U.S. on Track to Evacuate Americans: Afghanistan Update
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. military is speaking with the Taliban several times a day, as the group warn of “consequences” if the U.S. delays withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan past an end of month deadline.
“It’s a red line,” Qatar-based Taliban spokesman and negotiator Suhail Shaheen said in an interview with Sky News. If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations “the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” he added.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will push U.S. President Joe Biden to delay the departure of U.S. troops beyond the deadline to allow for more and safer evacuations of foreign nationals and their Afghan staff, a person familiar with the matter said.
Johnson has called for a virtual meeting of Group of Seven leaders on Tuesday to discuss the crisis. Biden has hinted the U.S. may extend the deadline as Americans struggle to reach Kabul’s airport.
On the ground, some militants wanted by Islamabad have been freed from jail in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s interior minister said. The militants are from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a group that has previously carried out attacks in Pakistan. And an Iranian official said Afghan local officials have asked traders to increase supplies of fuel as they grapple with a spike in gasoline prices triggered by the Taliban’s seizure of power.
Key stories and developments:
- Taliban Name Obscure Official Central Bank Chief as Crisis Looms
- Taliban Seek Hike in Iran Fuel Imports as Prices Jump
- Harris Looks to Assure U.S. Allies Over Chaotic Afghan Exit
- The World Asks What U.S. Commitments Are Worth: Balance of Power
- A Conversation With Ajmal Ahmady, Afghanistan’s Former Central Bank Chief
- Here Are the Shadowy Taliban Leaders Now Running Afghanistan
- Why Taliban Triumph Revives Fear of al-Qaeda Revival: QuickTake
- What Will the Taliban Do to a $22 Billion Economy?: Editorial
All items are in Eastern Time:
More Than 230 Aircraft Committed to Evacuation, U.S. Says (3:53 p.m.)
The U.S. Air Mobility Command said more than 230 aircraft have been committed to the Afghanistan evacuation effort. C-17s and C-130s are being used to airlift evacuees from Afghanistan to intermediate staging bases, and in some cases, other aircraft like the KC-10 aerial refueling tankers and C-5 are being used to transport them to the U.S., in concert with recently activated aircraft from commercial airlines.
General Steve Lyons, the head of U.S. Transportation Command, told reporters that aircraft departing from Kabul are now carrying an average of 450 evacuees per flight. Lyons said that at least three babies have been born during the evacuation. -- Tony Capaccio and Dan Flatley
Sullivan Says U.S. on Track To Evacuate Americans (3:06 p.m.)
The U.S. is on track to evacuate all Americans from Afghanistan by the Aug. 31 deadline for its withdrawal from the country, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.
Sullivan said roughly 37,000 people have been evacuated in the past week, but didn’t say how many of those were U.S. citizens. The number of Americans in Afghanistan has been difficult to track, he said, because some never registered with the U.S. embassy and others failed to unregister when they left.
Sullivan also said the U.S. hasn’t stipulated a precise number of Afghan asylum seekers it will accept into the country. -- Josh Wingrove
U.S. Military Talking ‘Several Times a Day’ With Taliban (11:52 a.m.)
American military officials are talking with the Taliban “several times a day” to coordinate evacuation efforts at the Kabul airport, according to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.
Operations at the airport “does involve communication and de-conflication with the Taliban,” Kirby said, adding that U.S. officials have seen the statements from the Taliban about Aug. 31 being a “red line” for the group.
“I think we all understand that view,” Kirby said, declining to comment about extending the deadline beyond saying that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and President Joe Biden will discuss options when the time comes. --Daniel Flatley
Germany Says Kabul Airport Situation Has Grown More Chaotic (11:40 a.m. ET)
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the government in Berlin is holding talks with the U.S. and Turkey to plan for extending civilian operations at Kabul airport after the departure of U.S. troops to enable further evacuations. This includes current negotiations with the Taliban.
Maas said an early-morning firefight that killed an Afghan security personnel and involved German troops showed how dangerous the situation at the airport is.
“The situation at the airport has only grown more chaotic over the last few hours,” Maas told reporters in Berlin on Monday. “The situation remains dangerous.” --Patrick Donahue
Iran Restarts Afghanistan Fuel Exports on Taliban Tax Cut: Reuters (8:00 a.m. ET)
Iran resumed exports of gasoline and gasoil to neighboring Afghanistan “a few days ago” after a request from the Taliban, Reuters reported, citing an interview with Hamid Hosseini, spokesman for the Iranian Oil, Gas and Petrochemical Products Exporters’ Union.
The Taliban contacted Iran after gasoline prices spiked, and cut tariffs on imports of Iranian fuel by up to 70%, Reuters said. -- Patrick Sykes
Taliban Appoint Central Bank Governor (7:00 a.m. ET)
The Taliban appointed Mohammad Idris as acting governor of Da Afghanistan Bank, the country’s central bank, the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said on Twitter. He’ll “address the looming banking issues and the problems of people,” he said. Idris’s appointment comes as the country’s banks are shut and ATM machines have dried up since the group’s takeover of the capital, Kabul, on Aug. 15. -- Eltaf Najafizada
U.S. Evacuates 10,400 People in 24 Hours (6:35 a.m. ET)
U.S. military flights have evacuated approximately 10,400 people from Kabul in the past 24 hours, a White House official said. In addition, 61 coalition aircraft evacuated approximately 5,900 people. -- Catherine Larkin
Russia Says Developments Raise Terror, Drug Risk (6:15 a.m. ET)
Developments in Afghanistan present “real risks for the entire Eurasian region and the world in general” from terrorism and drug trafficking, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders in the region expressed concern that Islamic State retains a “strong position” in Afghanistan, at a summit Monday of the Collective Security Treaty Organization of former Soviet republics. They’ll resume talks on Afghanistan at a Sept. 16 summit, Peskov said. -- Ilya Arkhipov
U.K. Evacuates 1,800 in 24 Hours (5:30 a.m. ET)
The U.K. has evacuated 1,821 people in eight flights from Kabul over the past 24 hours, with nine more flights planned over the next day, Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told ITV’s Good Morning Britain show. The total evacuated over the past week is 6,631 people, including both British nationals and Afghans, he said. -- Alex Morales
U.K. Minister Warns of Suicide Bombers (3:50 a.m. ET)
U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told BBC Radio there’s a “very real threat” posed by Islamic State in Kabul, and that there’s “absolutely” the risk of a suicide bombing in the vicinity of the airport.
“One of the most remarkable things about what our troops are doing is they know that there is the real threat of a suicide bomber or some other sort of threat or attack,” Heappey said. “That means that with one hand they have to have their finger on the trigger, and in the other hand they’re holding people’s babies.”
Heappey also said that people in Kabul who are on the U.K.’s no-fly list have tried to get on British evacuation flights, highlighting the need to thoroughly check credentials, “because there are people trying to take advantage of this process to get into the U.K. to cause us harm.” -- Alex Morales
Harris Assures Allies on Afghan Exit (3:15 a.m. ET)
Vice President Kamala Harris sought to reassure U.S. allies in Asia over America’s commitment to the region, as she faced a volley of questions on Afghanistan during a visit to Singapore.
The vice president mentioned that the U.S. was focused on successfully completing the evacuation in Afghanistan. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong offered to help the U.S. with the evacuation effort. -- Muneeza Naqvi
Johnson Wants Biden to Delay Exit (2:40 a.m. ET)
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will push President Joe Biden to delay the departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan beyond the end of August in order to allow for the evacuation of more foreign nationals and their Afghan staff, a person familiar with the matter said.
Johnson will use a virtual meeting of G-7 leaders on Tuesday to make the request, as the U.K. seeks to pull thousands more people out after Kabul’s fall to the Taliban, the official said.
Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly appeared to confirm the U.K. approach, telling BBC radio late on Sunday “the more time that we’ve got, the more people we can evacuate and that’s what we’re pushing for.” -- Alex Morales
Taliban Fighters Gather Near Area of Resistance (2:15 a.m. ET)
Taliban are massing hundreds of fighters around the last pocket of resistance to their rule, even as they negotiate with the leaders holding out, Zabihullah Mujahed, the militant group’s spokesman, said in a phone interview Monday.
The northern Panjshir Valley is currently being held by Ahmad Massoud, son of assassinated warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud, who battled the Taliban during their five-year rule from 1996 to 2001. Massoud is backed by Amrullah Saleh, the former vice president, who fled when the militants took over Kabul.
“The Islamic Emirate makes its best effort to peacefully resolve the issue through negotiation. Those efforts are underway,” Mujahed said, adding that representatives of Massoud and Saleh had also met top Taliban leaders in Kabul.
In an op-ed in the Washington Post last week, Massoud had written that his fighters were “prepared to once again take on the Taliban” but added that their stores of weapons and ammunition would run out “unless our friends in the West can find a way to supply us without delay.”
Taliban Seeks Cooperation With South Korea (1:50 a.m. ET)
The Taliban wants to meet with South Korean leaders and business people and strengthen economic cooperation, Yonhap News Agency said Monday, citing its interview with Abdul Kahar Balchi, a member of the militant group’s cultural commission.
Afghanistan has abundant underground resources including lithium, and South Korea, a leading electronics manufacturer, can benefit from cooperating with Afghanistan, Balchi said in the interview, which was conducted via text messages. -- Seyoon Kim
U.S., German Soldiers Drawn Into Firefight (1:30 a.m. ET)
American and German soldiers were drawn into a firefight between Afghan security forces and unknown assailants at the northern end of Kabul airport, Germany’s armed forces said on Twitter Monday. Some troops of the U.S.-trained Afghan military are present at the airport alongside Taliban fighters.
One Afghan security force member was killed and three others were wounded in the skirmish, which occurred at 6:13 a.m. local time. None of the German soldiers deployed at the airport was harmed. -- Alexander Pearson
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