Taliban Condemn U.S. Drone Strike: Afghanistan Update

A demonstrator holds a Afghan flag while marching during a 'Save Afghan Lives' rally near the United Nations (UN) headquarters. (Photographer: Erin Lefevre/Bloomberg)

Taliban Condemn U.S. Drone Strike: Afghanistan Update

U.S. President Joe Biden has been briefed on a rocket attack at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday morning, according to a press statement from the White House.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chief of Staff Ron Klain informed the president “that operations continue uninterrupted at HKIA, and has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritize doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground,” the statement said. 

The rocket attack comes a day after a U.S. drone blew up a vehicle heading for Kabul airport that officials say was carrying several suicide bombers, according to U.S. Central Command, which said it’s still assessing results of the strike following reports of civilian casualties.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday there was still “serious danger” in Kabul, where a suicide bomber last week killed at least 169 people. Biden honored U.S. service members who died in the attack, attending the return of their remains to a military base in the U.S.

The U.S. is expected to wrap its military and civilian evacuations and withdraw the last of its troops by Tuesday.

Key stories and developments:

  • Biden Honors U.S. Troops Killed in Kabul as Remains Return Home
  • Biden Aide Signals More U.S. Strikes on ISIS After Kabul Bombing
  • Biden’s Rushed Afghan Exit Adds Strains to U.S.-Pakistan Ties
  • U.S. Embassy Advises Americans to Leave Kabul Airport Area
  • How Bombing in Kabul Stokes Fear of Jihadi Revival: QuickTake
  • Imperial Fantasies Fueled the Afghan Tragedy: Opinion
  • The Kabul Attack and China’s Prosperity Drive: Weekend Reads

All items are in Eastern Time:

Taliban Condemn U.S. Drone Strike (2:50 a.m.)

The Taliban condemned a U.S. drone strike on Sunday that destroyed a vehicle with explosives, which Taliban’s Karimi said killed several Afghans who were members of the same family.

The U.S. should have contacted the Taliban to take action, he said, adding that the “arbitrary attacks” caused civilian casualties. “We never let anyone to carry out their any airstrikes or operation in our soil,” Karimi said. “That’s totally illegal.” The comments highlight the challenges of America conducting any “over-the-horizon” attacks in Afghanistan. -- Eltaf Najafizada

Talks Between Key Players Sought, Germany Says (2:40 a.m.)

Efforts are being made to arrange formal talks on Afghanistan among all the key international players, and it’s important that Russia and China are included, according to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Negotiations are ongoing in the United Nations Security Council on a resolution and it’s not clear yet whether Moscow and Beijing are prepared to accept that, Maas told reporters after talks with his Uzbek counterpart in Tashkent. Diplomats are also trying to gather Afghanistan’s neighbors around one table to coordinate planning, he added. -- Iain Rogers

Rockets Fired in Kabul, Details Awaited (12:05 a.m.)

At least five rockets were fired in Kabul on Monday morning, Reuters reported, citing an unidentified U.S. official, adding that they were shot in the direction of Kabul’s international airport. U.S. Anti-Missile systems intercepted the rockets, the report added.

Several rockets landed in various areas of Kabul, including the airport, said Bilal Karimi, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission. “The rockets were being fired from a vehicle in Kabul,” he said, adding that the group was investigating the attacks. 

Karimi also condemned Sunday’s U.S. drone attack, which he said killed several Afghans, all members of the same family. “If there was any potential threat, they should have reported to us and we would then take actions. Their arbitrary attacks have also caused civilian casualties.” -- Eltaf Najafizada

China Prods U.S. on Afghanistan (9:24 p.m.)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday urged the U.S. to work with the international community to provide economic assistance to the new Afghan government, and stressed the importance of both sides actively guiding the Taliban as the American military prepares to withdraw after two decades. Wang added the war had failed to accomplish its goal of rooting out terrorism in the nation, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The State Department said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the call with Wang stressed “the importance of the international community holding the Taliban accountable for the public commitments they have made regarding the safe passage and freedom to travel for Afghans and foreign nationals.” -- Philip Glaman

U.S. Investigating After Reports of Civilian Casualties (7:25 p.m.)

The U.S. Central Command said it’s still assessing results of the strike following reports of civilian casualties. 

The strike led to “substantial and powerful subsequent explosions” from the vehicle, indicating it had a large amount of explosives, which may have led to casualties, it said.   

“It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further,” it said in a statement. “We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”

U.K.-French Resolution Seeks Safe Passage (7:15 p.m.)

Taliban Condemn U.S. Drone Strike: Afghanistan Update

The U.K. and France have circulated a resolution to United Nations Security Council members that calls for creating safe passage for people who want to leave Afghanistan, according to diplomats familiar with the wording. The Western allies are seeking approval of the draft by the 15-member Security Council as soon as Monday. 

U.K. to Focus on Terrorist Threat in NATO Meeting (5:30 p.m.)

The U.K. will use Monday’s U.S.-hosted meeting to push priorities including how to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for terrorists and holding the Taliban to account on human rights, according to people familiar with the matter.

The U.K. wants the Taliban to allow “safe passage” for Afghans to leave the country and is working with the U.S. and France on a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding the group ensures that happens. The aim is for the resolution, which also includes demands to enable safe access for humanitarian workers in Afghanistan, to be adopted early this week, according to the people.

The U.S. to Host Meeting on Monday (5:25 p.m.)

The U.S. will host a virtual ministerial meeting on Monday with partners including NATO, the European Union, Turkey and Qatar to discuss a common approach regarding the situation in Afghanistan. 

Macron Urges ‘Operational’ Talks With Taliban (2:30 p.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron said the situation in Afghanistan required “operational” discussion between the international community and the Taliban, so as to protect people on the ground.

That, he said during an interview with TF1 TV during a trip to Mosul, Iraq, doesn’t mean acknowledging the regime, which is conditioned to respecting women’s dignity and not building alliances with terrorist groups.

Macron confirmed that France, the U.K. and Germany will propose the creation of a secured zone in Kabul where at-risk Afghans can stay before being evacuated. Details will be announced Monday. -- Geraldine Amiel & Ania Nussbaum.

Turkey Says It Has No Room for More Refugees (12:15 p.m)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey has fulfilled its moral and humanitarian responsibilities on migration but the country has no room for more refugees. 

Cavusoglu was speaking in a joint press conference in the southern city of Antalya with his German counterpart Heiko Maas. Turkey already has about 6 million refugees, mainly from Syria and Iraq. -- Asli Kandemir

Germany to Back Turkey’s Offer on Airport (11:58 a.m.)

Germany welcomed Turkey’s offer to operate Kabul airport and is ready to provide technical and financial assistance, Maas said on Twitter after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart.

Maas is traveling to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Qatar for talks to continue efforts to stabilize the region and evacuate people in need of protection -- Chris Reiter

U.S. Drone Hits Vehicle Carrying Suicide Bombers (10:45 a.m.)

The U.S. conducted a drone strike on a vehicle heading for Kabul airport that officials say was carrying several suicide bombers. Secondary explosions at the site suggest there was a “substantial amount” of explosive material in the vehicle, according to U.S. Central Command. 

The attack came shortly after U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said there was still “serious danger” in Kabul, where a suicide bomber last week killed at least 88 people. 

Taliban Condemn U.S. Drone Strike: Afghanistan Update

Taliban Make Evacuation Travel Assurances (10:16 a.m.)

The U.S. and more than 90 other countries said they expect the Taliban to honor pledges to allow their citizens and at-risk Afghans who worked with foreign governments to leave Afghanistan freely.

“We will continue issuing travel documentation to designated Afghans, and we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries,” the countries said in a statement released by the State Department in Washington.

Almost 5,500 U.S. citizens, including about 50 in the last day, have been evacuated from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, the day before the Taliban entered Kabul, a State Department spokesperson said. About 250 Americans who say they want to leave Afghanistan remain in the country, according to the spokesperson. -- Tony Czuczka

Taliban Condemn U.S. Drone Strike: Afghanistan Update

Withdrawal Puts U.S. in Greater Danger, Romney Says (9 a.m.)

The pullout from Afghanistan has put the U.S. in greater danger, Senator Mitt Romney said in CNN’s “State of the Union,” blaming the current and previous administrations for the move. 

Not having a presence means losing on-the-ground intelligence and a buffer to prevent terror groups from regrouping and planning attacks on the U.S., he said. 

“This did not have to happen,” he said. “We are in a much more dangerous position.” -- Linus Chua

Russian Minister Sees Drugs and Weapons as Main Risks (9:30 a.m.)

Drugs and weapons are the main risks emanating from Afghanistan, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in an interview on Rossiya-1 TV on Sunday. Russia is continuing to analyze the threats and risks from Afghanistan that “we are already seeing today.” -- Alexander Sazonov

Germany Could Tighten Border Controls (6:37 a.m.)

Germany is closely monitoring refugee movements out of Afghanistan and other countries in the region and will tighten border controls if needed, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“We will do everything to prevent an uncontrolled flow of migrants to Europe,” he said. “Not everyone who wants to can come.”

Seven Afghans evacuated by Germany’s military were detained, some with forged papers or criminal records, Seehofer said. -- Chris Reiter 

Last French Evacuation Plane to Arrive (5 a.m.)

The last French plane to evacuate citizens as well as at-risk Afghans will land in Paris around 16:30CET, the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement. Aboard the Airbus A400M is Ambassador David Martinon, who organized the evacuation of French personnel as well as Afghans who worked for France since May.

France has extracted 2,834 people, including more than 2,600 Afghans, since Aug. 17, through airlift rotations via its military base in the United Arab Emirates. Paris is in discussions with the Taliban and Qatar to keep evacuation operations after the U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday during a press conference in Baghdad. -- Geraldine Amiel

Taliban Condemn U.S. Drone Strike: Afghanistan Update

Flight Carrying Last U.K. Military Returns Home (4:17 a.m.)

The last flight from Kabul carrying U.K. military and diplomatic personnel landed Sunday at an air-force base in Oxfordshire, ending the U.K.’s two-decade military campaign in Afghanistan. More than 1,000 troops, diplomats and officials were dispatched to rescue British citizens after the Taliban takeover.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a video statement on Twitter it was “the culmination of a mission unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes” and that the U.K. “would not have wished to leave in this way.” -- Thomas Buckley

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