Afghanistan crisis updates | August 21, 2021

The World Food Program says it has been able to negotiate access with the Taliban to distribute aid in at least one provincial capital in Afghanistan.

Updated - August 21, 2021 10:09 pm IST

Published - August 21, 2021 09:04 am IST

The Taliban has banned co-education in Afghanistan's Herat province. This is the first 'fatwa' issued by the Taliban after its swift takeover of Afghanistan last week.

The UN food agency says it has been able to negotiate access with the Taliban to distribute aid in one provincial capital in Afghanistan but hasn't been able to resume food deliveries to three other provincial capitals it supplies.

Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Taliban advance in Afghanistan

The World Food Program, headquartered in Rome, has said that some 14 million people are facing severe hunger in the nation of some 39 million. A second drought in three years, combined with fighting , had afflicted Afghanistan even before the Taliban takeover of the country on Sunday.

Here are the latest developments :


Indians detained on way to Kabul airport, released subsequently: reports

A group of Indian nationals is learnt to have been stopped and taken to an unknown location near the Kabul airport on August 21 for questioning and verification of travel documents, triggering some confusion and concerns in India.

These Indians were learnt to have been released subsequently.

People tracking the developments in Kabul said there were no specific reports of any harm to Indians in Kabul so far.

The Indians were among 150 people who were heading towards the Kabul airport when they were stopped by Taliban fighters, according to Afghan media reports. — PTI


United Kingdom

U.K. will work with Taliban if necessary, says P.M. Boris Johnson


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the U.K.’s political and diplomatic efforts to find a solution in Afghanistan remain ongoing, which leaves open the prospect of working with the Taliban “if necessary”.

“Our commitment to Afghanistan is lasting,” Mr. Johnson said.

Pressed on whether he believed suggestions from the new Taliban regime in charge that it may be more moderate in the future, Mr. Johnson said that it was important to take “people at face value”.- PTI



In Kabul, a fearful wait for U.S. to deliver on evacuation vow


Tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan waited nervously on Saturday to see whether the United States would deliver on President Joe Biden’s pledge to evacuate all Americans and all Afghans who aided the war effort, as U.S. helicopters plucked people from locations beyond the teeming, chaotic Kabul airport and its Taliban checkpoints.

Officials  confirmed that the U.S. military helicopters flew beyond the Kabul airport to scoop up 169 Americans seeking to evacuate. No one knows how many U.S. citizens remain in Afghanistan, but estimates have ranged as high as 15,000. - AP



Taliban bans co-education in Afghanistan's Herat province

Taliban officials in the restive Herat province have banned co-education in government and private universities, describing it as the 'root of all evils in society', Khaama Press News Agency reported on Saturday.

The decision was taken after a meeting between varsity professors, owners of private institutions, and Taliban authorities.

Taliban representative and Head of Higher Education, Afghanistan, Mullah Farid said there is no alternative and co-education must end.

He also said virtuous female lecturers would be allowed to teach only female students but not the male ones.- PTI

European Union

Europe fears Afghan refugee crisis after Taliban takeover


Haunted by the 2015 migration crisis fueled by the Syrian war, European leaders desperately want to avoid another large-scale influx of refugees and migrants from Afghanistan. Except for those who helped Western forces in the country's two-decade war, the message to Afghans considering fleeing to Europe is: If you must leave, go to neighboring countries, but don’t come here.

“It must be our goal to keep the majority of the people in the region,” Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said this week, echoing what many European leaders say.

European Union officials told a meeting of interior ministers this week that the most important lesson from 2015 was not to leave Afghans to their own devices, and that without urgent humanitarian help they will start moving, according to a confidential German diplomatic memo obtained by The Associated Press . - AP



Taliban co-founder Baradar in Kabul for talks to set up government


Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kabul for talks on establishing a new "inclusive" government in Afghanistan, a senior official said.

Other senior Taliban leaders seen in the capital in recent days include Khalil Haqqani — one of America's most wanted terrorists with a $5 million bounty on his head.

Pro-Taliban social media feeds showed Haqqani meeting Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — a former bitter rival during the brutal civil war of the early 1990s, but still influential in Afghan politics.

A senior Taliban official told AFP that Baradar would meet "jihadi leaders and politicians for an inclusive government set-up". — AFP



India evacuates around 80 people from Kabul

Around 80 Indian nationals were evacuated on August 21 from Kabul by a transport military aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) amid a deteriorating security scenario in the Afghan capital, people familiar with the development said.

The aircraft landed at Dushanbe in Tajikistan after evacuating the Indians, they said, adding the flight is expected to arrive at the Hindon airbase near Delhi in the evening.

As per a rough estimate, the number of Indians stranded in Afghanistan could be around 400 and India has been looking at ways to evacuate them, including by coordinating with the U.S. and other friendly countries. — PTI



Taiwan says China wants to 'emulate' the Taliban

Taiwan's foreign minister accused China on August 21 of wanting to "emulate" the Taliban, saying the island that Beijing claims as sovereign Chinese territory did not wish to be subject to communism or crimes against humanity.

The rapid fall of the U.S.-backed Afghan government has sparked heated debate in Taiwan about whether they could suffer the same fate to a Chinese invasion, while state media in China has said Kabul's fate showed Taiwan it cannot trust Washington. - Reuters


Bahrain allows airport use for evacuations

The island kingdom of Bahrain has said it is “allowing flights to make use of Bahrain’s transit facilities” amid the evacuations of Afghanistan.

The kingdom made the announcement in a statement released early August 21.

Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf off Saudi Arabia, is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

The announcement comes as the U.S. faced issues August 20 with its facilities at Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar filling up with those fleeing the Taliban takeover of the country. - AP


President Biden warns lives could be lost in massive Kabul airlift operations

U.S. President Joe Biden has said that the mass evacuation from Kabul, one of the largest and most difficult airlifts in history, is not without risk of loss of lives, but vowed to bring all Americans and partners home from Afghanistan, as his administration grappled with the fallout from the chaotic exit.

Mr. Biden’s remarks on August 20 come as the U..S rushed to airlift as many people as possible out of the Afghan capital ahead of a self-imposed deadline to depart Afghanistan by August 31.

In a speech delivered from the White House, Mr. Biden said the United States has evacuated more than 18,000 people since July and approximately 13,000 since the airlifts began on Saturday.



NATO commits to improving operations at Kabul airport

An evacuee holds up a peace sign after being manifested for a flight at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul.

An evacuee holds up a peace sign after being manifested for a flight at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul.


NATO foreign ministers committed on August 20 to focus on ensuring the safe evacuation from Afghanistan of their citizens and of Afghans deemed at risk after the Taliban takeover, centering on improving operations at Kabul airport first.

Faced with continuing chaos in the capital and the exit roads, many of the 30 allied nations raised “the need to work harder on how we can get more people ... into the airport, then processed and then onto the planes,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. He called that "the big, big, big challenge.”

All too often over the past hours and days, planes from NATO nations have been able to get to Kabul, only to be forced to leave empty or near-empty.



Blinken says 12 nations to host Afghan evacuees

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that 13 countries have thus far agreed to at least temporarily host at-risk Afghans evacuated from Afghanistan and a dozen more have agreed to serve as transit points for evacuees, including Americans and others.

Mr. Blinken said in a statement on Friday that potential Afghan refugees, not already cleared for resettlement in the United States, will be housed at facilities in Albania, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Mexico, Poland, Qatar, Rwanda, Ukraine and Uganda.

Transit countries include Bahrain, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Qatar, Tajikistan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan. -PTI


Taliban to unveil new Afghan govt. framework within weeks, official says

The Taliban aim to unveil a new governing framework for Afghanistan in the next few weeks, a spokesman for the Islamist movement said on August 21, after the insurgents' swift takeover of the South Asian nation.

"Legal, religious and foreign policy experts in the Taliban aim to present the new governing framework in the next few weeks," the official told Reuters. - Reuters


U.S. is going to retain laser focus on its counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan: Biden

The United States is going to retain a laser focus on its counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden said August 20 and warned the Taliban of a forceful response to any attack on American forces or disruption of its operations at the Kabul airport.

“We made clear to the Taliban that any attack, any attack on our forces or disruption of our operations at the airport will be met with a swift and forceful response," Mr. Biden told reporters at a White House news conference.

"We're also keeping a close watch on any potential terrorist threat at or around the airport, including from the ISIS affiliates in Afghanistan," he said. - PTI


LGBT+ Afghans desperate to escape amid Taliban takeover

It was never easy being gay or transgender in Afghanistan. Now it could be deadly, according to LGBT+ Afghans, whose fear of violence under the Taliban is driving a frantic bid to escape.

But how any evacuation might work is another matter, with scant practical support coming from overseas and even less hope that Islamist militants will let them into the airport.

"If I find a visa and a country gives me permission to leave, of course I will risk everything to get out," said one gay Afghan student, whose name was withheld for his protection. - Reuters


Pak's strategic interest in Afghan is to counter Indian influence, mitigate spillover: U.S. State Dept IG

Pakistan's strategic security objectives in Afghanistan almost certainly continue to be countering Indian influence and mitigating spillover of the Afghan civil war into Pakistani territory, a U.S. government report has said, citing inputs from the Defence Intelligence Agency.

"Pakistan continues to support peace talks, while maintaining ties with the Afghan Taliban," U.S. Department of State Office of the Inspector General noted in its latest quarterly report on Afghanistan.

"According to the DIA, Pakistan's strategic security objectives in Afghanistan almost certainly continue to be countering Indian influence and mitigating spillover into the Pakistani territory," the report said. - PTI

New Delhi

India to prioritise granting visas to civil society members, opinion makers, women activists from Afghanistan

In line with its historical ties with Afghan people, India will prioritise granting visas to civil society members, opinion makers, women activists, students and NGO workers from Afghanistan in view of the current situation in the country, people familiar with the development said on August 20.

Afghan people feeling threatened or facing the fear of persecution and those who supported India in rolling out various welfare and development projects will also be given priority for grant of visas, they said. - PTI


Taliban appeals for international recognition; says China has 'big role' to play

The Taliban have appealed to the international community to recognise it amid growing resentment against it at home and abroad, even as the Afghan militant group sought to placate China, saying Beijing can play a “big role” under its rule in the strife-torn country.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the international community should "respect the will of the Afghan people" and officially recognise his group which has taken over power in Kabul. - PTI

United Nations

Hunger spreading in Afghanistan: UN food agency

Andrew Patterson, WFP's deputy country director, told The Associated Press on Friday that after Faizabad, a provincial capital in the north, fell to the Taliban last week, the agency's field office succeeded in negotiating access with the local Taliban command, and “we had (a food) truck on the road the next day.” However, Patterson said the situation in Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad so far hasn't allowed the U.N. agency to resume distributing food in those areas.


Biden vows to evacuate all Americans

President Joe Biden pledged firmly Friday to bring all Americans home from Afghanistan — and all Afghans who aided the war effort, too — as officials confirmed that U.S. military helicopters flew beyond the Kabul airport to scoop up 169 Americans seeking to evacuate. Biden’s promises came as thousands more Americans and others seeking to escape the Taliban struggled to get past crushing crowds, Taliban airport checkpoints and sometimes-insurmountable U.S. bureaucracy.

“We will get you home,” Biden promised Americans who were still in Afghanistan days after the Taliban retook control of Kabul, ending a two-decade war. The President's comments, delivered at the White House, were intended to project purpose and stability at the conclusion of a week during which images from Afghanistan more often suggested chaos, especially at the airport.

“We’re making the same commitment” to Afghan wartime helpers as to U.S. citizens, Biden said, offering the prospect of assistance to Afghans who largely have been fighting individual battles to get the documents and passage into the airport that they need to leave. He called the Afghan allies “equally important” in the evacuations. - AP


Online petition seeking asylum for Afghan women gets 3 lakh signatures

Adeeba Qayoumi, a 21-year-old woman who fled to India from Herat, Afghanistan, in 2019, has started an online petition in memory of her 29-year-old cousin Farishta — a civil rights activist killed by the Taliban last year.

As of Friday evening, the online petition, which urges the Central government to grant asylum to women and children who are fleeing Afghanistan, had received over three lakh signatures.



Official Taliban websites go offline

Taliban websites that delivered the insurgents’ official messages of victory to Afghans and the world at large in five languages went offline abruptly on August 20, indicating an effort to squelch them.

It is not immediately clear, though, why the sites in the Pashto, Urdu, Arabic, English and Dari languages went offline. They had been shielded by Cloudflare, a San Francisco-based content delivery network and denial-of-service protection provider.


Indonesia evacuates dozens

Indonesia has moved its Afghanistan diplomatic mission from Kabul to Pakistan, its foreign minister said on Saturday, after its air force evacuated dozens in the wake of the Taliban's seizure of power.

"Temporarily, the diplomatic mission in Kabul will be done from Islamabad," Retno Marsudi said in televised remarks at the Halim military airport in Jakarta.

The initial plan had been to "continue our diplomatic mission in Kabul with a small team" but changed due to a "new development", which she did not specify. She did not take questions.

The Kabul airport has been the site of chaos in recent days, with thousands of desperate Afghans trying to flee as they clutched papers, children and belongings, as people from other countries also sought to leave after U.S. and other foreign troops withdrew. At least 12 people have been killed since the Islamist. - Reuters

( With inputs from agencies and our Correspondents)

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