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Afghanistan crisis: Joe Biden says Taliban now in ‘existential crisis’; Afghans plead for faster evacuation; and more

Here are today's top developments from Afghanistan, which is facing a humanitarian crisis following the dramatic takeover of the country by the Taliban insurgents.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 19, 2021 9:34:40 pm
Taliban fighters patrol in Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. (AP)

Afghan protesters defied the Taliban for a second day on Thursday, waving their national flag in scattered demonstrations that were met with renewed violence by the insurgents.

According to the news agency Associated Press (AP), a procession of cars and people near Kabul’s airport carried long black, red, and green banners in honor of the Afghan flag — a banner that is becoming a symbol of defiance against the Taliban’s flag.

In Nangarhar province, a video posted online showed one demonstrator with a gunshot wound bleeding, as onlookers tried to carry him away.

In Khost province, Taliban authorities instituted a 24-hour curfew after violently breaking up another protest, the AP said, citing information obtained by journalists monitoring from abroad. The insurgents did not immediately acknowledge the demonstration or the curfew.

Taliban fighters display their flag while on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. (AP)

Similarly, at least two people were killed on Thursday in the Afghan city of Asadabad after Taliban fighters fired on people waving the national flag at an Independence Day rally, witnesses told Al Jazeera. At least eight people were wounded in the violence.

The killings come a day after three people were killed in a similar protest in Jalalabad.

US suspends all arms sales to Afghanistan govt

The Biden administration has suspended all arms sales to the government of Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country.

In a notice to defense contractors posted Wednesday, the State Department’s Political/Military Affairs Bureau said pending or undelivered arms transfers to Afghanistan had been put under review.

“In light of rapidly evolving circumstances in Afghanistan, the Directorate of Defense Sales Controls is reviewing all pending and issued export licenses and other approvals to determine their suitability in furthering world peace, national security and the foreign policy of the United States,” it said. (AP)

Al-Qaida-linked group in Syria praises Taliban

An al-Qaida-linked group in Syria is congratulating the people of Afghanistan for the “dear victory” achieved by the Taliban, AP reported.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or the Levant Liberation Committee, compared the Taliban’s control of much of Afghanistan with the early Muslim conquests.

An Afghan takes a selfie with Taliban fighters on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. (AP)

The group, also known as HTS, is the most powerful faction in rebel-held parts of northwest Syria. Over the past months, it has been working on improving its image by distancing itself from extremist ideology.


Some of the founding members of the group — which used to be known as the Nusra Front — include Arab commanders who were close to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Many of them were killed in U.S. drone attacks in Syria over the past years.

Taliban must decide if it wants international recognition: Joe Biden

The Taliban must decide whether it wants to be recognized by the international community, US President Joe Biden said in an ABC interview aired on Thursday, adding that he did not think the group had changed its fundamental beliefs. Asked if he thought the Taliban had changed, Biden told ABC News, “No.”

“I think they’re going through a sort of existential crisis about: Do they want to be recognized by the international community as being a legitimate government? I’m not sure they do,” he said, adding that the group appeared more committed to its beliefs.

US President Joe Biden. (File)

But, he added, the Taliban also had to grapple with whether it could provide for Afghans.

“They also care about whether they have food to eat, whether they have an income that… can run an economy, they care about whether or not they can hold together the society that they in fact say they care so much about,” Biden said in the interview, taped on Wednesday. “I’m not counting on any of that.”

Taliban marks Afghan independence day

Earlier in the day, the Taliban celebrated Afghanistan’s Independence Day, declaring it had beaten “the arrogant of power of the world” in the United States.

Afghanistan’s Independence Day commemorates the 1919 treaty which ended British rule in the central Asian nation, AP reported.

People wait to cross into Afghanistan at the Friendship Gate crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan August 19, 2021. (Reuters)

“Fortunately, today we are celebrating the anniversary of independence from Britain,” the Taliban was quoted as saying by AP. “We at the same time as a result of our jihadi resistance forced another arrogant power of the world, the United States, to fail and retreat from our holy territory of Afghanistan.”

Afghans plead to US for faster evacuation

Meanwhile, Afghans including educated young women, former US military translators, and others who feel most at risk from the Taliban appealed to the Joe Biden administration to get them on evacuation flights.

People demonstrate in support of Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of the country, at Syntagma square in Athens, Greece, on August 19, 2021. (Reuters)

US President Joe Biden and his top officials had said that the US was working to speed up the evacuation, but made no promises how long it would last or how many desperate people it would fly to safety.

According to AP, hundreds of Afghans who lacked any papers or promises of flights also congregated at the airport, as the United States struggled to bring order to the continuing chaos at the Kabul airport.

Taliban will not at the current time be allowed to access loans or other resources: IMF

The International Monetary Fund says that the new Taliban government in Afghanistan will not at the current time be allowed to access loans or other resources from the 190-nation lending organisation.

In a statement Wednesday, the IMF said it would be guided by the views of the international community.

The statement said, “There is currently a lack of clarity within the international community regarding recognition of a government in Afghanistan, as a consequence of which the country cannot access SDRs or other IMF resources.”

SDRs are special drawing rights that serve as a reserve that IMF member countries can tap into to meet payment obligations.

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