Afghanistan Live Updates: Taliban Captures Provinces near Kabul, U.S. Sends 3,000 Troops to Evacuate Embassy

Live Updates

The situation is growing more unstable in Afghanistan as the Taliban continue to advance across the country.

As of Friday, the Taliban has gained control over two-thirds of Afghanistan, taking over 18 provincial capitals and key cities like Lashkar Gah, Herat and Kandahar.

Several European nations have announced the evacuation of their citizens and Afghan staff who worked alongside diplomats and military leaders from embassies in Kabul.

The bulk of the 3,000 U.S. troops deployed to help evacuate civilians in Kabul are expected to arrive in the capital by the end of the weekend, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a press briefing Friday.

Kirby said the U.S. is "certainly concerned about the speed with which the Taliban is moving," but said that Kabul is not currently "in an imminent threat environment."

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said he was "deeply disturbed" by the Taliban's human rights abuses and called on the militant group to immediately stop its offense and "negotiate in good faith in the interest of Afghanistan and its people."

The updates for this blog have ended.

KEY MOMENTS

Afghanistan People Displaced
Sayed Amanullah from Kunduz prays at a makeshift IDP camp in Share-e-Naw park to various mosques and schools on August 12, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan. People displaced by the Taliban advancing are flooding into the Kabul capital to escape the Taliban takeover of their provinces. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

U.N Secretary-General calls on Taliban to stop its offense and "negotiate in good faith"

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called the situation in Afghanistan a "chaotic and desperate chapter– an incredible tragedy for its long-suffering people."

"Afghanistan is spinning out of control," he said.

Guterres said he was "deeply disturbed" by the Taliban's "severe restrictions on human rights."

"I remind all parties of their legal and moral obligation to take all measures to protect civilians," he said. "Directing attacks against civilians is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and amounts to a war crime."

He called on the Taliban to "immediately halt the offensive and to negotiate in good faith in the interest of Afghanistan and its people."

Guterres added that seizing power through military force can "only lead to prolonged civil war or to the complete isolation of Afghanistan."

I call on the Taliban to immediately negotiate in good faith in the interest of Afghanistan and its people.

Only an Afghan-led negotiated political settlement can ensure peace - @antonioguterres #Afghanistan

— UN Spokesperson (@UN_Spokesperson) August 13, 2021

President Biden was briefed on the civilian evacuations in Afghanistan

President Joe Biden has been briefed on the civilian evacuations in Afghanistan, according to the White House.

"Earlier today, the President was briefed by members of his national security team on the ongoing efforts to safely drawdown the civilian footprint in Afghanistan," according to a White House pool report. "He will get further briefings later today."

Spain to evacuate Spanish citizens, Afghan staff

Spain's foreign ministry announced it will evacuate Spanish citizens and Afghan staffers who have worked "side-by-side" with diplomats and military leaders in Afghanistan.

There are about 50 to 100 Afghan staff and translators who could be evacuated with their families, according to Spanish media reports.

Due to "the advance of Taliban forces in their march towards Kabul," Spain will begin "the repatriation of the embassy staff, the Spaniards remaining in the country, and those Afghans and their families who have worked side by side with us," according to a statement to The Associated Press.

"Kabul is not in an imminent threat environment," Kirby says

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that "Kabul is not—right now—in an imminent threat environment."

However, Kirby said the Taliban is trying to isolate Kabul, similarly to how they have isolated provincial capitals across Afghanistan

Kirby added that the Taliban has "taken over border crossings, taken over highways and major intersections" to control lines of communication and revenue in other areas.

"Time is a precious commodity here," Kirby said.

Pentagon says it has the ability to move thousands of people per day from Kabul

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said "capacity won't be a problem" as the U.S. continues its mission to withdraw civilians from Kabul.

He added that U.S. aircrafts have the ability to move thousands of people per day.

Kirby said that while there will be military aircrafts used in the mission, "commercial flights are still going in and out."

Pentagon is "concerned" about the Taliban's swift movement across Afghanistan

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the U.S. is "certainly concerned about the speed with which the Taliban is moving," as provincial capitals have been captured.

He said the Pentagon is watching the security situation "day by day," but added that this is a moment for the Afghan military and political leadership "to unite."

"It's deeply concerning," he added. "No outcome has to be inevitable."

Pentagon expects most U.S. troops to arrive in Kabul by end of the weekend

Three U.S. military battalions have begun the movement in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a press conference Friday.

Kirby expects the bulk of the 3,000 troops will be in place in Kabul by the end of the weekend to support the State Department's mission to withdraw personnel from the capital.

More nations pull out of embassies in Kabul, grant visas

Several European nations have called to withdraw officials from Kabul and grant emergency visas to staff as Taliban forces advance in Afghanistan.

Switzerland

Switzerland will withdraw its remaining staff from its cooperation bureau, Deputy Foreign Minister Livia Leu told a news briefing in Bern.

Local staff who want to leave can apply for Swiss humanitarian visas, she added

Finland

During a news conference, Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto announced that parliament ruled the country could "take in up to 130 Afghans who have worked in the service of Finland, the EU and NATO along with their families" because of "the quickly weakening security situation."

France

France called on its citizens to leave Afghanistan last week. Now, France is continuing to grant visas from Kabul and said it will "make an exceptional effort" to welcome Afghan rights defenders who may be threatened by the Taliban, the presidential office told the AFP news agency.

"Given France's constant support for the men and women of Afghanistan's civil society – artists, journalists, rights defenders – whose lives are at risk because of their commitment to freedom of expression and opinion or to human rights, an exceptional effort is being made to facilitate their access to French territory," it said in a statement.

Spain

Spain's defense ministry said it will evacuate Afghan translators who have worked with the Spanish forces in Afghanistan "as soon as possible."

Spanish media reported that around 50 translators were expected to leave Afghanistan along with their families.

NATO leaders are "deeply concerned" about human rights abuses in Afghanistan

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that "allies are deeply concerned about the high levels of violence caused by the Taliban's offensive."

This including attacks on civilians, targeted killings and reports of "other serious human rights abuses."

He said that the Taliban will not be recognized by the international community if they overtake Afghanistan by force and that NATO is "committed to supporting a political solution to the conflict."

Stoltenberg said NATO intends to maintain its diplomatic presence in Kabul.

He added that the alliance's goal "remains to support the Afghan government and security forces as much as possible."

U.N. worries about displaced, "food insecure" Afghans as conflict continues

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that one in three people in Afghanistan are "acutely food insecure."

This means around 14 million people "have lost their means by which they earn their keep, and some two million children need nutrition treatment," WFP spokesperson Tomson Phiri told BBC.

With over half of Afghanistan's population already live below the poverty line, WFP officials "fear the worst is yet to come and a larger tide of hunger is fast approaching," Phiri added.

According to the U.N. refugee agency, nearly 250,00 Afghans have been forced to flee their homes since the end of May, and 80 percent of those displaced are women and children. A total of 400,000 civilians have been displaced since the beginning of the year.

NATO allies meet to discuss Afghanistan

NATO officials are meeting in Brussels to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and 30 national ambassadors were taking part in the meeting in Brussels, a NATO official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press.

The official said that allies are "constantly consulting on the situation in Afghanistan" and that Stoltenberg was "in regular contact with allies and the Afghan authorities."

"NATO is monitoring the security situation very closely. We continue to coordinate with the Afghan authorities and the rest of the international community," the official said.

More European countries pull officials out of embassies in Kabul

More countries are pulling officials out of Afghanistan as Taliban forces advance.

Germany's foreign minister Heiko Maas told reporters Friday that Germany is reducing its embassy staff in Kabul and sending a "crisis support team" to increase security at the embassy.

He urged all German citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately, adding that planned charter flights would be brought forward to fly diplomats and local staff working for the embassy out of the country.

Denmark's foreign minister Jeppe Kofod confirmed ta the Danish Embassy in Kabul is closing "for security reasons."

He is urging Danes in Afghanistan to leave the country, calling the crisis "a very serious situation."

Dozens of Afghan citizens who worked for the Denmark government in Afghanistan were evacuated earlier this week and offered residency in the European country for two years.

Norway's embassy in Kabul is also closing, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said.

The Norwegian government said it will not bring home former employees out of the war-torn country. Soereide said the evacuation includes embassy employees, both Norwegians and locals "with immediate family."

U.K. Defense Minister warns "Al-Qaeda will probably come back"

U.K. Defense Minister Ben Wallace said that the current instability in Afghanistan is a "breeding ground" for militant organizations.

Speaking with Sky News, Wallace called the Doha agreement between former President Donald Trump and the Taliban "a rotten deal" that "told the Taliban they were winning" and undermined the Afghanistan government.

"I felt this was not the right time or decision to make," Wallace said. "Because al-Qaeda will probably come back."

He said when the United States, "as the framework nation," made the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, the U.K. had to follow.

"We're all as an international community paying the consequences of that," he added.

Wallace also told the BBC that Afghanistan could be heading towards a civil war.

"Britain found out in the 1830s that it is a country led by warlords and led by different provinces and tribes, and you end up, if you're not very careful, in a civil war," he said. "I think we're heading towards a civil war, initially shown by a Taliban with momentum."

Boris Johnson will hold emergency meeting on Afghanistan

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold an emergency meeting Friday to discuss Afghanistan.

A Downing Street spokesperson said that Johnson will chair an emergency COBRA security council meeting.

COBRA stands for "Cabinet Office Briefing Room A" and refers to the Civil Contingencies Committee that is convened to handle matters of national emergency or major disruption.

The U.K. has already agreed to send 600 troops to Afghanistan to provide protection and help relocate U.K. nationals, Afghan staff and interpreters, according to the BBC.

United Nations warns of humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is "alarmed by the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan."

"The human toll of spiraling hostilities is immense," UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said in a statement Friday. "The United Nations Assistance Mission has warned that without a significant de-escalation in violence, Afghanistan is on course to witness the highest ever number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since the UN's records began."

The UNHCR is calling on countries that neighbor Afghanistan to "keep their borders open" and for other nations to ensure Afghans outside of the country are "able to seek safety, regardless of their current legal status."

Map shows the Taliban advances in Afghanistan

Since the beginning of August, the Taliban has made significant advancements in Afghanistan.

As of Friday, the Taliban controls two-thirds of the country and has seized 17 provincial capitals, according to The Associated Press.

Taliban Advancements
Foundation For Defense of Democracies Long War Journal

READ MORE: "Afghanistan Map Shows Taliban Now Control More Than Half the Country"

Taliban captures local commander Ismail Khan as Herat falls

As the Taliban seize Herat, Afghanistan's third-largest city, they have also captured the veteran local commander Ismail Khan, Reuters reports.

Khan was leading the militia resistance in the city.

"The Taliban agreed that they will not pose any threat or harm to the government officials who surrendered," provincial council member Ghulam Habib Hashimi said.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed Khan's capture.

Trump calls the situation in Afghanistan a "tragic mess"

Former President Donald Trump called the situation in Afghanistan a "tragic mess."

"Tragic mess in Afghanistan, a completely open and broken Border, Crime at record levels, oil prices through the roof, inflation rising, and taken advantage of by the entire world—DO YOU MISS ME YET?" Trump said in a statement Friday morning.

Afghanistan's Vice President: Military will 'do everything everything to strengthen' resistance to Taliban fighters

In today's meeting on national security chaired by Prz @ashrafghani it was decided with conviction & resolve that WE STAND FIRM AGAINST TALIBAN TERRORISTS & DO EVERTYHING TO STREGNTHEN THE NATIONAL RESISTANCE BY ALL MEANS AND WAYS. PERIOD. We are proud of our ANDSF.

— Amrullah Saleh (@AmrullahSaleh2) August 13, 2021

Cold reception to U.S. from Pakistan PM, who warns of posssible civil war in Afghanistan

A frustrated Imran Khan told reporters just now that he believes the U.S. treat Pakistan as "only to be useful in the context of somehow settling this mess which has been left behind after 20 years of trying to find a military solution when there was not one."

I think that the Americans have decided that India is their strategic partner now, and I think that's why there's a different way of treating Pakistan now.

He confirmed he would not allow U.S. troops to use military bases, or create their own, in Pakistan after withdrawal.

Taliban captures Chaghcharan and secures Ghor province

An Afghan official says the Taliban have captured the provincial capital of the western province of Ghor.

The head of the provincial council says the city fell to the insurgents around two hours ago.

In pictures: Taliban celebrate as they conquer several key cities

Taliban fighters take control of Afghanistan provinces
Taliban fighters take control of Afghanistan provinces
Taliban fighters take control of Afghanistan provinces

Former staffer to Afghan President Ghani considers escaping Kabul

Today, everything has changed. My family is having discussions on what to pack, what to sell, what to leave behind, and what routes to take out of Kabul.

I’ve felt ill all day, to the point that sleeping pills aren’t working. I’m terrified for all of us.

— Sara Wahedi (@SaraWahedi) August 12, 2021

Taliban controls more than two-thirds of Afghanistan

The U.S.-backed Afghan government is clinging on to around one-third of the country as the Taliban close in on capital Kabul.

Attaullah Afghan, the head of the provincial council in Helmand, says the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah was lost following heavy fighting and raised their white flag over governmental installations early on Friday, but that three national army bases outside of Lashkar Gah remain under control of the government.

Atta Jan Haqbayan, the provincial council chief in Zabul province, said the local capital Qalat fell to the Taliban and that officials are in a nearby army camp preparing to leave the area.

Afghan officials surrender Uruzgan province capital

The capital of the province is around 240 miles from Kabul as the Taliban continues their advance in the southeast of Afghanistan.

Taliban captures Zabul

Afghan official says the Taliban have captured the capital of Zabul province.

The province neighbors Ghazni, which was captured yesterday, and sits around 200 miles from capital Kabul.

Good morning and welcome to Newsweek's liveblog

As the Taliban pushes forward with its brutal takeover of Afghanistan, thousands of U.S. troops are returning to the country to evacuate most of its diplomatic staff.

Follow our liveblog throughout Friday for all the latest developments.