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Afghanistan updates: key news in one place

Kabul airport death toll tops to 10. Taliban mulls govt

SAMAA | - Posted: Aug 18, 2021 | Last Updated: 4 months ago
Posted: Aug 18, 2021 | Last Updated: 4 months ago

Artwork: Obair Kham/SAMAA Digital

The Afghan Taliban are back in power. They entered Kabul on Sunday noon, completing the overall takeover of the country with the capture of capital Kabul.

Since then there has been a slew of political developments. The flood of information makes it difficult for readers to make sense of the news. This page offers key highlights.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Ashraf Ghani in UAE

The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that it is hosting former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani “on humanitarian grounds”, after he fled his country amid a Taliban takeover.

“The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation can confirm that the UAE has welcomed President Ashraf Ghani and his family into the country on humanitarian grounds,” it said in a brief statement.

Ghani fled Afghanistan on Sunday as the Taliban closed in on Kabul, before the insurgents walked into the Afghan capital unopposed.

Read full story here.

Taliban cannot access Afghanistan’s reserves: central bank chief

Despite the swift takeover of the government in Afghanistan, the Taliban will not have access to most of the nation’s cash and gold stocks, the central bank chief said Wednesday.

The Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) had around $9 billion in reserves, but most of that is held in banks overseas, out of reach of the Taliban, DAB governor Ajmal Ahmady said on Twitter.

“As per international standards, most assets are held in safe, liquid assets such as Treasuries and gold,” said Ahmady, who fled the country on Sunday, fearing for his safety as the Taliban swept into the capital.

A US administration official told AFP on Monday that “any central bank assets the Afghan government have in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban.”

Ahmady said the US Federal Reserve holds $7 billion of the country’s reserves, including $1.2 billion in gold, while the rest is held in international accounts including the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements.

US military has evacuated 3,200 people from Afghanistan so far: official

The US military has evacuated more than 3,200 people from Afghanistan so far, including 1,100 on Tuesday alone, a White House official said.

“Today, US military flights evacuated approximately 1,100 US citizens, US permanent residents, and their families on 13 flights,” the official said, adding: “Now that we have established the flow, we expect those numbers to escalate.”

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said that the 3,200 who had been taken out of the country so far included US personnel, and that nearly 2,000 Afghan “special immigrants” have been relocated to the United States. 

Facebook moves to block Taliban’s WhatsApp accounts

Facebook said Tuesday it was blocking WhatsApp accounts linked to the Taliban after the radical Islamic group seized control of Afghanistan and sought to use the messaging service to help it govern.Volume 0% 

“The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under US law and we have banned them from our services under our Dangerous Organization policies,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP.

The Facebook move shut down a WhatsApp hotline the Taliban had set up to receive complaints about violence and looting, according to the Financial Times.

Read the full story here

UN Human Rights Council to discuss Afghanistan on Aug 24

The United Nations Human Rights Council announced Tuesday it will hold a special session on Afghanistan on August 24 to address the “serious human rights concerns” following the Taliban takeover.

The meeting in Geneva is being convened following an official request jointly submitted by the representatives of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and supported by 89 countries so far.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Taliban has promised ‘safe passage’ for civilians to Kabul airport: W.House

The United States said Tuesday the Taliban had promised safe passage for thousands of civilians seeking to reach Kabul airport with a view to leaving Afghanistan.

“The Taliban have informed us they are prepared to provide the safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we intend to hold them to that commitment,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House.

Sullivan said the United States was also “talking” with the Taliban about the timetable for the removal of thousands of American citizens and Afghans fleeing the country on US military aircraft.

Talian hold first press conference

The Afghan Taliban have held their first-ever press conference after taking Kabul and by virtue entire Afghanistan. The press conference comes as the Taliban’s deputy leader and co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar lands in Kandahar.

Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has appeared to the world for the first time.

Zabiullah Mujahid at the Taliban press conference in Kabul. Photo: Twitter.

“We have expelled the foreigners. This is a great moment for the whole nation,” Majahid said.

He reiterated that the Taliban would not seek revenge and that a general amnesty had been declared. “Everyone is forgiven,” the spokesman said.

Mujahid also said that the Taliban had ended the war and meant to establish peace. He said they will complete the political process as quickly as possible and continue to interact with the international community.

The Taliban spokesman assured that under the Taliban rule women would not be discriminated against. However, he added, as Muslim women they must follow the Sharia.

Read the full story here

Taliban drastically reduce border taxes on sugar, petrol

Afghanistan’s new de facto rulers, the Taliban, have reopened the Torkham border crossing which had been closed after the fall of Kabul on Sunday. The Taliban have also drastically reduced border taxes on several items, particularly, sugar and petrol. However, uncertainty continues to mar Kabul, where gold and currency markets have not opened and Afghanistan currency, the Afghani, traded low.

Hundreds of trucks were stranded in Afghanistan and cross-border trade came to a complete halt as the country’s capital descended into chaos.

The Taliban had already taken control of the Torkham border crossing before they captured Kabul over the weekend. They hoisted their white flag on their side of the border. With Afghan authorities losing control of the border-gate to the Taliban, Pakistan closed the crossing on Sunday.

On Tuesday when the border crossing formally reopened, the Taliban were the only authority in Afghanistan.

Vehicles loaded with goods began to move Monday night after the Taliban and Pakistan border authorities concluded preliminary talks, a businessman associated with Pak-Afghan trade told SAMAA Digital.

Read the full story here

NATO chief blames Afghan leadership for Kabul collapse

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday the alliance had been surprised by the speed of the Taliban victory in Afghanistan but blamed Afghan leaders for the “tragedy”.

“Ultimately, the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up to the Taliban and to achieve the peaceful solution that Afghans desperately wanted,” he said.

“This failure of the Afghan leadership led to the tragedy we are witnessing today.”

Videos of Taliban fighters having fun go viral

They were seen taking rides in amusement parks and working out in gyms. Social media was flooded with their videos.

Inclusive political settlement key to peace in Afghanistan: Qureshi

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi said an inclusive political settlement is an ideal strategy to move forward as tensions continue to escalate in Afghanistan.

He was discussing the chaotic situation unravelling in the country with the United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken in a telephonic conversation.

Turkey welcomes ‘positive messages’ from Taliban

Turkey said on Tuesday it welcomed the “positive messages” to the international community given by Taliban fighters following their seizure of power in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara was taking a wait-and-see approach about its offer to protect the airport but he said the initial comments coming from the Taliban were encouraging. “We welcome the positive messages given by the Taliban to foreigners, diplomatic missions and their own population. I hope we will see (the same approach) in their actions,” he said in televised remarks. – AFP

UAE suspends flight operations to Afghanistan

The flight operations from the United Arab Emirates to Afghanistan by registered airlines have been suspended, Gulf News reported.

The General Civil Aviation Authority said the situation in the Asian country is being monitored with the relevant authorities and national airlines’ staff.

It is prioritising the safety and security of civil aviation, the aviation authority mentioned.

Emirates had earlier announced an indefinite suspension of its flights to Kabul.

Taliban announce general amnesty for govt officials

The Taliban Tuesday declared a general amnesty for all government officials and urged them to return to work, two days after taking power following a lightning sweep through the country.

“A general amnesty has been declared for all… so you should start your routine life with full confidence,” said a statement from the Taliban.—AFP

India calls back ambassador, embassy staff

India announced that it is calling back its Afghan Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon and embassy staff in the wake of escalating tensions in Afghanistan, The Indian Express reported.

“In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

The ministry earlier stated that the situation was being monitored by the government and “in constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities”.

It added: “The Government will take all steps to ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals and our interests in Afghanistan.”

President Joe Biden defends US pullout from Afghanistan

President Joe Biden defended the US pullout from Afghanistan Monday, saying he stood by the policy and that it was time to leave after 20 years of conflict.

“I am president of the United States of America and the buck stops with me,” Biden said in a much-awaited televised address from the White House, after several days of silence on the momentous developments.

Read the full story here

Taliban mulls government

At an important meeting in Doha, the Taliban have began discussions on future government. Afghan TV channel Tolo News reported that the Taliban leadership was in contact with the international community as well as political parties within Afghanistan.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Blinken calls China, Russia on Afghan collapse

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday discussed the collapse of Afghanistan’s Western-backed government with China and Russia, frequent US adversaries that have moved quickly to work with the Taliban.

The State Department said Blinken spoke separately with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss the security situation and efforts to evacuate people to safety.

The State Department provided few other details. Russia said Blinken and Lavrov discussed Moscow’s outreach to various Afghan political forces that is aimed at “helping ensure stability and public order.”

The two “agreed to continue consultations with the participation of China, Pakistan, and other interested nations to establish the right conditions to begin an inclusive inter-Afghan dialogue under the new conditions,” a Russian foreign ministry statement said.

‘Global terrorist threat’ in Afghanistan: UN chief

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called on the world to work together Monday to combat the “global terrorist threat in Afghanistan” as the UN held an emergency meeting after the Taliban took control of the war-torn country.

“The international community must unite to make sure that Afghanistan is never again used as a platform or safe haven for terrorist organizations,” Guterres told the UN Security Council in New York, according to AFP.

The meeting was hastily convened at the UN’s headquarters after Taliban militants entered the capital Kabul on Sunday, leading Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to flee abroad. 

“I appeal to the Security Council — and the international community as a whole — to stand together, to work together and act together,” Guterres added.

He urged nations to “use all tools at its disposal to suppress the global terrorist threat in Afghanistan and to guarantee that basic human rights will be respected.”

Commercial flights from Kabul airport cancelled

The Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority has cancelled all commercial flights from the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Afghan people climb up on a plane and sit by the door as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. Photo: AFP

In a notification, it stated that any transit through Kabul airspace—which covers all of Afghanistan—will be uncontrolled. This means that airplanes will no longer be guided from the ground. It has advised transit aircrafts to reroute.

The airspace has, however, been released to the military.

At least 10 dead in Kabul airport chaos

At least ten people were killed in Kabul airport as hundreds of people tried to forcibly enter planes leaving the Afghan capital, Tolo News quoted.

Kabul Airport scenes of mad rush
Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on August 16, 2021, to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war. Photo: AFP

US troops fired shots into the air as people crowded onto the tarmac in the hope of catching a flight after the Taliban takeover of the country.

“I feel very scared here. They are firing lots of shots into the air,” a witness told AFP.

Some eyewitnesses said that 10 were wounded.

According to airport officials, people were misinformed about available flights and entered the area after the operation had stopped. Many of those present did not have passports.

Read the full story here

NATO envoys to hold Afghan crisis talks on Tuesday

NATO envoys will hold emergency talks on Tuesday on the situation in Afghanistan as Western powers scramble to evacuate personnel from Kabul after the Taliban takeover, an alliance official said. 

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will then hold a news conference at 1300 GMT — his first appearance before the media since June — as the alliance reels following the collapse of the Afghan government forces. 

Stoltenberg tweeted Sunday that NATO was “helping keep Kabul airport open to facilitate and coordinate evacuations”, but there were scenes of chaos as crowds tried to board departing planes. 

China willing to develop ‘friendly relations’ with Afghan Taliban

China announced Monday that it is willing to develop “friendly relations” with Afghanistan’s Taliban, AFP reported.

“We welcome this. China respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny and is willing to continue to develop… friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Hua called on the Taliban to “ensure a smooth transition” of power and keep its promises to negotiate the establishment of an “open and inclusive Islamic government” and ensure the safety of Afghans and foreign citizens.

China’s embassy in Kabul remains operational.

President Ghani fled with helicopter full of cash: Russian embassy

The Russian embassy in Kabul has said that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash, Reuters reported.

Ghani’s current whereabouts are still unknown. He fled the country Sunday to “avoid bloodshed”.

“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, the Russian embassy’s spokesperson said.

PM holds National Security Council meeting

Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired an important meeting of the National Security Council today [Monday] to discuss the security situation in Afghanistan.

Top-level military civil and military leaders attended it.

Information Minister Sheikh Rasheed said the decisions taken in the meeting will be announced later in the day. Read the full story here.

Trump calls for Biden to resign over Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

Former US president Donald Trump called for his successor Joe Biden to resign on Sunday over the swift takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban militants, as US troops withdrew from the country after nearly 20 years on the ground.

“It is time for Joe Biden to resign in disgrace for what he has allowed to happen to Afghanistan,” Trump said in a statement, also blasting him over a surge in Covid-19 cases in the United States and domestic immigration, economic and energy policies.

US lowers flag at Kabul embassy

The United States lowered the flag on its embassy in Kabul and has relocated almost all staff to the airport, where US forces are taking over air traffic control, officials said Sunday.

 “We are completing a series of steps to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of US and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights,” the Pentagon and State Department said in a joint statement.

‘War over in Afghanistan’: Taliban look towards peaceful foreign relations

The Taliban have declared the war in Afghanistan is “over” after they took control of the country’s presidential palace in the late hours of Sunday.

They are also looking towards having cordial relations with foreign countries while also committed to protecting the rights of women and minorities under sharia law.

Afghan taliban took over Afghanistan
Taliban fighters drive an Afghan National Army (ANA) vehicle through the streets of Laghman province, Afghanistan, on Aug. 15, 2021. Photo: AFP )

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem told Al Jazeera that the Taliban did not want to live in isolation. “We ask all countries and entities to sit with us to settle any issues.”

Read the full story here

Qureshi tells India to play positive role in Afghanistan crisis

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that India should play a positive role in defusing the current situation in Afghanistan.

Appearing in Samaa TV’s morning show Naya Din, Qureshi said that New Delhi should visibly act in a responsible manner.

He went on to say that Narendra Modi-led country should not play the role of a spoiler while the world unites for peace in Afghanistan.

Read the full story here

Key TTP leaders released from Afghan prisons

Several key Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leaders and key Afghan Taliban commanders have been released from prisons across Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country this weekend.

Faqir Mohammad of the TTP
A photo from Twitter of Faqir Mohammad of the TTP tweeted by @SaleemMehsud.

Of these militants one of the most recognised names is Maulana Faqir Mohammad, the former deputy chief of the the TTP. Scenes of his release have been circulating on social media. His release was confirmed in a statement by a TTP spokesperson. Faqir has publicly stated that he has close ties to Al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri.

Read the full story here

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Fled country to prevent bloodshed: Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that he had fled the country to “prevent a flood of bloodshed”.

Ghani, who did not say where he had gone, said he believed “countless patriots would be martyred and the city of Kabul would be destroyed” if he had stayed behind.

“The Taliban have won… and are now responsible for the honour, property and self-preservation of their countrymen,” he said in a statement posted to Facebook.

Taliban take over presidential palace

The Taliban said their fighters have entered multiple districts in the Afghan capital Kabul, while sources say they have also taken over the presidential palace, hours after leader Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

“Military units of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have entered Kabul city to ensure security,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted, adding that “their advance is continuing normally”.

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: AFP

Three senior Taliban sources also told AFP that the insurgents had taken control of the presidential palace.

“Taliban (fighters) have entered the presidential palace,” one senior Taliban commander told AFP.

“The mujahideen have entered the presidential palace and have taken control of it,” a second commander said, adding that a meeting on security in the capital was taking place there.

Hamid Karzai calls for peace

Former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai has asked both government forces and the Taliban to protect the people.

“I am here in Kabul and I ask the Taliban to provide security and safety for the people,” he said in a video message.

He asked the people to stay in their homes and remain calm, adding that he will continue efforts to solve issues peacefully along with other political leaders.

NATO working to keep Kabul airport running

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said the alliance is working to keep Kabul airport running as foreign powers rushed to evacuate staff after the Taliban closed in on power.  

“Spoke with UK PM Boris Johnson and the foreign ministers of our allies Canada, Denmark and Netherlands on the situation in Afghanistan. NATO is helping keep Kabul airport open to facilitate and coordinate evacuations,” Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

Hostels vacated

The hostels of private universities in the city including Kabul University have been vacated by students. All markets and business centres have also been shut down.

Muhammad Irfan reports: the minister of defense, General Bismillah along with his officials have also surrendered to the Taliban in Kabul.

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One Comment

  1. Sab  August 16, 2021 10:44 pm/ Reply

    Why you r putting gloomy picture of taliban on the front

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