistan was ‘logical, rational and right decision’

TOKYO

Japan to send military planes to Kabul to evacuate Japanese

Japan will send three military aircraft to Afghanistan starting Monday to evacuate Japanese citizens and local staff as security deteriorates following the Taliban takeover, officials said.

Japan closed its Kabul embassy on Aug. 15 and set up a temporary office in neighboring Turkey two days later, but local employees at the embassy and other Japan-related organizations remain in Afghanistan.

Japan plans to finish the evacuation before the Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, said the Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi. - AP

LONDON

UK's Johnson to push Biden for Afghan deadline extension

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will urge U.S. President Joe Biden this week to extend the evacuation deadline from Afghanistan, but even it is agreed upon, the West will also need the approval of the Taliban, a defence minister said.

Johnson will host a virtual meeting of leaders from the Group of Seven advanced economies on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan.

James Cleverly, a minister in the foreign office, said the Taliban appeared to be cooperating for now, but the government could not assume that would last. "If we can buy more time that is great but I think that we shouldn't be relying on the fact that we will get more time to do this," Cleverly said.

The British government is also seeking new sanctions against the Taliban. - REUTERS

Asadabad

Several killed amid firing by Taliban and stampede during rally in Afghan city

Several people were killed on Thursday in the Afghan city of Asadabad on Thursday when Taliban fighters fired on people waving the national flag at an Independence Day rally, a witness said, a day after three people were killed in a similar protest.

The protests by people waving the Afghan flag, in some cases after tearing down white Taliban flags according to media, are the first signs of popular opposition to the Taliban since their stunning advance across the country and capture of the capital, Kabul, on Sunday.

It was unclear if the casualties in Asadabad resulted from the firing or from the stampede that it triggered, witness Mohammed Salim said from the eastern city, the capital of Kunar province.

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KABUL

Gunfire at Kabul airport kills 1; Taliban mass near Panjshir

A firefight at one of the gates of Kabul's international airport killed at least one Afghan security officer early Monday, German officials said. The incident took place near the airport's northern gate — the same scene of chaos that on Saturday saw a crush of a panicked crowd, killing seven Afghan civilians.

The shooting near the military side of the airport came as the Taliban sent fighters northward to face a nascent rebellion against the insurgents who seized the country over a week ago in a lightning offensive. So far, the Taliban said there had been no fighting though the rebels already have seized three rural districts in the mountains of the Hindu Kush.

Though the security forces of Afghanistan's central government largely collapsed or fled the Taliban advance, some armed Afghans remain at Kabul airport assisting Western countries and others as they struggle to evacuate those gathered there.  - PTI

Gunfire at Kabul airport kills 1; Taliban mass near Panjshir

AFGHANISTAN

UN moves 120 people from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan

The United Nations in Afghanistan flew 120 people from Kabul to Kazakhstan’s Almaty in view of the “security and other constraints,” the second such flight in the past week, the spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said.

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the Secretary-General, said that the 120 persons included UN personnel and members of several non-governmental organisations that serve as implementing partners of the UN in Afghanistan.

Last week, Dujarric told reporters that a group of about 100 UN personnel from across the UN system traveled from Kabul to Almaty, where they will continue their work remotely. - PTI

In 2nd relocation this week, UN moves 120 people from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan

 

Afghans protest Taliban in emerging challenge to their rule

Afghan protesters defied the Taliban for a second day Thursday, waving their national flag in scattered demonstrations that were met with renewed violence by the militants who are facing growing challenges to their rule.

A U.N. official warned of dire food shortages in this nation of 38 million people reliant on imports and experts said the country was severely short on cash, highlighting that the Taliban face the same problems as the civilian government they dethroned without the level of international aid it enjoyed.

In light of these challenges, the militants have moved quickly to suppress any dissent, despite their promises that they have become more moderate since they last imposed draconian rule on Afghanistan. Many fear the Taliban will succeed in erasing two decades of efforts to expand women’s and human rights and remake the country. - AP

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On our Independence Day, we Afghans feel like prisoners: Former Afghan journalist

Cooped up inside his Kabul home with his family since the Taliban took over the capital city, Akhtarabir Akhtar, who eagerly waits to celebrate August 19 to mark the Independence Day of his beloved Afghanistan, says instead of festivities, fear and an uneasy calm rule the streets.

Mr. Akhtar, a former journalist, is not a stranger to the fear of being targeted, but the chain of events in the past few days has given him sleepless nights.

"August 19 is our Independence Day and we celebrate this occasion every year with feast and much gaiety. People decorate their homes and plant country flags, make merry, go to decked-up bazaars, wear colourful national clothes and do the national dance 'Attan'. All of that is missing today," the 54-year-old told PTI over phone from Kabul. - PTI

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No country can 'ignore' Pakistan as it convinced Afghan Taliban to talk to US: Interior Minister

“No country can ‘ignore’ Pakistan as it convinced the Afghan Taliban to hold dialogue with the US,” Pak Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed has said as he boasted of Islamabad's significant role in ensuring peace in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan’s efforts for the peace process in Afghanistan would be remembered for long,” he said on Wednesday. - PTI

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Afghan IOC

Afghan IOC member seeks US help to evacuate female athletes

Afghanistan's International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Samira Asghari has called on the United States to help evacuate the country's top female athletes and coaching staff "before it is too late" following the Taliban takeover of her nation.

During their 1996-2001 rule, guided by Islamic law, the Taliban stopped women from working. Girls were not allowed to go to school and women had to wear burqas to go out, and then only when accompanied by a male relative.

The Taliban have said they will respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.

However, former basketball captain Asghari said she feared for the safety of female athletes.

"Afghanistan national female athletes, coaches and their entourage need your help, we must get them out of Talibans hands ... Please do something before it is too late," the 27-year-old tweeted on Wednesday, tagging the U.S. basketball federation, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. —Reuters

NETHERLANDS

Dutch military plane evacuates from Kabul

A Dutch military transport plane has arrived in Amsterdam carrying people evacuated from Kabul.

The Ministry of Defense says that a C-17 plane landed late Wednesday night at Schiphol airport. On board were 35 Dutch nationals along with citizens from Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The government says it has now airlifted 50 Dutch nationals out of Kabul. A Dutch consular crisis team along with dozens of troops to protect the personnel flew into the Afghan capital on Wednesday. - PTI

 

INDIA

India's national security challenges becoming complex: Rajnath

Without directly referring to the Taliban, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, "Today, the security scenario in the whole world is changing very fast. Because of this, the challenges to our national security are increasing and becoming complex. There are constant changes in the global geopolitical situation," Singh said.

Mr. Singh's comments came amid growing concerns in India and elsewhere over the Taliban sweeping across Afghanistan this month and seizing control following the collapse of the US-backed government.

He pitched for a strong, capable and completely 'self-reliant' defense industry in the country. - PTI

INDIA

Uttarakhand govt asks people to submit details of stranded kin in Afghanistan

As part of efforts to ensure safe return of Uttarakhand natives stuck in Afghanistan, the State government has asked people whose relatives are stranded to give details of their kin to the district administration.

Additional Chief Secretary Anand Bardhan has asked people to provide the district administration documents like names of their relatives stranded in Afghanistan, their passports and other relevant details. -PTI

POLAND

Poland to deploy 100 troops for Kabul evacuation

Poland's president has approved the deployment of a 100-person military contingent to Afghanistan to help secure the evacuation of Polish citizens and the citizens of other countries in coordination with allies.

President Andrzej Duda signed the order late Wednesday for the mission, and which is to last until September 16. -PTI

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban celebrates Independence Day

The Taliban celebrated Afghanistan's Independence Day on Thursday by declaring it had beaten "the arrogant of power of the world" in the United States.

Thursday marked Afghanistan’s Independence Day, which commemorates the 1919 treaty that ended British rule in the central Asian nation.

“Fortunately, today we are celebrating the anniversary of independence from Britain," the Taliban said. "We at the same time as a result of our jihadi resistance forced another arrogant of power of the world, the United States, to fail and retreat from our holy territory of Afghanistan.” - AP

INDIA

EAM Jaishankar and U.K. counterpart Raab agree to work together on Afghanistan

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his British counterpart Dominic Raab have exchanged views on the developments in Afghanistan and agreed to work together to tackle shared security threats, support refugees and ease the humanitarian plight of ordinary Afghans.

Mr. Jaishankar arrived in New York on August 16 to chair meetings in the U.N. Security Council on technology and peacekeeping and on counter-terrorism under India’s current presidency of the Council.

During his visit, he held bilateral meetings and discussions with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other Foreign Ministers, focusing on the situation in Afghanistan.

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INDIA

Human rights think-tank appeals to NHRC for protection of Afghans landing in India

A Delhi-based human rights think-tank has appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to ensure protection of Afghan nationals who have fled the war-torn nation to India in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and grant them refugee status.

The Rights & Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) on Wednesday submitted its appeal to the NHRC. - PTI

IRAN

Iran talks about Afghanistan with China, Russia

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has discussed the situation in Afghanistan with his Chinese and Russian counterparts.

The Iranian president's website, president.ir, reported on Wednesday that he talked on the phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping and told him Iran was ready to cooperate with China in establishing security, stability and peace in Afghanistan, as well as on issues regarding the development, progress and prosperity for Afghans. - AP

INTERNATIONAL

31 Afghan refugees held in Peshawar for raising anti-Pak slogans, ransacking public property

Thirty-one Afghan refugees were arrested for allegedly raising anti-Pakistan slogans and ransacking public property in Peshawar late Wednesday night, police said.

According to an FIR registered in the Town police station, some Afghan refugees blocked the main university road at Bab-e-Peshawar in Hayatabad while protesting against Talibanisation in Afghanistan.

They raised anti-Pakistan slogans and ransacked public property. - PTI

INTERNATIONAL

Food agency warns of hunger in Afghan conflict

The head of the UN food agency in Afghanistan has said that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding with 14 million people facing severe hunger following the Taliban takeover of the country.

Mary Ellen McGroarty, the World Food Program's country director, said in a video briefing to UN correspondents from Kabul on Wednesday that the conflict in Afghanistan, the nation's second severe drought in three years, and the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed an already dire situation into a “catastrophe". - AP

UNITED STATES

Democratic-led committees vow investigations on Afghanistan

Democratic-led congressional committees are vowing to press President Joe Biden's administration on what went wrong as the Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan and the United States left scores of Americans and thousands who helped them over the years in grave danger.

“The Committee will seek a full accounting for these shortcomings as well as assess why the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces collapsed so quickly,” Sen Bob Menendez, D-N J, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said in a statement. - AP

AFGHANISTAN

CNN reporter Clarissa Ward says Kabul colleague nearly pistol-whipped

Clarissa Ward described on Wednesday how a member of her CNN crew was nearly pistol-whipped by a Taliban fighter as they were covering a tumultuous scene outside the airport in Kabul.

“I've covered all sorts of crazy situations,” Ms Ward said in a report that aired on CNN. “This was mayhem. This was nuts.”

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UNITED STATES

Biden says troops will stay in Afghanistan till all Americans are evacuated

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he is committed to keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan until every American is evacuated, even if that means maintaining a military presence there beyond his Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawal.

He also pushed back against criticism that the U.S. should have done more to plan for the evacuation and withdrawal, which has been marked by scenes of violence and chaos as thousands attempted to flee while the Taliban advanced.

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AFGHANISTAN

No democracy, only Sharia law in Afghanistan, says the Taliban

Afghanistan may be governed by a council now that the Taliban have taken over, while Islamist group’s supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada would likely remain in overall charge, a senior member of the group said.

Many issues regarding how the Taliban would run Afghanistan have yet to be finalised, Waheedullah Hashimi, who has access to the group’s decision-making, said in an interview. But Afghanistan would not be a democracy, he added. “We will not discuss what type of political system should we apply in Afghanistan because it is clear. It is Sharia law and that is it.”

Read more

 

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