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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Afghanistan crisis highlights: Protest against Taliban banner turns violent in Jalalabad

Video on social media showed the crowd at the city’s Pashtunistan Square dispersing as the sound of gunshots rang in the background.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 19, 2021 7:36:26 am
Taliban fighters patrol in Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. (AP)

Afghanistan-Taliban crisis:  At least three people were killed and a dozen wounded after shots were fired at the protest against the removal of the Afghan flag by the Taliban in the eastern city of Jalalabad, reported Al Jazeera.

Amid efforts by the Taliban to set up a government, a Taliban commander and senior leader of the Haqqani Network militant group, Anas Haqqani, met former Afghan President Hamid Karzai for talks on Wednesday. According to Reuters, Karzai was accompanied by the old government’s main peace envoy, Abdullah Abdullah, in the meeting, said the Taliban official, who declined to be identified.

Meanwhile, at Kabul airport, the evacuation of diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan on military flights gathered momentum today. However, thousands of Afghans continue to race to the airport and borders to flee the country.

The United States said that the Taliban has agreed to allow “safe passage” from Afghanistan for civilians struggling to join a US-directed airlift after reports emerged of some civilians “being turned away or pushed back or even beaten” as they tried to reach the international airport.

Live Blog

Taliban officials meet former Afghan Prez Karzai for talks; Evacuation of diplomats and civilians from Kabul airport gains momentum; Taliban could be different this time, says Britain's army chief. Read highlights on the Afghan-Taliban crisis here.

06:12 (IST)19 Aug 2021
Were Deployed With ITBP: 3 canines that served nation among those evacuated from Kabul

Three canines deployed with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) returned from Kabul after being airlifted from the country which has been taken over by the Taliban.

The three dogs — Maya, Bobby and Roobi — were brought to the Air Force Station Jamnagar in Gujarat by the IAF C-17 aircraft that evacuated several Indians.

On Wednesday, the dogs reached ITBP’s Chawala Camp to “familiar smells and sounds” after serving the country for three years in Afghanistan. Read more 

06:05 (IST)19 Aug 2021
Opinion: Taliban is not what it was 20 years ago

Regime changes are capricious events, since there are many variables in play. It explains their mystique. The latest one in Afghanistan, third in the past two decades, is no exception.

The Mujahideen takeover in 1992 was a preordained event choreographed by the United Nations, which slipped out of its hands. The 1996 Taliban takeover was like a slow-motion talkie with Ahmad Shah Massoud simply disappearing from Kabul without a fight. Last Sunday’s dramatic developments lead to a sense of deja vu.

However, there are major differences, too — three, in particular. Unlike previous occasions, the Afghan state structures are largely intact, which was highlighted by the Taliban’s dramatic press conference in a grand setting, with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, within 48 hours of their march into Kabul. Read more

05:35 (IST)19 Aug 2021
‘Coordinating with MEA for safe return of 200 Bengal residents stuck in Afghanistan’: Mamata Banerjee

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said her government was coordinating with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to ensure the safe return of 200 people from West Bengal still stranded in Afghanistan.

Banerjee said most of those stuck in Afghanistan were people from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Terai who were working there. 

“The chief secretary will write to the Ministry of External Affairs to bring them back. We must first look after the safety of Indians,” she added. Read more

01:35 (IST)19 Aug 2021
U.S. says it expects Taliban to allow Afghans to evacuate safely

A top U.S. diplomat said on Wednesday the United States expects the Taliban to allow Afghans who wish to leave Afghanistan to depart safely, following reports that the group now in control of the country was blocking airport access.

The evacuation of thousands of U.S. diplomatic personnel and civilians as well as Afghan citizens who worked with the U.S. government has become more difficult since the Taliban seized power over the past week.  (Reuters)

00:56 (IST)19 Aug 2021
Ghani says 'in talks to return': AFP

President Ashraf Ghani during his first adress to the nation after fleeing Afghanistan said he is 'in talks to return' home, news agency AFP reported.

00:11 (IST)19 Aug 2021
Taliban are supporting UK evacuation plans - UK ambassador in Kabul

Britain is working with the Taliban in Kabul on a "tactical, practical level" to evacuate citizens and eligible Afghans, Britain's ambassador to Afghanistan said on Wednesday, adding that the evacuation programme would last days, not weeks.

Western nations are scrambling to get diplomats, civilians and eligible Afghans out of Kabul as the Taliban make their first efforts to set up a government after their lightning sweep into the capital."It is interesting the Taliban have chosen to support this operation," ambassador Laurie Bristow told reporters in a television clip filmed from Kabul. (Reuters)

23:52 (IST)18 Aug 2021
Left Kabul to prevent bloodshed, says Ashraf Ghani in first address since fleeing country

In his first address to the nation after fleeing Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani, speaking from exile in the United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that he had left Kabul to prevent bloodshed and denied reports he took large sums of money with him as he departed the presidential palace.

'If I had stayed, I would be witnessing bloodshed in Kabul,' Ghani said in a video streamed on Facebook, his first public comments since it was confirmed he was in the UAE. He left on the advice of government officials, he added.

Ghani has been bitterly criticised by former ministers for leaving the country suddenly as Taliban forces entered Kabul on Sunday. - Reuters

22:26 (IST)18 Aug 2021
India 'very carefully' following developments in Afghanistan: S Jaishankar

With the Taliban now in control in Kabul, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar today said that New Delhi is "very carefully" following the developments in Afghanistan and India's focus is on ensuring the security and safe return of Indian nationals still in the war-torn country.

Jaishankar, while addressing reporters at the UN Security Council stakeout after chairing an open-debate on peacekeeping under India's current UNSC Presidency, said, "that (situation in Afghanistan) is really what has been very much the focus of my own engagements here, talking to the UN Secretary-General and other colleagues who are here as well as the US Secretary of State."

"At the moment we are, like everybody else, very carefully following developments in Afghanistan. I think our focus is on ensuring the security in Afghanistan and the safe return of Indian nationals who are there," he said in response to a question by PTI.

(Source: Twitter/DrSJaishankar)
21:10 (IST)18 Aug 2021
Why turmoil in Afghanistan is sending ripples through India’s dry fruit market

The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, which carries major political and strategic repercussions for India, will also hit a specific sector of the Indian market — dry fruit trade.

Afghanistan is the only source of jardalu (apricot) and dried fig (anjeer) for India. Traders have warned that if banking channels are not restored soon, Indian markets will feel the absence of these commodities. Click here to read our full report.

20:37 (IST)18 Aug 2021
Top officials brief Joe Biden on Afghanistan

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and top US. Army General Mark Milley are briefing President Joe Biden on Afghanistan at the White House on Wednesday, news agency Reuters reported citing a White House official.

20:11 (IST)18 Aug 2021
Explained: Who is Amrullah Saleh?

Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s vice president since February last year, declared on Tuesday that since President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country and his whereabouts are unknown, he is now the country’s ‘legitimate’ caretaker president. Citing the Afghan constitution, Saleh made the announcement on Twitter, in which he said he was “reaching out to all leaders to secure their support & consensus.”

A follower of the slain Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, Saleh has said he will “never be under one ceiling with Taliban.” The vice president has for years been critical of Pakistan, and in recent tweets has denounced “Pak backed oppression & brutal dictatorship”. Click here to read more about him.

19:38 (IST)18 Aug 2021
UAE says Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is in the country

The United Arab Emirates says it has accepted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his family for "humanitarian considerations".    Ghani fled Afghanistan just as the Taliban approached Kabul.

The statement carried by the UAE's state-run WAM news agency on Wednesday did not say where Ghani was in the country. It quoted the country's Foreign Ministry in a one-sentence statement.

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. (File/Pete Marovich/The New York Times)
18:36 (IST)18 Aug 2021
About 5,000 evacuated from Kabul in last 24 hours

About 5,000 diplomats, security staff, aid workers and Afghans have been evacuated from the capital Kabul in the last 24 hours, a Western official told Reuters on Wednesday. The evacuations by military flights will continue around the clock, he said, adding that clearing the chaos outside the airport was a challenge.

18:16 (IST)18 Aug 2021
Armed men going door-to-door in Kabul, residents say

In Kabul, groups of Taliban fighters carrying long guns patrolled a well-to-do neighborhood that is home to many embassies as well as mansions of the Afghan elite on Wednesday. According to the Associated Press, residents say groups of armed men have been going door to door inquiring about Afghans who worked with the Americans or the deposed government. It is unclear if the gunmen are Taliban or criminals posing as militants.

Taliban fighters patrol in Wazir Akbar Khan in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. (AP)
18:10 (IST)18 Aug 2021
'Actions not words count': UK PM Johnson tells the Taliban

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Taliban would be judged on their actions, not their words, after they sought to convince the world they would not seek revenge after seizing Afghanistan.

While addressing parliament, which was recalled from its summer break to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, Johnson ruled out any resumption of military action in the country and instead called on the United Nations to lead a humanitarian effort.

"We will judge this regime based on the choices it makes, and by its actions rather than by its words, on its attitude to terrorism, to crime and narcotics, as well as humanitarian access, and the rights of girls to receive an education," Johnson was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Boris Johnson during the debate on the situation in Afghanistan inside parliament in London. (AP)
17:44 (IST)18 Aug 2021
Opposition figures gather in Panjshir Valley 

Meanwhile, videos from the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, a stronghold of the Northern Alliance militias that allied with the US against the Taliban in 2001, appear to show potential opposition figures gathering there. According to the Associated Press, it is the only province that hasn't yet fallen to the Taliban.

Those figures include members of the deposed government — Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who asserted on Twitter that he is the country’s rightful president and Defense Minister Gen. Bismillah Mohammadi — as well as Ahmad Massoud, the son of the slain Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. It's unclear if they intend to challenge to the Taliban, who seized most of the country in a matter of days last week.

17:43 (IST)18 Aug 2021
More details on Jalalabad protest

Dozens of people gathered in the eastern city of Jalalabad to raise the national flag a day before Afghanistan's Independence Day, which commemorates the end of British rule in 1919. They lowered the Taliban flag — a white banner with an Islamic inscription — that the militants have raised in the areas they captured.

Video footage later showed the Taliban firing into the air and attacking people with batons to disperse the crowd. Babrak Amirzada, a reporter for a local news agency, said he and a TV cameraman from another agency were beaten by the Taliban as they tried to cover the unrest. (AP)

17:02 (IST)18 Aug 2021
Afghan central bank says 9 billion in reserves abroad  

Afghanistan's central bank governor says that the country has some $9 billion in reserves abroad and not in physical cash inside the country. Ajmal Ahmady, the head of Afghanistan’s Central Bank, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that the majority of that — some $7 billion — is being held in US Federal Reserve bonds, assets, and gold.

Ahmady says Afghanistan’s holding of physical US dollars “is close to zero” as the country did not receive a planned cash shipment amid the Taliban offensive that swept the country last week. “The next shipment never arrived,” he wrote. “Seems like our partners had good intelligence as to what was going to happen.”

16:49 (IST)18 Aug 2021
Afghan embassy in Tajikistan asks Interpol to detain Ashraf Ghani

The Afghan embassy in Tajikistan has asked Interpol to detain Ashraf Ghani, Hamdallah Mohib and Fazal Mahmood Fazli on charges of stealing public wealth, TOLO news reported citing sources.

16:47 (IST)18 Aug 2021
Protest over removal of Afghan flag in Jalalabad, 2 dead: report

At least two people were killed and a dozen wounded during a shoot-out in Jalalabad. According to Al Jazeera, a 'fairly sizable part' of Jalalabad’s residents were resisting the replacement of Afghanistan’s national flag in the city by the Taliban banner.

People try to get into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. (Reuters)

Didn’t expect things to unravel so fast, says doctor who spent 16 years in Kabul

For a doctor who has lived and worked in Kabul for the past 16 years and calls the city his second home, the last few days were a rude shock. “We were in panic mode,” he said hours after landing in Delhi. “In all these years, I have not seen so much confusion."

He was among a few civilians who were evacuated from Afghanistan along with ITBP personnel and officials of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan on Tuesday. The return to Delhi was an “emotional” one, he said. The doctor, who has trained Afghans in emergency medical aid, plans on returning to the country once the situation normalises.

Human remains found in landing gear of military flight from Kabul, says US Air Force

The US Air Force has said that its Office of Special Investigations is reviewing an incident at the Kabul airport on Monday in which multiple people were killed when hundreds of Afghan civilians desperate to leave the country swarmed a C-17 cargo plane as it was attempting to take off.

The Air Force did not say how many people died. It said human remains were found in the plane’s wheel well after it landed at al-Udeid Air Base in the Gulf state of Qatar.

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