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Taliban urged to allow safe passage out — as it happened

August 19, 2021

The G7 called on the Taliban to allow the safe exit of anybody who wants to leave. Protesters rallied on Afghanistan's independence day. A DW journalist's relative was killed. Follow DW for more.

Afghans take selfie with Taliban fighters during patrol in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021.
Taliban forces patrolled the capital on Thursday, Afghanistan's independence dayImage: Rahmat Gul/AP/picture alliance
  • More flights arrived in Germany from Kabul
  • Merkel called the evacuation efforts 'highly complex'
  • Anti-Taliban demonstrations erupted in several cities
  • G7 ministers called on the Taliban to grant safe passage to all
  • Taliban militants killed a DW journalist's relative

This live updates article has now closed. This story was last updated at 01:18 UTC/GMT.

Would-be Merkel successor urges talks with Taliban

The leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, Armin Laschet, has urged direct diplomatic contacts with the Taliban. 

"The art of good foreign policy consists precisely in reaching solutions with such states, whose goals and image of humanity our society rightly rejects," Laschet told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper's Friday edition.

The Christian Democrat leader, who is a candidate to replace Merkel at next month's general election, said that to refuse to engage would not help the people who want to leave Afghanistan.

Laschet also stressed that the Taliban's strict system of Sharia law, which is now once again in force there, should not be an obstacle to talks. 

"Sharia is cruel — and I reject it from the bottom of my heart," the CDU leader said. "But it helps the people to put pressure on the Taliban. That also means talking with one another." 

Britain's last evacuation flight could be sooner than planned

Britain's last evacuation flight might have to leave next Tuesday before the planned departure of American forces on August 31, the Times newspaper reported.

This marks an accelerated timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The report quotes another government source saying the Tuesday evacuation date had not yet been formally agreed.

A spokeswoman for Britain's foreign ministry said about 1,200 people had left Kabul on flights for the UK since Sunday when the Taliban swept into Kabul.

Social media platforms take steps to protect users

A number of social media platforms have taken steps to secure the accounts of Afghan citizens.

Facebook has temporarily removed the ability for people to view or search the friends lists of accounts in Afghanistan, its security policy head Nathaniel Gleicher tweeted on Thursday.

Gleicher also said the company had launched a "one-click tool" for users in Afghanistan. This allows users to lock down their accounts, so people who are not their Facebook friends would be unable to see their timeline posts or share their profile photos.

Twitter Inc said it was working with the Internet Archive to speed up direct requests to remove archived tweets.

It said if individuals were unable to access accounts containing information that could put them at risk — such as direct messages or followers — the company could temporarily suspend the accounts until users regain access and are able to delete their content.

Twitter also said it was proactively monitoring accounts affiliated with government organizations. It said it might temporarily suspend accounts pending additional information to confirm their identity.

A LinkedIn spokesman said the Microsoft-owned professional networking site had temporarily hidden the connections of its users in Afghanistan so other users would not be able to see them.

Cash for refugees, evacuations

Germany has put aside €100 million ($116.8 million) for Afghan refugees. "The money will support international aid organizations that are helping those in neighboring countries," the Foreign Office said on Thursday.

In the US, a GoFundMe campaign to help 300 vulnerable Afghans has raised over $6 million, according to figures published Thursday.

The campaign launched earlier this week, with New York-based Tommy Marcus asking for funds to organize flights out of Afghanistan for those in danger from the Taliban.

The campaign has since received donations from over 106,000 people, with contributions ranging from $1 to $20,000. The fundraiser raised around $5 million in the space of just one day.

Taliban boost search for Afghans who helped US ⁠— report

The Taliban is intensifying a search for people who worked with US and NATO forces, according to a confidential United Nations document seen by news agency AFP.

The information was reportedly provided by the UN's threat assessment consultants. It allegedly says the group has "priority lists" of individuals it wants to arrest.

Most at risk are people who had central roles in the Afghan military, police and intelligence units, according to the document.

The Taliban have been conducting "targeted door-to-door visits" of people they want to apprehend and their family members, the report says.

The comes after DW reported that Taliban fighters hunting a DW journalist have shot dead one member of his family and seriously injured another.

German evacuation plane lands in Kabul

A German military A400M Atlas transport plane has landed at Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to the Bundeswehr.

The plane will transport further people in need of protection to Tashkent, the capital of neighboring Uzbekistan, the German military added in an official tweet.

One more A400M has already set off from Tashkent to Kabul.

UN chief sees 'leverage' in Taliban's desire for recognition

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the Security Council had leverage to pressure the Taliban as the militant group was seeking international recognition.

Guterres told reporters that he addressed that advantage with the 15-member body during their emergency session on Afghanistan last Monday.

"It's very important for the international community to be united, for all members of the Security Council to be united, to use the only leverage that exists, which is the interests of the Taliban for legitimacy, for recognition," he said.

Guterres said he would speak with the Taliban himself "when it is clear with whom should I speak, for what purpose." He added that UN officials in Kabul were in contact with the Taliban.

Italy discusses crisis with Russia and France 

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Russian President Vladimir Putin and stressed the importance of international efforts, including through the G20 bloc, to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan, according to a Kremlin statement. 

Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the G20, has been mulling a special meeting on the Afghan crisis, a diplomatic source said. 

Draghi's office said he had a "substantial discussion" with Putin about the situation in Afghanistan and its regional implications. 

In a phone call, the two leaders also addressed possible guidelines for the international community "to restore Afghanistan's stability, fight terrorism and illegal trafficking and protect women's rights," according to the Italian statement.

Separately, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with both Putin and Draghi about humanitarian issues in Afghanistan and implications for the wider world. 

Taliban kill DW journalist's relative 

Taliban militants in Afghanistan shot and killed a family member of a DW reporter and severely injured another relative. The reporter is currently based in Germany. Read the story in full here. 

"The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban is incredibly tragic and shows the acute danger that all our employees and their families face in Afghanistan," said DW's director general, Peter Limbourg. "Apparently the Taliban are already conducting an organized search for journalists in Kabul and the provinces. We are running out of time! "

The Taliban have also searched the homes of at least three DW journalists recently.

Sports federation: Afghan national footballer died falling off US plane

One of the people who fell to death after trying to cling to a US plane on Monday — as seen in a widely circulated video — was identified as an Afghan player who played for the national youth team. 

A sports federation confirmed the death of Zaki Anwari in the Kabul airport chaos.

"Anwari, like thousands of Afghan youths, wanted to leave the country but fell off a US plane and died," said the General Directorate of Physical Education and Sports of Afghanistan. 

G7 ministers urge Taliban to 'guarantee safe passage'

Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven called on the Taliban to "guarantee safe passage to foreign nationals and Afghans wanting to leave."

"The G7 are continuing efforts to do everything possible to evacuate vulnerable persons from Kabul airport and call on all parties to continue to facilitate that," a statement issued by Britain's Foreign Office said.

Foreign ministers of the US, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, and the UK — the group's current chair — met to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan.

The G7 ministers urged the international community to unite in its response to the situation, saying that the group would work with its partners "to secure an inclusive political settlement, enable life-saving humanitarian assistance and support in Afghanistan and the region, and prevent any further loss of life in Afghanistan."

They also called for an end to violence and "inclusive negotiations about the future of Afghanistan."

US says it has airlifted 7,000 people from Afghanistan

US Major General Hank Taylor said "we have airlifted approximately 7,000 total evacuees" since the first emergency flights out of Kabul on Saturday, August 14.

Taylor told a Pentagon briefing that a total of nearly 12,000 people have been moved out of Afghanistan since the end of July as the US fast-tracked departures ahead of the troop withdrawal.

"This increase is reflective of both a ramp-up of aircraft and airlift capability, faster processing of evacuees and greater information and fidelity in reporting," he added. 

Over the past 24 hours, the US sent 13 C-17 aircraft to Kabul and flew out 2,000 people on 12 of those transport planes, Taylor said.

Some 5,200 US soldiers were securing gates and helping improve access to the Kabul airport, he said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said armed US fighter jets were flying over Kabul to secure the evacuations.

UN agencies and aid groups pledge support to Afghans 

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) of heads of UN agencies and international aid groups vowed to continue operation in Afghanistan.

"We will stay in Afghanistan and we will deliver," the IASC said in a statement. "This is not the time to abandon the Afghan people." 

They warned that they were at least $800 million (€684 million) short of what was needed to help Afghans. A UN appeal for $1.3 billion with humanitarian aid was only 37% funded.

According to the IASC, half of Afghanistan's population — more than 18 million people — needed help as of the start of this year. 

"Those needs have risen sharply because of conflict, drought, and COVID-19," they said.

They urged the Taliban to "allow and facilitate safe, rapid, and unimpeded access for humanitarian workers — both male and female staff— so they can deliver aid to civilians in need wherever they are."

Bundeswehr general reports 'dramatic scenes' at Kabul airport

Jens Arlt, a German army general, reported "dramatic scenes" at the Kabul airport as chaos continued to reign in the Afghan capital.

"It's very, very turbulent," Arlt told a Defense Ministry online press conference. "You may hear a gunshot or two in the background."

Arlt said he could see the desperation in the eyes of Afghans and foreign nationals who were trying to pass the security cordons at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

He added that various people working on Germany's evacuations were going out into the crowds "to find our people." 

A map outlining the different sections at the Kabul airport

Meanwhile, a Taliban official told Reuters news agency that the militants were "keeping their word" by supporting the evacuation of Western nationals in Afghanistan.

"We are facilitating safe-exit passage not just for foreigners but also to Afghans," he told Reuters.

Anti-Taliban protesters rally in Afghanistan 

Crowds of protesters gathered for the second daywith the Afghan red, black and green national flag, which has become a symbol of defiance. They chanted "long live Afghanistan" and "our flag, our pride."

Protesters gathered in Kabul and other cities, marking Afghanistan's independence day.   

Taliban authorities reportedly imposed a 24-hour curfew after violently breaking up another protest in the southeastern Khost province, according to local journalists. 

On Wednesday, at least one protester was killed as Taliban militants opened fire to break up a demonstration against their takeover. 

There were reports of protests in other provinces.

Merkel: Evacuation 'a highly complicated mission' 

Merkel described the evacuation in Afghanistan as a "highly complicated mission" as she thanked the Bundeswehr soldiers, saying, "it is anything but easy." 

"It is a coordinated international operation in which Germany is also playing an important role," Merkel said during a visit to Giessen, north of Frankfurt.

"We are now working flat out to bring people back from Afghanistan — German citizens, but also as many local forces or Afghans who need protection as possible," she said. 

"I hope that we will still succeed in bringing as many people as possible home or to protection and safety," she added. 

The German chancellor also thanked Uzbekistan. German military planes out of Kabul are landing in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, with people fleeing Afghanistan then flying back to Germany on commercial airliners.

Journalist Franz Marty: Gates to Kabul's airport 'closed'

First Afghan evacuees speak about leaving Kabul 

Some of the first evacuees from Afghanistan to arrive in Germany shared their stories with DW.

"It's getting worse every day. I couldn't do anything for my family. What shall I do? I can only save us. I can't save my family," one evacuee said in tears.  

A woman said her experience was "terrifying" as "soldiers fired shots to scare people away from entering the airport." 

"If you grow up in safety, you cannot imagine what happens there, with the small children, it was so horrible — crowds of people trampling over each other," another woman said in tears. 

Since Sunday, Germany has evacuated some 500 people from Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Wednesday. A fifth of the evacuees were Afghan nationals, Maas said. 

Taliban must decide if they want international recognition, says Biden 

The Taliban must decide whether they want to be recognized by the international community, US President Joe Biden said in an interview with the US broadcaster ABC that aired on Thursday.

Biden said the militant group would face "an existential crisis" over whether world powers saw it as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

But he added that he did not think the Islamist organization had changed its fundamental beliefs. 

Joe Biden: 'We're going to do everything in our power to get all Americans out and our allies out'

Talk to the Taliban, urges German Green Party's candidate for chancellor

Annalena Baerbock, the German Green Party's candidate for chancellor, has said that the West should be ready to hold talks with the Taliban.

"The only way to really still get people to safety now who are threatened with death is to talk to the Taliban about getting these people to the airport," Baerbock told broadcaster WDR on Thursday.

Baerbock was a f
Baerbock has been a fierce critic of the German government's now-scrapped policy of deporting failed Afghan asylum-seekers from the country.Image: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP

"But what we can't do is recognize this regime," she said, "because it's not the legitimate government, it's an Islamist terrorist organization." 

Prior to the fall of Kabul, the 40-year-old had repeatedly spoken out against the German government's now-defunct policy of deporting failed Afghan asylum-seekers back home.

Al-Qaeda-linked group hail Taliban's 'dear victory'

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or the Levant Liberation Committee, have praised the "dear victory" of the Afghan people in seeing the departure of foreign troops, comparing the Taliban's control of much of Afghanistan with the early Muslim conquests.

The group, the most powerful in rebel-held parts of northwest Syria, includes several Arab commanders who were close to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

In a statement, HTS said "no matter how long it takes, righteousness will end up victorious."

The militants added: "Occupiers don't last on usurped lands no matter how much they harm its people."

German MP: 'Guarantee for everybody is not possible'

Johann Wadephul, a German lawmaker with the center-right CDU, said while Berlin is doing everything to speed up evacuations, Berlin could not give guarantees.

"I would like to underline that we don't only bring the Germans out of this country, but also Afghans and friends from other countries who helped us, who are our allies," he told DW.

"So we are doing everything to save as much as many lives as possible. But of course, the guarantee for everybody is not possible," Wadephul added.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany anticipates need to fly out as many as 10,000 people from Afghanistan.

German MP on Afghanistan evacuations: 'Guarantee for everybody is not possible'

Danish evacuation flight lands in Copenhagen

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod tweets that the government's evacuation plan is in "full swing" as the first evacuation flight touches down in the capital, Copenhagen.

Kofod said 84 people were on board, without giving further details.

Stampede at Kabul airport injures 17

A NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has said a stampede at Kabul's main airport has injured at least 17 people.

A Taliban spokesman told the Reuters news agency that there had been an unspecified number of fatalities.

The spokesman said the deaths could have resulted from the stampede or subsequent gunshots.

Western officials have not commented on the claims.

Several people were killed in the Afghan city of Asadabad on Thursday when Taliban fighters fired on people waving the national flag at an Independence Day rally, according to a separate Reuters report, citing witnesses.

Afghans celebrate the 102th Independence Day of Afghanistan with the national flag in Kabul
In several areas, protests celebrating Afghanistan's Independence Day on Thursday were violently broken up by the TalibanImage: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

'Moral duty' to help Afghan staff, says EU's Borrell 

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it was the bloc's "moral duty" to rescue as many former Afghan staffers as possible.

Borrell said there are still some 300 ex-EU employees still to be evacuated.

The former Spanish foreign minister, who earlier this week advocated talking to the Taliban, said 400 Afghans who worked with the EU have already left the country.

Nahid Shahalimi: 'We have the moral obligation to get these people out'

Poland deploys troops to help evacuations

Polish President Andrzej Duda has signed off on an additional 100-strong troop contingent to help Poland's military evacuate its nationals and other citizens.

Poland has promised humanitarian visas for those who helped its army during its 20-year presence in Afghanistan.

Evacuation flights land in Frankfurt

Two planes landed at Frankfurt Airport early Thursday with evacuees from the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Some 500 people were on board the two chartered planes that were operated by Lufthansa and Uzbekistan Airways. 

The two aircraft had taken off from the Uzbek capital Tashkent, where the German army has established an evacuation hub.

UK warns it will not evacuate unaccompanied children

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has told UK broadcaster Sky News that British troops will not evacuate unaccompanied children from Afghanistan.

"We can't just take a minor on their own," Wallace said in the interview broadcast on Thursday morning.

He was responding to a question about video footage that appeared online overnight of Afghan parents handing their children over a wall at Kabul airport to Western forces.

Italy eyes special Afghanistan G20 summit

Italian PM Mario Draghi, whose country currently holds the G20 presidency, is planning to organize a special summit to deal with the humanitarian fallout from the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, two top Italian newspapers reported on Thursday.

Drahgi is set to discuss the plan with Russian President Vladimir Putoin later today, La Repubblica and Il Messaggero said.

Spain says all of its nationals have left Afghanistan

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares tweeted earlier on Thursday that Spain has succeeded in evacuating all of its nationals from Afghanistan, apart from those troops assisting with rescue flights.

Albares said that the "first phase" of Spain's evacuation plan had been completed, but indicated Madrid would welcome more Afghan staff who worked with its military over the past 20 years.

US demands safe passage for Afghans

The US calls on the Taliban to allow Afghans to reach evacuation flights, accusing the Islamist group of reneging on a pledge to let those who want to leave Afghanistan to do so.

"We have seen reports that the Taliban, contrary to their public statements and their commitments to our government, are blocking Afghans who wish to leave the country from reaching the airport," Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told reporters.

"We expect them to allow all American citizens, all third-country nationals and all Afghans who wish to leave to do so safely and without harassment."

But British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News on Thursday that the Taliban are letting through UK nationals and Afghan staff who worked for the British army.

Afghans abroad worry for relatives

Wednesday's developments: President Ghani arrives in UAE, Biden hints at later evacuation deadline

Ashraf Ghani, the ousted Afghan president, arrived in the United Arab Emirates after rumors persisted as to his whereabouts.

The United States has not recognized the Taliban's rule as yet, but a top State Department official told reporters that Ghani is "no longer a player" in Afghanistan.

US President Joe Biden suggested that American troops could stay on past the initial full withdrawal deadline of August 31.

Biden said it would be to ensure that all Americans and Afghan staff could be taken out of the country safely.

A Taliban spokesperson told the Reuters news agency that Afghanistan under the Islamist group's rule will not be a democracy.

"There will be no democratic system at all because it does not have any base in our country," Waheedullah Hashimi said. "It is Shariah law and that is it."

The German Bild newspaper ran an exclusive story that Germany's intelligence service believed an immediate fall of Kabul was "rather unlikely," citing an internal government memo.

Britain recalled lawmakers to parliament from their summer recess to debate Afghanistan's future.

Politicians from all sides criticized Prime Minister Boris Johnson's failure to draw up a contingency plan for guaranteeing the country's security.

fb, jf/rs (AP, AFP, Reuters)


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