Afghanistan Live Updates: Biden Defends Withdrawal From 'Forever War', Taliban Attempts to Form New Government

Live Updates

The Biden administration is on the defense about the political fallout and security issues caused by the withdrawal of 120,000 American soldiers and civilians, Afghans, and other allies from Afghanistan.

Thousands of U.S. citizens, Green Card holders and Afghans eligible for an airlift have been left behind, with negotiations ongoing about how to secure their safe exit from the country. The scenes prompted critics to lash out at President Joe Biden, who defended his actions in a speech made Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the Taliban continue round-the-clock talks to form a new government.

The live updates for this blog have ended.

KEY MOMENTS

President Biden Address on Afghanistan Withdrawal
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the end of the war in Afghanistan in the State Dining Room at the White House on August 31, 2021 in Washington, DC. The last American military aircraft took off from Hamid Karzai Airport a few minutes before midnight in Kabul, marking the end of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan since the invasion following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. embassy in Tajikistan to build new guard facility along border with Afghanistan

The U.S. embassy in Tajikistan is launching a project to build a new border guard facility early next year along its shared border with Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, the embassy in Dushanbe announced.

The new facility will "allow the Border Guard Service to deploy forces more quickly to border areas in response to threats," the announcement said.

When the project is finished, it will provide housing for a border guard detachment and their families in Ayvoj.

U.S. Ambassador John Pommersheim said "this border detachment project is just another example of our shared commitment to the security and sovereignty of Tajikistan and Central Asia."

Gen. Mark Milley says future of the Taliban unknown, calls them "ruthless group from the past"

U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the future of the Taliban in Afghanistan is unknown, adding that based on his personal experience "this is a ruthless group from the past, and whether or not they change remains to be seen," during a Pentagon briefing alongside Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

He addressed the U.S. military's "dealings" with the Taliban at the airfield in Kabul and roughly over the past year "or so."

"In war, you do what you must in order to reduce risk to mission and force," Milley said, adding "not necessarily what you want to do."

Moments before, Austin said "we were working with the Taliban on a very narrow set of issues, and it was just that, to get as many people out as we possibly could," referencing the U.S. evacuation efforts in Afghanistan.

He added that it is hard to predict where the situation with the Taliban will go as they now have control over Afghanistan.

Gen. Milley: "We don't know what the future of the Taliban is, but I can tell you from personal experience that this is a ruthless group from the past, and whether or not they change remains to be seen." pic.twitter.com/m4TpsmtO2c

— CSPAN (@cspan) September 1, 2021

"There's never been a single operation that I've been involved in where we didn't discover that there's something that we could have done better or more efficiently or more effectively. No operation is perfect," Austin also said during the briefing.

Gen. Mark Milley says U.S. military will "learn" from the experience in Afghanistan

U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared alongside Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin for a Pentagon briefing on Afghanistan and said the U.S. is "gonna learn from this experience as a military."

"How we got to this moment in Afghanistan will be analyzed and studied for years to come," the general added.

He mentioned the deaths of the 13 U.S. servicemen who died in a suicide bomb attack at the Kabul airport and said "They literally gave their tomorrows for people they never knew."

Austin also spoke on their deaths and said "13 of our very best paid the ultimate price," adding that "many of them were too young to personally remember the 9/11 attacks."

.@SecDef: Our forces risked their own lives to save the lives of others, and 13 of our very best, paid the ultimate price. pic.twitter.com/LgO2dzsyUV

— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) September 1, 2021

"I know that these have been difficult days for many of us and as we look back as a nation on the war in Afghanistan, I hope that we will all do so with thoughtfulness and respect," Austin said during the briefing.

"I will always be proud of the part that we played in this war," he added.

I want to end with a word to the force and their families: Thank you to all those who served in this war. Because you are the greatest asset that we have. You. The extraordinary men and women who volunteer to keep us all safe, and your families. pic.twitter.com/Bbte1dMrCl

— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) September 1, 2021

White House says 124,000 evacuated in "historic" airlift from Afghanistan

The White House shared a video to Twitter Wednesday on how the Biden administration is "ensuring safety and security and supporting evacuees as they arrive in the United States" following the "historic" airlift from Afghanistan where roughly 124,000 people were evacuated.

As the U.S. was preparing for the exit of all American forces from Afghanistan that occurred Monday, the U.S. helped evacuate American citizens in the country, Afghans who assisted the U.S. during the war and Afghans whose safety was at risk, the White House said.

Evacuees were flown to third party countries such as Germany for security screenings, according to the video.

Before Afghan evacuees are allowed entry into the U.S., they are vetted by U.S. intelligence, law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals.

Then, once cleared, evacuees are tested for COVID-19 and offered a free vaccine. U.S. citizens who were tested for the virus went home while Afghan refugees are to be temporarily housed at U.S. military bases such as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

Afghan families at the bases will be provided with resettlement services "to help them begin their new lives in the United States," the White House said.

The historic airlift from Afghanistan evacuated approximately 124,000 people. Here’s how our administration is ensuring safety and security and supporting evacuees as they arrive in the United States. pic.twitter.com/b5CTSnAFyi

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 1, 2021

Almost 150 students from the American University of Afghanistan were evacuated, president says

Almost 150 students of the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) have made it out of the country in recent days, the university's president told Newsweek.

This comes after a New York Times report found hundreds of current and former students were turned away from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport after seven hours of waiting for security clearance on Sunday.

"We have been trying for two weeks to get our students safe passage into the airport to relocate them to other sites—both branches that we are developing and partner universities, where we can reconvene as a community and start to rebuild and help them recover from the experience that they've had," AUAF President Dr. Ian Bickford told Newsweek.

Bickford said university officials are calling on the U.S. to help evacuate the remaining 1,200 students, staff and relatives out of the country.

"We would have liked to have been prioritized for rescue flights during the two weeks that the U.S. was there," he said. "Now that that is finished, we believe other options will emerge, but it's very hard to paint a picture today of what that will look like."

READ MORE: "Almost 150 American University Students Have Made It Out of Afghanistan"

Rep. Jason Crow says the U.S. will have to "rely on the Taliban" to help evacuate remaining Americans

Democratic Representative Jason Crow, who served in Afghanistan, said the U.S. needs to be "very careful" about its policy on the Taliban to protect the American citizens who remain in Afghanistan.

"These folks are at tremendous risk right now," he told CNN. "It's just true that we're going to have to rely on the Taliban to some extent to allow safe passage for those American citizens to get to the airport, to get to the border to get out of the country. That is just the reality. We can't do that successfully without some level of coordination. So I think we get our folks out, then we can have the larger conversation about how we're going to engage in the future, if at all, with the Taliban."

Crow said he and some of his colleagues will push the Biden administration to try to evacuate all the citizens and allies left in Afghanistan.

"The President is the Commander in Chief," he added. "He had to balance multiple things and risks. He made the decision to pull out on a deadline. Now we have to focus on what we do to go forward."

Afghans in the U.K. can soon apply for permanent residence

Afghans who worked for the British military and U.K. government in Afghanistan will be able to receive permanent residence in the U.K., the government announced Wednesday.

Through "Operation Warm Welcome," the U.K. will ensure Afghans arriving in the U.K. receive "the vital support they need to rebuild their lives, find work, pursue education and integrate into their local communities."

People already in the U.K. under the Afghanistan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) will be able to apply to change their temporary leave into indefinite leave, granting them permanent residence in the U.K.

"We owe an immense debt to those who worked with the Armed Forces in Afghanistan and I am determined that we give them and their families the support they need to rebuild their lives here in the UK.," U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

The government has allocated £12 million ($16.5 million) for extra school places for Afghans, 300 undergraduate and postgraduate university scholarships and free English courses for adults.

UN official warns Afghanistan will run out of food in September

A United Nations official warned that Afghanistan could soon run out of food, adding a hunger crisis to the existing instability after the Taliban took over the country.

Ramiz Alakbarov, the local U.N. humanitarian coordinator, said about one-third of the country's population is facing "emergency" or crisis" levels of food insecurity.

"The lean winter season is fast approaching, and without additional funding, food stocks will run out at the end of September," Alakbarov told The Associated Press.

Alaskbarov said more humanitarian aid is needed.

While the U.N.'s World Food Program has brought in food and distributed it to tens of thousands of people in recent weeks, only about 39 percent of the $1.3 billion needed for aid efforts has been received, he said.

READ MORE: "Afghanistan Food Stocks Will Run Out in September, U.N. Warns, More Aid Needed"

U.K foreign secretary says "hundreds" of British citizens remain in Afghanistan

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab could not give a precise figure on the number of British citizens left behind in Afghanistan.

He estimates it is in the "hundreds, possible the mid to low hundred," he told the Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday.

Raab also said that he "cautioned" that the Taliban were unlikely to engage in dialogue about an inclusive government once the U.S. decision to withdraw troops was clear.

He said the U.K. does "not recognize governments generally" and he does not want to legitimize the insurgents, Sky News reported.

However, he said he does want to continue a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan.

"These are early days and we need to set credible and realistic tests for the Taliban and engage with them based on whether they are following through," Raab said.

U.K. foreign secretary says he anticipated a "steady deterioration" in Afghanistan

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is currently being questioned in front of the Foreign Affairs Committee over his handling of the Afghanistan crisis.

Raab said the U.K anticipated a "steady deterioration" of the situation in Afghanistan.

"The central proposition was given the troop withdrawal by the end of August you would see a steady deterioration from that point," he said. "It was unlikely Kabul would fall this year."

He added that the U.K had a contingency plan for a "more rapid deterioration."

Raab said it was clear at the NATO summit that the partners would "stick to the maxim that NATO went in together" and "would exit together."

"So if I'm honest with you, I don't think there was any viable alternative coalition once the US decision had been taken," he said.

Raab said he was "leaving to go to the region" after this committee hearing but did not provide further details on his trip.

Trump says 13 U.S. service members killed in Kabul would be alive if he were president

Former President Donald Trump said in a statement that if he were president, the 13 U.S. service members who died in a suicide bomb attack at the Kabul airport would still be alive.

Trump addressed a Facebook post from Shana Chappell, the mother of a fallen soldier blasting President Joe Biden's conduct during his meeting with families of those killed in Afghanistan last week.

Statement by Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America pic.twitter.com/1lmcVa84xT

— RSBN 🇺🇸 (@RSBNetwork) September 1, 2021

"If I were President, your wonderful and beautiful son Kareem would be with you now, and so would the sons and daughters of others, including all of those who died in the vicious Kabul airport attack," Trump said.

He said civilians and "our $85 billion of equipment" should have been brought out of Afghanistan first "with the Military coming out very safely after all was clear."

"European influence will be our greatest challenge," European Council President says

European Council President Charles Michel said Afghanistan was a "stark demonstration" of the challenge of European influence moving forward.

"European influence will be our greatest challenge," he said at the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia. "We don't need another Afghanistan to grasp that the European Union (EU) must strive for greater autonomy and capacity for action."

In order for the EU to work on its strategic autonomy to exert greater influence, Michel said it must work on three key areas.

The EU must work in "bolstering our economic power, reinforcing our neighborhood," specifically in the Western Balkans, Eastern partnership and Africa, and "reflect openly and clear-eyed on a new stage of collective security and defense capabilities, he said.

European influence will be our greatest challenge.

We don't need another #Afghanistan to grasp that the EU must strive for greater autonomy and capacity for action.

Our strategic autonomy requires working on our economic power, neighbourhood and security capabilities.#BSF2021 pic.twitter.com/M9Nyp1n5of

— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) September 1, 2021

Qatar aircraft carrying technical team lands in Kabul

A Qatar aircraft carrying a technical team landed in Kabul Wednesday.

"A Qatari jet carrying a technical team has landed in Kabul earlier today to discuss the resumption of operations in the airport," the source told AFP news agency.

A source familiar with the situation told CNN that "the objective is to resume flights in and out of Kabul for humanitarian assistance and freedom of movement in a safe and secure manner."

During a meeting with his Dutch counterpart Sigrid Kaag, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani urged the Taliban to respect women's rights and ensure safe passage for citizens who want to leave Afghanistan.

"We reiterated to the Taliban that they should carefully review their policies and rhetoric towards women," he said.

"The Taliban should not back down on what they had promised," he added. "We have always urged the Taliban to preserve the freedom of movement and to provide safe passage to all citizens, foreign and nationals."

Taliban parades in Kandahar after Americans leave

Taliban supports parade in Kandahar to celebrate American troops leaving Afghanistan.

There was a long line of green, American-made armored vehicles along a highway outside Afghanistan's second-biggest city, an AFP journalist reported.

Kandahar is the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban.

Many people waved white-and-black Taliban flags attached to aerials and at least one Black Hawk helicopter flew overhead, suggesting a former Afghan army member was at the controls, according to AFP.

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Israeli Foreign Minister says U.S. withdrawal was 'right move done wrong'

Yair Lapid told reporters that Israel did not disagree with the decision to withdraw or the reasons behind it - but criticized the way it was done.

He added that the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban is "going to have a huge impact on the struggle between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State" but told journalists not to "jump to conclusions" about the fallout of the situation.

Putin: U.S. achieved 'zero' in Afghanistan

Russian President Vladimir Putin said just now that the American military "was trying ... to civilize the people who live there, to introduce their norms and standards of life in the broadest sense of the word, including the political organization of society".

The result is sheer tragedies, sheer losses, both for those who were doing that -- the U.S. -- and more so for the people who live in Afghanistan. A zero result, if not negative.

Putin added that "it's impossible to impose something from outside" and that "if someone does something to someone, they should draw on the history, the culture, the life philosophy of these people in the broadest sense of the word, they should treat their traditions with respect".

U.S. military accused of 'turning once rescued shelter dogs into homeless strays'

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) International claims that animals from Kabul Small Animal Rescue (KSAR) were set free into Kabul's international airport, "turning once rescued shelter dogs into homeless strays."

The animals had been in cages at the airport for five days waiting to get on a flight before they were released, the charity claims, after pleas for an animal-friendly airlift failed.

U.K. in talks with Taliban over Brits left in Afghanistan

British officials are negotiating safe passage for up to 250 people and their families with Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar, Downing Street confirmed this morning.

Commenting on the UK-Taliban negotiations, a No10 spokesman told reporters:

The prime minister's special representative for Afghan transition, Simon Gass, has traveled to Doha and is meeting with senior Taliban representatives to underline the importance of safe passage out of Afghanistan for British nationals, and those Afghans who have worked with us over the past 20 years.

Ukrainian President seeks military aid increase and NATO backing from U.S. ahead of visit

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who found himself embroiled in former president Donald Trump's first impeachment, will meet President Biden at the White House later today.

The country is seeking reassurances that the U.S. will continue to support Ukraine's sovereignty in the face of Russia's seizure of Crimea after Biden's speech on Afghanistan yesterday, which indicated a move towards isolationism from the Biden administration.

Ahead of the meeting, the White House said it was committing up to $60 million in new military aid to Ukraine, notifying Congress that the aid package was necessary because of a "major increase in Russian military activity along its border" and because of mortar attacks, cease-fire violations and other provocations.

In pictures: Nurses treat patients at Kabul hospital after terror attack

Pictures taken this morning show female nurses treating patients at Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital in Kabul, where dozens of people were admitted after last week's ISIS bombing at Kabul's airport.

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Pentagon admits it does not have 'exact figure' for Americans left in Afghanistan

Department of Defense Press Secretary John Kirby told MSNBC's Morning Joe co-host Willie Geist that there could still be hundreds of Americans left in Afghanistan but was unsure of a precise number.

I don't think there's an exact figure, Willie. We believe we got the vast, vast majority of American citizens out, something to the tune of 6,000 of them. And we think it's probably in the low hundreds that are still there. And there were also several hundred others that didn't want to leave.

More than 122,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan during the withdrawal, including more than 116,000 people flown out of the nation over the last two weeks amid the Taliban's takeover.

FULL STORY: Pentagon Says There's No 'Exact Figure' on Number of Americans Left in Afghanistan

UK embassy told Afghans to go to Kabul airport's Abbey Gate hours before bomb attack - reports

Potentially hundreds, if not thousands of people seeking guidance from the British embassy in Kabul gathered at the airport entrance before ISIS let off a suicide bomb, the BBC reports.

The revelations came after U.S. security sources reportedly asked the U.K. to shut down Abbey Gate before it was attacked - but British officials refused.

The explosion killed almost 200 people, including 13 American soldiers.

Aftermath of twin bombing at Kabul's airport
Clothes and blood stains of Afghan people who were waiting to be evacuated are seen at the site of the August 26 twin suicide bombs Wakil Kohsar/Getty Images

Biden's sets out 'national interest' argument to defend withdrawal

The president last night used his speech to defend his actions in Afghanistan and questioned what remaining there would do for the U.S.

"To those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan, I ask, 'What is the vital national interest?'" Biden said. He added, "I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars in Afghanistan."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki later defended the comments as a "forceful assessment" of the situation.

READ PRESIDENT BIDEN'S FULL SPEECH HERE

Pope Francis criticizes 'enforcing its own values on others'

Asked about Afghanistan during a radio interview this morning, the pope inadvertently quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin - thinking he was quoting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

It's necessary to stop the irresponsible policy of enforcing its own values on others and attempts to build democracy in other countries based on outside models without taking into account historic, ethnic and religious issues and fully ignoring other people's traditions.

Francis added that "all eventualities were not taken into account" during the withdrawal and evacuations.

I don't know if there will be any revision (of what happened during the withdrawal), but there was much deceiving from the new authorities (of Afghanistan). Either that or just too much ingenuity. Otherwise, I don't understand.

Good morning and welcome to Newsweek's liveblog

The White House has switched to defense mode over the handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal as Congressional committees gear up to hold public hearings on what went wrong in the final months in the country.

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