G7 to Convene; Evacuation Flights Continue: Afghanistan Update
(Bloomberg) -- The Pentagon will ask commercial U.S. air carriers to help in the evacuation of U.S. citizens and others from Afghanistan by providing a total of 18 planes, confirming a move first reported Saturday.
Another 7,800 people were evacuated by the U.S. and its partners in the latest day, even as Kabul’s airport remained chaotic. Seven Afghan civilians were reportedly killed in a stampede.
U.S. President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders plan to meet virtually on Tuesday, a gathering convened by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a blistering criticism of what he called Afghanistan’s “abandonment.”
Potential threats to Americans in Afghanistan are forcing the U.S. military to get creative on ways to ferry evacuees to Kabul airport. President Joe Biden and his national security team on Saturday discussed security risks in Afghanistan, including a branch of Islamic State active in the region, a White House official said.
Senior Taliban leaders, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, are in Kabul to take control.
Key stories and developments:
- Taliban Rattles Gulf States Desperate to Keep Extremists at Bay
- U.S. Sees ‘Acute’ ISIS Threat at Kabul Airport, Biden Aide Says
- China’s Warm Welcome for Taliban Sparks Backlash at Home
- Here Are the Shadowy Taliban Leaders Now Running Afghanistan
- Biden Assured Allies in June U.S. Would Ensure Kabul’s Stability
- Why Taliban Triumph Revives Fear of al-Qaeda Revival: QuickTake
- What Will the Taliban Do to a $22 Billion Economy?: Editorial
- World Must Show Afghan Girls They Aren’t Forgotten: Editorial
U.S., Partners Fly Another 7,800 Out of Kabul (11:37 ET)
The U.S. and its partners flew another 7,800 people out of Kabul in the 24 hours through 3 a.m. EDT on Sunday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on CNN.
The U.S. military evacuated about 3,900 people, Sullivan said. A White House official said the military flew 23 flights (14 C-17s, 9 C-130s) to make those evacuations. Sullivan said coalition aircraft operated by partners, foreign military, and commercial
airlines flew out another 3,900 more.
“They are moving out to multiple different bases in multiple different countries. And that will continue as this operation unfolds,” Sullivan said.
Johnson Convenes G7 for ‘Urgent Talks’ (10:15 ET)
Boris Johnson said he’ll convene G7 leaders on Tuesday for “urgent talks” on Afghanistan, according to a Twitter post.
“It is vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years,” Johnson said.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Biden’s attendance in a brief statement, and said the virtual gathering would build on calls made over the past week.
“The leaders will discuss continuing our close coordination on Afghanistan policy and evacuating our citizens” as well as plans to provide humanitarian assistance and support for Afghan refugees, she said. -- Colin Keatinge
Pentagon Drafts U.S. Airlines Into Evacuee Program (8:00 a.m. ET)
The U.S. military told U.S. airlines to provide a total of 18 planes to aid in the Afghanistan evacuation effort, saying the extra capacity will help military aircraft focus on operations in and out of Kabul.
Activation of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program involves four planes from United Airlines, three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air, and two from Hawaiian Airlines, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
The aircraft won’t fly into the Kabul. They’ll be used for onward movement of passengers from temporary safe havens and interim staging bases, Kirby said. The Pentagon doesn’t anticipate a major impact on commercial flights.
U.S. carriers were told Friday night of the possible activation of the reserve fleet, a program in which airlines commit planes to be available for military airlifts in an emergency. Similar activations were made during Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-91, and for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002-03. -- Tony Czuczka
Spain’s PM, Biden Agree on Military Base Use (3:36 ET)
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and President Joe Biden agreed on the use of military bases at Moron and Rota in the south of Spain to to receive Afghans who have worked for the U.S. while their travel to other countries is arranged.
The two leaders spoke by phone last night, the Spanish government said in a statement Sunday. There’s been no readout from the White House so far. -- Charles Penty
Tony Blair Laments Afghan “Abandonment” (5:30 a.m. ET)
“The abandonment of Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests and not in ours,” Tony Blair wrote on the website of his eponymous Institute for Global Change.
Blair was U.K. prime minister when the U.S. invaded in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. to remove the Taliban from power, and committed British troops to the coalition effort.
Leaving Afghanistan was a move made “in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars,’” Blair wrote.
At stake now, Blair said, are “gains in living standards, education particularly of girls, gains in freedom,”
The progress of the past 20 years, Blair said, fell short of earlier hopes but were “not nothing. Something worth defending, worth protecting.” -- Ros Krasny
Austria’s Leader Says He Won’t Take Refugees (4:30 a.m. ET)
Austria won’t accept Afghan asylum seekers and will instead focus on assisting them locally, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said, according to excerpts of an interview published by broadcaster Puls 24.
The ruling People’s Party has taken a hard line on immigration amid international calls to help Afghans at risk of persecution after the U.S. troop withdrawal. Kurz said Austria had already made a disproportionately high contribution, with more than 40,000 Afghans accepted in the past. The nation’s responsibility lies with helping improving security and women’s rights locally, he said. -- Marton Eder
Swiss Summit (4 a.m. ET)
Switzerland’s government is examining the possibility of hosting a summit on Afghanistan on Swiss soil, the Neue Zuercher Zeitung newspaper reported, citing unidentified sources. The government is evaluating its contribution to solving the crisis, and possibilities include a donor conference to negotiate humanitarian aid, creating a humanitarian corridor out of Afghanistan, or hosting diplomatic talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s former government, the paper reported. -- Marion Halftermeyer
France Urges Coordination (3 a.m. ET)
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged the U.S. to do more to facilitate evacuations from Kabul and improve coordination with allies. In an interview with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, Le Drian said he and “many” fellow foreign ministers have asked the U.S. to “take its responsibilities” to allow the airlifting of French nationals and Afghans who have either worked for France or are under Taliban threat.
The minister stressed that American coordination with allies must be more efficient and stronger. He said ongoing operations in Kabul should continue for “as long as needed.”
While Le Drian repeated that France has no plans to recognize the Taliban government, he said the G-7 and NATO should discuss Afghanistan with Russia, Iran and China. -- Samy Adghirni
IMF Evacuates Employees (9:53 p.m. ET)
Local employees of the International Monetary Fund were successfully evacuated from Afghanistan on Saturday, according to a spokesman for the fund. Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva took to Twitter to thank Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki for assisting in the airlifting of IMF staff, without elaborating. The news came a day after the World Bank said in an internal staff memo that its staff and their immediate families were moved safely to Islamabad, Pakistan.
The safety and security of staff in Afghanistan has been a particular focus for the IMF since 2014, when the nation’s senior official for the nation and four United Nations workers were among 21 people killed in a suicide bomb attack in Kabul.
The IMF said on Wednesday that the new government in Afghanistan is cut off from using fund reserve assets because it lacks international recognition. The announcement came days before the nation was set to receive almost $500 million, depriving the Taliban of key resources. -- Eric Martin
Austin Pledges to Get Americans, Allies Out (8:27 p.m ET)
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said American troops will make sure the Kabul airfield remains secure and safe as evacuations continue.
“We’re going to look at every way, every means possible to get Americans citizens, third-country nationals, special immigrant visas applicants into the airfield,” Austin said in an excerpt of an interview with ABC News that will be aired Sunday.
Biden Discusses Terrorism With Key Advisers (2:55 p.m. ET)
U.S. President Joe Biden and his national security team discussed counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, including the group known as ISIS-K, during a meeting on Saturday, a White House official said.
The group also discussed the airlift of U.S. citizens, Afghans who have applied for special visas and vulnerable Afghans out of Kabul, including efforts to set up additional third-country transit hubs for the flights, according to the official.
ISIS-K is short for Islamic State Khorasan, an Islamic militant group blamed for attacks on civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan and clashes with U.S., Afghan, and Pakistani security forces.
Canada Evacuated Another 106 Afghans on Friday (2:45 p.m. ET)
The flight, Canada’s second out of Kabul, also contained an undisclosed number of foreign nationals, senior government officials said during a press briefing.
Canada will continue its evacuation efforts as long as possible, the officials said, adding that the situation is “chaotic.” Canada’s first flight out of the city was on Thursday, carrying 175 Afghans and 13 foreign nationals.
Possible Islamic State Threat to Evacuees (1:11 p.m. ET)
A senior U.S. official said potential threats by the Islamic State group against Americans are forcing the U.S. military to find new ways for evacuees to reach the Kabul airport, the Associated Press reported.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.
Small groups of Americans and possibly other civilians will be given specific instructions on what to do, including movement to transit points where they can be gathered up by the military, the official said.
The comment may explain the U.S. embassy’s security alert earlier on “potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport.”
Turkey’s Erdogan, Putin Agree on Coordinating Ties With Taliban (12:49 p.m. ET)
Turkey and Russia agreed to coordinate relations with the new government that will be formed in Afghanistan, according to the Turkish president’s office.
The agreement was reached during a phone call between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, Erdogan’s office said.
Bilateral talks are going on everywhere. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also spoke to Erdogan on Saturday, Reuters reported.
France’s Emmanuel Macron spoke Friday with Dutch PM Mark Rutte, according to an Elysee official. They discussed the need to “concretely ensure solidarity between allies in order to evacuate European nationals and Afghans who have worked for the allies.” -- Seclan Hacaoglu and Samy Adghirini
U.S. Says Some Beaten Trying to Leave Kabul (12:05 p.m. ET)
U.S. military aircraft and charters airlifted another 3,800 people from Kabul in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total to some 17,000 since the operation began on Aug. 14, Major General William Taylor told reporters at the Pentagon on Saturday.
While the U.S. Embassy issued an alert about “potential security threats” outside the gates of Kabul’s airport, Taylor said there’s “no reported change” there at this time.
Still, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. may look at additional ways to secure the exit of Americans from Kabul.
“If there’s a need to do something different than what we are already doing to facilitate them getting into the airport, then we’ll certainly consider those options,” he said.
There’s been “a small number of cases” of Americans, as well as Afghans whom the U.S. wants to evacuate, being “harassed and in some cases beaten,” Kirby said. He said Rear Admiral Peter Vasely, the top U.S. commander in Kabul, has made it clear to Taliban commanders that such incidents as “unacceptable.”
“We have certainly made our concerns known,” Kirby said. “Not every Taliban fighter either got the word or decided to obey the word.” -- Tony Czuczka
Taliban Leaders Arrive in Kabul to Start Forming New Government (10 a.m. ET)
Commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, considered the Taliban’s top political leader, is likely to delegate people to form a new government over the next few days, according to reports.
Baradar is the main public face of the Taliban who will likely head the next government. He signed the peace accord between the Islamist group and the Trump administration in Doha in February 2020. Baradar returned this week, landing first in Kandahar in Afghanistan’s south, on a Qatari Air Force jet.
That deal between U.S. and Taliban officials that aimed to wind down the war in Afghanistan is seen as a key point on the timeline that eventually led to the fall of President Ashraf Ghani’s government.
Baradar is now in the Afghan capital to consult on what type of government will be in Kabul, Taliban official Zabihullah Mujahid told the Washington Post.
Another Taliban official told AFP that Baradar would meet with jihadi leaders and politicians, aiming at an “inclusive government set-up.”
He’s expected to meet with a range of stake-holders, including former government leaders, local militia commanders, policy makers and religious scholars.
The Taliban is targeting to unveil a new governing framework for Afghanistan in the next few weeks, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed spokesman for the group. -- Ros Krasny
Pressure Grows to Extend Biden’s Aug. 31 Deadline (11:40 a.m. ET)
Pressure is growing on Biden to extend his Aug. 31 deadline to pull out troops from Afghanistan.
Some NATO allies want the U.S. to remain at the Kabul airport until as many Afghan allies as possible are able to exit the country, said North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“The limiting factor is to get people into the airport,” Stoltenberg said, demanding that the Taliban let people pass. -- Katharina Rosskopf
Taliban Kill Nine Afghans, Amnesty Says (1:30 p.m. HK)
Amnesty International said it has received witness reports that Taliban fighters in July massacred nine ethnic Hazara men in southeastern Ghazni after taking control of the province.
The group warned the killings represent a small proportion of the total death toll inflicted by the Taliban, as the group cuts mobile phone service in many areas recently captured, trying to slow or stop information from leaking out.
“These targeted killings are proof that ethnic and religious minorities remain at particular risk under Taliban rule in Afghanistan,” Agnés Callamard, the organization’s secretary general, said in the statement. -- Eltaf Najafizada
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