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Allies mull Kabul evacuation past deadline — as it happened

August 23, 2021

Germany and other NATO countries are in talks to keep Kabul airport open for evacuations beyond the date set for the US pullout. DW has the latest.

US marines and Afghan civilians on opposite sides of razor wire at the Kabul airport
US President Joe Biden hinted Sunday night that the US may seek an extension of the August 31 evacuation deadlineImage: LANCE CPL. NICHOLAS GUEVARA/UPI/imago images
  • France, Germany, the UK want more time for evacuation
  • The Taliban warned there would be "consequences" if the US and its allies try to remain beyond next week
  • Russia concerned about possible "civil war" in Afghanistan
  • Taliban names new central bank chief amid economic insecurity
  • UN children's agency scaling up work in Afghanistan

This article was last updated at 23:55 UTC/GMT. To look back on Sunday's main events, click here.

Keep up to date with Tuesday's developments by clicking here.

US decision on extension expected Tuesday

US President Joe Biden is expected to decide in the next 24 hours on whether to extend an August 31 deadline to airlift Americans and their allies to safety.

Earlier on Monday, the Taliban warned that delaying the departure would have "consequences."

Despite that threat, a US administration official told Reuters that Biden is still considering an extension in order to give the Pentagon time to prepare.

Egypt evacuates dozens

The Egyptian government has evacuated 43 of the country's citizens from Afghanistan, according to state media.

The official MENA news agency says a military plane carrying Egyptian citizens from Afghanistan landed in Cairo late Monday.

The evacuees included employees from the Egyptian Embassy in Kabul and clerics from Al-Azhar, which is the Sunni Muslim world's foremost religious institution.

The Day with Phil Gayle

Ireland sends diplomats and defense forces to aid evacuation

A group of Irish diplomats and members of the Irish Defense Forces are to be sent to Afghanistan to help evacuate its citizens, Ireland's Foreign Ministry said late on Monday.

"I'll tonight approve the sending of a small team of diplomats, supported by Army Rangers, to Kabul Airport," Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Twitter.

"They'll work with our int (international) partners on the ground to assist in evacuation of remaining Irish citizens."

UK says it has evacuated over 7,000 people

The United Kingdom said late on Monday it has evacuated more than 7,000 people from Afghanistan, adding that the process will continue for as long as the security situation allows, and that no firm date was set for the end of flights.

"7,109 individuals have been evacuated from Afghanistan under Operation PITTING, which commenced on Friday 13 August. More than 1,000 UK Armed Forces personnel deployed in Kabul," Britain's Defense Ministry said in a statement.

This includes embassy staff, British nationals, those eligible under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy program, as well as a number of nationals from partner nations, the ministry confirmed.

Qatar assistance

Qatar is trying to mediate between the US and the Taliban to ensure people's safe passage from Afghanistan, according to Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas "thanked Qatar for their support" during the evacuation process, adding that Al Thani and his country have "taken on a real leadership role."

Maas expressed his appreciation during a phone call with his Qatari counterpart, the German Foreign Ministry tweeted.

UK mulls sanctions, says India and Pakistan 'vital'

To avoid a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that Britain "will use all of the levers at our disposal, including sanctions, aid and access to international finance system," he wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper. "And we are rallying our international partners around these shared priorities."

"We are pressing the permanent members of the UN Security Council to agree some parameters on the way forward." Raab, whose position has been questioned over his response to the crisis, added: "We are working with vital regional partners like India and Pakistan", he added.

US general: Three babies born on evacuation flights

US Army General Stephen Lyons said during a Pentagon press briefing that at least three babies had been delivered on US military evacuation flights from Kabul in the past week.

Earlier this week it had been reported that an Afghan woman gave birth to a healthy baby girl during an evacuation flight, and was given medical attention after arriving at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

"There's actually been more than that," the general told reporters regarding the single case earlier in the week.

"My last data point was three [babies]," he added. "So we'll keep you posted."

US official: 'Enormous progress' being made in evacuations

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan addressed the Kabul evacuations during a press conference and said the US is in daily talks with the Taliban.

Sullivan claimed there was "enormous progress" being made in evacuations from Kabul airport.

In regards to the August 31 deadline for the complete US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, Sullivan said President Joe Biden was "taking this day by day, and will make his determinations as we go."

Sullivan said he had not heard Biden discuss any plans to fire administration officials over the chaotic situation in Afghanistan.

Biden, Johnson speak about Afghanistan

President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the ongoing evacuations from Afghanistan during a phone call.

A statement from Johnson's office regarding the call said the two leaders "agreed to continue working together to ensure those who are eligible to leave are able to, including after the initial phase of the evacuation has ended."

The two leaders also discussed Tuesday's upcoming G7 meeting. The UK is expected to call for an extension of the August 31 pullout date during the virtual gathering, along with possible sanctions on the Taliban. 

The UK said more than 7,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan so far.

US intends to assist at-risk Afghans after withdrawal date

An official from the US State Department told news outlets that the US will help at-risk Afghans after the August 31 deadline for withdrawal.

"Our commitment to at-risk Afghans doesn't end on August 31," the official said. 

The official did not explain how the US will continue to evacuate Afghans from the country without a US military presence.

WHO running out of humanitarian aid

A top World Health Organization (WHO) official said that the agency was looking for ways to get more aid to Afghanistan.

"We estimate that we've only got a few days left of supplies," WHO Regional Emergency Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Rick Brennan said. "We have 500 metric tons ready to go, but we haven't got any way of getting them into the country right now."

Brennan said the WHO is in contact with the US and other key countries to help bring the necessary aid to Afghanistan.

Intelligence expert: Taliban may be experiencing 'internal strife'

Executive director of the Norwegian Center for Global Analyses Christian Nellemann told DW about the implications of mixed messaging from the Taliban

"Not only are they saying one thing and doing another but it may also actually reflect some of the internal strife in the Taliban," Nellemann said. "And this is, of course, quite dangerous, given the fact that we have certain groups of the Taliban now in Kabul. But there are also others on their way to Kabul, which may not necessarily agree with the new and softer approach."

He said it's unclear whether the Taliban will allow foreign forces to stay in Afghanistan beyond the August 31 withdrawal deadline. 

"We must remember that many of the Taliban are not interested in getting a lot of extra money or deals or so forth," Nellemann said. "They are fighters with proud tradition. So there is a risk that some will simply not accept this deadline."

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Monday that the United States is sticking to the August 31 withdrawal.

Afghan migrant in France under surveillance

France has put an Afghan evacuee from Kabul under surveillance for his possible ties to the Taliban. 

"We believe that he may be linked to the Taliban even if this person greatly helped in the evacuation from the French embassy," French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Four others close to the suspect are also being monitored by the French government.

The man was one of around 1,300 Afghans who recently arrived in France via the city of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Darmanin tweeted that the French government will "take all necessary measures to maintain the security of the French people."

"France is humane, but it is also vigilant," the interior minister added.

Marine Le Pen, the head of the far-right National Rally party and President Emmanuel Macron's likely top opponent in next year's elections, criticized the government for not prioritizing French security.

Greece says EU needs to support countries neighboring Afghanistan

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that the EU should help countries neighboring Afghanistan in regards to migration.

"It is important for the European Union to support the countries close to Afghanistan, in order to make sure that we won't have additional flows in Europe," Mitsotakis said.

Greece is one of the common entry points into the EU from the greater Middle East. Greece recently constructed a new fence on its border with Turkey to stem migration.

German government in talks regarding Kabul airport

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday that Germany is in contact with the US, Turkey and the Taliban about how to keep Kabul airport in operation.

Maas said the airport can only be kept open beyond August 31 if security can be guaranteed.

However, the Taliban have already rejected the idea of an "extended occupation," warning that keeping foreign troops past the deadline would have consequences.

France 'concerned' about August 31 deadline

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday that Afghan evacuations may be needed beyond the August 31 deadline set by the United States. 

"We are concerned about the deadline set by the United States on August 31. Additional time is needed to complete ongoing operations," Le Drian told journalists while in the UAE. France has set up an air bridge in the Gulf nation for evacuees from Kabul.

The UK is also urging the US to extend the evacuation efforts beyond August 31.

German general: Thousands are waiting, situation 'dramatic' 

General Eberhard Zorn, Germany's top military commander, said he estimates 5,000 are awaiting evacuation from the Kabul airport. Zorn said the figure has declined from 7,000 this past weekend.

"We are now trying internationally to reduce this number as far as possible to make room for others and above all, ultimately to cushion somewhat the precarious accommodation and waiting situation there," Zorn said.

He added: "The situation in front of the gates remains difficult, I would also call it dramatic, because the accumulation of people interested in getting into the airport grounds is enormously high. Additional potential for violence is arising on the ground."

Zorn was unable to say what proportion of those awaiting evacuation were children or families but that on Germany's evacuation flights roughly half the passengers were women. On Sunday, Germany flew supplies such as diapers, children's toys, and baby food into Kabul airport.

Afghan refugees in Germany live in fear

Germany has evacuated 3,000 people

The German military evacuated 3,000 people since Kabul fell to the Taliban, its representatives said on Twitter.

The Bundeswehr added 200 were airlifted from Kabul Monday morning. 

"We will keep evacuating as many people as possible for as long as possible out of Afghanistan," the Bundeswehr said. 

Russia expresses concerns about the potential for civil war

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia believes there is a risk of civil war in Afghanistan.

Peskov said the current situation presented "additional danger and threats." Russia is concerned about the spillover of both fighters and extremist ideology to neighboring countries in the region.

The state arms export company Rosoboronexport could see an increase in demand due to the insecurity stemming from the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Rosoboronexport chief Alexander Mikheyev said, "We are ready to respond."

Germany looking at options after August 31

Germany is looking at ways of evacuating people from Afghanistan after the August 31 deadline when Americans are set to leave Kabul airport.

"As long as the situation on the ground allows, we want to keep the air bridges active and evacuate people from Kabul airport," a German foreign ministry spokesman said.

Evacuees from Afghanistan leaving an Airbus A400 transport aircraft of the German Air Force Luftwaffe in Tashkent
Germany has just a few hundred citizens left in Afghanistan but is already weighing how it may be possible to evacuate people after the August 31 deadlineImage: Marc Tessensohn/Bundeswehr/Handout/REUTERS

He added, "We are already thinking beyond this period."

The foreign ministry said it believes there may be just a few hundred German nationals remaining in Afghanistan.

Taliban names acting central bank chief

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced on Twitter Monday that the group has appointed a new acting head of the central bank, Haji Mohammad Idris.

His appointment comes among growing economic uncertainty as banks have remained closed since the Taliban seized Kabul just over one week ago.

The former head of the central bank flew out of Kabul the same day the city fell to the Taliban.

US airlifts more than 10,000 in one day

The White House said Monday the US military had airlifted 10,400 people from Kabul on Sunday. Also on Sunday, an additional 61 allied aircraft brought 5,900 people out of Kabul.

Since the Taliban seized Kabul, the US has flown out or assisted in the evacuation of 37,000 people. 

American military personnel at the Kabul airport
The White House said Monday 37,000 have been evacuated from Kabul airport since August 14Image: Ministry of Defence/dpa/picture alliance

UNICEF seeks to scale up its work in Afghanistan

UNICEF, the UN's children's agency, will expand its work in Afghanistan and is urging the Taliban to allow access to children in the country.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said Monday their efforts include food and potable water distribution as well as getting medical care to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced in Afghanistan.

"We hope to expand these operations to areas that could not previously be reached because of insecurity," she said.

UNICEF said approximately 10 million children in Afghanistan need humanitarian assistance and one million are at risk of acute malnutrition this year.

Fore said, "We urge the Taliban and other parties to ensure that UNICEF and our humanitarian partners have safe, timely and unfettered access to reach children in need wherever they are."

Putin notes security vacuum caused by US withdrawal

At an online summit of Central Asian leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it was important that radical Islam did not spread throughout the region due to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Putin cited the drug trade as an area regional leaders must monitor closely. 

Putin and other regional leaders expressed shared concerns about the presence of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan. They agreed to coordinate joint action on Afghanistan, the Kremlin said.

German defense minister: German forces escort people to airport

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has told "Bild TV" the German military is now operating outside the fortified Kabul airport to bring evacuees safely inside.

The security situation in Kabul means "we have to move much more strongly toward picking up people," Kramp-Karrenbauer said. "That's what we're doing."

"Bild TV" reports elite soldiers from the Kommando Special Forces (KSK) rescued a family from Munich in Kabul in an operation that lasted approximately one hour. Kramp-Karrenbauer did not directly confirm the operation.

She also praised the resolve of the paramedics, paratroopers, and transport aircraft carriers crew for their work in the Kabul airlift mission.

UK defense minister: 'Hours now, not weeks'

British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said Monday the evacuation effort is "down to hours now, not weeks" for forces on the ground at Kabul airport to airlift as many foreigners and Afghans who worked with them to safety.

Wallace said every moment must be utilized now and that it was highly unlikely British forces would stay after the US withdraws on August 31.

"If their timetable extends, even by a day or two, then that would give us a day or two more," Wallace said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to push for an extension to the August 31 deadline in a virtual meeting of G7 leaders Tuesday, while the Taliban have preemptively rejected the possibility that the deadline for evacuations could be extended.

WHO says it cannot fly medical supplies into Kabul airport

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that it was unable to fly 500 tons of medical supplies to the Kabul airport at present due to the ongoing evacuation efforts.

Spokeswoman Inas Hamam wrote in an email to the Reuters news agency that supplies including surgical equipment and treatment for childhood pneumonia "were ready and planned to be delivered to Afghanistan to arrive this week," however "now that the airport is closed to commercial flights, we can no longer get them in."

The WHO is calling on empty planes to retrieve the equipment from the organization's storage hub in Dubai before flying on to Kabul airport to assist with the evacuations.

Taliban say they seek negotiated solution in Panjshir Valley

The Taliban said they hope 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. 

Taliban fighters located around the valley, namely in Badakhshan and Takhar provinces and the Andarab and Baghlan districts, have taken up positions near Panjshir. Over the weekend, Afghan politician Abdullah Abdullah held talks to discuss the future of Panjshir with several leaders from the area.

Ahmad Massoud in 2019
Ahmad Massoud, the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, has vowed to defend Panjshir and resist the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan Image: Mohammad Ismail/REUTERS

Ahmad Massoud, the son of legendary commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, has said he will defend the valley and has amassed fighters and former government officials there while pledging to resist the Taliban takeover of the country.

The Taliban claims to have overrun the Pul-e-Hesar and Dih Salah districts in Baghlan province. There have been reports of fighting between local militants and the Taliban in Baghlan in recent days.

The Taliban did not manage to conquer Panjshir during their first reign over Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001. The fighters there formed the Northern Alliance which worked with the US to overthrow the Taliban in 2001 following the September 11 attacks.

Bundeswehr says it has flown out 2,700 evacuees

On Twitter Monday, Germany's armed forces said it has flown out 2,700 people since Kabul fell to the Taliban eight days ago. The Bundeswehr added the mission will continue for as long as possible despite difficult conditions on the ground.

Taliban will not extend August 31 deadline

Two Taliban officials told Reuters Monday they would not extend the August 31 deadline for evacuations at this time.

The Taliban sources also said no Western government has approached the Taliban about doing so at present.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for a virtual summit of G7 leaders for Tuesday where he is expected to press for an extension of the August 31 deadline. Sunday night US President Joe Biden also hinted at the possibility of extending the date for withdrawal.

VP Harris addresses airlift while in Singapore

US Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the ongoing airlift at the Kabul airport while on a visit to Singapore Monday.

In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Harris said, "There is going to be plenty of time to analyze what has happened and what has taken place in the context of the withdrawal from Afghanistan."

US Vice President Kamala Harris at the podium during a joint news conference with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore
In Singapore, US Vice President Kamala Harris said the US is 'singularly focused' on the Kabul airport evacuation effort at presentImage: Evelyn Hockstein/AP Photo/picture alliance

She added, "But right now we are singularly focused on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who have worked with us and Afghans who are vulnerable, including women and children and that is our singular focus at this time."

Prime Minister Lee noted, "We hope Afghanistan does not become an epicenter for terrorism again." 

Singapore has offered transport aircraft to assist with the evacuations.

Firefight breaks out at Kabul airport

Gunfire between Afghan security forces and unknown assailants erupted at the north gate of Kabul airport in the early hours of Monday morning, according to the German military.

One Afghan security officer was killed and three others were injured in the battle, the Bundeswehr said on Twitter. 

US and German armed forces were also involved in the clashes. No other injuries have been reported. 

The airport has witnessed chaotic scenes in recent days, as the US, Germany and others seek to carry out evacuation flights following the Taliban's swift takeover.

Taliban say no extension to August 31 deadline sought

Foreign forces in Afghanistan have not sought an extension to the August 31 deadline they have set for leaving the country, a Taliban official told news agency Reuters on Monday.

President Joe Biden said last week that the deadline might have to be extended so that US troops can help with the evacuation process.

Thousands of Americans are still in Afghanistan, but the Taliban source said there has been no word communicated to the militant group regarding the possibility of continuing evacuations, with the help of US troops, into September.

Japan to send military plane

Japan says it will send a military plane later on Monday to bring back its citizens from Afghanistan.

More military planes are expected to be dispatched to repatriate not only its own citizens, but also Afghans working at the Japanese embassy or with Japanese missions, Katsunobu Kato, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, announced.

Australia at the ready

Australia is willing to assist with evacuations from Afghanistan into September if the United States decides to delay its withdrawal, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Monday.

President Joe Biden last week said US troops may stay in Afghanistan beyond the August 31 deadline to evacuate Americans.

Australia has evacuated around 1,000 people from Kabul in the past week, and Payne said her country would be willing to support further rescue missions.

"We are part of those discussions and if they are to be extended, we are absolutely ready to support a continuing operation at Hamid Karzai International Airport," Payne told reporters in the Australian capital of Canberra.

Strategy change

President Biden has revealed that the US has "made a number of changes" to the evacuation effort, "including extended access around the airport and the safe zone." The move is intended to push back Taliban fighters, and lessen deadly chaos around Kabul airport.

There has been heavy criticism of how the West has handled the evacuation process from Afghanistan following the Taliban's swift takeover of the country.

"We are working diligently to make sure we've increased the ability to get [people] out," Biden said.

He added: "We've changed the gate operations and a whole range of things."

Commercial airlines assistance

The United States has enlisted the help of six commercial airlines to transport people as the West looks to ramp up its evacuation process from Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden wants the US to step up the pace of departures of Americans and at-risk Afghans amid growing criticism of the chaotic scenes witnessed in recent days in and around the Kabul airport.

Therefore, the Pentagon has called up 18 civilian planes from United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air, among others, to carry people from temporary locations after they landed on flights from Afghanistan.

"It's a program that was designed in the wake of the Berlin airlift after World War II to use commercial aircraft to augment our airlift capacity," Biden said in an address from the White House, adding that airlines voluntarily signed up for the program.

Biden said the flights would bring people from "staging locations," such as Qatar and Germany, to the US or a third country.

"None of them will be landing in Kabul," he added.

American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and privately held Omni Air will provide three planes each. There are also two aircraft from Hawaiian Airlines, and four from United Airlines.

Sunday's key developments

Seven people died in a stampede outside Kabul airport.

The evacuation of thousands of Americans and their Afghan allies from Kabul was always going to be "hard and painful," US President Joe Biden insisted in a White House address, as criticism mounted over his administration's handling of the withdrawal.

Former US President Donald Trump slammed his successor in what he described as a "humiliation" for Biden.

The Taliban sent fighters towards Panjshir Valley to take control.

jsi, ar, wd/sri, nm, dj (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)