Afghanistan Live Updates: Taliban Tells Afghans to Leave Kabul Airport, Mass Evacuations Continue

Live Updates

The disorder in Afghanistan continues, as nations try to increase evacuation efforts amid chaos in and around the Kabul airport.

Despite reports that people are unable to reach the airport safely, State Department spokesman Ned Price said "we are doing everything we can." He reiterated that the U.S. made it clear to the Taliban that "safe passage should be guaranteed for all of those who wish to transit to the airport."

The Pentagon said it is working to ramp up evacuation efforts to reach its goal of airlifting 5,000 to 9,00 people from Afghanistan a day.

The State Department said Thursday that there are currently 6,000 fully processed evacuees at the Kabul airport waiting to board planes out of Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden has no plans to extend the August 31 evacuation deadline and continues to face criticism for his handle of the situation in Afghanistan.

Throughout Afghanistan, protests against Taliban rule continue. In honor of Afghanistan's Independence Day, several Afghans took to the streets waving the Afghan national flag.

The Associated Press reported that Taliban soldiers violently dispersed protests, despite the group's promise of moderation and tolerance.

World leaders doubled down on their calls for the Taliban to respect international humanitarian laws and put an end to violence in Afghanistan.

The live updates for this blog have ended.


Afghanistan Airlifts
Afghan people sit inside a U S military aircraft to leave Afghanistan, at the military airport in Kabul on August 19, 2021 after Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan. SHAKIB RAHMANI/AFP via Getty Images

Young Afghan soccer player fell to his death as a U.S. plane took off from Kabul

A young Afghan soccer player who was on the national youth team was one of the victims who died as people clung to a U.S. plane airlifting people out of Kabul earlier this week.

The General Directorate of Physical Education and Sports of Afghanistan, a government institution that worked with sports groups, confirmed that Zaki Anwari fell off the plane to his death in a Facebook post Thursday.

"Anwari, like thousands of Afghan youths, wanted to leave the country but fell off a U.S. plane and died," the group said.

Zaki Anwari, a 19 year old Afghan who played in the national junior football team died as he fell from a US military plane, according to this post from the Afghan Sports Society. A young man with much promise and talent. What a tragic way to die. #Afghanistan.

— Rajini Vaidyanathan (@BBCRajiniV) August 19, 2021

6000 people are waiting to board planes from Kabul, State Department says

There are currently 6,000 evacuees at the Kabul airport that have been processed and are waiting to board planes out of Afghanistan, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing Thursday.

Price said he is aware of reports of "congestion around the airport" and said the State Department is "working closely with the Department of Defense to facilitate safe and orderly access for consular processing on the airport compound."

"My understanding is that things are moving quite efficiently at this hour at the airport now, but every report we see of someone unable to reach the airport is of concern," Price said.

He added that the U.S. expects 20 planes to depart from Kabul tonight.

G7 leaders will continue evacuation efforts and call on the Taliban to uphold human rights laws

G7 leaders pledged to continue efforts to evacuate "vulnerable persons" from the Kabul airport and to hold the Taliban accountable for respecting international humanitarian law, U.K. Foreign Secretary and Chair of the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers' Meeting Dominic Raab said in a statement Thursday.

"We support the statement of the U.N. Security Council on 16 August, and affirmed our commitment in particular to the urgent need for the cessation of violence, respect for human rights including for women, children and minorities, inclusive negotiations about the future of Afghanistan, and the need for all parties to respect international humanitarian law," the statement said.

The statement emphasized the "importance of the international community providing safe and legal resettlement routes" and called for the Taliban to "guarantee safe passage to foreign nationals and Afghans wanting to leave."

"G7 Ministers will each engage with partners in the coming days and weeks to seek to secure an inclusive political settlement, enable life-saving humanitarian assistance and support in Afghanistan and the region, and prevent any further loss of life in Afghanistan and to the international community from terrorism."

U.S. airlines can make evacuation flights in Kabul with Pentagon permission

U.S. airlines and other aircraft operators will be allowed to make evacuation flights into Kabul if they get permission in advance from the Pentagon.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice to pilots Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

"Due to a lack of high altitude air traffic control services, U.S. operators and pilots must receive authorization from the FAA to overfly Afghanistan," the FAA said in a statement. "Any U.S. or foreign operator flying into Hamid Karzai International Airport must obtain prior permission from the U.S. Department of Defense."

Italian prime minister spoke with Russian and French counterparts on Afghanistan

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi met with both Russian and French officials to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

Draghi spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the "situation on the ground in Afghanistan and its regional implications," according to a statement from Draghi's office.

"During the call the two leaders also assessed the guidelines that could inspire the action of the International Community in the different contexts, aiming to restore Afghanistan's stability, fight terrorism and illegal trafficking and protect women's rights," the statement said.

Draghi also spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the "implications of the Afghan crisis," the "management of the migration flows and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms" in the country.

Arizona governor "wholeheartedly welcomes" Afghan refugees

Arizona "wholeheartedly welcomes" Afghan refugees, Governor Doug Ducey said in a statement.

"The Afghans fleeing the Taliban regime served alongside America's military forces and fought for freedom," the statement said. "We're grateful for their efforts and Arizona wholeheartedly welcomes our fair share of the refugees in our state."

Ducey took a dig at President Joe Biden's "poor response to growing tensions in the Middle East," noting that the refugees "are in this position because of President Biden's negligence and inability to lead."

"His failure on this issue is a threat not just to the progress done for the people of Afghanistan, but also to the national security of the United States and our allies around the world," Ducey said.

Nonetheless, Ducey said Arizona is ready to resettle refugees "when they have been cleared for entry into the United States."

Arizona wholeheartedly welcomes Afghans who served alongside America's military forces and are now fleeing the Taliban regime.

Read my full statement with @SpeakerBowers here:

— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) August 19, 2021

Senate Committee to review actions of Trump, Biden administrations in Afghanistan

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's investigation into the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan will review actions by both the Trump and Biden administrations.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the committee, said the Trump administration's "flawed negotiations" with the Taliban will be reviewed, as the U.S. and the Taliban signed a peace agreement in February 2020. He also said lawmakers will investigate what he described as the "Biden administration's flawed execution of the U.S. withdrawal."

"The Committee will seek a full accounting for these shortcomings as well as assess why the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces collapsed so quickly," Menendez said in a statement.

READ MORE: "Biden, Trump Both Part of Foreign Relations Committee Investigation Into Afghanistan Takeover"

"No hostile interactions" between U.S. troops and the Taliban, Pentagon officials say

During Thursday's press briefing, Major General Hank Taylor said that U.S. troops in Kabul have had "no hostile interactions, no attack and no threat by the Taliban."

He added that "we have not experienced any additional security incidents at the airport."

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby reiterated that point and said there have been "no hostile interactions" between the Taliban and U.S. troops or American citizens getting through to the Kabul airport.

Kirby said the Pentagon has seen "reports of the Taliban harassing, and physically so, some Afghans that were trying to move to the airport."

He added that the U.S. military is in "constant communication" with the Taliban to "make sure that they have the same visibility on the people that we want to see get through as we do."

F-18 fighter planes flew over Kabul "to ensure safety," Maj. Gen. Taylor says

Major General Hank Taylor said F-18s from the Ronald Reagan Carrier strike group "flew armed overwatch flights" over Kabul "to ensure security" over the last 24 hours.

"We maintain a watchful high and are continuously conducting in-depth assessments to protect the safety of Americans. We'll use all of the tools in our arsenal to achieve this goal, Taylor said. "I want to reinforce that we are absolutely focused on this mission of national importance. We are committed to the safe evacuation of as many people as quickly and as safely as possible."

The flights are providing air support, the general said.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the flights were "at altitude" and were "not low pass flights."

When asked if the aircrafts are authorized to fire if U.S. troops and allies come under attack, Kirby said, "As always, we have the right to defend ourselves and our people and our operations."

U.S. in communication with Taliban to evacuate at-risk Afghans, Pentagon says

The U.S. is in communication with Taliban commanders on the ground in Kabul, according to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.

"We're in communication with local Taliban commander about making sure at-risk Afghan SIV applicants get in," Kirby said during Thursday's press briefing.

He added that "we have indications this morning the process is working."

Pentagon does not know how many Americans are in Afghanistan

The Pentagon does not know how many Americans are in Afghanistan.

When asked how many American citizens remain in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said, "I don't know" and referred to the State Department.

Kirby added that Americans do not have to register their presence when they enter a foreign country.

U.S. has not extended the August 31 evacuation deadline, Pentagon says

Pentagon Press Sectreaty John Kirby said the August 31 evacuation deadline has not been extended.

"There has been no decision to change the deadline, and we are focused on doing everything we can inside that deadline to move as many people out as possible," Kirby said.

If the deadline is extended, Kirby said it would require additional discussion with the Taliban.

"I don't believe those conversations have happened at this point," he said.

The U.S. has airlifted 7,000 people since evacuation operations began August 14

There are currently 5,200 U.S. troops at the Kabul airport, Major General Hank Taylor said during a press briefing Thursday.

The U.S. military has airlifted more than 2,00 people on C-17 flights in the past 24 hours. Kirby said 300 of those were American citizens or legal permanent residents.

Since evacuation operations began on August 14, 7,000 evacuees have been airlifted out of Afghanistan. About 12,000 U.S. citizens and personnel and SIV applicants have been evacuated since July, Taylor said.

Kirby clarifies these figures represent operations on U.S. military flights.

UNESCO calls for the preservation of cultural heritage sites in Afghanistan

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) called for the protection of Afghanistan's "wide range of rich and diverse heritage" and to ensure the safety of artists amid the Taliban takeover.

"Any damage or loss of cultural heritage will only have adverse consequences on the prospects for lasting peace and humanitarian relief for the people of Afghanistan," UNESCO said in a statement.

Such cultural heritage sites include the Old City of Herat, the National Museum in Kabul and UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam and the Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley.

UNESCO also emphasized the need for "a safe environment" for artists and cultural heritage professionals who "play a central role for Afghanistan's national cohesion and social fabric."

Video shows Afghan civilians rush for cover from gunfire at Kabul airport

Video shows Afghan civilians scrambling for cover as Afghan security forces open fire at the Kabul airport.

U.S. Army Major General William Taylor said that over 500 members of the Afghan security forces were assisting thousands of U.S. troops with security at the airport as people try to flee the country amid the Taliban's takeover.

The fate of female journalists is uncertain after Taliban takeover

Lotfullah Najafizada, head of TOLOnews TV in Afghanistan, told CNN Thursday that the fate of female journalists is uncertain under Taliban rule.

"I don't think we know what's going to happen to journalists ... and all other female journalists," he said. "We know that the Taliban stopped female journalists [from] going to the state broadcaster, which the Taliban fully control now. The independent and private broadcasters, I think we still have to determine, see what's going to happen to them."

Shabnam Dawran, a journalist at RTA or Afghanistan's national radio television, released a video statement Wednesday claiming she was not allowed to go into work, although her male colleagues were permitted in the office.

"I was warned that you cannot continue with your job as the regime has changed," she said. "Here there are major threats against us. If people of the world hear my voice, if charitable organizations hear my voice, they should help us because our life is at great risk."

Taliban didn't allow my ex-colleague here in @TOLOnews and famous anchor of the State-owned @rtapashto Shabnam Dawran to start her work today.
" Despite wearing a hijab & carrying correct ID, I was told by Taliban: The regime has changed. Go home"#Afghanistan #Talban

— Miraqa Popal (@MiraqaPopal) August 18, 2021

Biden says economic pressure, not military force, is the best way to protect human rights in Afghanistan

President Joe Biden said that war is not the way to protect human rights in Afghanistan.

"The idea that we're able to deal with the rights of women around the world by military force is not rational," Biden said in an interview with ABC News.

Instead, Biden said the best way to ensure women are treated fairly by the Taliban is through economic and diplomatic pressure.

"There are a lot of places where women are being subjugated," he said. "The way to deal with that is putting economic, diplomatic and international pressure on them to change their behavior."

When asked if he believes the Taliban has changed, Biden said the group is "going through an existential crisis."

"I think they're going through sort of an existential crisis about do they want to be recognized by the international community as being a legitimate government. I'm not sure they do," Biden said.

The United Nations has called on the Taliban to respect human rights laws and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the Taliban must respect the U.N Security Council resolution on human rights to earn access to payments of development assistance.

AP poll shows two-thirds of Americans do not think the Afghanistan war was worth fighting

Nearly two-thirds of Americans do not think the war in Afghanistan was worth fighting, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Additionally, 47 percent approve of President Joe Biden's management of international affairs and 52 percent approve of Biden on national security.

The poll was conducted from August 12 to 16 as the two-decade war in Afghanistan came to an end as U.S. troops pulled out and the Taliban overtook control of the country.

READ MORE:"Majority of Americans Say Afghanistan War Not Worth Fighting as U.S. Evacuates: Poll"

Shiite Afghans prepare for Ashura procession

Afghans are preparing for the Ashura procession - held to mark the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad.

Ashura is the tenth day of Muharram - the first month in the Islamic calendar. For Muslims, it marks the day when Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, was killed during the Battle of Karbala.

The procession is being monitored by Taliban fighters but the event has been peaceful so far.

Afghans prepare for Ashura procession
Afghans prepare for Ashura procession
Afghans prepare for Ashura procession

Slovakia 'had to use weapons' to evacuate people from Kabul

Slovakian soldiers "had to use weapons" to get 20 people on the country's first evacuation flight, the country's government has confirmed, Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said.

He declined to say why or provide further details but cited a deterioirating situation in Kabul. Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok confirmed 16 Slovak nationals and four Afghan including a 10-month old baby - was the full capacity of the military transport plane.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger says his country is coordinating further steps with allies.

UK Foreign Secretary: More 'specialist staff have been deployed to Afghanistan'

There are around 1000 British personell on the ground in Kabul - most of them soldiers protecting experts and diplomats who are waiting for flights out of the country.

A further 10 @FCDOGovUK and @ukhomeoffice specialist staff have been deployed to Afghanistan and are on the ground this morning already supporting British nationals and our Afghan colleagues to safely leave the country.

— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) August 19, 2021

Hundreds of EU staff 'blocked on the streets of Kabul' - top EU diplomat

The European Union's top foreign affairs official Josep Borrell has just admitted the bloc cannot rescue everybody as hundreds of diplomatic staff are stuck en route to the airport.

Borrell confirmed that 106 EU staff from Afghanistan have been evacuated so far but that "there are still 300 more Afghan staff from European Union delegations blocked on the streets of Kabul, trying to reach the airport and trying to have a seat on some of the European Union member states flights".

These people have loyally promoted and defended EU interests in Afghanistan over many years, it's our moral duty to protect them and to help to save as many people as possible. We cannot take all Afghan people out of the country.

Borrell admitted the situation in Afghanistan's capital - and the country as a whole - was a "catastrophe".

We have been facing a new and painful reality on the ground on Afghanistan. This is a catastrophe for the Afghan people, for western values and credibility, and for the developing of international relations. Was it foreseeable, was it preventable? In any case, it is a nightmare.

Romania evacuates one person from Afghanistan

A C-130 military aircraft has evacuated a single Romanian citizen from Kabul airport to Islamabad, the country's government just confirmed.

It said in a statement that "the particularly difficult security conditions in Kabul meant that the access of other groups of Romanian citizens to the airport could not be achieved".

The aircraft evacuated a NATO employee yesterday evening, had military personnel and a mobile consular team onboard ready to provide "specialized assistance".

It is set to return to Kabul airport to continue evacuating Romanian citizens, officials said, with around 30 registered as present in Afghanistan.

President Biden: No 'consensus' in intelligence reports about Afghanistan withdrawal

President Biden has said that there was no "consensus" in intelligence reports about how quickly Afghanistan would fall to Taliban forces as the U.S. withdrew its military troops.

Biden made his comments during an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. The interview, broadcast yesterday night, was Biden's first since the militant group seized control of the country.

I think there was no consensus. You go back and look at the intelligence reports. They said that they're much more likely to be sometime by the end of the year.

Dutch plane evacuates 35 people - but no Afghan refugees

The C-17 military plane landed in Amsterdam's Schiphol airport yesterday night, the Netherlands' Ministry of Defense just announced.

It said 35 Dutch nationals - alongside citizens from Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. The government says it has now airlifted 50 Dutch nationals out of Kabul in total.

A Dutch "consular crisis team" along with dozens of troops to protect them flew into the Afghan capital yesterday.

Taliban marks Afghanistan's Independence Day

The militant group started celebrations earlier today by officially declaring it had beaten the U.S. - but leaders have so far have offered no plans for the government they want to form other than to say it will be guided by Shariah law.

"A humanitarian crisis of incredible proportions is unfolding before our eyes," warned Mary Ellen McGroarty, the head of the World Food Program in Afghanistan.

Thursday marked Afghanistan's Independence Day, which commemorates the 1919 treaty that ended British rule in the country.

A Taliban spokesperson told the Associated Press:

Fortunately, today we are celebrating the anniversary of independence from Britain. We at the same time as a result of our jihadi resistance forced another arrogant of power of the world, the United States, to fail and retreat from our holy territory of Afghanistan.

Good morning and welcome to Newsweek's liveblog

Concerns are mounting about the Biden Administration's willingness to stay at Kabul's airport as countries continue their evacuation flights this morning.

Thousands continue to wait for flights as the Taliban urge people to stay away.

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

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