Afghanistan crisis updates | Afghan President Ghani flees Kabul in helicopter stuffed with cash: reports

Afghanistan’s embattled President flees; Taliban say they have entered multiple districts in Kabul to ‘ensure security’; Sources say Taliban have also taken over Presidential palace.

August 16, 2021 10:00 am | Updated August 17, 2021 03:35 am IST

A Taliban militant sits on the back of vehicle with a machine gun in front of the main gate leading to the Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 16, 2021.

A Taliban militant sits on the back of vehicle with a machine gun in front of the main gate leading to the Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 16, 2021.

In a stunning rout, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces. The Taliban militants entered Kabul on August 15 and sought the unconditional surrender of the central government.

The fall of Kabul marks the final chapter of America’s longest war, which began after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks masterminded by al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, then harboured by the Taliban government.

With Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reportedly fleeing the country, the government is hoping for an interim administration. Meanwhile other nations are closing their embassies and prioritising on evacuation of its nationals.

Here are the latest developments:


Taliban will not get access to Afghan reserves held in US: official

The Taliban will be denied access to any Afghan reserves held in US accounts, a US administration official told AFP on Monday.

As US forces were evacuating Afghanistan's capital after the Taliban's swift takeover, the official said, "Any Central Bank assets the Afghan government have in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban."


Afghan President Ghani flees Kabul in helicopter stuffed with cash: reports

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the war-torn country aboard a helicopter stuffed with money but had to leave some cash as it could not be squeezed into the chopper, according to Russian official media reports on August 16.

Quoting Russian embassy in Kabul, Russian official news agency TASS reported that the 72-year-old President fled Afghanistan aboard a helicopter packed with money.

"As for the reasons for the collapse of the regime, they are characterised by how Ghani fled the country. Four cars were packed with money, and they tried to cram another bag of cash into the helicopter. Not all the cash managed to squeeze in, and some of the money was left lying on the airfield," a mission employee was quoted as saying by the report. — PTI


Taliban takeover will impact South Asia and beyond: Bangladesh

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan will have an impact on South Asia and beyond, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. Dhaka has urged on all sections in Afghanistan to maintain peace and ensure safety of all including foreign nationals.

In a statement issued after the dramatic takeover of capital Kabul by Taliban fighters, Dhaka has said Afghanistan is an "integral part of South Asia" and that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina feels the South Asian region "must grow and prosper together for this development to be sustainable".

"Bangladesh believes that a democratic and pluralistic Afghanistan as chosen by its people is the only guarantee of stability and development in the country. In this regard, Bangladesh considers itself a potential development partner and a friend of Afghanistan," said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh.

Dhaka said, task of rebuilding Afghanistan is upon the people of Afghanistan.  "Bangladesh would be happy to continue to work with the people of Afghanistan and the international community for the socio-economic development of the country," the statement declared. -- Kallol Bhattacherjee


Joe Biden to speak 'soon' on Afghanistan: aide

President Joe Biden will deliver comments "soon" about Afghanistan, a key aide said on Monday as the US leader faces sharp criticism for the Taliban sweep into Kabul and the government's fall. 

Afghan's President Ashraf Ghani flew out of the country on Sunday night as the insurgents encircled the capital, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war.

"They (Americans) can expect to hear from the president soon. He's right now actively engaged with his national security team. He is working the situation hard," White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told ABC.

He did not elaborate on timing or the form of the comments from Mr. Biden, who spent the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat and was due to remain there until midweek.


Afghan pullout is 'biggest NATO debacle': Merkel party chief

The withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan is the "biggest NATO debacle" since the founding of the alliance, the head of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party said on Monday.

With the Taliban sweeping to power after NATO troops withdrew, CDU party chief Armin Laschet said: "It is evident that this engagement of the international community was not successful. It is the biggest debacle that NATO has suffered since its founding, and we're standing before an epochal change."


Humanitarian agencies staying in Afghanistan and delivering to people in need: UN body

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) said in a note, “The humanitarian community - both the UN and nongovernmental organisations - remains committed to helping people in the country.” OCHA said thousands of internally displaced people who have been identified in recent weeks have received assistance including food, cash, health care, water, and sanitation support.

“While the security environment is highly complex, humanitarian agencies are staying and delivering to people in need,” OCHA said.

Even before the upheaval, some 18.4 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, OCHA said. Its 1.3 billion USD humanitarian response plan for the country is only 38% funded.


United States of America

U.S. focused on securing Kabul airport: U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser

The United States will spend time on August 16 focused intensively on securing the Kabul airport and additional U.S. forces will be flowing into the airport on August 16 and 17, the U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Joe Finer said, as people tried to flee a day after Taliban insurgents seized the Afghan capital.

Mr. Finer said in an MSNBC interview that the United States remains engaged in diplomatic conversations with the Taliban in Doha, and acknowledged that the situation in Afghanistan had deteriorated faster than anticipated.

- Reuters


Pakistan is helping evacuate diplomatic and international community: Minister Qureshi

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Pakistan is helping evacuate diplomatic and international community from Kabul including the evacuation of 431 Afghan nationals working for the Danish government.

- Reuters



Kabul's former 'Green Zone' abandoned as diplomats flee Afghan Capital

Kabul's former diplomatic quarter fell silent on August 16 as foreign missions were moved to the airport, leaving Taliban patrols in control of the fortified zone of concrete blast walls and checkpoints known as the Green Zone.

With police and security contractors who once guarded the embassies in the Wazir Akbar Khan district now gone, some motorists were forced to get out of their cars and lift security barriers themselves before driving through.

The victorious insurgents have promised not to carry out retribution against former government workers and a Taliban leader said his fighters had been "ordered to allow Afghans to resume daily activities and do nothing to scare civilians."

- Reuters


President Raisi calls for stability in Afghanistan

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on August 16 called for national reconciliation in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The official IRNA news agency quoted Raisi saying that Iran will support efforts to restore stability in Afghanistan as a first priority.

He called Iran “a brother and neighbouring nation” to Afghanistan. He also described the Americans' rapid pullout as a “military failure” that should “turn to an opportunity for restoring life, security and stable peace.”




Dutch military plans multiple evacuation flights for Afghanistan: Defence Minister

The Dutch military plans to operate multiple flights to Afghanistan, the country's Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld said in a statement on August 16. She added that one aircraft was already underway to Kabul. "In part due to the uncertain situation multiple flights are planned," she said.

"We are doing all we can to get embassy staff, translators and others who deserve our protection out", Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters in The Hague. "But it's very complicated".

- Reuters


EU Foreign Ministers to hold talks on Afghanistan on August 17

EU foreign ministers will hold crisis talks via video link on August 17 regarding the situation in Afghanistan as European nations scramble to evacuate personnel from the country. Member states and Brussels are frantically trying to pull their foreign and Afghan staff out of Kabul amid fears of reprisals after the Taliban's takeover of power.




How Kabul fell?

Though the Taliban overran most of the country within days, the road to their final victory started from the agreement they signed with the U.S. in February 2020. Stanly Johny analyses the factors behind Taliban's rise.


Chancellor Merkel says Germany must focus on its Afghan 'rescue mission'

Germany's focus must be on its evacuation operation in Afghanistan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told leaders of her Christian Democrat party on Monday, meeting participants said.

"We are witnessing difficult times," she said. "Now we must focus on the rescue mission". she added.

- Reuters



Portugal prepared to take in 243 Afghans, their families: Defence Minister

Portugal's Defence Minister Joao Gomes Cravinho said that his country is prepared to take in 243 Afghans, and their families who worked with Portuguese forces stationed in the country.

Defence Minister said NATO is coordinating the evacuation of the Afghans because Portugal doesn't have the military capacity to do so. He told public broadcaster RTP late on August 15 that he is not aware of any Portuguese citizens living in Afghanistan.

Portugal had a small detachment of fewer than 200 troops stationed at Kabul airport, as part of the NATO mission in the country. The last ones pulled out at the end of May.

- AP



Taliban fighters start collecting weapons from civilians

A Taliban official said that the Taliban fighters in Kabul have started collecting weapons from civilians. "We understand people kept weapons for personal safety. They can now feel safe. We are not here to harm innocent civilians," the official told Reuters.

City resident Salad Moleskin, director of the MOBY group media company, said on Twitter that Taliban soldiers had come to his company compound to enquire about the weapons kept by his security team.

- Reuters


Pakistan PM to chair meeting on the situation in Afghanistan

A meeting of Pakistan's security committee chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan will be held on August 16 to discuss the evolving situation in neighbouring Afghanistan, a day after the Taliban seizing power in Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a statement that Pakistan will present its stance on the current situation following consultations in the National Security Committee meeting. Senior political and military leaders, including Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, will attend the meeting.

Another important meeting will be held with a visiting Afghan delegation at the Foreign Office. Separately, Qureshi will also hold a meeting with Prime Minister Khan and discuss the regional situation.



China says ready for 'friendly relations' with Taliban

China on August 16 said that it is willing to develop "friendly relations" with the Taliban after the insurgents seized control of Afghanistan. Hua Chunying, a spokesperson in the Foreign Ministry said that China respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny and is willing to continue to develop friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan.



Twitter account hacked, says official after Afghan embassy tweets slamming Prez Ghani

An official of the Afghan embassy on August 16 suggested that its Twitter handle was hacked after several tweets criticising embattled Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for fleeing the country were posted from it.

Abdulhaq Azad, the Press Secretary of the Afghan embassy in India, tweeted that he has lost control of the mission's official Twitter handle, along with a screen shot of one of the messages slamming Ghani for leaving Afghanistan.

"I have lost access to Twitter handle of @AfghanistanInIN, a friend sent screen shot of this tweet, [this tweet is hidden from me.] I have tried to log in but can't access. Seems it is hacked," Azad tweeted from his own Twitter handle.

The tweets criticising Ghani were deleted later.




Russian Ambassador to meet Taliban in Kabul on August 17

Russia said its ambassador to Afghanistan will meet with the Taliban in Kabul on August 17 and that it will decide on whether to recognise the new government based on its conduct. Zamir Kabulov, a Foreign Ministry official said the talks between Moscow's Ambassador, Dmitry Zhirnov, and the Taliban would centre on how the group plans to provide security for the Russian embassy in Kabul.


New Delhi

Air India cancels its only Kabul flight, diverts 2 US-Delhi flights to avoid 'uncontrolled' Afghan airspace

Air India cancelled its Delhi-Kabul-Delhi flight that was scheduled to operate on August 16 to avoid Afghanistan airspace, senior officials said. It was the only commercial flight scheduled to operate between India and Afghanistan on August 16, and Air India is the only carrier that has been operating flights between the two countries.

Moreover, the carrier diverted its two flights coming to Delhi from the US toward Sharjah in the UAE for the same reason.




Afghan research scholars, home due to pandemic, stare at uncertainty as Taliban takes over

With the Taliban capturing Kabul , Afghan students' hopes of returning to India to complete their courses seems bleak.

“Our life is very uncertain and we are not sure how safe we are after Taliban have taken over the capital,” said Mohammed Kazem, a student at the Central University of Kerala (CUK), in a phone conversation with The Hindu from Kabul. Owing to the COVID-19 situation, his return had not been possible so far. “But now, the change in regime in Afghanistan, overtaken by the Taliban has made things uncertain,” he added. Mr. Kazem said the Indian embassy in Kabul had closed down three days ago and that there was no means of communication with them.

“We are scared, terrified and feeling hopeless, finding it difficult to even grieve,” said 33-year-old Ali Maisam, another research student in the linguistics department at CUK. He added that the areas captured by the Taliban were worse off and sought the international community’s help in ensuring peace.

Many students from the Hazra ethnic group and other minority communities studying abroad refused to speak, expressing fear of persecution if their identity was revealed.



Punjab CM urges MEA to arrange evacuation of Indians stuck in gurdwara in Afghanistan

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday urged the Centre to arrange evacuation of all Indians, including 200 Sikhs who were stuck in a gurdwara in Afghanistan, and said his government was willing to extend any help needed for the same.

The Chief Minister on August 15 had said that there was a need to remain extra vigilant at all borders of the country, saying Afghanistan's "fall" to the Taliban "does not augur well" for India.



Australia works to get citizens, humanitarian cases out of Afghanistan

Australia is working to get more than 130 of its citizens and people who have been granted humanitarian visas out of Afghanistan after the Islamist Taliban seized control of the country, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on August 16.

He called for the Taliban to cease all violence against civilians, treat Afghan government officials and elected leaders with dignity and allow people to leave the country "without threat or hindrance".

Australia's defence department said it would be sending more than 250 personnel to support efforts to evacuate Australians and visa holders from Afghanistan.

- Reuters


At least five killed at Kabul airport: Witnesses

According to witnesses, at least five people were killed in Kabul airport as hundreds of people tried to forcibly enter planes leaving the Afghan capital.

One witness said that he had seen the bodies of five people being taken to a vehicle. Another witness said that it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede.

U.S. troops, who are in charge of the airport, earlier fired in the air to scatter the crowd, a U.S. official said.

Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on August 16, to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war.

Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on August 16, to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war.

- Reuters



France to begin Afghanistan evacuations

France said that it will evacuate its first nationals and Afghan colleagues from the fallen Afghan capital Kabul to a base in the United Arab Emirates on August 16. Defence Minister Florence Parly said that they are planning to carry out first rotation on Monday. She added that they have organised a base at the United Arab Emirates to receive the first evacuees.

She said that their priority is to evacuate (Afghan) personnel who rendered service to France. The military operation dubbed 'Apagan' involves two French air force transport planes, a C-130 and A400M, which left France on August 15.



New Delhi

Vistara's Delhi-London flights stop using Afghanistan airspace

Vistara's flights from Delhi to London have stopped using the Afghanistan airspace. The Afghanistan airspace was declared "uncontrolled" by the Kabul airport on August 16 and transit flights have been asked to avoid it.

Vistara spokesperson said, "We have stopped using Afghanistan airspace and are taking an alternate route for our flights to and from London Heathrow." "We are closely working with the relevant authorities to monitor and assess the situation and taking necessary steps to ensure the safety of our passengers, staff and aircraft," the spokesperson added.

Vistara is not going to reduce the number of its Delhi-London flights. The full-service carrier currently operates four weekly flights on Delhi-London-Delhi route.



Left Afghanistan to avoid bloodshed, 'big human disaster', says President Ashraf Ghani

Embattled Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has said he left Kabul to avoid bloodshed and a "big human disaster" in the city of six million people, urging the Taliban to reveal their intentions and reassure the people who are unsure about their future after the insurgents took over the war-torn country.

"If there were still countless countrymen martyred and they would face the destruction and destruction of Kabul city, the result would have been a big human disaster in this six million city. The Taliban have made it to remove me, they are here to attack all Kabul and the people of Kabul. In order to avoid the bleeding flood, I thought it was best to get out," President Ghani said in a Facebook post on August 15.

"Taliban have won the judgement of sword and guns and now they are responsible for protecting the countrymen's honor, wealth and self-esteem. Didn't they win the legitimacy of hearts? Never in history has dry power given legitimacy to anyone and won't give it to them," the 72-year-old politician, reportedly taking shelter in neighbouring Tajikistan, said.


Over 90% Afghan State buildings under Taliban control

A Taliban official said that over 90% Of Afghan State buildings are under Taliban control. The official added that the fighters were ordered not to cause any damage.

- Reuters


Finland closing embassy in Kabul, evacuating staff

Finland said on August 16 that it would close its embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul immediately until further notice as a result of the security situation.

"Diplomatic personnel are being evacuated from the country," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

- Reuters


We're not going back to fight insurgents: Britain's Defence Minister

The Taliban are in control of Afghanistan and the British and NATO forces will not be returning to fight the insurgents, Britain's Defence Minister Ben Wallace said on August 16. Mr. Wallace said the military side of Kabul airport was secure and that Britain was doing everything it could to evacuate British citizens and Afghans with links to Britain. "Our target is ... about 1200 to 1500 exit a day in the capacity of our aeroplanes, and we'll keep that flow," he said.

Britain has relocated its embassy to Kabul airport from the city.

- Reuters

Czech Republic

1st Czech flight evacuates personnel from Kabul

The first Czech evacuation flight has taken off from Kabul's international airport and landed in Prague on August 16.

Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis said 46 people were on board the flight. They included Czech nationals, the Afghan staffers at the Czech embassy and Afghan interpreters who helped the Czech armed forces during NATO missions together with their families.

- AP


Shops close, security guards flee in Afghan capital

Kabul's streets were deserted early on Monday, a day after Taliban insurgents took over the Afghanistan capital without a fight, but the airport was jammed with hundreds of civilians trying to flee.

Video posted social media showed hundreds of people scampering with their luggage toward the safety of the airport terminal with the sound of gunfire breaking out.

A Taliban leader said his fighters had been "ordered to allow Afghans to resume daily activities and do nothing to scare civilians."

"Normal life will continue in a much better way, that's all I can say for now," he told Reuters via Whatsapp.  - Reuters

South Korea

Temporarily closed embassy in Kabul: South Korea Foreign Ministry

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said it has “temporarily closed” its embassy in Kabul and evacuated most of its staff to an unspecified third country in the Middle East.

The ministry said a few diplomats, including Ambassador Choi Taeho, remain at a safe location in Afghanistan to support the evacuation of a South Korean national in the country and that the Seoul government is closely working with the United States and other countries to ensure their safe evacuation.

Afghanistan has been on South Korea's travel ban list since 2007. There were reportedly around five South Koreans living in Afghanistan before the Seoul government in June called for all of them to leave the country within 10 days as the United States and NATO proceeded with troop pullouts.

- AP



New Zealand

New Zealand plans to evacuate some Afghan nationals, PM Ardern says

New Zealand will deploy personnel and a military plane to help evacuate its citizens and some Afghan nationals who worked with New Zealand agencies, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

About 37 Afghan nationals have been identified to have worked alongside the New Zealand Defence Forces, Ardern said at a news conference in Wellington.

The prime minister said the government did not expect the situation in Afghanistan to deteriorate so fast.

- Reuters


Airlines reroute flights to avoid Afghanistan airspace

Major airlines are rerouting flights to avoid Afghanistan airspace after insurgents took control of the presidential palace in Kabul as U.S.-led forces departed and Western nations scrambled on Monday to evacuate their citizens.

United Airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic said they were not using the country's airspace.

A United spokeswoman said the change affects several of the airline's U.S.-to-India flights.

Flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 showed few commercial flights over Afghanistan at 0300 GMT on Monday but many planes overflying neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.

- Reuters

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