Biden says US ′on pace′ to finish Afghanistan pullout by deadline — as it happened | News | DW | 24.08.2021

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Biden says US 'on pace' to finish Afghanistan pullout by deadline — as it happened

The president is keen to stick to the August 31 deadline for US troop withdrawal. Nevertheless, completing the evacuation mission by that date depends on the Taliban's cooperation, Biden said.

Watch video 03:30

Biden on Afghanistan evacuations: 'The sooner we can finish, the better'

  • Germany warns of August 31 deadline danger
  • UN warns Taliban on women's rights "red line"
  • G-7 calls on Taliban to allow safe passage for evacuees past deadline
  • Taliban say no Afghan nationals allowed entry to Kabul airport
  • Joe Biden said he wants US forces to leave "the sooner, the better'' due to increasing threats

These live updates are now closed. Read more on the unfolding situation in Afghanistan here.

Biden: US on target to meet August 31 deadline

US President Joe Biden said that the US and its G-7 counterparts have agreed to closely cooperate on getting people out of Afghanistan. 

"We are currently on pace to get people out by August 31," Biden said. "But that date depends on the Taliban continuing to cooperate."

"I am determined to make sure we complete our mission," he said, adding that the US has already evacuated more than 70,000 people from Kabul since August 14.  

Nevertheless, Biden said he'd asked the Pentagon to put contingency plans in place should it become necessary to adjust the timetable.

The president also said he had spoke with G-7 partners about "mutual obligations to refugees fleeing Afghanistan."

Biden: New terror threat in Afghanistan 

The US president also highlighted an acute threat from the terror group called "Islamic State-Khorasan" or "ISIS-K."

Biden said this group was targeting Kabul's airport, and was keen to stress the need to stick to the August 31 withdrawal deadline, in light of this threat.

The president said he is pushing US forces to leave "the sooner the better'' due to increasing threats from ISIS-K and other terror groups in Kabul. Biden says the threats are "real and significant challenges that we also have to take into consideration."

The Taliban and "ISIS" in Afghanistan are currently known to be enemies. 

Biden also spoke about Tuesday's discussions with the G-7, NATO and the European Union in coordinating a response to the Taliban's "future behavior." 

"The leaders of the G-7, NATO, the EU and the UN all agreed that we will stand untied in our approach to the Taliban," Biden said. 

Biden added that leaders agreed the "legitimacy of any future government" in Afghanistan depends on the approach the Taliban takes on "upholding international obligations" to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a base for terrorism

"None of us are going to take the Taliban's word for it; we will judge them by their actions," Biden added. 

Joe Biden at the White House lectern

Biden is keen to stick to the August 31 deadline due to increasing terror threats

World Bank suspends aid

The World Bank has halted disbursements in its operations in Afghanistan following the Taliban's seizure of power, and is continuing to monitor the situation there, a World Bank spokesperson said.

"We are deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and the impact on the country's development prospects, especially for women," the spokesperson said.

The bank would continue to consult closely with international stakeholders about the situation and was exploring ways to remain engaged and preserve "hard-won development gains," the spokesperson said.

According to the World Bank's website, it has more than two dozen development projects ongoing in the country and has provided some $5.3 billion since 2002, mostly in grants.

White House: US on track to complete pullout by deadline

The US is set to complete its military pullout by the August 31 deadline, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a press briefing. She said achieving this goal depends on whether the Taliban will cooperate. 

"During a meeting this morning with the G-7 leaders, the president conveyed that our mission in Kabul will end based on the achievement of our objectives. He confirmed we are on pace to finish by August 31st," Psaki said.

She said there is an "added risk" of keeping US forces in Afghanistan past the deadline due to security threats from the so-called "Islamic State" Khorasan group.

Psaki said Afghans who qualify for special immigrant visas will still be able to go to Kabul airport, despite statements to the contrary from the Taliban.

Watch video 00:42

White House: US to uphold August 31 pullout deadline

Germany boosts Afghanistan aid

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany is increasing its amount of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan by €500 million ($588 million).

The German government previously said it would commit €100 million to provide emergency care for internally displaced persons and migrants in and around Afghanistan.  

Conservative German politician slams US withdrawal

Markus Söder, the leader of the conservative Christian Social Union in Bavaria, criticized the US decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. 

"It's simply a mistake. I can't say it any other way," Söder said during a party event.

He said it was a "moral obligation" to evacuate Afghans who cooperated with western countries.

Russian government to provide flights for Afghan foreign students

The Russian government will organize flights for Afghan students who are enrolled in Russian universities, the Russian Embassy in Afghanistan said. 

"Due to false information that appears concerning the transportation of Afghan students to study in Russia, we inform that the issue is being worked out. Flights for students will be September!" the embassy announced.

Watch video 02:58

G7 emergency meeting on Afghan deadline extension – DW's Richard Walker reports

UK wants Kabul airport functioning after pullout — report

The UK would like Kabul international airport to remain in operation after the August 31 withdrawal deadline, British news outlet Sky News has reported. 

"If we want to do this in a more managed way and really take the steep angle off the cliff edge, what we really could do with is the Taliban being able to run a functional airport in Kabul," UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, according to the report.

"I'm sure there will be various neighboring countries that will want to see if they can help them keep that airport open or indeed whether they want to get in members of the previous government, or the officials, to do that job," he added.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said Kabul airport must remain open for evacuations.

Former German diplomat to DW: West needs to stick together

Former German Ambassador to the US and UK Wolfgang Ischinger told DW that western countries need to present a united front amid the crisis in Afghanistan.

Watch video 07:54

United Western front needed in Afghanistan: Wolfgang Ischinger speaks to DW

"It's terrible to see how the West is sort of almost unraveling in this situation. That's good only for the enemies of the West," Ischinger, who is also the chairman of the Munich Security Conference, said. "And that is why I would argue the most important thing is for us to stop hitting out, lashing out at each other at this moment. We are in this, all of us, together."

Ischinger commented on some European countries being angry that the US would not push for an extension of the August 31 evacuation deadline.

"This is not the hour to demonstrate anger and dissatisfaction and to complain about American behavior," the former diplomat said. "Let's talk about that later. What needs to be done right now is to get these people out and to try to present to the Taliban a united western front, not a fragmented West."

Watch video 01:09

G7: Taliban must allow departures beyond next week

G-7 call on Taliban to allow safe passage beyond deadline

G-7 countries have demanded the Taliban allow safe passage for people fleeing Afghanistan past the August 31 deadline, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said following an emergency meeting.

Johnson said G-7 members had agreed "a roadmap for the way in which we're going to engage with the Taliban" in the future.

Watch video 00:33

Merkel: 'We want to be united as we carry out the rest of our actions in Afghanistan'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the meeting that the leading industrial nations agreed not to extend the evacuation deadline.

German Defense Minister urges evacuation agreement with Taliban

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said an evacuation agreement with the Taliban to ensure safe passage is necessary. 

"In any case, we also need a solution and an agreement with the Taliban on the issue of safe conduct that goes beyond the actual evacuation mission," Kramp-Karrenbauer said. 

Late Tuesday, the Bundeswehr said more than 4,650 German citizens, Afghans and citizens of other countries have been evacuated from Kabul so far by the German military.

Putin: Russia will not militarily intervene in Afghanistan

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would not deploy troops to Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover.

"It goes without saying that we do not plan to interfere in Afghanistan's domestic affairs let alone deploy our armed forces in a conflict," Putin told members of the ruling United Russia party.

"The USSR had its own experience in that country. We have drawn the necessary lessons," he added.

The Soviet army waged a military offensive against Afghan Mujahideen Islamist fighters in the 1980's. Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989.

Pentagon gives update on evacuations

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters in a press briefing that "several thousand" Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan, but would not provide a specific figure. 

He said the Pentagon believes it is capable all willing Americans out of the country by the August 31 deadline. 

"We absolutely still aiming towards the end of the month," Kirby said.

Russia criticizes US over Afghan migrants in Central Asia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the US of "pawning off" Afghan migrants to Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan.

Lavrov said the US attempting to convince these countries to take in Afghans who previously cooperated with US forces. He said the US told those countries the Afghans will only be there temporarily.

"They say it's for a few months because they need time to make them visas," Lavrov said while on a trip to Hungary.

"Afghans who worked with US forces were probably security checked inside out. Why do you need two more months to give these people a visa?" he added.

Watch video 02:15

Afghans living in India demand refugee status

Taliban spokesperson gives news conference

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid gave a press briefing and asked the US not to encourage Afghan people to leave the country.

He said the group is no longer allowing Afghan nationals to go to Kabul airport and called on crowds at the airport to go home.

Mujahid said "our aim is to rebuild our country."

"We are asking women to stay home at the moment," until security is guaranteed, the Taliban spokesperson said. He added that Taliban fighters are not yet trained on "how to deal with women."

In regards to the Panjshir Valley region which is controlled by resistance forces, he said the Taliban would like to resolve the situation through dialogue.

Mujahid claimed media outlets are safe and free to work under Taliban rule.

Watch video 01:13

Afghanistan: Will the evacuation deadline be extended?

He said the Taliban have not agreed to extend the August 31 evacuation deadline and added the US and allies must complete their operations by that date.

"We want them to evacuate all foreign nationals by the 31st of August," he said.

He said he had not been aware of reports that CIA Director William Burns secretly met with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar.

CIA director visited Taliban official — reports

CIA Director William Burns traveled to Kabul on Monday to secretly meet with the Taliban's top political leader, Reuters and several other news outlets have reported. 

Burns reportedly spoke with Abdul Ghani Baradar as the US faces an August 31 deadline to remove all troops from the country. 

Burns is the highest-ranking US official to meet directly with the Taliban since the fundamentalist group took over Afghanistan last week.

China warns West against Taliban sanctions

China says the international community should support chances for positive developments in Afghanistan rather than impose sanctions on the Taliban. 

"The international community should encourage and promote the development of the situation in Afghanistan in a positive direction, support peaceful reconstruction, improve the well-being of the people and enhance its capacity for independent development,'' Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday.

Wang Wenbin, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, used a media briefing to hit out at the US withdrawal and possible Western sanctions.

Wang Wenbin, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, used a media briefing to hit out at the US withdrawal and possible Western sanctions.

He called the idea of "imposing sanctions" something that "will only be counterproductive.''

China, which shares a narrow border with Afghanistan, has been highly critical of the US withdrawal and has established early contacts with the Taliban.

Beijing has kept open its embassy in Kabul.

Berlin "disregarded warnings" on Kabul, says German army officer

A senior German army officer who is trying to help Afghans flee the country has launched an attack on the government for hampering the military's rescue efforts.

Cpt. Marcus Grotian told reporters in Berlin that bureaucracy and red tape meant flights were not leaving as quickly as they should, warning that not everyone could be saved by August 31.

A Germany army plane carries evacuees to safety

Germany has been using military planes to evacuate its citizens and Afghan staff from the Taliban-controlled country

He said that he was "overwhelmed by disbelief at the way Germany's governing parties and politicians disregarded warnings'' about the Taliban advance across Afghanistan.

He also accused Chancellor Angela Merkel's office of failing to step in when needed. Merkel is set to step down next month after more than 15 years as Germany's leader.

France detains Afghan evacuee over suspected Taliban links

French authorities have detained an Afghan that they helped evacuate from Afghanistan.

The man is believed to be close to another Afghan evacuee who is suspected of working for the Taliban, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told BFM-TV.

Both had been placed under surveillance on their arrival in France.

The man held had violated the terms of this control measure, officials said.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told France Info radio that he had left an area he was required to stay in for a "few minutes,"

Attal said the main suspect helped in the evacuation of French people from Afghanistan "at an incredibly tense moment and probably saved lives".

But he had "links with the Taliban, at some point, and this needs to be specified".

Afghan female soccer stars leave country

Players from Afghanistan women’s national soccer team boarded an Australian evacuation flight that carried more than 75 passengers on Tuesday.

“These young women, both as athletes and activists, have been in a position of danger and on behalf of their peers around the world we thank the international community for coming to their aid,” Global soccer players’ union FIFPRO said in a statement.

Afghanistan's women prepare for a friendly match against a NATO-led side.

Soccer has proved popular with Afghan women and girls

The Afghan team was created in 2007 in a country where women playing sport was seen as a political act of defiance against the Taliban.

Members of the team had been advised to delete social media posts and photographs of them with the team to help avoid reprisals since the United States-backed Afghanistan government fell.

Their former captain, Khalida Popal, hailed the evacuation as an "important victory."

Western allies unable to evacuate all eligible Afghans

The US and its allies will not be able to evacuate all locals who qualify for evacuation by August 31, or even a slightly later deadline, Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said.

"I must say already that even if (the evacuation) goes on until August 31 or even a few days longer, it will not be enough to allow those who we, or the United States, want to fly out," Maas told Bild TV.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas gives a press conference on Afghanistan

Maas had previously warned that a swift US pullout could leave a vaccum in Afghanistan

Spain's Defense Minister Margarita Robles made a similar announcement on Tuesday, saying that the situation in the country was making it difficult for people to reach Kabul airport. This means that some locals who Spain had pledged to evacuate will remain stuck in Afghanistan.

"We will evacuate as many people as possible but there are people who will stay behind for reasons that do not depend on us, but on the situation there," Robles said during an interview with news radio Cadena Ser.

EU to increase humanitarian aid for Afghans

EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet that she will announce a substantial increase in humanitarian support for those in Afghanistan in need of aid.

She will announce the expansion of aid from €50 million to €200 million ($235 million) sourced from contributions by EU member states during the G-7 meeting.

UN rights chief warns Taliban over women's rights 'red line'

Michelle Bachelet, the top UN human rights official, said her office had received credible reports of serious violations against women and girls, including executions.

"A fundamental red line will be the Taliban's treatment of women and girls," the former president of Chile told an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council.

AirBnB CEO vows to host 20,000 Afghan refugees for free

Brian Chesky, the co-founder and chief executive of the short-term rental website, took to social media on Tuesday to promise free accommodation for as many as 20,000 Afghan refugees.

"The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the US and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time. We feel a responsibility to step up," he wrote on Twitter.

Chesky said the company was working with humanitarian organizations and existing hosts to find housing for the refugees.

France will end evacuations if US pulls out on August 31

The most senior adviser to French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said France could halt evacuations of Afghans from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan later this week.

Nicolas Roche, the French diplomat's chief of staff, said France would not continue with the flights if the US pressed ahead with a plan to leave on August 31.

"If the United States carries out a total withdrawal on August 31 as planned "for us ... that means that our operation ends Thursday evening. So we have three days left," he said.

The Norwegian government said on Tuesday that it favored an extension, while Spain warned it might have to leave some people behind in the country.

Afghan cricket matches postponed

Cricket, a highly popular sport in Afghanistan, has also been hit by the collapse of the government and subsequent Taliban takeover.

The country's men's national team had been set to play a one-day series against Pakistan in Sri Lanka in early September.

But now the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Afghanistan Cricket Board say the matches will take place in 2022 due to the security situation in Kabul.

Afghanistan also has a highly successful female cricket team. Their fate is unclear under the Taliban's rule.

UK says deadline extension 'unlikely'

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace used an interview with the UK broadcaster Sky News to downplay talk of Western allies staying in Afghanistan past the August 31 deadline currently set by US President Joe Biden.

The Taliban have also ruled out the possibility of allowing foreign troops to remain in the country.

G-7 leaders meeting later today are expected to discuss a possible extension of the deadline to give Western countries more time to carry out evacuations from Kabul airport. 

But Wallace said a U-turn was doubtful, "not only because of what the Taliban has said but also if you look at the public statements of President Biden, I think it is unlikely."

He added: "It is definitely worth us all trying and we will."

Germany offers refuge to female rights activist 

Afghan women's rights activist Zarifa Ghafari has fled to Germany from her home country.

She arrived in Cologne late on Monday evening.

Afghan women's rights activist Zarifa Ghafari

Afghan women's rights activist Zarifa Ghafari has fled to Germany from Afghanistan

Born in 1992, she became Afghanistan's youngest-ever female mayor in 2018.

Ghafari said in English that she was very grateful to the German government for saving her and her family's lives.

In early July, she was awarded the Human Rights Prize of the Frankfurt-based Ingrid zu Solms Foundation for her work on behalf of women's rights in Afghanistan.

Australia evacuates female Afghan athletes and dependents

Australia has evacuated more than 50 female Afghan athletes and their dependents, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

Amid fears a protracted visa process would scupper the plan, the refugee advocates secured the help of Australia's former soccer captain, Craig Foster, the ABC said.

Foster successfully lobbied Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Sports Minister Richard Colbeck, according to the broadcaster.

Lecturer in Afghanistan vows to stay

A lecturer on transitional justice at the American University of Afghanistan told DW he would remain in Afghanistan, despite the ongoing exodus.

Obaidullah Bahir said: "I decided that I didn't want to leave because if all of us left, there wouldn't be any hope left for Afghanistan. And there had to be people here who could help the society function, help reconcile the two worlds that are face-to-face with each other now in Afghanistan."

"With regards to the international community," he continued, "they really need to engage with the Taliban, give them viable options. So if NATO's presence is a problem, how about non-NATO nations? How about having a peacekeeping force that helps manage the airport?"

"There are quite a lot of vacuums that need to be filled. And that only happens through engagement."

Australia and New Zealand ramp up evacuations

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said more than 650 people were evacuated from the Kabul airport by Australian and New Zealand officials over Monday night.

Morrison told Nine Network television that the evacuated people included Afghans as well as Australians and New Zealanders.

German concerns for Afghan employees of GIZ

German Development Minister Gerd Müller has warned of a high risk for Afghan employees of development organizations.

He does not trust the recent assurances of the Taliban. "There is already persecution and murder," Müller told Tuesday's edition of the Augsburger Allgemeine

He had particular concern for the Afghan employees of the German development agency GIZ and other non-governmental organizations. The German government is working "on many many levels and is also working on other options for leaving the country beyond the air evacuation," he told the regional newspaper.

The minister called for an extension to the evacuation measures. He said he supported the British push, "together with the Americans, to do everything we can to get an extension."

Watch video 04:39

'Mixed messaging could reflect 'internal strife in the Taliban''

US Intelligence panel chief admits deadline difficulties

US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he thinks it is "very unlikely" the evacuation of people from Afghanistan will be completed by August 31, "given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated," he told reporters.

With thousands of desperate Afghans and foreigners massed at Kabul's airport in the hope of fleeing Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers, US President Joe Biden is expected to decide as soon as Tuesday on whether to extend an August 31 deadline to airlift Americans and their allies to safety.

An administration official told Reuters that Biden would decide within 24 hours whether to extend the timeline to give the US military time to prepare.

Beyond the need to remove thousands of Americans, there are also citizens of allied countries and Afghans who worked with US forces, such as translators, who need to be airlifted out of Afghanistan.

And then there is the matter of the 6,000 troops deployed to secure and run the airlift.

Some advisers have argued against extending the self-imposed deadline for security reasons.

Biden could signal his intentions at a virtual meeting of the G7 countries on Tuesday.

Watch video 03:38

Taliban say they 'wouldn't accept' extended US troop withdrawal – Franz Marty from Kabul

Monday's key developments

The Taliban said there would be "consequences" should the United States and its allies go beyond the August 31 deadline set for all evacuations to be completed.

However, the US, Germany and France are all considering an extension as the likelihood of successfully completing the mission within the next week recedes.

The World Health Organization warned that it was looking for ways to get more aid to Afghanistan.

The Taliban said they hoped to negotiate a solution over who will rule in the Panjshir Valley northeast of Kabul, one of the few areas not yet captured by the group.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said it was important that radical Islam did not spread throughout the region due to the Taliban takeover.

Over a 12-hour period, the US evacuated more than 10,000 people from Hamid Karzai International Airport — the US military's biggest day of evacuation flights out of Afghanistan so far. 

Watch video 25:59

The Day with Brent Goff: Time & the Taliban

ab, jf, jsi/sri (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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