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Friday, September 24, 2021

Afghanistan crisis Highlights: US troops killed two ‘armed individuals’ at Kabul airport, Pentagon says

Afghanistan crisis Live Updates: Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden will return to the White House today to address the nation on the US evacuation from Afghanistan. His address will come a day after the Taliban took control of the country.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 17, 2021 8:51:51 am
People try to get into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. (Reuters)

Afghanistan crisis Highlights: The Pentagon has said two “armed individuals”, who may not be Taliban members, were shot by US troops in Kabul. One soldier is wounded. Before this, at least seven people were killed at Kabul airport as hundreds tried to forcibly enter planes leaving the Afghan capital, witnesses told Reuters.

In Kabul, a tense calm set in, with most people hiding in their homes as the Taliban deployed fighters at major intersections. There were scattered reports of looting and armed men knocking on doors and gates, and there was less traffic than usual on eerily quiet streets. Taliban fighters were seen searching vehicles at one of the city’s main squares.

Meanwhile, India said it is in touch with representatives of Afghan Sikh, Hindu communities. “We’ll facilitate repatriation to India of those who wishes to leave Afghanistan,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said during a briefing.

Afghanistan crisis |liveFollow Live Updates here

Kabul, the ultimate prize in every Afghanistan war, fell to the Taliban on Sunday, completing their takeover of the country in a lightning offensive that saw provinces and warlords give up without a fight, days after the hasty withdrawal of the US troops.

Live Blog

Hundreds gather at Kabul airport as Taliban take over Afghanistan; Ashraf Ghani says he left country to avoid bloodshed; diplomats, Afghans also flee to airport; thousands displaced amid the harsh offensive. Follow this space for the latest updates.

23:24 (IST)16 Aug 2021
Satellite images show crowds on Kabul airport tarmac

As thousands make frenzied attempts to fly out of Afghanistan, satellite images show people crowded on the tarmac of the Kabul airport.

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22:35 (IST)16 Aug 2021
Taliban take over Afghanistan: What has happened so far and what is next

The Taliban has seized power in Afghanistan two weeks before the United States was set to complete its troop withdrawal, after a costly two-decade war. On Sunday, Kabul fell to the Taliban, completing their takeover of the country in a quick offensive that saw provinces and warlords give up without a fight. Here's a look at what exactly happened and what comes next.

Taliban fighters stand guard at the main gate leading to the Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. (AP)
22:27 (IST)16 Aug 2021
We cannot abandon the people of Afghanistan: UN chief

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the Security Council on Monday to "use all tools at its disposal to suppress the global terrorist threat in Afghanistan" and guarantee that basic human rights will be respected. "We are receiving chilling reports of severe restrictions on human rights throughout the country. I am particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan," he told the 15-member council. "We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan," he said. (Reuters)

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
22:07 (IST)16 Aug 2021
How the rise of Taliban has put Tajikistan in a spot

As scenes emerge of civilians desperately trying to leave Afghanistan, many will likely seek refuge in neighbouring Tajikistan. Already, reports indicate that approximately 1,600 Afghan soldiers have fled to Tajikistan in the last week. On Monday morning, several media outlets stated that former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was amongst them. However, Tajikistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied that claim and later reports claimed he was in Uzbekistan. As the situation unfolds, Tajikistan will not only have to contend with an onslaught of refugees but also with security concerns ranging from the export of terrorism to the increase of cross-border drug smuggling. Read our explainer to know more.

21:40 (IST)16 Aug 2021
US troops killed two armed individuals at Kabul airport, 1 soldier injured: Pentagon

The Pentagon has confirmed that US forces shot and killed two individuals it said were "armed" at the Kabul airport on Monday, adding that one American soldier was also injured. It also said that the US military is sending another battalion of about 1000 troops to help safeguard the airport.

21:18 (IST)16 Aug 2021
Da Afghanistan Bank chief on collapse of Afghan army

In a series of tweets, Da Afghanistan Bank chief Ajmal Ahmady shares how the government in Afghanistan collapsed in a week.

21:06 (IST)16 Aug 2021
We assure secure environment to all diplomats, embassies: Taliban

"We assure all diplomats, embassies, consulates, and charitable workers, whether they are international or national that not only no problem will be created for them on the part of IEA but a secure environment will be provided to them, Inshallah," the Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in a tweet.

20:54 (IST)16 Aug 2021
Joe Biden to address Americans on chaos in Afghanistan

President Joe Biden will return to the White House today to address the nation on the US evacuation from Afghanistan. His address will come a day after the Taliban took control of the country.

The White House says Biden will travel back to Washington from the Camp David presidential retreat to speak at 3:45 Monday afternoon from the East Room. It will be his first public remark on the Afghanistan situation in nearly a week.

US President Joe Biden. (File)
20:24 (IST)16 Aug 2021
Update: Death toll at Kabul airport rises to 7

Thousands of Afghans rushed onto the tarmac of Kabul's international airport Monday, so desperate to escape the Taliban capture of their country that they held onto an American military jet as it took off and plunged to death in chaos that killed at least seven people, the Associated Press reported citing US officials.

19:58 (IST)16 Aug 2021
US tells Taliban not to hinder Kabul evacuation

A US defence official says the head of Central Command has met face-to-face with senior Taliban leaders to urge their fighters not to interfere with the US military's evacuation operations at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.

The official said that in the meeting on Sunday in Doha, Qatar, General Frank McKenzie won Taliban agreement to establish a "deconfliction mechanism" - an arrangement by which evacuation operations at the airport can continue without interference by the new rulers of the country. 

According to AP, the official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive talks not yet announced publicly. 

Taliban fighters stand guard at the main gate leading to the Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. (AP)
19:55 (IST)16 Aug 2021
Will take all steps for safety of Indians and India’s interests: MEA

In its first reaction to the unfolding developments in Afghanistan, India on Monday said it is constantly monitoring the situation and will take all steps to ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals as well as its interests in that country.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India is also in touch with representatives of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan and will facilitate the repatriation of those who wish to leave that country. Read the full report here.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi. (Video screengrab)
19:06 (IST)16 Aug 2021
In touch with representatives of Afghan Sikh, Hindu communities: MEA

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi today said that the situation in Kabul has "deteriorated significantly" in the last few days. "We've been issuing periodic advisories for the safety and security of Indian nationals, including calling for their immediate return to India," he said during a media briefing. "We are in touch with representatives of Afghan Sikh, Hindu communities...will facilitate those who want to leave Afghanistan" he added.

18:46 (IST)16 Aug 2021
UK Parliament recalled over Afghan crisis 

The UK Parliament, currently on its summer recess, has been recalled for a day on Wednesday to debate the British government's response to the crisis in Afghanistan after the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government and seized control of Kabul. 

According to PTI, the Speaker of the House of Commons granted a request from the government to recall the House of Commons at 9.30 am on Wednesday, August 18, in relation to the situation in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened another emergency Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBRA) meeting on Monday to take stock of the crisis in the region.

18:37 (IST)16 Aug 2021
Outside Afghanistan embassy in Delhi- fear and uncertainty

Sadaf Habeeb, a 22-year-old from Kabul, was outside the Embassy of Afghanistan in Delhi today, hoping for some clarity on the possibility of help for her family members back home, and for someone to allay the uncertainty she has been feeling over her status in India now that the Taliban has established control over her country.

Officials at the embassy were non-committal and seemed unsure of what was coming next themselves, said Sadaf, who made the visit with her mother. She is frightened, she said, for her grandparents, uncles and friends who are in Kabul. “Having fled with my parents from Taliban attacks five years ago, we know what they can do,” Sadaf said. Read our full report here.

Outside the Afghan embassy in New Delhi.
18:19 (IST)16 Aug 2021
Afghans have broken ‘shackles of slavery’: Imran Khan

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday seemed to endorse the Taliban taking over Kabul by saying that Afghanistan has broken the “shackles of slavery” in the neighbouring war-torn country. Khan said becoming a mental slave was worse than being an actual slave, adding that subjugated minds can never make big decisions. Read the full report here.

17:50 (IST)16 Aug 2021
US temporarily pauses Kabul evacuations flights to clear airfield

The United States has temporarily halted all evacuation flights from Kabul to clear people who had converged on the airfield, a US defense official told Reuters today. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, did not say how long the pause would last.

17:41 (IST)16 Aug 2021
Afghan military plane crashes in Uzbekistan: report

An Afghan military plane has crashed in Uzbekistan, news agency AFP is reporting. More details are awaited.

17:27 (IST)16 Aug 2021
Tense calm set in Kabul

In the capital, a tense calm set in, with most people hiding in their homes as the Taliban deployed fighters at major intersections. 
According to the Associated Press, there were scattered reports of looting and armed men knocking on doors and gates, and there was less traffic than usual on eerily quiet streets of Kabul. Fighters were seen searching vehicles at one of the city's main squares.

Many fear chaos, after the Taliban freed thousands of prisoners and the police simply melted away, or a return to the kind of brutal rule the Taliban imposed when it was last in power. 

Taliban fighters in Kabul on Monday. (AP)
16:56 (IST)16 Aug 2021
Russia says Ashraf Ghani fled with cars and helicopter full of cash

Russia's embassy in Kabul said on Monday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in, the RIA news agency reported. Ghani, whose current whereabouts are unknown, said he left Afghanistan on Sunday as the Taliban entered Kabul virtually unopposed. 

“Four cars were full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac.” Nikita Ishchenko, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Kabul, was quoted as saying by RIA.

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
16:48 (IST)16 Aug 2021
Iran calls for stability in Afghanistan

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called for national reconciliation in neighbouring Afghanistan on Monday. The official IRNA news agency quoted Raisi as saying Iran will support efforts to restore stability in Afghanistan as a first priority. He called Iran "a brother and neighbouring nation" to Afghanistan. According to AP, He also described the rapid pullout by America as a "military failure" that should "turn into an opportunity for restoring life, security and stable peace".

In less than eight weeks, the hardliners have swept through the country taking all the major cities including Mazar-i-Sharif, Logar province, Kandahar, Herat among others. The takeover of cities in the last 24 hours has been virtually unopposed. As Taliban fighters entered Mazar-i-Sharif on Saturday, government security forces escaped to neighbouring Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, thousands of civilians have streamed into Kabul, fleeing from the Taliban controlled areas. Hundreds of people have been displaced and are now staying homeless in the capital. Overcrowded tents and open areas with a lack of food and other amenities has become a common sight in the city.

Taliban sweep hits hopes, dreams of young Afghans studying in India

As Taliban tear through Afghanistan making seemingly inexorable advances, youngsters from the country residing in India are living with constant anxiety over the violence exploding back home.

Hundred of youngsters currently reside across India as students under India’s aid of human resource development and capacity building to Afghanistan. As part of this programme, India offers 1,000 educational scholarships to Afghan nationals each year with a 100 per cent utilisation in most years.

Farhad Haqyar, 25, has been here on a scholarship for the past two years now. He says he has renewed fears for his family in Kabul as Taliban inch closer to the Afghan capital. Hailing from a small province in Afghanistan, his family had shifted to Kabul a few years back for his father to easily work in the security wing of the Afghan government.


Mazar falls, hundreds throng Kabul passport office, waiting for passage out of Afghanistan

Karte Seh in west Kabul is home to the middle class, a dusty neighbourhood which has been mostly quiet since the mid-1990s when Mujahideen outfits, vying for control of the city, fought pitched battles in its lanes and streets.

But on Saturday, hours before the key northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif fell to the Taliban, Karte Seh was a beehive of activity, its peace shattered by Toyotas, some gleaming, most rickety, packing its roads. People came in droves, all headed to one building in the neighbourhood: Kabul’s main passport office.

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