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US, Germany advise citizens against Kabul airport travel — as it happened

The US embassy cited "potential security threats outside the gates" amid chaos at Kabul airport. Follow DW for the latest.

People wait outside the Kabul airport

Desperate to flee, Afghans rushed to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul

  • US officials said Biden was briefed about 'counterterrorism operations' against IS
  • Germany airlifted almost 2,000 from Kabul
  • Taliban officials and Afghanistan's ex-president held talks 
  • The Taliban assured the US that Afghans can leave after August 31

This story was last updated at 23:45 UTC/GMT. Catch up on Friday's main events here. Follow the latest developments here.

Afghan evacuee gives birth aboard C-17 military aircraft

An Afghan woman gave birth to a baby girl aboard a C-17 US military aircraft as it landed at the US-run Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

The woman went into labor aboard an evacuation flight from an Intermediate Staging Base in the Middle East, the US Air Mobility Command reported in an official tweet.

The woman experienced complications during labor. In response, the aircraft commander decided to descend in altitude to increase air pressure in the aircraft, which helped stabilize and save the mother’s life, the Air Mobility Command said.

After landing at the base, medically trained airmen came aboard and delivered the child in the cargo bay of the aircraft. The baby and mother were then transported to a nearby medical facility and were said to be in a good condition.

Former British PM Tony Blair slams US withdrawal as 'imbecilic'

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair, who took Britain into war in Afghanistan in 2001 alongside the US, has criticized the withdrawal from the country. He said the US was abandoning Afghanistan and that this was "dangerous" and "unnecessary."

The comments are his first public comments on the crisis since the Afghan government collapsed last weekend.

He described the drawdown as "imbecilic" and "driven not by grand strategy but by politics." He added that the withdrawal was not in the interests of Afghans or allies. "We didn't need to do it. We chose to do it," Blair wrote in a wide-ranging article published on his institute's website.

Meanwhile, Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that they would have to turn to Russia and China to exercise a "potentially moderating influence" over the Taliban. He said this was needed "however uncomfortable that is," Raab told The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

The British government has long had difficult relations with the two countries.

Taliban tell Russia they want a deal with Panjshir stronghold

Russian ambassador in Kabul Dmitry Zhirnov said the Taliban has asked Russia to convey their offer of a political deal to resistance fighters in the Panjshir Valley.

It is the only remaining region of Afghanistan that has not fallen into the hands of the Islamic fundamentalist organization.

A senior member of the Taliban's political leadership reportedly put in the request. Zhirnov said that the Taliban claim they want to avoid bloodshed in the region.

The valley is located 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of the capital, Kabul. It was a stronghold of the Northern Alliance militias that were allied with the U.S. during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

Some senior members of the ousted Afghan government fled to the valley to escape the latest Taliban offensive, including the deposed Vice President Amrullah Saleh and ex-Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi.

US evacuates 2,300 people to Ramstein Air Base, Germany

The US Air Force has flown 2,300 people from Afghanistan to the US-run Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Operation Allied Refuge began on Friday evening. Since then, a total of 17 C-17 aircraft have landed at the base in the southwestern German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Turkey says it cannot cope with more migrants

Turkey would not be able to cope with an "additional burden of migrants" arriving from Afghanistan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

"A new wave of migration is inevitable if the necessary measures are not taken in Afghanistan and in Iran," Erdogan said during a telephone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He said that Turkey has already taken in five million refugees — the majority of them fled the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Erdogan made similar comments to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday.

Leaders in Europe also want to avoid a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis, largely driven by the Syrian civil war. "It must be our goal to keep the majority of the people in the region," Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said this week.

Greece has also said it will not be the "gateway for irregular flows" of migrants.

French President Emmanuel Macron stressed that Europe should not "shoulder the consequences" of the situation in Afghanistan. Europe "must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows."

Deaths reported outside Kabul airport 

Footage from British broadcaster Sky News showed soldiers outside the Kabul airport covering three bodies in white tarpaulins. 

Sky reporter Stuart Ramsay said that those at the front of the crowd were being "crushed," while people were "dehydrated and terrified." 

There was no immediate official confirmation on how they died. 

The airport has been the site of desperate scenes since the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, with tens of thousands of Afghans waiting in the heat for hours or even days in a bid to get on an evacuation flight. 

Canada evacuated 1,000 Afghans 

Senior Canadian officials said Canada evacuated some 1,000 Afghans from Afghanistan in the past week. 

"To date we have evacuated nearly 1,000 Afghan nationals who were at risk of retaliation for their work with Canada and allied countries," officials told a telephone news conference, according to AFP. 

Canada had pledged to take in 20,000 Afghan refugees under a new special immigration program.

Biden briefed on 'IS threat' 

White House officials said aides briefed Biden on "counterterrorism operations" in Afghanistan, including against IS. 

An official had earlier told AP that US forces were forced to establish new ways to evacuate people in Afghanistan due to an IS threat. 

Bundeswehr: 213 more people evacuated 

The German armed forces said it flew 213 people out of Kabul on Saturday — eight people were evacuated on the first flight, and another 205 were on the second aircraft.   

The Bundeswehr's Operations Command said the situation at the Kabul airport was "still very difficult." 

Earlier this week, the German government received sharp criticism when the first German evacuation flight carried only seven people. The Foreign Ministry later blamed the "chaotic circumstances" at Kabul's airport. 

Later Saturday, Germany joined the US in advising its nationals not to travel to Kabul airport at present, due to strict Taliban controls.

Taliban, Afghan officials discussed 'inclusive political settlement'

Afghanistan's former president, Hamid Karzai, met with Taliban's acting governor for Kabul who "assured us that he would do everything possible for the security of the people'' of the city," a senior official in the ousted government said. 

Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official in the ousted government who was also in the talks, said he and Karzai discussed with Taliban officials the current situation in Afghanistan and "an inclusive political settlement for the future of the country."

According to Afghan officials quoted by AP, the Taliban said they would not make announcements about their government until after the August 31 deadline for the troop pullout. 

Borrell: US deadline 'impossible' to meet 

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told AFP that it was "mathematically impossible" for the US and its allies to evacuate the tens of thousands of Afghan staff and their families by August 31. 

"They want to evacuate 60,000 people between now and the end of this month. It's mathematically impossible," Borrell told AFP in a telephone interview. 

For Europe's evacuation efforts, "the problem is access to the airport — the US checks and security measures are very strong," Borrell said. "We have complained. We asked them to show more flexibility. We can't get our people through," he added. 

On Wednesday, Biden told ABC News that US forces would stay in Afghanistan until all US citizens were evacuated, even if that meant staying beyond the August 31 deadline.

Watch video 00:31

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

 

Aid worker says situation 'very tense' at Kabul airport 

Hussein Hassan, an aid worker who left Afghanistan for Turkey, told DW that "the situation was very tense at Hamid Karzai Airport" as thousands of people "were desperately waiting to leave."

"At the same time, there were also thousands of people who were struggling to get into the airport," Hassan said, adding that the Taliban forces were trying to manage the airport, but it seemed like "it was out of their control." 

Watch video 02:22

Chaos at Kabul airport as news of Taliban rule grows spotty

Aid workers can continue operating in Afghanistan if the Taliban are open to negotiations and are willing to support humanitarian assistance, Hassan said. 

"In the interest of saving the lives [of Afghans], I think there's room to negotiate and to agree on a framework. But then, there's also red lines that cannot be crossed," he added. 

Germany should've started evacuations earlier, Laschet admits 

The head of Merkel's party, Armin Laschet, admitted that the German government should have listened to calls to speed up the evacuations before the Taliban takeover. 

"The approach of getting them out weeks ago was right. And that's where the opposition [was] right," the CDU chairman said. 

Watch video 03:27

'Everything is definitely too late' – Lucas Wehner on evacuating Germany's Afghan support staff

US to find new ways for evacuations amid IS threat: report

A senior US official told the AP news agency that potential Islamic State (IS) threats against US citizens in Afghanistan were forcing the military to develop new ways to get evacuees to the Kabul airport. 

According to the AP, the official said on condition of anonymity that US forces will give small groups of US citizens, and possibly civilians, instructions on movement to transit points where they can be picked up. 

Taliban have not changed, London protesters cry

A protest in central London against the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan has drawn thousands of people. Organizers said the rally was also a show of solidarity with Afghans opposed to the new regime in Kabul.

Many protesters marched behind a banner reading "Talib has not changed," while others held signs bearing slogans like "stop killing Afghans" and "stop the oppression of Afghan women."

Protesters display a giant Afghan flag as they demonstrate in solidarity with the people of Afganistan

Thousands of protesters gathered in London

Massing in Hyde Park and marching down Whitehall past Downing Street, the residence and office of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has faced stinging criticism this week over his government's handling of the crisis

Evacuation effort 'highest priority,' Merkel and Erdogan agree

German Chancellor Angela Merkel phoned Turkey's Erdogan on Saturday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, a German government spokesperson said.

The two agreed that the highest priority was the evacuation of those in need from Afghanistan, the spokesperson said in a brief statement.

The two leaders also agreed to work closely together to support the work of international organizations in Afghanistan and neighboring countries — in particular, the United Nations refugee agency.

According to Erdogan's office, the Turkish leader said Afghanistan and its neighbors need "urgent" support or a new refugee wave from the region is "inevitable." 

Earlier Saturday, Erdogan spoke to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and agreed to strengthen bilateral coordination on Afghan issues, the Kremlin said.

Erdogan voiced hopes for a soft transition in the country and said that it was important that the Taliban not repeat previous mistakes and to keep their promises with an ethnically inclusive approach.

Protesters in Germany demand support for Afghans

DW reporter Carla Bleiker said at least 100 protesters gathered in the western German city of Bonn to demand the government grant visas to all Afghans who worked with Germany, including local journalists.  

"We're here today because we're desperate at not being able to do anything else to help the people in Afghanistan," a protester told Bleiker. 

Protesters rally with the Afghan flag in Bonn

Dozens of protesters rallied in Bonn under the motto "Airlift now!"

Protesters called for humanitarian aid for Afghans and demanded that Germany, the EU and the US provide unbureaucratic safe passage for vulnerable locals in Afghanistan, Bleiker said. 

"The time to insist on this is now, not tomorrow or any other day," one of the protest organizers said. 

US general: Forces at Kabul airport still process US citizens

US Major General Hank Taylor said US citizens coming to the Kabul airport were still being processed, despite an earlier warning by the State Department against going to the airport. 

"The gates are always manned by forces there that can process the right people that come to those gates all the time," Taylor told reporters at a press briefing. 

"I did not say you should come," he said, but stressed that military forces at the gates would continue to process their applications if they did.

A map of the Kabul airport

US forces were processing evacuees through "three or four main gates," Taylor said

Over the past week, a total of 17,000 people have been evacuated, including 2,500 US citizens, Taylor said.

The White House later said the US has flown out around 3,800 people on 38 flights in the past 24 hours. 

Russia discusses situation with Turkey and Pakistan

Russian President Vladimir Putin "discussed in detail" the situation in Afghanistan with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to a Kremlin statement. 

Both leaders stressed the need to ensure peace and order in Afghanistan and said the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking in the country was a priority, the Kremlin said. 

"We must keep the channels of open dialogue with the Taliban and pursue a gradual engagement instead of an approach based on hard conditions," Erdogan said in the phone call with Putin, according to Ankara's statement. 

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also addressed the issue with Pakistan's Shah Mahmood Qureshi. "The ministers stressed the need to provide assistance... to the establishment of an inclusive inter-Afghan dialogue for the formation of a representative government," a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said. 

Watch video 02:45

Angela Merkel pays a final state visit to Moscow

RSF calls on US to evacuate journalists

The international NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged the US to postpone the end of its military operation at Kabul airport until journalists, rights activists and all those in danger are evacuated. 

RSF said it would be "materially impossible to complete the evacuation of all those in great danger" by August 31.

"The image of the United States as a defender of press freedom and human rights is at stake," said RSF chief Christophe Deloire. 

"We are receiving dozens and dozens of urgent evacuation requests," Deloire said. "Our problem today is not getting visas or seats on planes, it is making it possible for these people to access planes."

RSF said Washington seemed to only care about evacuating "its own citizens and former employees. This is blocking the evacuation of those on the lists of sensitive persons who are in danger," it added.

Watch video 03:24

Afghan journalists fear Taliban crackdown on press

What is the latest on the ground? 

Franz Marty, a journalist in Kabul, told DW that the scenes at the Kabul airport were "as chaotic as during the past days" as hundreds of Afghans flocked the gates. 

Marty said the chaos was due to several reasons, including people being confused by paperwork or not having the necessary documents. 

Some people were also turned away over security concerns, which were "justified given that there have been stampedes in the past days," Marty said. 

Watch video 02:19

Afghanistan: Desperation grows outside Kabul airport

In Kabul's city center, however, life goes on. Marty said shops and businesses were open, the streets were "very quiet, very normal," and everything looked like "a usual day" — the only difference was the Taliban flags around the city. He said he passed by a Taliban checkpoint and "they didn't even glance at me." 

But AFP news agency reported that Taliban militants blocked government employees in Kabul from returning to their offices on Saturday, the first day of the Afghan working week.

Von der Leyen: EU aid 'tied to strict conditions'

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc will not recognize or the Taliban's rule, even if negotiations are necessary. 

"We may well hear the Taliban's words but we will measure them above all by their deeds and actions," von der Leyen told a news conference after visiting a reception center in Madrid for Afghan staff evacuated from Kabul. 

Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez, von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel visited tents where Afghan evacuees sleep

Von der Leyen visited tents where Afghans who were evacuated from Kabul sleep at an airbase outside Madrid

The EU chief said she would propose an increase in the 57 million euros ($67 million) in humanitarian aid, which the Commission had allocated this year for Afghanistan. But she stressed that the aid is strictly tied to respect for human rights and women's rights, as well as good treatment of minorities. 

Von der Leyen also called on the international community to take in Afghan refugees. "This resettlement of vulnerable people is of utmost importance. It is our moral duty,'' she said.

Offering "legal and safe routes globally, organized by us, the international community, for those who need protection'' must be a priority of next week's G7 meeting on the Afghanistan crisis, she added.

Watch video 01:24

How worried is Germany about refugees from Afghanistan?

US advises citizens against travel to Kabul airport

A security alert posted Saturday to the website of the US Embassy Kabul, which works entirely from the airport at present, advised US citizens against traveling to the airport due to the deteriorating situation.

The message read in part, "Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so."

Germany has evacuated almost 2,000 from Kabul

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters Saturday the German military has evacuated nearly 2,000 people from Kabul airport.

Two light helicopters shipped off to Kabul overnight are also ready to begin evacuations out of the city. Those efforts will be coordinated with allies working around the clock out of the Kabul airport.

General Eberhard Zorn, the German chief of defense, said the air force will be bringing in baby food and hygienic items that are desperately needed at the airport.

Taliban deny kidnapping 150 people awaiting evacuation 

Around 150 people, including some Indian nationals and Afghan Sikhs, waiting to be evacuated from Kabul were captured by the Taliban near the airport on Saturday.

Ahmadullah Waseq, a Taliban spokesman, rejected the notion that the Taliban had kidnapped Indian citizens. 

They were reportedly taken in for questioning by the militant group before their release, according to Afghan media reports.

People waiting outside Kabul Airport Friday

Chaotic scenes continue outside Kabul Airport as desperation grips the capital and many try to flee Taliban rule

The group was reportedly waiting outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, the site of so much chaos in recent days, when the incident occurred. 

Indian media reported they were returned to the airport upon release.

Taliban co-founder in Kabul for talks on setting up government

Mullah Baradar, one of the Taliban's cofounders, is in Kabul to hold talks on setting up a government to replace that of ousted President Ashraf Ghani, local media reported.

Talks would include jihadi leaders and politicians, a Taliban official told international news agencies. 

The chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, had met elders, religious scholars, representatives and commanders of Panjshir province to discuss "the current developments in the country and ways of supporting peace and stability," he said on Twitter on Saturday. 

"We added that in order to return to normality in the capital Kabul, it is imperative that citizens of the capital feel safe & secure," he said. 

 

The international community has been divided on whether to recognize the Taliban or the ousted government as the formal leaders of Afghanistan. 

German military helicopters to aid evacuation effort

A pair of German military helicopters arrived in Kabul on Saturday to assist in efforts to evacuate people from Afghanistan.

The Bundeswehr, Germany's military, said the helicopters' relatively smaller size will allow them to land in urban areas and gain access to people in Kabul trying to reach the city's airport.

Although international troops have secured the airport itself, Taliban insurgents currently surround and control access to the area around it.

"This is a real air operation. This is not a taxi service," Bundeswehr Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said Friday in Berlin. 

Bundeswehr Airbus H145M helicopter

The helicopters will make it possible to bring people from Kabul to the city's airport

Slow evacuations to avert clashes with Taliban

Six days after the Taliban entered the Afghan capital of Kabul, some 12,000 foreign nationals and Afghans working for embassies and aid organizations have been evacuated from the country, an official has said.

"The evacuation process is slow, as it is risky, for we don't want any form of clashes with Taliban members or civilians outside the airport," the official, who sought anonymity, told Reuters news agency.

The White House has said about 13,000 people have been flown out of the country on US aircraft.

At least 12 people have been killed in and around the airport since Sunday, NATO and Taliban officials have said.

US President Joe Biden called the effort to evacuate civilians from Afghanistan one of the "most difficult airlifts in history," adding that he "could not promise what the final outcome will be."

Shots continue to be fired "almost constantly" outside the airport, which has been secured mainly by US forces, the German news agency dpa reported Saturday.

Watch video 02:23

Thousands hope to be airlifted out of Kabul

Baby in viral video at Kabul airport 'was ill'

The Pentagon has provided more information about the baby who was seen on video being lifted by a US Marine over a razor wire-topped wall at Kabul's airport. The footage of the infant was widely shared on social media.

"The video you are talking about — the parent asked the Marines to look after the baby because the baby was ill," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

"So the Marine you see reaching over the wall took it to a Norwegian hospital that is at the airport. They treated the child and returned the child to the child's father," he said. "It was an act of compassion because there was concern about the baby."

Refugees arrive at Ramstein Air Base

According to officials, the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate, around 300 refugees from Afghanistan have landed in Germany as part of the Allied Refuge program. They are the first to arrive at the military base at Ramstein.

The US Air Force flew them from Qatar in two C-17 aircraft. The refugees will at first be housed in temporary accommodation in the aircraft hangars. "The Ramstein personnel are working tirelessly to provide the refugees a safe place to rest. I am unbelievably proud of the capability of our team who executed this mammoth task in such a short space of time," said military commander Josh Olson of the 86th Airlift Wing.

What are the Taliban's possible next steps?

Omar Samad, a former senior adviser to the chief executive of Afghanistan and a former Afghan ambassador to France and Canada, spoke to DW about the future of the Taliban regime.

"We still don't know whether they're going to consolidate power in a purely Taliban style or whether they're going to open the political space to others who can participate," he told DW.

Watch video 04:49

"Afghanistan's neighbors prefer stability"

Samad explained that international aid could also play a role in influencing the path that the Taliban take. The Taliban "will have to show flexibility domestically at home as well as externally in its relationship with the international community," he said.

US military helicopters transport evacuees to airport

Three US military helicopters were deployed to fly Americans some 200 meters (656 feet) from the Hotel Baron in Kabul to the city's airport.

The United States military said 169 US citizens were transported in this way.

The Americans were unable to get to the gate of the airport, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

Thousands have flooded the airport after the Taliban swept into the capital city on Sunday.

Taliban assure US that Afghans can leave after August 31

The Taliban have told the US that Afghans will be allowed to leave the war-torn country even after all US troops withdraw by the end of this month.

However, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price urged caution when dealing with the militant group.

"Their words are one thing, the only thing that matters are their actions," he said.

The end of August was set as the final date for the full US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. This was set before the Taliban took control of the capital on Sunday after a sweeping offensive, forcing the US to expedite its departure.

So far, the US has evacuated around 13,000 people on US military aircraft since August 14, according to the State Department.

Price added that a number of countries in Europe, the Middle East and in Central Asia will be acting as transit countries for Americans and potentially others who have been evacuated from Kabul.

Concern is growing for many Afghans who worked for the US military and allies during the Afghanistan war from 2001 to 2021. Many people who worked as interpreters or helped the foreign troops in other ways now fear they will face reprisals from the hardline Taliban.

Watch video 00:24

Biden: This is one of the most difficult airlifts in history

Friday's top developments

The Taliban reportedly began rounding up Afghans on a blacklist of people with suspected links to the previous Afghan administration, according to intelligence group, the Norwegian Center for Global Analyses (RHIPTO).

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp took new measures to protect users in Afghanistan.

A German man was shot while traveling to the airport in Kabul. He was receiving treatment for a non-life-threatening injury.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told DW that the alliance has "some leverage" over the Taliban to facilitate evacuations.

US President Joe Biden vowed to bring home all Americans who are still stranded in Afghanistan.

The official websites of the Taliban appeared to have vanished from the internet late on Friday.

fb, kmm/dj (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)