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Taliban take control of Kabul airport — as it happened

August 31, 2021

The Taliban have taken control of Hamid Karzai International Airport following the withdrawal of all US military personnel. Follow DW for the latest.

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Taliban fighters have taken full control of the international airport in KabulImage: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images
  • Dire warnings from the UN of an approaching "humanitarian catastrophe"
  • EU ministers back plan to help Afghanistan's neighbors deal with refugees
  • Taliban take control of Hamid Karzai International Airport
  • Pentagon confirms all US troops have left airport

These live updates are now closed. Read the latest developments here.

British PM Johnson announces 'vital support' for Afghan refugees

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain owes "an immense debt" to Afghans who worked with NATO and said those resettling in the UK would receive "vital support."

Johnson is contending with criticism after thousands of eligible Afghans were seemingly left behind during the chaotic withdrawal and airlift. 

But regarding the 8,000 Afghans who supported the UK and successfully evacuated, the British PM said: "I know this will be an incredibly daunting time, but I hope they will take heart from the wave of support and generosity already expressed by the British public."

Pentagon denies abandoning dogs at Kabul airport

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby denied reports the US military had abandoned some of its dogs at Kabul airport. 

Kirby said the pictures circulating on social media were miscaptioned and the dogs belonged to Kabul Small Animal Rescue not the US military.

Senate passes emergency fund bill for repatriated Americans

The US Senate passed a bill providing aid for US citizens returning from Afghanistan. The emergency funds would total $10 million (€8.5 million) annually for this year and next year.

The funds would be earmarked for Americans returning home to the US. The bill will go on to the White House having already passed in the House. 

Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the pro forma Senate session which was held while lawmakers are on recess. The bill passed by unanimous consent, meaning there were no objections.

Taliban victory marked by mock funeral, beating women

As Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid proclaimed glory after the Taliban "liberated our country from a great power," crowds formed in the streets of Khost in the east for a mock funeral of Western nations with coffins draped in their flags.

In Kabul, long lines formed outside banks, and one 22-year-old woman told Reuters te crowd outside the Azizi Bank next to the Kabul Star Hotel in the city center was an occasion for Taliban to be "beating women with sticks."

"It's the first time I've seen something like that, and it really frightened me," she said.

Afghan women fear dark days ahead as Taliban return to power

US President — No deadline for remaining Americans to leave 

US President Joe Biden has praised the US military for the role played in Afghanistan saying: "They did their jobs and they did it well”. He said the war was the longest in American history, and the airlift was unlike anything ever seen before. The US president was making an address a day after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Biden said there were still between 100 to 200 Americans in the country, but many were dual citizens. He said that there would be no deadline when it came to remaining Americans wanting to leave Afghanistan.

Biden highlighted the collapse of the Afghan government and how quickly Afghan forces were overrun, despite all the efforts that had gone into helping train and equip the army.

 "This is the right decision. A wise decision. And the best decision for America," he said.

UN warns of 'humanitarian catastrophe' in Afghanistan

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of an approaching "humanitarian catastrophe" in Afghanistan.

He urged the international community to help with emergency funding after the US completed its withdrawal.

The UN chief will be releasing details of a flash appeal for Afghanistan next week. Guterres said almost half of Afghanistan's population of 18-million people would be in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

"One in three Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from. More than half of all children under five are expected to become acutely malnourished in the next year," Guterres said.

Afghan children at a camp for displaced people in Kabul
The UN warns that more than half of Afghanistan's children under five, face malnutritionImage: Rahmatullah Alizadah/Xinhua/imago images

Taliban should cooperate in fight against terrorism — Qatar Foreign Minister

Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Adbulrahman Al-Thani has urged the Taliban to cooperate in in the fight against terrorism. The minister also called on the international community to help protect Afghan civilians.

Talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government had been held in the country prior to the capture of Kabul.

Sheikh Mohammed was speaking alongside German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who has been on a trip to the region to offer Germany's support and continued engagement.

Maas believes there is no other option but to engage with the Taliban. "I personally believe there is absolutely no way around having talks with the Taliban," he said during a press conference with his Qatari counterpart.

EU looks to Afghanistan's neighbors for help with migrants and refugees

While EU talks in Brussels yielded no concrete pledges to take in refugees in their thousands, ministers agreed that member states would need to stop a tide of illegal migrants from Afghanistan. 

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said "the best way to prevent a migratory crisis is to prevent a humanitarian crisis.''

The EU felt it would be best to work with Afghanistan's neighboring states to "reinforce their capacities to provide protection for dignified and safe reception conditions" for refugees.

The bloc decided that resettlement would be on a voluntary basis with women and children being priority cases.

Former Afghan minister tells DW women want to be in Afghan government

A former female Afghan minister who was evacuated to Norway has told DW she was ready to work with the Taliban if they honored their pledges to respect women's rights.

Nargis Nehan, who was the acting mining minister in 2017, said women were watching the kind of government the Islamist group would set up.

"If they want women's support, they should understand that we have expression, we have expectations ... we want to be part of the government, we want to be part of the decision-making."

Although the Taliban have pledged to install a more progressive government than the one they led from 1996-2001, reports from areas that they have again controlled for some time suggest that girls and women there are being deprived of basic rights.

'A few dozen' French nationals left behind in Afghanistan

France said "a few dozen" of its nationals are still in Afghanistan. According to Defense Ministry spokesman Herve Grandjean, every effort is being made to get those left behind, safely evacuated. He said "that is the goal of the talks under way within the United Nations framework with the Taliban power.''

This echoes the diplomatic stance other countries are having to take when dealing with the Taliban since the withdrawal of US troops. France was  was also unable to get a number of Afghan employees out of the country in time. Efforts to evacuate those Afghan nationals would continue according to Grandjean.

Afghans who have been left behind will not be forgotten — NATO chief

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Afghans who were not able to get out of Kabul on evacuation flights will not be forgotten. He also said the airport needed to continue operating in order to help with aid distribution.

"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," Stoltenberg told AFP news agency. 

"We will not forget them," Stoltenberg said.

Berlin keeping an eye on Taliban pledges

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said time would tell if  the Taliban fulfilled their end of the bargain on an inclusive government and allowing people the choice to leave should they wish to do so. 

"It is important for us that all Afghans, even those who do not support the Taliban, feel represented by this government and it remains to be seen whether the Taliban take this into account," he said.

As to the Taliban's promise to allow those people eligible to leave the country to do so, Maas said: "We will, I believe, see in the coming days and weeks whether one can trust their word on this."

German minister expresses concern about refugee quotas

Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said on arrival at an EU meeting that he opposes the bloc establishing specific refugee quotas for people trying to leave Afghanistan.

He said that setting numbers in stone could create a "pull factor."

Seehofer added: "I don't think it would be very clever to start speaking about numbers here, because numbers set something off." 

That's as Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said the bloc needed to be clear on protecting the most vulnerable, while offering hope. Asselborn said now wasn't the time to "shore up the borders and organize returns."

Seehofer said Asselborn should consider the interests of larger EU states who end up taking in most refugees.

Canada offers to take in 5,000 Afghan refugees

On Tuesday Canada said it would resettle around 5,000 Afghan refugees after they were evacuated during airlift operations.

"We're pulling out all the stops to help as many Afghans as possible who want to make their home in Canada," the country's 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," Mendicino said.

US mission to get Americans out of Afghanistan will continue

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says the evacuation effort "has shifted from a military mission to a diplomatic mission.'' Sullivan said the US has "considerable leverage" over the Taliban and will use it to get the remaining Americans out. That number has been said to be in the low hundreds. 

Sullivan said that humanitarian aid would still be sent to the people of Afghanistan, but it would also depend on the Taliban sticking to commitments.

EU ministers meet over expected Afghan refugee crisis

Justice and interior ministers from EU states are meeting to discuss how the bloc should deal with the stream of refugees and migrants that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is expected to trigger.

The ministers are expected to discuss proposals for aiding refugees in countries bordering Afghanistan to prevent them trying to get to Europe. 

The EU is seeking to avoid a similar situation to that in 2015 when Syria's civil war caused more than a million migrants to come to the bloc, leading to internal rows about how to manage the crisis.

The proposals to house refugees away from Europe have created concerns about refugee rights among activists. In a letter to the  European commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, Amnesty International said that the EU and its member nations "must refrain from extremely damaging responses that put emphasis on keeping the EU's border 'protected' and proposing or adopting measures that shift the responsibility for the protection of refugees to third countries.''

In particular, the rights group said, Afghan women and girls should be seen as "prima facie refugees" because of the risks they may face in a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Austria says it has taken enough Afghan refugees

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said that his country has already taken in a "larger than proportionate share" of migrants since 2015 and would not support a scheme distributing Afghan refugees across the EU.

Speaking ahead of a meeting in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Kurz said Austria already had the fourth-largest Afghan community in the world.

Leading Taliban figure says group poses no threat to anyone

In a speech in Kabul, a prominent member of the Taliban's political office has accused the West of smearing the Islamist group, saying that Afghanistan's progress will soon be visible under its rule.

Shahabuddin Delawar also repeated assurances made recently by the group that it is not a threat to anyone and would be a reliable partner for the international community.

"We do not seek revenge," he said.

His comments seem contradicted by reports of Taliban members going door to door in some parts of the country as they seek Afghans who worked together with international forces during the 20 years since a US-led invasion.

Katar | Taliban Vertreter in Doha
Shahabuddin Delawar (C) was the Taliban's former envoy to Saudi ArabiaImage: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

Germany's Merkel says looking for ways to talk with Taliban

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said her government was talking with European partners to devise a way to have regular contact with the Taliban and have a European presence in Kabul without this amounting to a diplomatic recognition of their government.

She also said there were still 10,000-40,000 local support staff in Afghanistan who had a right to be evacuated to Germany.

Many Afghans who helped international armed forces in their country now feel that their lives are in danger from the new Taliban rulers.

Amnesty calls for investigation of US drone strike

The human rights organization Amnesty International has called for a probe into a US drone strike on Sunday in which nine civilians are believed to have died, including children. The executive director of Amnesty International USA, Paul O'Brien, said the attack carried out by the US military on suspected Islamist terrorists needed a transparent and credible investigation.

Destroyed vehicle following US drone strike in Kabul
The US drone attack was reported to have killed nine people and damaged vehicles and buildingsImage: Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi/AP Photo/picture alliance

Clashes reported in Panjshir Valley

Eight Taliban fighters died in clashes with militants in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, Reuters news agency reported citing a representative of the main anti-Taliban opposition group. 

According to Reuters, Fahim Dashti, a spokesman for the National Resistance Forces (NRF), said the fighting late Monday took place on the western entrance to the valley where the Taliban attacked NRF positions.

A map showing Panjshir Valley north of Kabul

Panjshir has been the only province to hold out against the Taliban since their takeover of Kabul on August 15. Anti-Taliban forces in Panjshir Valley seem to form a guerrilla movement to take on the group.

Uzbekistan says will allow only air transit of Afghan refugees

Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry has said its land border to Afghanistan will remain closed and that it will help only Afghans on a German list of at-risk people who are flown in on a short-term basis before being taken to Germany.

Many Afghans have rushed to the border with Uzbekistan in the hope of being able to escape the rule of the Taliban, who during their last period in power from 1996 to 2001 put in place an authoritarian regime based on a harsh interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. 

Germany's Maas offers more assistance to neighbors

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said his country is prepared to help Afghanistan's neighboring states manage their borders and combat terrorism. He said this help would come on top of the €100 million ($118 million) Germany is providing in humanitarian aid and the €500 million already offered to Afghanistan's neighbors.

Heiko Maas in Islamabad with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood QUreshi
Maas (L.) has visited Islamabad during a tour of the region around AfghanistanImage: REUTERS

Maas also said that Germany would wait until the Taliban had established a new government to see if the Islamist group would keep its vow to let civilians leave the country via the airport in Kabul.
Maas' comments in Islamabad came after Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Afghanistan itself should receive help from the international community to prevent its economic collapse. He also said he expected that a "consensus government" would be set up in Afghanistan in the coming days.

Crowds at the Chaman border crossing
Many Afghans are seeking to enter Pakistan Image: DW

Pakistan says won't take any more Afghan refugees

Pakistan has already taken in between 3 and 4 million Afghan refugees and will not accept any more, according to the Pakistani ambassador to Germany.

Mohammad Faisal to the Berlin daily Tagespiegel that "richer and larger" countries should now accept refugees from Afghanistan. He said that his country would help continue to help people leave Afghanistan "with everything in its power" and that the borders would stay open for the time being.

His remarks came ahead of a visit to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Taliban talking with Qatar and Turkey: French foreign minister

The Taliban have approached Qatar and Turkey to discuss the management of Kabul airport,  French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday.

"The Security Council resolution about securing the airport must be implemented. There are talks underway with the Qataris and Turks about management of the airport. We must demand that access to the airport is safe," Le Drian told France 2 television.

This comes amid fears that commercial airlines could be unwilling to use the airport owing to security concerns.

The Taliban have, however, repeatedly said they will not accept any foreign military presence in Afghanistan.

US Embassy announces suspension of operations

A statement on the website of the US Embassy in Kabul says that it is suspending operations as of Tuesday, August 31.  

"While the US government has withdrawn its personnel from Kabul, we will continue to assist US citizens and their families in Afghanistan from Doha, Qatar," the statement says. 

Taliban take full control of Kabul airport

Taliban leaders have walked across the runway on the northern military side of Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport as a symbolic gesture following the final withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

"The world should have learned their lesson, and this is the enjoyable moment of victory," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a livestream posted by a militant.

"We want to have good relations with the US and the world. We welcome good diplomatic relations with them all," he added.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid (C) talking to media at the Kabul airport, together with other members of the group
The Taliban spokesman talked to media at the airport after the group took control of itImage: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

Some Afghans were reported to be still outside the airfield hoping for a flight out of the country to escape coming under the rule of the Islamist extremist group.

Many Afghans are terrified that the Taliban will govern the country as they did from 1996-2001, putting in place a brutal justice system and denying girls and women basic rights.

Skopje sees first Afghan arrivals

A group of 149 Afghan evacuees have landed in Skopje, North Macedonia, where they will stay for a few months pending resettlement elsewhere.

The evacuees were employees of Western organizations in Afghanistan. They were joined by family members.

Met first by medical workers in protective clothing, the arrivals were then transferred to a hotel near the capital, where they will be tested for the coronavirus and granted temporary three-month visas.

"These are our allies, people we have worked with and whose lives are in danger, and people who need help the most,'' Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said.

North Macedonia has agreed to temporarily host at least 750 Afghans who worked with United States and allied forces.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has said all the evacuees will stay in hotels with international organizations and the US footing the bill.

Skopje Airport | 149 Afghan evacuees disembark
A group of 149 Afghan evacuees arrived in Skopje late on Monday and are among roughly 750 in total which will call North Macedonia home for the next three monthsImage: Arbnora Memeti /DW

Some Afghan families still stranded

Six Afghan refugee families who had resettled in the United States only to end up stuck in their homeland after a summer visit that coincided with the mass allied troop withdrawal have made it out safely, San Diego-area school officials said.

Nevertheless, at least one and perhaps two other Afghan immigrant families with students in the Cajon Valley Union School District east of San Diego remained stranded in their homeland.

This comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed there were more than 100 people still stranded in Afghanistan. The last US airlift evacuation left Kabul airport just before midnight on Monday, August 30.

Blinken vows to help Americans and others still in Afghanistan

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed to keep up "relentless" efforts to help Americans, Afghans and others who wanted to leave Afghanistan.

Blinken was speaking at the State Department and said fewer than 200 Americans were believed to be still in Afghanistan. Blinken said the US Embassy in Kabul would remain shut for the foreseeable future and that American diplomats who had worked in the embassy would now be based in Doha, Qatar.

US military equipment disabled ahead of departure

Scores of aircraft and armored vehicles along with a rocket defense system were disabled by the US military before troops left on Monday.

The Central Command's General Kenneth McKenzie said that 73 aircraft were rendered useless by the time airlift operations were completed. 

"Those aircraft will never fly again ... They'll never be able to be operated by anyone," he said. "Most of them are non-mission capable to begin with. But certainly they'll never be able to be flown again."

General says hundreds of US citizens still in Afghanistan

General Kenneth McKenzie says the were still US citizens numbering in the "very low hundreds" in Afghanistan.

McKenzie said there had been no US civilians on the last few flights out of Kabul.

As the commander in charge of the withdrawal and evacuation mission, McKenzie said: "The military phase of this operation has ended. The diplomatic sequel to that will now begin." He said there would be aggressive negotiations to get Afghan partners out of the country.

US aircraft takes off from Kabul's airport
All US military personnel have left Afghanistan, marking the end of a two-decade conflictImage: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

US president to give national address

US President Joe Biden said he would give a national address on Tuesday after 20 years of war in Afghanistan.

"Tomorrow afternoon, I will address the American people on my decision not to extend our presence in Afghanistan beyond August 31," he said.

His announcement came shortly after the Pentagon confirmed that the last US military aircraft had taken off from Kabul.

The president praised the military for its part in the evacuations in Kabul. Biden also said the global community must make sure the Taliban honored its pledges to let people leave. 

"The international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably freedom of travel. The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage, and the world will hold them to their commitments," Biden said.

US general says Taliban were 'helpful'

The US general in charge of the final evacuation said the Taliban had been" significantly helpful" in the effort to airlift those who were eligible to leave the country. General Frank McKenzie did, however, say that the militant group would "reap what they sowed."

McKenzie was referring to the so-called Islamic State fighters whom the Taliban had recently freed from prisons and now number in the region of 2,000.

Taliban declare Afghanistan independent following US withdrawal

There are reports of celebratory gunfire in Afghanistan's capital city, Kabul, following the confirmed withdrawal of US troops.

"Tonight at 12:00 am Afghan time, the remaining American troops left Kabul airport and our country gained full independence," Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's spokesman tweeted.

AFP correspondents reported hearing celebratory gunfire at checkpoints in the city. Unconfirmed videos shared on social media showed Taliban fighters firing into the air.

Last US troops leave Afghanistan — Pentagon

The US military has announced the the last of its troops have left Afghanistan after an almost 20-year campaign. 

"I'm here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan," Central Command Commander General Kenneth McKenzie said. Hamid Karzai International Airport has been the scene of chaos, death, and panic following the Taliban's capture of Kabul.

Allied countries had to scramble to airlift more than 122,000 people out of the country. 

 Major General Chris Donahue seen with night vision boarding a plane to leave Kabul
Major General Chris Donahue was the last US service member to leave Image: REUTERS

UN Security Council calls for Taliban to honor pledges

The UN Security Council has urged the Taliban to let people leave Afghanistan following the US withdrawal. It was not a united voice, however. Russia and China abstained from voting but did not veto the measure. The Taliban have said they would allow normal travel after taking control of the airport.

tj,jsi,kb, ar/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)