Afghanistan Live Updates: Biden Sticks to Kabul Airport Deadline, Rush to Evacuate As Many As Possible

Live Updates

A rush is now on to evacuate as many as possible from Kabul's international airport as President Joe Biden reaffirmed U.S. troops would pull out by August 31. A meeting of the G7 yesterday failed to push the president into reconsidering.

Tens of thousands of Afghans and civilians from countries across the world are currently waiting for their flight out of the country. Over 19,000 people left the airport on U.S. and coalition flights in the 24 hours to Wednesday morning, bringing the total number of evacuees to about 88,000.

However, there are still reports of American citizens and Afghan refugees with approval to leave the country struggling to get past Taliban checkpoints and U.S.-controlled gates at the Kabul airport.

The U.S. State Department said about 4,500 American citizens and their families have been evacuated from Afghanistan and around 1,500 Americans remain in the country.

The exact figures "are hard to pin down at any moment," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a press briefing Wednesday.

Blinken also said that while the U.S. is on track to complete its evacuation operations by August 31, "there is no deadline" on the U.S.'s work to evacuate American citizens and its Afghan and third-country partners from Afghanistan.

The U.S. will also continue to work with the Taliban to "advance our interests," but Blinken said U.S. relationship with the future Afghan government "depends entirely on the action and conduct of the Taliban."

The live updates for this blog have ended.

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Afghan Refugees Arrive in the United States
A family of people evacuated from Afghanistan are led through the arrival terminal at the Dulles International Airport to board a bus that will take them to a refugee processing center on August 25, 2021 in Dulles, Virginia. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, five evacuation flights from Kabul, Afghanistan have landed at the Dulles Airport carrying 1,200 Afghan refugees in last day. The White House also announced that since August 14, the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 82,300 people on US military and coalition flights. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Blinken says cooperation with the Taliban "advances our interests"

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the focus of the U.S. right now is to evacuate its citizens and its Afghan and third-country partners out of Afghanistan and into safety.

Those efforts will require continued cooperation with the Taliban.

"The Taliban, whether we like it or not, is largely in control of the country and the city of Kabul," Blinken said, "It's been important to work with them to try to facilitate and ensure the departure of all those who want to leave."

Working with the Taliban "advaces our interests," he added.

"If engagement with the government can advance the enduring interest we will have in counterterrorism, the enduring interest we will have in trying to help the Afghan people who need humanitarian assistance, the enduring interest we have in seeing that the rights of all Afghans, especially women and girls, are upheld, then we'll do it," he said.

Blinked said that one of the top concerns for him and the State Department is the safety and equal treatment of women in Afghanistan.

Of the 82,000-plus people who have been evacuated so far, Blinken said about 45 to 46 percent have been women and children.

He added that the U.S. will use every "diplomatic, economic, political and assistance tool," along with their allies, to ensure the Taliban upholds the basic rights of women.

Blinken said that the U.S. relationship with the future Afghan government "depends entirely on the action and conduct of the Taliban."

If it makes good on its commitment to upholds citizen rights, doesn't provide safe haven to terrorists and allows people who want to leave the country leave, "that's a government we can work with," Blinken said.

If it doesn't, "we will make sure we use every tool at our disposal to isolate that government and, as I've said before, Afghanistan will be a pariah," he added.

Blinken says U.S. will continue to evacuate Americans, Afghans past August 31 deadline

The U.S. is "on track" to complete its evacuation mission in Kabul by August 31, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.

Blinken said that the operation is set to wrap up by the deadline, so long as the Taliban continues to cooperate with U.S. forces and "there are no disruptions to this plan."

He added that there is a contingency plan to continue evacuations after the end of the month.

"There is no deadline" on our work to help remaining Americans and Afghan staff who want to leave the country, Bliken said. "That effort will continue every day after August 31."

"People who want to leave [Afghanistan] after the military leaves should be able to do so," Blinken added.

4500 Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan, 1,500 remain

As of August 14, there were as many as 6,000 Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave the country, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a press briefing Wednesday.

At least 4,500 American citizens and their families have already been evacuated from Afghanistan, Blinken said.

The State Department has been in direct contact with more than 500 Americans over the last 24 hours and provided instructions on how to get to the Kabul airport safely.

Blinken added that the State Department has reached out to the remaining 1,000 contacts to determine if they want to leave and instruct them how to do so.

He noted that the exact numbers of Americans evacuated or remaining in Afghanistan are "hard to pin down at any moment." He said these figures are "dynamic calculations" that are refined by the hour for accuracy.

Taliban will allow Afghans to travel after August 31, German official says

The Taliban will allow Afghans with legal documents to travel on commercial flights after August 31, according to Potzel Markus, the German Envoy to Afghanistan.

Potzel met with Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the Deputy Head of the Taliban's political bureau, and his team for "a comprehensive discussion" in Doha about the "urgent need for a functioning airport in Kabul as a prerequisite for diplomatic and NGO [nongovernmental organizations] presence in [Afghanistan].

"Director Stanekzai assured me that Afghans with legal documents will continue to have the opportunity to travel on commercial flights after 31 August," Potzel tweeted.

Director Stanekzai assured me that Afghans with legal documents will continue to have the opportunity to travel on commercial flights after 31 August.

— Potzel Markus (@PotzelMarkus) August 25, 2021

At least 4,100 Americans are still in Afghanistan

There are at least 4,100 American citizens actively seeking to get out of Afghanistan, the State Department said during a briefing to congressional staff.

A Senate aid told CNN that not all of the Americans are located in and around Kabul.

Pentagon says "lives will always be the priority" during Kabul evacuations withdrawal

The Pentagon said that "lives will always be the priority" throughout the evacuation process.

"Lives are always going to be the priority," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.

Kirby said that even though moving out military capabilities and military resources from Kabul will be a top concern, the U.S. "will continue to evacuate needed populations all the to the end if we have to."

"As we get closer to the end, there will be some equipment and systems that we will probably take with us as we leave ... but lives will always be the chief priority throughout this entire process," he continued.

U.S. is in "daily communication" with the Taliban over who is allowed through airport checkpoints

The Pentagon said it is in "daily communication" with the Taliban about who is allowed through checkpoints to the Kabul airport.

"We are in constant, daily communication with Taliban commanders about who we want to see get in and what credentials are, what they look like, what's valid," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.

This includes both American citizens and Special Immigrant Visa applicants.

Kirby said the U.S. has "been nothing but open with the Taliban about who we expect them to let in," but added that "not every step of this process is in our firm control."

This comes after reports of Americans experiencing delays at checkpoints.

U.S. won't be responsible for the Kabul airport after forces pull out, Pentagon says

After U.S. forces pull out of the Kabul airport on August 31, the airport "won't be an American responsibility," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.

"When the mission is over and when we are leaving the airport, the airport will not be the United States' responsibility anymore," he said.

Kirby said the Taliban will have to manage the airport on their own, with the international community.

"That won't be an American responsibility," Kirby said.

No U.S troops killed in Kabul since evacuation operations began, Pentagon says

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that no U.S. troops have been killed since evacuations began on August 14.

He added that he does not know of any civilian casualties during that time either.

Pentagon was not aware of Representatives' visit to Kabul

The Pentagon was not aware of U.S. Representatives Seth Moulton and Peter Meijer's visit to Kabul yesterday.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said their presence "certainly took time away from what we were planning to do that day."

He added that the Defense Secretary would have appreciated the chance to speak with the representatives before they left.

"We are not encouraging VIP visits" to the "tense and dangerous situation" in Kabul, Kirby said.

More than 4,400 Americans have been evacuated from Kabul

The Pentagon said "several hundred" U.S. troops left Kabul yesterday because the commander on the ground "believed he didn't need them there" anymore.

There are 5,400 U.S. troops on the ground in Kabul, the Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.

Kirby said "north of 4,400" Americans have been airlifted out of Afghanistan. He does not know how many Americans still need to be evacuated, but said he will provide an update soon.

U.S. military rescued about 20 Americans stranded in Kabul

In the past 24 hours, 90 flights departed Kabul evacuating 19,000 people, the Pentagon shared during a press briefing Wednesday.

In total, 88,000 people have been evacuated and there are currently 10,000 at the Kabul airport waiting to be airlifted.

Major General Hank Taylor also shared that the U.S. troops carried out an operation "under cover of darkness" to rescue Americans stranded outside of the Kabul airport.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that fewer than 20 Americans were brought back to the compound aboard American military helicopters.

Russia, China discuss combatting threats from Afghanistan

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed to combat "threats" emerging from Afghanistan following the Taliban's takeover, the Kremlin said.

The leaders "expressed their readiness to step up efforts to combat threats of terrorism and drug trafficking coming from the territory of Afghanistan" during a phone call, the Kremlin said in a statement.

They also discussed the "importance of establishing peace" in Afghanistan and "preventing the spread of instability to adjacent regions."

France will continue Kaul evacuations "as long as possible"

France will continue its evacuation operations in Kabul "as long as possible," a government spokesperson told the Associated Press.

Gabriel Attal did not provide an end date for French operations in Afghanistan but said "we will likely need to anticipate a few hours, maybe a few days ahead" of the U.S. departure from the Kabul airport.

"We will continue as long as possible," he said. "Due to extreme tension on the ground...and the scheduled departure of American forces, these evacuations are a true race against time."

At least 1,720 Afghans and a hundred French people have been evacuated by France since operations began last week.

Russia grants 1,000 Afghans permission to enter the country

Around 1,000 Afghans were granted permission to enter Russia, according to the state-owned news company RIA.

The number included those with Russian passports, people with permanent residence rights and students of Russian universities.

The Russian Defense Ministry has announced that it has begun evacuating more than 500 people from Afghanistan, including citizens of Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

Britain says its evacuation mission in Kabul will end by the August 31 deadline

Britain's foreign minister said the U.K.'s evacuation mission out of Afghanistan will be over by the August 31 deadline.

While he could not provide a specific timeline, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said "it's clear that the troops will be withdrawn by the end of the month."

Raab said the British military will need time before the deadline to withdraw its people and equipment, but "we will make the maximum use of all the time we have left."

He added that British forces have airlifted 9,000 British citizens and at-risk Afghans from Kabul airport since the Taliban took over on August 15.

Mexico welcomes 5 members of all-female Afghan robotics team

Five members of an all-girls Afghan robotics team arrived in Mexico Tuesday after fleeing Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

"We give you the warmest welcome to Mexico," Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister Martha Delgado said as she greeted the refugees during a news conference at Mexico City's international airport.

"We are happy to be here," Fatemah Qaderyan one member of the team said, according to local media reports. "From now on we will have opportunities for many more achievements in our lives."

The five women and one man who arrived Tuesday will be granted "whatever legal status they consider best," Mexico Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said. That could include giving them asylum or refugee status.

"We received the first applicants for humanitarian status in Mexico from Afghanistan, they are part of the robotics team in that country and defend a dream: a world with gender equality. Welcome!" Ebrard said in a tweet.

Recibimos a las primeras solicitantes de status humanitario en México provenientes de Afganistán , ellas forman parte del equipo de robótica de ese país y defienden un sueño : un mundo con igualdad de género. Bienvenidas!!! pic.twitter.com/Kw0WFtR3Bk

— Marcelo Ebrard C. (@m_ebrard) August 25, 2021

Germany will help Afghan staff after August 31 deadline

German Chancellor Angela Merkel accepted that "the Taliban now are a reality in Afghanistan" and promised to maintain communication with the group.

"One thing is clear. The Taliban now are a reality in Afghanistan," Merkel told lawmakers during the parliamentary session.

"Our goal must be to preserve, as much as possible, the achievements of the past 20 years. For this, the international community must have talks with the Taliban," she said.

Merkel also said Germany will try to help Afghans who worked with its soldiers and aid organizations even after the U.S. military's August 31 withdrawal deadline.

"The end of the air bridge in a few days must not mean the end of efforts to protect Afghan helpers and help those Afghans who have been left in a bigger emergency," Merkel said.

"We are working intensively at all levels to find how we can protect those who helped us, including through the civilian operation of the airport in Kabul," she added.

Two U.S. members of Congress fly into Kabul airport unannounced

Two members of Congress flew unannounced into Kabul airport in the middle of the chaotic evacuation to 'provide oversight on the executive branch', the pair have just revealed.

The move stunned the State Department and U.S. military, who had to divert resources to provide security and information to the lawmakers

Rep. Seth Moulton and Rep. Peter Meijer flew in and out on charter aircraft and were on the ground at the Kabul airport for several hours on Tuesday, which led officials to complain that they could be taking seats that would have otherwise gone to other Americans or Afghans fleeing the country.

The pair said in a joint statement following the trip:

As Members of Congress, we have a duty to provide oversight on the executive branch. We conducted this visit in secret, speaking about it only after our departure, to minimize the risk and disruption to the people on the ground, and because we were there to gather information, not to grandstand.

Around 19,000 people evacuated from Kabul on U.S. and coalition flights

A total of 42 US military planes - C-17s and C-130s - evacuated 11,200 evacuees and 48 coalition flights carried 7,800 people out of Afghanistan, the White House has just confirmed.

Other countries rush to meet the deadline - but Poland halts airlifts

Poland has halted its airlift evacuations from Kabul's airport over safety concerns, its government has confirmed.

Deputy foreign minister Marcin Przydacz said that a group taken from Kabul and now in Uzbekistan was the last evacuated by the country, while another plane is on its way to Warsaw.

He said the decision was made in consultation with British and U.S. officials follow President Biden's commitment to removing American troops - something Poland fears would create an untenable security situation.

Protesters in Netherlands burn tyres outside Afghan refugee shelters

Protesters have burned car tires outside a military base in the central Netherlands where Afghans are being housed after being evacuated from Kabul.

Police dog handlers broke up the protest in the village of Harskamp - 85 kilometers (52 miles) east of Amsterdam - but did not arrest anybody or issue fines.

The base is expected to house around 800 refugees arriving in the Netherlands since last week.

Afghanistan COVID vaccination rate drops 80%

The vaccination programme has been majorly disrupted during the chaos of the Taliban takeover, with many people too frightened to leave their homes to get vaccinated and health workers among those trying to flee the country.

Taliban control over Afghanistan could see Al-Qaeda resurgence, officials warn

A former Trump administration official has warned that the Taliban's increasing control over Afghanistan could allow for a rapid Al-Qaeda resurgence.

Chris Costa, the senior director for counterterrorism for former President Donald Trump, said:

I think Al-Qaeda has an opportunity, and they're going to take advantage of that opportunity. This is a galvanizing event for jihadists everywhere.

READ MORE: Taliban's Control of Afghanistan Could Mean Rapid Al-Qaeda Resurgence, Official Says

Uganda welcomes 51 people from Afghanistan after U.S. request

Government officials said 51 people evacuated from Afghanistan arrived earlier this morning. Authorities confirmed the group included men, women, and children but no further details were immediately given on the evacuees' identities.

The country plans to shelter up to 2,000 people fleeing the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, the leaders suggesting the Afghans would be brought to Uganda in small groups in a temporary arrangement before they are relocated elsewhere.

Russia criticizes Biden over U.S. withdrawal

President Vladimir Putin said the withdrawal of troops may present problems for Russia and its allies, worrying about the expansion of militant groups into neighboring countries.

There is a danger that terrorists and different groups that found a refuge in Afghanistan will use the chaos left by our Western colleagues and try to launch an expansion into neighboring countries. That will pose a direct threat to our country and its allies.

Putin confirmed his troops would not look to interfere in Afghanistan, citing lessons learned from Russia's 10-year Soviet conflict in the country which ended with a withdrawal of troops in 1989.

We have drawn the necessary lessons. We don't have any intention to interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs and, moreover, let our military forces be drawn into the all-against-all conflict.

READ MORE: Putin Criticizes U.S. Leaving Afghanistan, Says Fallout May Present Problems for Russia

Good morning and welcome to Newsweek's liveblog

The U.S. refusing to move on the Kabul airport withdrawal deadline has triggered a last-minute dash from countries to get as many people out of Afghanistan as possible, with tens of thousands leaving on flights this morning alone.

Tensions between the U.S. and its allies are becoming increasingly tested over the issue, which has left many in a difficult position regarding the deteriorating security situation at the facility and an increasingly impatient Taliban leadership.

Follow Newsweek's liveblog throughout Wednesday for all the latest.