Afghanistan Live Updates: Last U.S. Troops Exit Kabul, Taliban Takes Full Control

Live Updates

The final group of U.S. troops has left Afghanistan after a 20-year campaign, leaving the Taliban in full control of the country and Kabul's international airport for the first time in decades.

The last airlift came hours ahead of President Joe Biden's Tuesday deadline for shutting down the operation. But while military forces have left, thousands of Americans and Afghans seeking to escape Taliban rule remain in the country, now under threat from ISIS-K - a recognized affiliate of the Islamic State terror group.

The updates for this blog have ended.

KEY MOMENTS

Taliban Take Control in Kabul
Youths supporting the Taliban wave Taliban flags atop a vehicle while marching with others along a street in Kandahar on August 31, 2021, as they celebrate after the US has pulled all its troops out of the country to end a brutal 20-year war -- one that started and ended with the hardline Islamist in power. AFP via Getty Images

U.S. did not leave dogs in cages behind in Kabul, Pentagon clarifies

The Pentagon said the U.S. military did not leave any dogs in cages behind in Kabul.

Defense Department Press Secretary John Kirby correct the "erroneous" report, saying that "photos circulating online were animals under the care of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue, not dogs under our care."

To correct erroneous reports, the U.S. Military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, including the reported military working dogs. Photos circulating online were animals under the care of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue, not dogs under our care.

— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) August 31, 2021

"A few dozen" French nationals, local staff remain in Afghanistan

"A few dozen" French nationals and locally employed staff remain in Afghanistan, the French Defense Ministry said.

"All efforts are made for those who remain and who would want to leave Afghanistan to benefit from an orderly and safe evacuation procedure, and this is at the heart of the negotiations we are holding within the UN," Defense Ministry spokesman Herve Grandjean said during a news conference Tuesday.

Grandjean said those who remain in the country either "did not wish to leave Afghanistan, or they wished to do so in the last days of the operation and were not able to be evacuated in time."

France will do "the maximum" in the coming days and weeks to help them get out of Afghanistan, Grandjean said.

Secretary of State Blinken thanks Kabul embassy staff

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson and the staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul staff for their "exceptional and courageous service" during evacuation operations.

"I'm confident their skills and dedication will continue to advance our consular work and diplomacy as a new chapter begins," Blinken said in a tweet.

My deepest thanks to @USAmbKabul Wilson, Amb. Bass, and the @USEmbassyKabul team for their exceptional and courageous service bringing so many to safety. I'm confident their skills and dedication will continue to advance our consular work and diplomacy as a new chapter begins. pic.twitter.com/9ARlhLnRO3

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) August 31, 2021

Taliban forces declare victory over U.S. at Kabul airport

Taliban forces declared victory over America at the Kabul airport after U.S. forces finally withdrew from Afghanistan after two decades.

"We have defeated the Americans," a Taliban soldier said, according to The Associated Press.

Hekmatullah Wasiq, a top Taliban official, told AP that "Afghanistan is finally free."

"The military and civilian side [of the airport] are with us and in control. Hopefully, we will be announcing our Cabinet," Wasiq said. "Everything is peaceful. Everything is safe."

During a press conference Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group will "spare no effort to restore our national unity and to regain our social harmony, steering away from any form of hypocrisy or those who are trying to drive a wedge among our people."

Mujahid added that since regaining their political independence, the Taliban is in "dire need" to restore the Afghan economy and economic independence, Al- Jazeera reported.

He added that the Taliban seeks "good relations" with the international community and would look to "amicably" resolve any issues.

READ MORE: "Taliban Guard Says They 'Defeated the Americans' as U.S. Leaves Kabul"

NATO will continue to help Afghans left behind

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Kabul airport must be kept open and promised to help the remaining Afghans left behind by the U.S. and allied forces.

"It's essential to keep the airport open, both to enable humanitarian aid to the Afghan people and also to make sure that we can continue to get people out — those who wished to, but were not able to be part of the military evacuation," he told AFP news agency in an interview.

"We will not forget them," he added.

Stoltenberg also said NATO allies will maintain diplomatic pressure on the Taliban to ensure remaining Afghans who worked with other countries can leave the country freely.

"We will continue to work with NATO allies, with other countries to help people to leave," he said. "Taliban has clearly stated that people will be allowed to leave, we will judge Taliban not on what they say, but by what they do."

"We will use our political, diplomatic, economic leverage to ensure that people are able to leave," he added. "This is important because the NATO allies have been there for so many years."

200 Afghan refugees arrive in Spain

A military aircraft carrying 200 Afghans landed at a military base in Rota, Spain hours after the U.S. completed its withdrawal of troops and evacuation operations from Afghanistan.

The evacuees were flown from Kabul to an undisclosed location in the Middle East before they arrived in Spain, a U.S. official told The Associated Press.

The first flight to Dulles airport in Virginia will take 350 Afghans on Tuesday, U.S. officials at the base said. Then, people will be relocated to different cities across the U.S., Rear Admiral Benjamin Reynolds, director of maritime headquarters at Rota, told AP.

There are 1,700 Afghans currently being held in Rota.

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Canada will welcome 5,000 Afghan refugees evacuated by the U.S.

Canada said it will take in 5,000 Afghan refugees evacuated by the United States.

"We're pulling out all the stops to help as many Afghans as possible who want to make their home in Canada," Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said. "Over the weekend, Canada and its allies received assurances from the Taliban that Afghan citizens with travel authorization from other countries would be safely allowed to leave Afghanistan."

This resettlement effort is part of Canada's second phase of operations that focuses on "welcoming Afghan refugees who have been forced to flee Afghanistan to another country," according to a statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

These refugees are part of Canada's recently announced a program to accept 20,000 refugees, which include persecuted Afghan minorities, women human rights advocates, LGBTI individuals, and journalists, the statement said.

During the first phase of operations, Canada said it evacuated roughly 3,700 people from Afghanistan, "the majority of whom are refugees who supported Canada's mission, and will soon begin new lives in this country," the statement said.

Pentagon does not know how Americans are left in Afghanistan

The Pentagon said it does not know the exact number of Americans who remain in Afghanistan after U.S. forces completed their withdrawal from the country Monday.

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

"I don't think there's an exact figure, Willie," Kirby said. "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."

READ MORE: "Pentagon Says There's No 'Exact Figure' on Number of Americans Left in Afghanistan"

American University students in Kabul fear the U.S. gave name to the Taliban

Students and alumni of the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul fear the United States gave their names to the Taliban, according to a report from The New York Times.

Hundreds of current and former students who were waiting for clearance at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport were told Sunday that there were no more evacuation flights out of Afghanistan.

"I regret to inform you that the high command at HKIA in the airport has announced there will be no more rescue flights," the university administration told students in an email, according to The Times.

The email also sparked alarm because the group learned their names and passport information had been shared with the Taliban guarding airport checkpoints. The university's president, Dr. Ian Bickford, told the newspaper that the university had only given the names to the U.S. military.

"They told us: We have given your names to the Taliban. We are all terrified, there is no evacuation, there is no getting out," Hosay, a 24-year-old sophomore, added.

READ MORE: "'Terrified' American University Students in Kabul Feared U.S. Gave Names to Taliban"

U.S. demilitarized equipment left behind at Kabul airport, Pentagon says

The Pentagon confirmed that the U.S. demilitarized the equipment left behind at the Kabul airport, making it unusable before U.S. troops completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"They can inspect all they want. They can look at them, they can walk around, but they can't fly them. They can't operate them. We made sure to demilitarize, to make unusable, all the gear that is at the airport — all the aircraft, all the ground vehicles," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told CNN.

"The only thing that we left operable are a couple of fire trucks and forklifts so that the airport itself can remain more operational going forward," he said.

Kirby added that the security threat in Afghanistan "remains high."

"Obviously, we are concerned about the potential for Taliban retribution going forward," he said. "We certainly are mindful of the threat ISIS-K continues to pose inside Afghanistan."

Images from the Kabul airport after U.S. forces complete their withdrawal

Taliban forces have taken over the Kabul airport after the U.S. pulled out all of its troops to meet today's withdrawal deadline.

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State Department issues Do Not Travel advisory for Afghanistan

The U.S. State Department issued a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory for Afghanistan due to "civil unrest, armed conflict, terrorism, kidnapping and COVID-19."

"Travel to all areas of Afghanistan is unsafe. The Department of State assesses the risk of kidnapping or violence against U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is high," the alert said.

The advisory also noted that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul suspended operations on Tuesday, but the U.S. government will "continue to assist U.S. citizens and their families in Afghanistan from Doha, Qatar."

Amnesty International demands accountability for deadly drone strike

Amnesty International USA calls for accountability for the U.S. drone strike that killed civilians in Afghanistan.

"Survivors awake today in Afghanistan with the unimaginable pain of having lost their loved ones with no accountability for those who have committed the airstrikes," executive director Paul O'Brien said in a statement. "The United States has a responsibility to the families of those killed to name the dead, acknowledge its actions, investigate and provide reparations."

O'Brien said the U.S. has carried out airstrikes for two decades without accountability to the public for how many civilians were killed by U.S. actions.

"It is unconscionable that the Biden administration continues airstrikes in this shroud of secrecy."

Amnesty International USA is calling for a "credible and transparent investigation" into the airstrike and for the U.S. to follow international law moving forward.

O'Brien also wants the U.S. to "remedy" its actions by providing "compensation, restitution, and rehabilitation" for "decades of civilian casualties as a result of U.S. military operations."

U.S. will continue to provide aid "directly" to the Afghan people

The U.S. will continue to provide humanitarian assistance "directly" to the Afghan people through international institutions and nongovernmental organizations, not through the Taliban.

Going forward, National Security adviser Jake Sullivan said any aid to Afghanistan through the Taliban directly will be depend on the Taliban's behavior.

"That will be about the Taliban's actions," he said. "It will be about whether they follow through on their commitments, their commitments to safe passage for Americans and Afghan allies, their commitment to not allow Afghanistan to be a base from which terrorists can attack the United States or any other country, their commitments with respect to upholding their international obligations."

"It's going to be up to them. And we will wait and see by their actions how we end up responding in terms of the economic and development assistance," Sullivan added.

National Security Advisor defends Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan defended the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, noting that President Joe Biden is working to get the 100 Americans left behind in Afghanistan out of the country through diplomatic means.

"We continue our mission to get them out, it's just that it has shifted from a military mission to a diplomatic mission. And we have considerable leverage over the Taliban to ensure that any remaining American citizen will be able to get out," Sullivan said during an appearance on "Good Morning America" Tuesday.

He said the 100 people who are left were contacted "repeatedly" during the evacuation operation.

Sullivan also dismissed criticism of Biden's decision, saying it was made in the best interest of the U.S.

He noted that Biden got "unanimous recommendations" from the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, all of his civilian advisors, all of his commanders on the ground and all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "that the best way to protect our forces and the best way to help those Americans was to transition this mission at the end of the day."

"Those who are criticizing are not are not the ones who have to sit in the Situation Room and make the hard calls about the threats that we face and the objectives we're trying to obtain," Sullivan said.

EU ministers to meet to discuss Taliban takeover and Afghan refugees

European Union justice and home affairs ministers from the 27 nations bloc are looking for ways to prevent a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis fueled by Syria's civil war.

The arrival in Europe of well over a million migrants that year led to infighting among EU member states over how best to manage the influx, with a new wave of migrants from Afghanistan likely to exacerbate tensions.

The EU is likely to provide funding to house refugees in countries bordering Afghanistan to prevent them from heading for the continent.

Pakistan urges countries to prevent 'economic collapse' in Afghanistan

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters - in a message to the international community - that countries should remain engaged and not abandon Afghanistan to prevent a further exodus of Afghans across the Pakistan border.

This is a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's history. International community must remain engaged, do not let economic collapse take place in Afghanistan.

Biden to speak about Afghanistan at 1.30pm ET

The president will make a statement following the withdrawal of the final U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan.

He is likely to be quizzed about the chaotic evacuation operation at Kabul's airport, which has resulted in thousands of Americans and Afghans being left behind and a successful terror attack by ISIS-K.

China blasts U.S. over Afghanistan withdrawal

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin described the Biden administration's strategy for the country as "unworkable" and predicted it would collapse as the Taliban cements control.

The US policy of imposing values and social systems on other countries is bound to be unworkable and will only end in failure. Afghanistan has gotten rid of foreign military occupation; the Afghan people have ushered in a new starting point for national peace and reconstruction; the history of Afghanistan has opened a new page.

Wang added that China respects "Afghanistan's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity", confirming that it would not be "intervening in Afghanistan's internal affairs" and aims to foster friendly relations with Taliban leaders.

'Afghanistan is finally free': Taliban celebrates at Kabul's airport

Fighters triumphantly marched into the facility hours after the final U.S. troops were airlifted out of the country that ended America's longest war. Speaking to reporters and posing for photographs, Taliban leaders pledged to secure the country, quickly reopen the airport, and grant amnesty to former enemies.

Taliban leaders were flanked by fighters from the group's elite Badri unit as they walked across the tarmac. "Afghanistan is finally free," Hekmatullah Wasiq, a top Taliban official, told reporters. "The military and civilian side (of the airport) are with us and in control. Hopefully, we will be announcing our Cabinet. Everything is peaceful. Everything is safe."

Wasiq also urged people to return to work and reiterated the Taliban pledge offering a general amnesty. "People have to be patient," he said. "Slowly we will get everything back to normal. It will take time."

Elite Taliban units arrive at Kabuls airport
Elite Taliban units arrive at Kabuls airport
Taliban fighters arrive at Kabuls airport

State Department: U.S. 'plans to make good' on promise to rescue Afghans

Spokesperson Ned Price sought to reassure people - amid much criticism of the U.S. withdrawal - claiming that Afghans eligible for rescue will still be taken out of Afghanistan.

The United States plans to make good on our commitment to the Afghan people, including by welcoming thousands of them into our communities. Embassies around the world continue to support this effort as we move Afghans out of the country to their new homes.

— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) August 31, 2021

Resistance group 'killed two or three Taliban' fighters after checkpoint was "attacked" - reports

Resistance spokesperson Fahim Dashti claims the Taliban had attacked a checkpoint of theirs last night in Panjshir province and forced the group to respond, according to Afghan news channel TOLOnews.

Several Taliban fighters were also wounded, as well as two of their own, Dashti claims.

The Taliban has not yet commented on the incident.

Anti-Taliban resistance group calls for power-sharing deal

The brother of a famed slain Afghan militia leader, whose son now leads a coalition of militias resisting the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, has told Newsweek such a deal would limit the spread of the group's interpretation of Islamic Sharia law across the country.

Taliban fighters surround Ahmad Massoud and his men in Panjshir province - the final bastion of resistance in the country.

READ MORE: Anti-Taliban Resistance Seeks Power-Sharing Deal to Limit Sharia Law in Afghanistan

Who was the last soldier to board the final flight out of Afghanistan?

Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, was the last to board the flight late on Monday night - a significant moment for his team and the U.S. military.

He is shown boarding a C-17 cargo plane in an image released by U.S. Central Command.

The flight is understood to have been boarded and taken off without any issues.

U.S. Completes Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, boards a C-17 cargo plane at Hamid Karzai International Airport August 30, 2021, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Donahue is the final American service member to depart the country, completing the U.S. mission to evacuate American citizens, Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and vulnerable Afghans. U.S. Central Command via Getty Images

Good morning and welcome to Newsweek's liveblog

Afghans woke up to a country without any U.S. soldiers - and full Taliban rule - for the first time in 20 years this morning.

Thousands remain stranded at Kabul's airport desperately seeking a way out while under constant threat from another bombing by terror group ISIS-K.

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