Afghanistan: Dozens of California schoolchildren left behind – as it happened | News | DW | 01.09.2021

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Afghanistan: Dozens of California schoolchildren left behind – as it happened

Over thirty California schoolchildren remain stuck in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the German Embassy in Kabul may reopen — under certain conditions. Follow DW for the latest.

Children in Afghanistan

More than 30 California schoolchildren remain stuck in Afghanistan, along with their families

  • Germany considers reopening embassy under certain conditions
  • India has spoken with Taliban leaders
  • US issues humanitarian license, Taliban remain blacklisted
  • Dozens of children are stuck in Afghanistan, wishing to return to California

These live updates are now closed.

Afghan national girls' soccer team members still in Kabul

An effort is underway to evacuate the Afghan national girls' soccer team and their families as well as federation staff. Most members of the team were flown to Australia last week.

In recent days, five attempts to evacuate the girls out of Afghanistan have failed, AP reports. In total, 133 people are seeking to evacuate with the team, including 26 youth team members plus adults and other children, including infants. 

Many of those remaining in Afghanistan do not have passports or other necessary documentation to board flights from Kabul.

Over 30 California schoolchildren stuck in Afghanistan

More than 30 schoolchildren from California remain stranded with their families in Afghanistan after going to visit relatives and other family members before the country fell to the Taliban. They were unable to make it out during the airlift because of Taliban checkpoints and the thousands of Afghans who crowded all access points to the airport.

Officials in three California school districts, one in the San Diego area and two in Sacramento, say they have been in touch with families who fear they have been forgotten by the US government.

Many of the families received special immigrant visas after working with Americans. Some of the children identified by officials are US-born, making them American citizens.

"We believe that some of these families may be in transit out of Afghanistan, as we have not been able to reach many of them in the last few days," Raj Rai, a San Juan Union School District spokeswoman in Sacramento said.

Most Afghan allies hoping to flee were unable to do so: official

The majority of Afghan allies seeking to join the exodus as part of the US withdrawal were unable to do so due to airport chaos, a senior official said Wednesday.

President Joe Biden's administration says the Taliban have promised to keep letting Afghans leave but many who worked for the US over its 20-year mission remain skeptical.

"Everybody who lived it is haunted by the choices we had to make and by the people we were not able to help depart in this first phase of the operation," said the senior State Department official involved in the process.

"We feel an enormous commitment to keep faith with all of the people to whom we owe this debt. And we're going to continue to do everything we can in the coming weeks and months to fulfill that commitment and to help those who wish to leave Afghanistan to do so," he told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Think Tank: West must pressure Taliban for inclusive government

The West should continue to pressurize the Taliban to form a truly inclusive government, Mariam Safi, Executive Director of the Organization for Policy Research & Development Studies, a pro-democracy think tank from Kabul now based in Toronto, has told DW.

She said: "They have to maintain pressure on the Taliban to ensure that their own commitments and promises that they've been making to the people of Afghanistan are respected. Otherwise, the people of Afghanistan truly have no one to hold faith upon."

Watch video 00:30

Maas: 'No getting away from engaging in talks with the Taliban'

Taliban parade military hardware plundered from US withdrawal

The Taliban paraded some of the military hardware captured with the fall of Afghanistan along a highway outside Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban. Rumors had circulated that the secretive Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhunzada, said to be living in Kandahar, would show but he did not.

A long line of Humvees and armored vehicles featured Taliban flags and were trailed in the sky by a Black Hawk helicopter above. 

Instead of Akhunzada, the city's new governor addressed the crowd.

Watch video 02:44

Afghans begin life under Taliban rule

US military chiefs speak of 'pain and anger' over 'difficult days'

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley reflected on the withdrawal from Afghanistan for the first time since the last US soldier left Afghanistan on Tuesday.

During nearly 20 years of conflict, 2,461 American troops lost their lives, including 13 one week ago after a suicide bomber detonated at the Kabul airport gate.

President Joe Biden watches as a Navy carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio

Over nearly 20 years, 2,461 American service members gave their lives in Afghanistan

"These have been incredibly emotional and trying days, and indeed years," Milley said. 

He added: "We are all conflicted with feelings of pain and anger, sorrow and sadness, combined with pride and resilience."

And Austin said: "I know that these have been difficult days for many of us."

US says all possible routes under consideration for Afghan evacuations

All possible options and routes are under consideration to help Americans and those who are eligible, leave Afghanistan, according to Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland.

Nuland said there would be continued engagement with the Taliban. "We're not going to take them at their word, we're going to take them at their deeds," Nuland said.

The US estimates there are still between 100 and 200 Americans in Afghanistan. 

US looking to accommodate 50,000 Afghans on military bases

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration is looking to accommodate upwards of 50,000 Afghans at military facilities.

"There is capacity and we're working towards capacity at our military bases for up to 50,000," she told reporters.

Psaki said the would not be a permanent measure but would help in the process of providing medical care and assistance to evacuees before they move on to resettlement.

'The world abandoned' us: Afghan lawmaker

Naheed Farid, who chaired the women's affairs committee in the Afghan parliament, told DW that "the United States, [the] United Nations, the European Union, the NATO allies, all of them... decided to leave this country in [the] hand of Taliban." 

She said they had been abandoned by these Western powers, who had to have known what would happen if they pulled troops out of the country.

"The Afghanistan security situation was not a secret to President [Joe] Biden — was not a secret to the world, it was not a secret to [the] intelligence community," Farid said. 

Watch video 06:14

Uncertainty and fear over life under Taliban rule: Afghan MP Naheed Farid speaks to DW

UN: 'Humanitarian catastrophe looms in Afghanistan'

Afghanistan is on the verge of a hunger crisis as the country could run out of food this month, warned Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN's official humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan.  

About one-third of Afghanistan's population of 38 million is facing "emergency" or "crisis" levels of food insecurity, Alakbarov said. 

"Without additional funding, food stocks will run out at the end of September," he said. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated calls for the international community to help Afghans. 

"A humanitarian catastrophe looms in Afghanistan. Almost half of the population need humanitarian assistance. 1 in 3 don’t know where their next meal will come from," Guterres said on Twitter. 

Britain saw Kabul's fall 'unlikely' this year: foreign minister

Britain's Foreign Minister Dominic Raab told lawmakers in an emergency session that the intelligence assessment was that Kabul would not immediately fall.

"The central assessment that we were operating to... is that the most likely, the central proposition was that, given the troop withdrawal by the end of August, you would see a steady deterioration from that point, and that it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year," Raab said. 

"That doesn't mean we didn't do contingency planning or game-out or test the other propositions. And just to be clear, that's something that was widely shared — that view — amongst NATO allies."

The Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the committee, was less pleased. He called it "the single biggest foreign policy disaster" since the Suez crisis.

Several MPs questioned why Mr. Raab did not immediately return from holiday when the Taliban were approaching Kabul and "British nationals were at risk" (Labour MP Chris Bryant) - a decision that might be seen as symbolic for the UK government´s failure to grasp the severity of the situation in a timely manner.

Perhaps surprisingly, Mr. Raab was unable to give precise numbers of how many people the UK left behind, waiting to be evacuated.

Dominic Raab defended his handling of the crisis, telling MPs that between March and August he had over 40 meetings or phone calls on Afghanistan and that he would be "leaving to go to the region" after the committee hearing.

Qatari aircraft carrying technical team lands in Kabul

German Ambassador Markus Potzel, a special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, confirmed media reports that a Qatari jet landed in Kabul with a technical team to discuss the resumption of airport operations. 

"While no final agreement has been reached regarding providing technical assistance, Qatar's technical team has initiated this discussion based on the other sides' request,"  a source with knowledge of the matter told AFP. "Talks are still ongoing at the level of security and operation."

Several Western governments have sought resuming evacuation efforts out of Kabul and delivering humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. 

Watch video 00:18

Heiko Maas: Qatar has important role in keeping Kabul airport open

European Parliament 'disappointed' at EU's reluctance to refugees

The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, slammed the EU's interior ministers' statement on taking in Afghan refugees after the Taliban takeover. 

The bloc's interior ministers made no concrete commitment to take in asylum seekers. Instead, they vowed to "prevent the recurrence of uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration" by providing regional aid and tightly policing borders.

"We have seen countries outside the EU come forward to welcome Afghan asylum seekers, but we have not seen a single member state do the same," Sassoli said at the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia.

Sassoli said that the EU legislature was "very disappointed." 

"Europe needs to live up to its values and give a common response," he said. 

Afghan women journalists discouraged to work

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said women journalists in Afghanistan were increasingly told to stay home, harassed, prevented from reporting and sometimes even beaten. 

According to RSF, out of the 510 women employed by Afghanistan's eight biggest media organizations in 2020, only 76, including 39 journalists, are still working. 

RSF reported that, in total, fewer than 100 of Kabul's 700 women journalists are still working.

"It is essential that female journalists be able to return to work without being bothered, which is their most fundamental right," RSF chief Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

Why Qatar fosters close ties with the Taliban 

Qatar has longstanding ties with the Taliban. While this approach is criticized by some, others benefit from the country's contacts. DW takes a look at Qatar's relations with the Islamist militant group.

German MP warns: Taliban will 'blackmail' Germany

Jürgen Trittin, member of parliament for the German Greens and the Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee, told DW that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was "a real disaster," and that the Taliban would "blackmail" Germany.

Trittin said Germany had the chance to come up with a plan to evacuate locals who had worked with Germans in Afghanistan, but it failed to do so.

Consequently, Trittin said, the Taliban would blackmail Germany by asking for money, humanitarian aid, or political acknowledgment.

Trittin said that he would like to talk to the Taliban "from a position of strength. "But what happens now is that they can blackmail, and that's the failure of our government," he said.

"We interact with them... we negotiate with them, Taliban have lists of our staff members to let them through to the airport. We are not in a position of strength. We are very, very weak against the Taliban," he added.

Watch video 02:17

Germany's evacuation from Afghanistan faces scrutiny

Qatar urges Taliban to ensure 'freedom of movement'

Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani called on the Taliban to guarantee "safe passage" for those wanting to leave Afghanistan after the end of the US-led evacuations, according to AFP.

"We stress on the Taliban the issue of freedom of movement and that there be safe passage for people to leave and enter if they so wish," the minister told a press conference after a meeting with his Dutch counterpart.

Watch video 02:06

Afghans attempt a return to normal life under the Taliban

EU chief: Afghanistan shows bloc's struggle for influence

The EU faces the challenge of maintaining its influence in the coming years, for which "Afghanistan has offered a stark demonstration," EU Council President Charles Michel said at a forum in Slovenia.

"In my view, we do not need another such geopolitical event to grasp that the EU must strive for greater decision-making autonomy and greater capacity for action in the world," he said. 

Several EU member states were involved in the scramble to evacuate citizens and local support staff after the Taliban took over Kabul.

Why Panjshir remains out of Taliban's reach

The Panjshir Valley is Afghanistan's last remaining holdout where anti-Taliban forces seem to be working on forming a guerrilla movement to take on the Islamic fundamentalist group. DW takes a look at the resistance in the valley. 

Watch video 02:11

Afghanistan: Resistance forms in Panjshir Valley

Renewed clashes in Panjshir Valley 

The Taliban and resistance fighters near the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, clashed again on Tuesday night, senior Taliban members said. 

At least seven Taliban members died in the fighting, according to two rebels cited by Reuters news agency. 

A map of Afghanistan showing Panjshir Valley north of the capital

Panjshir is the only district that the Taliban had struggled to take over, largely due to resistance by militants. 

A Taliban spokesperson said negotiations with rebels in the Panjshir Valley have not yet yielded "positive results." 

"My brothers, we tried our best to solve the Panjshir problem with talks and negotiations... but unfortunately all in vain," senior Taliban member Amir Khan Muttaqi said, according to the French AFP news agency.

"Now that the talks have failed and mujahiddin [Taliban] have surrounded Panjshir, there are still people inside that don't want the problems to be solved peacefully," he added.

Netherlands moves Kabul embassy to Qatar

Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag said the Netherlands is temporarily moving its Kabul diplomatic mission to Doha, according to the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant. 

As soon as the security situation allows, the Dutch embassy in Kabul will reopen, Kaag said. 

The Dutch foreign minister made the announcement after meeting her Qatari and German counterparts in Doha.

Putin criticizes US intervention in Afghanistan 

Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the US for trying to "engrain their norms" in war-ravaged Afghanistan for two decades. 

"The result is only tragedies, only losses for those that did it — for the US — and even more so for the people who live on Afghan territory. A zero result, if not negative,'" he said.

It is "impossible to impose anything from outside," he said without making reference to the former Soviet Union's failed military campaign in Afghanistan.

Taliban expected to form government within days

The Taliban had said they were waiting for the end of the US troop withdrawal to name their government. 

Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera quoted a Taliban member as saying that the group would name the new government in the next few days, and that it would not include ministers from the previous administration. 

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told the German DPA news agency that there was still no exact information about the timing.

Watch video 01:45

Last US troops exit Afghanistan after twenty-year mission

How life is changing for Afghanistan's minorities

Following the Taliban's power grab, members of the Hazara minority fear that they will be targeted. Those who can, escape. Others are joining the armed opposition. But for many, there is no way out, DW reports.

Johnson: Britain owes 'immense debt' to Afghan staff  

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his country's "vital support" for Afghans who had worked with NATO forces and were resettling in the UK. 

"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," Johnson said of the so-called "Operation Warm Welcome" measures to support Afghan arrivals in the UK.

The measures include offering coronavirus vaccinations to resettled Afghans, as well as £3 million (€3.5 million, $4.1 million) in funding for health care access, Johnson's office said. 

Germany could reopen Kabul embassy

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has ended his four-day visit to key regional neighbors of Afghanistan. At his last stop on Tuesday evening in Doha, Qatar, the minister expressed willingness to reopen Germany's embassy in Kabul "if it's politically possible and the security situation allows it."

Maas was also optimistic about the prospect of Germans and local allies still in Afghanistan being able to leave. "The Taliban have said they're prepared to let Afghans and local supporters legally leave Afghanistan after August 31," he said.

He also made clear that talks with the Taliban came with conditions: "The Taliban can demand what they want. We've set out clear requirements: the holding up of human rights, the fact that people can continue to leave, and that no terrorist groups will be given shelter in Afghanistan."

Taliban celebrate first night without US presence

The Taliban took over Kabul airport on Tuesday following the departure of the last US troops and personnel, marking the first time in 20 years that there has been no official US presence in the country.

US: 98% of Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan were able to do so

The US facilitated the departure of 98% of Americans that wanted to leave Afghanistan and said it remained committed to helping the 100 to 200 left behind.

"For those remaining Americans there is no deadline. We remain committed to  get them out if they want to come out," Biden said.

India held talks with Taliban leaders

India has, for the first time, admitted to holding diplomatic talks with the Taliban. An Indian envoy met a Taliban leader in Doha, Qatar's capital, after a request by the militant group.

US Treasury issues humanitarian license

The US issued a license that provides authorization for the delivery of humanitarian aid, including food and medicine, in Afghanistan, a Treasury official told Reuters. The Taliban remains blacklisted by the US.

The license expires next March and comes amid widespread concerns over the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Watch video 03:11

Doctors without Borders coordinator: Afghan hospitals struggling due to lack of supplies

The UN reports that roughly half of Afghanistan's population, some 18 million people, need humanitarian assistance. Half of all children in the country under five currently suffer from acute malnutrition amid a second drought in four years.

Tuesday's developments: Taliban take airport, celebrate victory

After US forces left Kabul airport early Tuesday, the Taliban took charge of the facility and celebrated their victory.

Watch video 02:02

Taliban celebrate end of US mission in Afghanistan

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, people in the eastern city of Khost watched a mock funeral featuring Western nations' flags draped over caskets.

US President Joe Biden addressed the nation, calling the evacuation both a success and "the best decision for America."

The UN warned of a humanitarian catastrophe while Europe looked to Afghanistan's neighbors to shoulder more displaced refugees.

es, fb, ab, ar/jsi (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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