Afghanistan and Taliban news 18 August 2021: Americans evacuating, Afghan refugees...

AS English

COMMENT
Afghanistan and Taliban latest news and live updates: Americans evacuating, Afghan refugees...

Taliban take control in Afghanistan: live updates

Taliban take control in Afghanistan: live updates

- The world watched as President Biden made his case for why it was time for the US to leave Afghanistan and blamed the Afghans' lack of fight (Full story)

- Taliban hosted its first press conference since taking power in more than twenty years, taking questions from domestic and international media (Full details)

- Taliban deputy leader and co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar returned to the country on Tuesday, according to AFP and other news outlets

- Taliban asks for international help to combat the illegal drug trade

- Biden says there was "no chance" of Afghan resistance to the Taliban (What did he say?)

- Biden authorizes up to $500 million to help refugees fleeing Afghanistan

President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan on Sunday morning (Where did he go?)

A Guide to understanding the Taliban and the situation in Afghanistan

- What is behind the Taliban's rapid advance in Afghanistan? (Full details)

What is the Taliban and what is its history in Afghanistan? (Read more)

- What are the Taliban's rules? (Read more)

- What is Afghanistan's situation in the Middle East? (Read more)

- How big is the Taliban army in Afghanistan? (Read more)

- Who are the Taliban and what are their motives? (Read more)

Take a look at some of our related news articles:

Thanks for reading. From all of us at AS English, we send our thoughts to all those still impacted by the conflict in Afghanistan and hope to see peace.

 

World News

Where are Afghan refugees going?

The world is fearing a new migrant crisis as people flee the Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite the current evacuation from Kabul airport, many are not expected to have the necessary documentation to escape.

The UNHCR estimates that more than 400,000 Afghans have fled their homes this year alone. While many will be going to neighboring countries, such as Iran and Pakistan, other countries have said they will be taking in Afghan refugees to prevent a humanitarian disaster.

Read more here

15,000 Americans still in Afghanistan

The pace of the evacuation is now moving very quickly, according to NBC today. Two days ago the airport was overwhelmed, but the US military has cleared the runways. There have been reports of gunfire and civilians shot in the melee.

A state department official met with the workers in the airbase and announced they will also be evacuated with their families. Many Afghans fled without documentation, and it is unknown how everyone who needs evacuating will be.

Biden sets aside $500m to fund ‘unexpected’ Afghan refugee needs

The US is preparing to begin evacuating thousands of Afghan special immigration visa (SIV) applicants who risk retaliation from Taliban militants who have taken over the country, because they worked for the US government.

After his speech reaffirming his support for the US withdrawal, the President has come under withering fire from opponents who have attacked both US resolve and the manner in which it abandoned the country.

UK urges caution over Taliban press conference

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Taliban should be "judged on actions, not words," after the group said there would be no retribution for those Afghans who fought with NATO.

"I want to reassure all our countrymen, whoever has worked in the military, in translation, we have given amnesty to everybody, there is no revenge," Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said.

"There is no danger for them."

There have been reports of the Taliban searching houses around the country looking for people suspected of working with the Americans.

Nations report on first successful airlifts out of Kabul

Countries involved in the evacuation of Kabul have been reporting the first completed landings of military planes.

Earlier we saw the British report on their landing, and Spain has done the same this morning.

Work continues to help the citizens of NATO and their Afghan allies from Afghanistan

Former Afghan president Karzai meets Taliban faction chief

A Taliban commander and senior leader of the Haqqani Network militant group, Anas Haqqani, has met former Afghan President Hamid Karzai for talks, a Taliban official said on Wednesday, amid efforts by the Taliban to set up a government.

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. He gave no more details.

The Haqqani Network is an important faction of the Taliban, who captured the capital, Kabul, on Sunday. The network, based on the border with Pakistan, was accused over recent years of some of the most deadly militant attacks in Afghanistan.

Britain has managed to remove around 1,000 people a day from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the country, interior minister Priti Patel said on Wednesday.

"We have been getting out approximately 1,000 people, so far, a day," she told BBC TV. "We're still bringing out British nationals... and those Afghan nationals who are part of our locally employed scheme."

Taliban strikes conciliatory tone as exiled leaders return

The Taliban has vowed there will be no reprisals and human rights will be respected as the group's exiled leaders return to Afghanistan to form a new government following the takeover of Kabul and the flight of the previous administration.

No "shadow of secrecy" from Taliban

The leaders of Afghanistan's Taliban will show themselves to the world, an official of the Islamist movement said on Wednesday, unlike during the past 20 years, when its leaders have lived largely in secret.

"Slowly, gradually, the world will see all our leaders, there will be no shadow of secrecy," the senior Taliban official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

The official said Taliban members had been ordered not to celebrate their recent sweep of the country, which brought them to the capital, Kabul, on Sunday, and added that civilians should hand over weapons and ammunition.

biden

US lawmakers to probe Biden administration over Afghanistan

Members of the US Congress, including many of President Joe Biden's fellow Democrats, said on Tuesday they were increasingly frustrated with events in Afghanistan, vowing to investigate what went wrong.

"The events of recent days have been the culmination of a series of mistakes made by Republican and Democratic administrations over the past 20 years," Senator Bob Menendez, Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

"We are now witnessing the horrifying result of many years of policy and intelligence failures," Menendez said.

Menendez said his committee would hold a hearing on US policy toward Afghanistan, including negotiations between former Republican President Donald Trump's administration and the Taliban and the Biden's administration's execution of the withdrawal.

Committee Republicans said they wanted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to testify, "to understand why the State Department was so ill prepared for the contingencies unfolding before us," according to a letter sent to Menendez.

"Updates from the State Department have been inconsistent, lacked important detail, and not be responsive to Members and the American people," the Republicans wrote.

The date of the hearing was not immediately announced Senator Mark Warner, the Democratic Intelligence Committee chairman, had said on Monday he intended to work with other committees "to ask tough but necessary questions" about why the United States was not better prepared for the collapse of the Afghan government.

Republicans continued their harsh criticism of Biden's policies.

"The security and humanitarian crisis now unfolding in Afghanistan could have been avoided if you had done any planning," Republicans on the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee wrote in a letter to the White House on Tuesday.

Photo by REUTERS/Leah Millis

President Biden speaks to UK PM Johnson

It is being reported that Joe Biden has held his first known call with another world leader since Kabul fell to the Taliban, the US president speaking to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

MIDDLE EAST

Who are the Taliban and what are their motives?

The United States' decades-long involvement in Afghanistan was sparked by the Taliban's role in the 9/11 attacks, but who are the hardline militia group?

Find out more

Biden to speak to media again on Afghanistan "in coming days"

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says President Biden will speak to the media again about the situation in Afghanistan "in the coming days".

"Yes, you will hear from him in the coming days," Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday.

Biden returned to the White House from Camp David on Monday to offer a media address in which he said he stands “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, and admitted he did not expect the Taliban to take over the country so swiftly. "The truth is this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” Biden said.

Spanish PM offers to take in Afghans who have worked for EU

Spain's prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, says the country is ready to temporarily take in Afghans who have worked for the European Union. "Spain offers itself to the high representative of the EU Josep Borrell as the temporary host of Afghans who have worked for the European Union, before they are distributed among the member states,” Sánchez said in a tweet on Tuesday.

UN Human Rights Council to meet for special session

The United Nations Human Rights Council is to hold a special session on Tuesday 24 August to discuss "serious human rights concerns" in the wake of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, the UN has said.

Uganda to take in 2,000 Afghan refugees

Uganda has said it is has accepted a request from the United States to temporarily take in 2,000 refugees from Afghanistan.

"The request was made yesterday by the US government to HE [President Yoweri Museveni] and he has given them an OK to bring 2,000 refugees to Uganda," Esther Anyakun Davinia, Uganda's junior minister for relief, disaster preparedness and refugees, told Reuters.

"They are going to be here temporarily for three months before the US government resettles them elsewhere."

Jake Sullivan National Security Adviser Joe Biden

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan answers questions on the situation in Afghanistan during a press briefing at the White House on Tuesday. US President Joe Biden "has not yet spoken with any other world leaders" since Kabul fell to the Taliban, Sullivan told reporters.

(Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

Germany suspends humanitarian aid to Afghanistan

Germany has suspended aid to Afghanistan and will work with its partners in the European Union to provide aid to neighbouring countries facing an influx of Afghan civilians, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday.

"We have told the United Nations that we are ready to help with humanitarian assistance for people in neighbouring countries," Maas told a news conference.

(Reuters)

Sullivan: Biden takes responsibility for every decision taken on Afghanistan, but “other parties” are responsible too

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says President Joe Biden is “taking responsibility for every decision” by the US government on Afghanistan, but also told a White House press briefing: “There are other parties here responsible as well.”

He’s taking responsibility for every decision the United States government took with respect to Afghanistan, because as he said the buck stops with him,” Sullivan said. “I am also taking responsibility and so are my colleagues: the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the directors of our intelligence agencies. We as a national security team collectively take responsibility for every good decision, every decision that doesn’t produce perfect outcomes - that is what responsibility is.

“Now, at the same time, that doesn’t change the fact that there are other parties here responsible as well, who have taken actions and decisions that helped lead us to where we are.”

See also: What did President Biden say about the US leaving Afghanistan and the Taliban taking Kabul?

AFGHANISTAN

Afghans cling to side of plane as it prepares to take off in Kabul

As people desperately try to flee Afghanistan following the Taliban's takeover of the country, this man filmed himself and others clinging to the outside of an aeroplane ahead of take-off from Kabul airport.

EU says it will work with Taliban only if rights are respected

The EU will only cooperate with the Afghan government following the Taliban's return to power if it respects fundamental rights, including women, and prevents the use of Afghanistan's territory by terrorists, the bloc's foreign policy chief said on Tuesday.

"Cooperation with any future Afghan government will be conditioned on a peaceful and inclusive settlement and respect for the fundamental rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and persons belonging to minorities, as well as respect for Afghanistan’s international obligations, commitment to the fight against corruption and preventing the use of Afghanistan’s territory by terrorist organisations," Josep Borrell said in a statement.

The statement came after an emergency meeting of European Union foreign ministers to discuss events in Afghanistan. Borrell said that, to address "the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan", the EU would continue to provide assistance to the Afghan people.

He called on all actors to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to Afghan women, men and children in need, including to the large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

"The EU calls on the Taliban to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law in all circumstances. The EU will also support Afghanistan's neighbours in coping with negative spill overs, which are to be expected from an increasing flow of refugees and migrants," he added.

(Reuters)

Taliban press conference

Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid (left) speaks on Tuesday during the Taliban's press conference in Kabul, the organisation's first since its takeover of Afghanistan.

(Photo: Hoshang Hashimi / AFP)

New York Times reports that many in the intelligence community warned the Biden administration of the possibility of Afghan military collapse.

In recent days, the administration has been quick to admit that they are surprised by the actions of the military, but new reporting shows that they may have known more than they are letting on.

What did the Taliban spokesman say about the safety of women and girls within Afghan society under their rule?

The first question asked of Taliban leaders during Tuesday's press conference related to the role of women under the new government. Al Jazeera journalist asked if women would be able to work and if girls would be able to attend school.

See the full clip below.

Are people still gathering outside of the airport in Kabul?

Yes. NowThis releases video of large crowds gathering two days after the fall of the city into Taliban control.

CNN reports on the internal "blame-shifting" going on in the White House has the US exit from Afghanistan creates levels of chaos not seen in decades.

World News

What did the Taliban say in their first press conference after the fall of Kabul?

What did the Taliban say in their first press conference after the fall of Kabul?

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid began the press conference on Tuesday afternoon by announcing, "after 20 years of struggle we have emancipated [the country] and expelled foreigners".

"This is a proud moment for the whole nation," he says.

Read our full coverge for more details on what was said regarding the new government, and the role of women under Taliban rule.

Taliban Press Conference

Question: What are your plans for building relationships with neighboring countries

Response: "Want a good economy, and to have good relationships with all of our far and close neighbors."

"We want our relations to be based on international and sharia law."

Taliban Press Conference

Question: Who is involved in the talks of the next government?

Response: We have been talking to all sides. We are have been in contact with all sides...

THIS HAS YET TO BE SEEN.

"Who ever wants to be of service, can" "Please give us time to form the government."

"The government will be formed very very quickly."

Question: In how many days?

Response: "We need some time. We are just coming out of war."

Taliban Press Conference

Question: Can you explain your position on foreign journalists and women working in the media? Are women going to be allowed to work like they were in the previous government?

Response: "We hope that the next government to answeer these questions."

"We want all youths to be involved." But they say that it is up to the next governmetn to make the laws.

Taliban Press Conference

Question: What is your relationship with al qaeda?

Response: We want to make it clear that Afghanistan will not be used against others. Those who want to use our soil against others, they will not be allowed.

Very soon, the Taliban says a government will be in place and there will be rule of law.

Taliban Press Conference

Question: What type of government will you be forming, and will women be allowed to participate? Will women be able to

Response: It will be a strong Islamic government but we will leave the politicians to form the government. We will assure you, that Afghanistan will be a strong Islamic government. Afghans will see themselves, and they will be together in the next government. There are talks going on.

"They want to to reopen government services." "Education and police," and all sectors need women and all should come back to work.

Taliban Press Conference

Question: Drugs, what will you be doing about the illegal drug trade in Afghanistan?

Response: "There will be no production of drugs"

"When we were in power, the production of opium was at zero"

"But during the last government, production was high, but we are against that."

"We were sad to see our youth on drugs. Afghanistan will not be a country of cultivation, but we need support from the international community."

 

Taliban Press Conference

Question: There are reports that people have been taken from their homes and disappeared? Are you responsible?

ALSO, in the next government, will leaders that have left have a place?

Response: It has only been three days, they say they will investigate all the claims of murder and kidnapping. "We are trying to take control of everything and bring stability."

If you compare the last three days to a law few years, "people are not dying." Message to leaders that have left "Afghanistan is their home, it is our home, it is our shared home."

"We are one nation, we want them to come back, we want to be together, even though we have been at war."

"We have given amnesty and they are allowed to come back and talk to us."

Only time will tell if the actions of the Taliban will live up to these promises of peace and safety for those who served in the previous government.

 

Taliban Press Conference

Question: You said that you were going to form a government, since the President left, Afghans have no government... no law, no order... how will you deal with that? There are so many weapons in Afghanistan, so many smugglers, how do you deal with that?

Response: "We are working hard to form a government, once it is ready, we will announce."

As for weapons, no one is allowed to take a weapon outside. Taliban says they have control of the borders.

Taliban Press Conference

Question to Taliban: What is different about the Taliban today?

They say that they still believe in the same ideology, but, in relation to the former Taliban, they say that there is more expertise now.

They also state that they will leave law making and writing to the next government who will decide "which laws are suitable for the country."

Latest from Taliban Press Conference

Taliban expects the situation to normalize within the country in six months. They do not provide many details on what that means exactly. They make it clear that they will be forming an Islamic government, but that includes all people. They say that they want "peace" and "stability."

"We want peace"

"We are here for security."

They state that they have yet to form a government. Rather, they are focused on creating stablilty.

Question to Taliban: Will you use force to maintain order?

TALIBAN: This is the third day the Taliban has entered Kabul, there are no security guards, but the city is in a bit of crisis. People are worried, and they worry that there is no security.

When the government left, people started looting... Taliban says that they will be hard against that and describe the need to control the people who are trying to breed chaos.

They are bringing all parts of the city under security with their forces.

During press conference, Taliban leaders also ask for forgiveness.

NEXT QUESTION: Relating to those who want to leave the country

Taliban leadership says "Please come home." They say that those who have gone to people's homes are not Taliban, describing them as "gangsters."

They recognize that the country has changed, they say they do not want people to leave, and there is amnesty for everyone. They say that they have not taken revenge against anyone... this conflicts current reports that say some people have been taken from their homes.

Next Question to Taliban leaders

What assurances can you give to Afghans who fought along side the Americans?

Taliban says that have given amnesty to everyone who has served in the military or worked as a translator alongside US forces. They say they are not seeking revenge. "All those who have talent, and education, we do not want them to leave, we want to them here in Afghanistan."

There is no danger to them, says Taliban.

First question to Taliban leader, reporter from Al Jazeera, asks in English about women's and girl's rights. What assurance can you give women and girls?

Response: Women and girls will be allowed to work and go to school, so long as it is in accordance with Sharia law. They say women are an important part of Afghan society and are needed. "Women are a key part of society"

BREAKING: Taliban holds first press conference in wake of the fall of Kabul. Taliban Representative will now take questions.

What has the Australian government said about the situation in Afghanistan?

The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison,  took to the airwaves to speak to his country and specifically those who served in Afghanistan over the evolving situation. While he expressed his wish that the war had not ended the way it had, he confirmed that it was time for Australia to bring its troops home.

During his remarks, he acknowledged that the images coming out of Afghanistan were painful saying, "The situation in Afghanistan is extremely disturbing, very concerning I know to all Australians, and none more so than our veteran's community right across the country." 

In an attempt to explain the country's next steps in their departure from Afghanistan, he said, "that the National Security Committee of the Cabinet has been meeting every day, we met again this morning for several hours, as we continue to finalise the operational plans that are already being swung into place, not just here, but of course in the Middle East and overseas, and in preparations for what we are hoping to do over the course of this week."

 

NATO head blames Afghan government for Taliban takeover

“We have never intended to stay in Afghanistan forever,” NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels, adding that the military alliance’s aim in the country was to help build a viable state, on the contrary to Biden's comments.

Stoltenberg also noted that the agreement struck by former United States President Donald Trump with the Taliban to withdraw by May this year was a decision “all allies agreed to follow”.

"Many lessons have to be learnt," he said, regarding the training and equipping of Afghan soldiers.

Female presenters back on Afghan TV

Tolo News, one of Afghanistan's biggest TV channels, has resumed having female presenters after a short break during the fall of Kabul. There are fears that the Taliban will impose their harsh form of sharia law which would prevent women from holding jobs, as was the case during their previous stint in power during the late 90s.

Western commentators have remarked that the Taliban of 2021 seem more internationally savvy and aware of how the country is perceived abroad. The country needs aid and investment from outside powers, but the US has said they will not recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan if women's rights are enfeebled.

Taliban issue order to not enter homes

The Taliban say they've ordered their fighters not to enter anyone's home and to avoid interfering with embassy vehicles, especially in Kabul.

The decree, sent by the group's deputy leader Molavi Yaqoub to fighters by voice note, came after reports that Taliban militants were involved in looting yesterday.

WORLD NEWS

What did President Biden say about the US leaving Afghanistan and the Taliban taking Kabul?

In describing why Kabul was able to fall to the extremist group so quickly, Biden said that the “Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.” For the President, these two factors are evidence the US’ decision to leave the country was the right one.

During the speech, Biden also articulated his views on what was not the responsibility of the US military. With conviction, the President stated that “Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy.”

Biden voted in favor of the invasion in 2001. He is the fourth President to oversee the military operation and has been clear that he will not pass the responsibility to a fifth.

Read more here

Which embassies are still operating in Kabul?

Most of the world's diplomatic corps have left the Afghan capital, but there are a few countries which have pledged to keep their diplomatic missions open.

Russia has said it has no plans to close its embassy while China's remains operational. China is keen to secure good relations with the Taliban due to its proximity to China and the threat of Islamic extremism. Iran is also keeping its embassy open.

While many western nations' embassies are closed, diplomatic services are continuing at Kabul airport, so Afghans can be evacuated.

Popularity wanes for US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Despite a poll from July showing support for the US withdrawal at 69% amongst the American public, events in Kabul have rocked this view.

A new poll, conducted over the weekend and Monday, shows support has slumped to 49% and that only 25% thought the withdrawal was "going well." Biden is hedging his bets on getting the US out of the war by any means, and it remains to be seen if the public support will fall further if the chaos continues.

A future Afghan government that upholds the basic rights of its people, that doesn’t harbor terrorists and that protects the basic rights of its people including the basic fundamental rights of half of its population – its women and girls — that is a government we would be able to work with.

Ned Price, US Department Spokesperson

Will the US recognise the Taliban?

The US has listed the conditions it deems a new Afghan government needs to have before it can be recognized.

The US Department spokesman, Ned Price, said they would only recognize a Taliban government if it respects the rights of women and also denounces extremist movements such as Al-Qaeda.

Price told reporters on Monday, “Ultimately when it comes to our posture towards any future government in Afghanistan, it will depend upon the actions of that government. It will depend upon the actions of the Taliban."

Satellite images emerge of yesterday's airport chaos

The pictures show hundreds of abandoned cars on the road to the airport, as well as the hundreds of people who lined the runway hoping to get out of Afghanistan.

NATO forces have been securing their citizens and Afghan nationals, which helped them during the military campaign. So far, a few thousand Afghans have been rescued, but the speed of the evacuation has been criticized.

Plane carrying French evacuees from Afghanistan lands in Abu Dhabi -minister

The first French military plane carrying French evacuees from Afghanistan landed overnight in Abu Dhabi, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said on Tuesday, adding that France was working on running further flights out of Afghanistan.

Military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians resumed early on Tuesday after the runway at Kabul airport was cleared of thousands of people desperate to flee after the Taliban seized the capital.

Japan closes embassy in Afghanistan

Japan has closed its embassy in Kabul due to the worsening security situation in Afghanistan and the last remaining twelve embassy personnel had left the country, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

"Due to the rapid worsening of the security situation in Afghanistan, we are temporarily closing our embassy there," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that it was relocating the embassy's duties to an office in Istanbul. "Twelve remaining embassy personnel have been flown out of Kabul airport on a military flight provided by a friendly nation and been evacuated to Dubai."

The ministry also warned any of its nationals still in Afghanistan to leave, and said any travel there should be put off.

Kabul

First German plane evacuated only seven people from Kabul

The first of several German military planes to arrive in Kabul was able to evacuate only seven people, a foreign policy spokesman in Chancellor Angela Merkel's party said, due to chaos at the Afghan capital's airport.

The main mission of the A400M military transport plane, in what Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer described as a 'breakneck landing', was to bring in German soldiers to organise and secure the evacuation. "We have a very chaotic, dangerous and complex situation at the airport," she told broadcaster ARD. "..We had very little time, so we only took on board people who were on site. Due to the chaotic situation not many were able to be at the airport."

Seven people made it on board the aircraft, conservative CDU/CSU parliamentary group foreign policy spokesman Johann Wadephul told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

Military flights to evacuate diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan were suspended on Monday as people trying to flee after Taliban insurgents seized Kabul crowded the runway. Flights resumed early on Tuesday. Germany is now waiting for the United States to grant it permission to fly a second aircraft in.

The German military is using Tashkent as a hub to which it plans to bring evacuated people. "Now it is important that we can set up everything on the ground so that we can get people out," Kramp-Karrenbauer said. "Those are not only German citizens, they are also local staff, at-risk people. We will also support other countries," she added.

Germany said on Monday it would airlift thousands of German-Afghan dual nationals as well as human rights activists, lawyers and other people who worked with NATO forces in the country.

As the Taliban grabbed power in Afghanistan with hardly any resistance from the Afghan security forces, they are now in the position to seize the firepower that the US had provided.

The modern military hardware that the Taliban now has at its disposal includes guns, vehicles, and helicopters.

 

Military evacuation flights taking off from Kabul - Western official

Military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan started taking off on Tuesday morning, said a Western security official at Kabul airport.

The airport runway and tarmac, overrun on Monday by thousands of people desperate to flee from the Afghanistan capital, are now clear of crowds, the official said.

U.S. forces, which are in charge at the airport, had halted the evacuation flights because of the chaos.

US President Joe Biden has authorized the release of up to half a billion dollars to assist refugees fleeing Afghanistan.

The money from the US Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund will be used to meet the migration needs of refugees, victims of conflict, and other persons at risk.

"We were clear-eyed about the risks we plan for every contingency, but I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.

"So what’s happened. Afghanistan’s political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight."

President Joe Biden, White House remarks on Afghanistan

"How many American lives is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery. I’m clear on my answer.

"I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past. The mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict is not in the national interest of the United States"

President Joe Biden, White House remarks on Afghanistan

WH struggles to explain Kabul evacuation strategy

Jonathan Finer, the White House deputy national security adviser, has spoken to CNN about the unfolding evacuation crisis in the Afghan capital of Kabul with tens of thousands of people desperately trying to flee the country. He said that the United States had received assurances from the Taliban that they will not try to prevent them leaving Afghanistan but it is still unclear how they will reach the airport without extra support from American forces. 

World News

The Taliban in Afghanistan: why do they want power and what are their rules?

The desperate scenes seen in Kabul and across Afghanistan in recent days are the result of the Afghan population's fears for Taliban rule. When in power previously, the Taliban were notorious for their punishment of criminals and the roles women were permitted to have in their society.

The Taliban see their control of Afghanistan as rightful, after they were deposed by NATO in 2001, and believe they are justified by their interpretation of Islamic law. The international community will be remaining watchful of the Taliban as they seek to consolidate their new state, but what does the new status quo mean for Afghans?

Read more

Afghans crowd airplane in Kabul

Afghans crowd airplane in Kabul

People climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on 16 August 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.

Kabul at a standstill as residents rush to leave

The rapid pace of the Taliban's offensive across Afghanistan has taken everyone by surprise and has left residents desperate to leave the country at short notice. On Sunday Taliban leaders were pictured in the Presidential Palace, signalling that they had regained control of the country after 20 years, and sparked panic amongst those who do not wish to live under their rule. 

WORLD NEWS

How much did the US spend in Afghanistan?

In the two decades since 11 September 2001 the United States had attempted to bring about a stable democratic government that could resist any future attacks from the Taliban. That effort has spanned four presidencies and cost trillions of dollars but the notion that it could be achieved has crumbled with embarrassing speed.

The full extent of the failure will become apparent in the months and weeks to come but it is already clear that the US government has spent an astonishing amount of money in search of an outcome that has proved entirely unrealistic.

Read more

US mission in Afghanistan "was never supposed to be nation-building"

On Monday President Biden gave his first public address on the situation in Afghanistan which has seen the Taliban sweep through the country to retake Kabul in a matter of days. In the course of the 15-minute speech he explained his reasons for ordering the withdrawal, arguing that the United States had already achieved all its objectives. 

WORLD NEWS

Where did the Afghan president flee to?

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday he had left the country to avoid bloodshed as the Taliban entered the capital Kabul. The Afghan military had crumbled in a matter of days and, even at that stage, a transition of power looked inevitable.

In a post on his Facebook page, Ghani said he had faced a difficult decision, with the fate of millions of Kabul residents and the security of the city at stake after 20 years of war in which countless numbers had already been killed. But where did he go after deciding he was no longer safe in the country?

Read more

Afghan evacuees crowd into aircraft leaving Kabul

The speed with which the Taliban has retaken Afghanistan within months of the US starting to withdraw from the country has taken many by surprise and created a chaotic situation in the capital of Kabul. The Taliban surged through the country over the past few weeks and was able to capture Kabul without encountering any military opposition. 

This has left people scrambling for an exit with Kabul airport swamped by thousands of people, both Afghans and Americans, desperate to secure safe passage out of the country. 

“We were clear-eyed about the risks. We planned for every contingency. But I always promised the American people that I will always be straight with you. Truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”

President Joe Biden, White House address of Afghanistan

Taliban confiscates Afghans' personal firearms

The Afghan capital city of Kabul has been thrown into turmoil in recent days after Taliban fighters took the Presidential Palace from President Ashraf Ghani and declared the war over. The return of the Islamist militia has created a scramble to leave the country, with Kabul airport overran by Afghans desperate to evacuate the country. 

WORLD NEWS

President Biden speaks on Afghanistan collapse: what was said?

Within the last hour President Joe Biden delivered his first public remarks on the situation in Afghanistan after Taliban forces retook the capital of Kabul and appear to have regained control of the country.

During the course of a 15-minute address he spoke about the US history in the country; his decision to go ahead with the withdrawal; and his disappointment that the Afghan military was not able to mount stronger resistance to the Taliban offensive. 

Here's three key takeaways from Biden's speech...

Read more

CNN's Jake Tapper slams Biden for "finger-pointing and blame"

Throughout the White House speech, President Biden maintained that he has no regrets about his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. He appeared to point some of the blame at the role of Afghan armed forces, who he claimed were “not willing to fight themselves".

Biden continued: "It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not."

Rep. Omar praises Biden for his White House speech

Speaking about his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, President Biden reiterated his believe that with no chance of a comprehensive victory the US was best served by removing itself from the conflict. He made clear that he was unwilling to countenance further deaths of US military personnel and felt that withdrawal was the only viable approach, ending one of the bloodiest wars in modern US history. 

Biden refuses to answer questions after Afghanistan address

The President did not pull any punches in his first public speech since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan amid the ongoing US military withdrawal. Biden asked: "How many more generations of America's daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan's civil war when Afghan troops will not?"

However he once again refused to answer any questions after delivering the pre-written speech, turning and walking away from the podium once he had finished. He may have been eager to avoid any awkward questions about his confident proclaimations, delivered just months ago, that there would be no return of the Taliban once US forces departed. 

Biden outlines futility of continued war in Afghanistan

The President has faced intense criticism over the past week for his decision to go ahead with the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Despite spending two decades and $1 trillion dollars on the effort, the US has failed to create a functioning government that could effectively repel the Taliban.

Biden claimed that the rapid disintergration of the Afghan government within a matter of weeks proved that the US was right to withdraw from the conflict. 

"I am the President of the United States and the buck stops with me."

President Joe Biden, Remarks on events in Afghanistan

Biden admits he was shocked by the speed of the Taliban's advance

"Our troops are working to secure the airfiled and ensure continued operation of both military and civilian flights... Over the coming days we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and wokring out in Afghanistan."

"American troops are performing this mission as professionally and effectively as they always do, but it is not without risk."

President Joe Biden , Remarks on events in Afghanistan

"We provided them with every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide for them was the will needed to fight for that future."

"It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afganistan's own armed forces would not. The political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of the people."

President Joe Biden , Remarks on events in Afghanistan

"When I came into office I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban. Under his agreement US forces would have been out of Afghanistan by May 1 2021."

President Joe Biden, Remarks on events in Afghanistan

Biden returns from Camp David to give Afghanistan address

President Biden has returned from Camp David early in response to the growing criticism of his administration's botched withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Administration officials said that Biden had returned to the White House at around 1pm (ET), and would begin his speech at 3.45pm.

The President has been briefed on the security situation at the airport and the evacuation effort, according to the New York Times, by his defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley.

"President Biden was not prepared to usher in a third decade of war and put US troops in harm’s way, fighting and dying, to try to hold Afghanistan together when its own armed forces would not fight to hold it together.”

Jake Sullivan, White House National Security Advisor

"Every president confronts challenges. This president confronts a challenge in Afghanistan. He has utterly failed to protect the American people in this challenge."

Mike Pompeo, Former Secretary of State to President Trump

Kabul left in state of "absolute pandemonium" after Taliban takeover

In the last 24 hours footage of the scenes in Kabul tell the tale of a city and a country shocked at the rapid pace of the Taliban's return to prominence in Afghan life. It had been almost two decades since the militant Islamist group were removed from power in the country but they have returned within months of the United States announcing its intentions to withdraw from Afghanistan. 

President Biden will be giving a White House address in 20 minutes, with full coverage and live footage of his remarks available here with AS English. 

US NEWS

When will Biden speak today: time of Afghanistan and Taliban forces address

The White House have confirmed that US President Joe Biden will return to the Washington DC to deliver remarks on Afghanistan.

kabul

German evacuation flight can't land in Kabul, diverts to Tashkent

The first of three German evacuation planes en route to Afghanistan has diverted to the Uzbek capital Tashkent after it could not land at Kabul airport, a German general said on Monday.

The A400M transport plane circled for more than an hour over Kabul before changing its destination, Lieutenant General Markus Laubenthal told public broadcaster ZDF.

A foreign ministry spokesperson said earlier in Berlin that no evacuation flights were leaving Kabul airport because desperate people trying to flee the country were blocking the runway.

macron

Macron: Islamist militants will seek to benefit from Afghanistan turmoil

Islamist militants will seek to benefit from the turmoil in Afghanistan, said French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, adding that France would do all it could to ensure Russia, the United States and Europe responded with a common purpose.

"Afghanistan must not become the haven for terrorists that it once was," Macron said in a national address. "It is a challenge for peace and international stability, against a common enemy. We will do everything we can so that Russia, the United States and Europe can cooperate efficiently, because our interests are the same."

The Taliban entered Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan on Sunday as the Islamist militants took over the country 20 years after they were ousted by a U.S.-led invasion.

World News

The Taliban in Afghanistan: why do they want power and what are their rules?

The capture of Kabul on August 15 marks nearly 20 years since the group were ousted and there are concerns that they will impose their harsh rule again.

The flight situation over Afghanistan

Flightradar24 published the timeline of the flight situation over Afghanistan as the Taliban conquered the country.

International flights immediately stopped when the Taliban were at the gates of the city. The US military is currently running the airport as western governments evacuate personnel from the city.

World News

Why has the United States left Afghanistan, how many soldiers did it have, and how long had it been there?

President Biden has claimed back in July that the US had accomplished its goals in Afghanistan. He said in the July 8 remarks that the goals were to get justice for the September 11 attacks and to degrade the terrorist threat that Afghanistan posed. This was given as ample reason that it was ok for the US to back up and leave the country.

But the collapse of the Afghan government and fast Taliban advance  have quashed these claims. In reality, the reason for leaving the war is that the US and NATO are tired of fighting for no gain.

Read more here

 

US - Taliban deal to ease evacuation pressure

AP is reporting that the US Central Command has been negotiating with senior Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar. They are reporting that there has been an agreement that the Taliban would not interfere with the evacuation proceedings.

The evacuation has been slowed by thousands of people fleeing to the runways in hope of being taken out of the country. There have been videos showing people falling from the planes as they clung on to the wheels after takeoff.

International Red Cross to stay in Afghanistan

The NGO has vowed to remain in Afghanistan despite the Taliban takeover.

“There is currently no fighting in Kabul. If there had been conflict in Kabul the civilian suffering would have been enormous," the ICRC’s delegation head, Eloi Fillon, said on Monday.

The world is preparing for a huge humanitarian crisis as people flee the country by any means necessary.

World News

What is Afghanistan's situation in the Middle East and which countries does it border?

The Taliban will have to consider a new geopolitical landscape compared to their first reign in 1996-2001.

Iran's President Raisi claimed the US defeat was an "opportunity for lasting peace," in Afghanistan. The exit of a sizeable US military presence so close to home will be welcome for the Iranian government, but there will be difficult negotiations ahead with Afghanistan's new rulers due to the religious differences between the states.

The inevitable refugee crisis that will arrive in the following months will be directed toward Pakistan; the countries share a long border which is very porous. Pakistan may want a cozy relationship with the Taliban, but one in which they can exert some influence to wield against India

China has already said that they are willing to work with the Taliban, and they would respect the "choices" of the Afghan people. An aspect for China to consider in their relationship with the Taliban is the latter's relationship with China's Uighur Muslim minority. Afghanistan shares a slim border with China, and China has been determined in recent years to break up the separatism in Xinjiang.
 

Read more here

Biden stands by Afghanistan decision, spokesperson insists.

The president is facing calls to address the nation after the 20-year war has ended in defeat.

Biden predicted weeks ago that the Taliban were less of a threat compared to the North Vietnamese.

Mr Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, explained on Monday that the president “stands by” his decision to remove troops from the country, the speed of which many have blamed for the country’s rapid descent into chaos.

Pressure on Biden after Afghanistan collapse

President Biden has come under all sorts of criticism as his determination to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan ensured the country fell to the  Taliban in just two weeks.

Biden has been accused of "turning his back," on US allies and there has been some talk that the US can no longer be seen as the defender of democracy after the defeat; its resolve is under question after the abandonment. This last comment ignores the fact that the Afghan government had no democratic mandate and corruption in the country was rife.

Why was the speed of the takeover not anticipated? Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Mark Milley ruled out a Taliban victory just weeks ago, and said that the US pullout would not lead to a collapse. The US army has consistently said the Afghan army had the capacity to withhold any Taliban attack.

We were in Afghanistan for one overriding purpose: to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11. That's why we went there 20 years ago. And over those 20 years, we brought [Osama] bin Laden to justice. We vastly diminished the threat posed by al Qaeda in Afghanistan to the United States to the point where it's not capable of conducting such an attack again from Afghanistan

Anthony Blinken, US Secretary of State

More pictures show the chaos in Kabul

With the abandonment of the army and the government, the situation in and around the airport is pandemonium.

The US and British troops had attempted to create a perimeter around the airport to prevent the scenes which are taking place. Evidently, they failed to stop the surge.

British defence minister rules out a NATO war footing

Ben Wallace, the British equivalent to the Secretary of State, was interviewed by Sky News this morning.

"I acknowledge that the Taliban are in control of the country," he said, "I mean, you don't have to be a political scientist to spot that's where we're at."

Asked about a potential invasion, he said, "That's not on the cards and we're not going back."

He also said it was, "not the right time," for the UK to recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan.

Desperate for escape, Afghans cling on to sides of departing planes

The chaos unfolding yesterday at Kabul airport continues today as Afghans are trying everything to escape the Taliban.

The runways are full of people trying to get on one of the departing planes with the NATO forces.

All commercial flights from Kabul airport were cancelled and the US military has taken over the running of the airport as soldiers, diplomatic staff and Afghan collaborators are evacuated.

Afghans in desperate attempt to flee Taliban

A local journalist has posted footage of hundreds of Kabul residents trying to flee the advancing Taliban, while the BBC reports there have been at least two deaths during the rush on the airport. Taliban commanders have ordered their forces not to interfere with civilians and have promised there will be no reprisals but many - particularly those who worked with US forces - fear the Taliban's word is unlikely to be kept.  

Russian ambassador to meet with Taliban

Russia will evacuate some of its Afghanistan embassy's roughly 100 staff, Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin's special representative on Afghanistan, told the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Monday.

The official also said that Russia's ambassador in Afghanistan would meet with a Taliban representative on Tuesday and discuss security for its diplomatic mission there, the Interfax news agency reported.

Britain rules out military intervention in Afghanistan

The Taliban are in control of Afghanistan and British forces are not going to return to fight the insurgents, Britain's defence minister said on Monday.

"I acknowledge that the Taliban are in control of the country," Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News. "I mean, you don't have to be a political scientist to spot that's where we're at."

Asked if Britain and NATO would return to Afghanistan, Wallace said: "That's not on the cards... we're not going to go back."

Russia will not rush on question of recognition for new Afghan authorities

(Reuters) Russia will not rush with the question of recognising or not recognising the new authorities in Afghanistan, RIA news agency cited Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin's special representative on Afghanistan as saying on Monday.

In comments on Ekho Moskvy radio station, the official said that Moscow would watch the action of the new authorities closely and will then make a decision.

UAE have evacuated diplomats from Afghanistan

The United Arab Emirates have evacuated their diplomats from Afghanistan, the Foreign Ministry confirmed on Monday morning.

US forces have fired shots into the air at Kabul airport as crowds swarm onto the tarmac.

Thousands are hoping to catch a flight out of Afghanistan, while airlines are rerouting flights to avoid Afghan airspace.

 

Afghanistan

Taliban leader says too early to say how group will take over governance

A Taliban leader said that it was too soon to say how the insurgent group will take over governance in Afghanistan.

"We want all foreign forces to leave before we start restructuring governance," the leader told Reuters by phone. He did not want to be named.

He also said that Taliban fighters in Kabul had been warned not to scare civilians and to allow them to resume normal activities.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she wants human rights upheld in Afghanistan for women and children. 

She also says New Zealand will deploy personnel and a military plane to help evacuate its citizens and some Afghan nationals who worked with New Zealand agencies.

Ardern says about 37 Afghan nationals have been identified to have worked alongside the New Zealand Defense Forces.

The prime minister said the government did not expect the situation in Afghanistan to deteriorate so fast.

The US is taking steps to make sure Americans can fly out of Afghanistan on civilian or military flights.

US forces are to take over air traffic control at Kabul airport, where all US embassy personnel are located.

More than 60 countries say Afghans, others must be allowed to leave Afghanistan

More than 60 countries issued a joint statement saying Afghans and international citizens who want to leave Afghanistan must be allowed to depart and added that airports and border crossings must remain open, the U.S. State Department said.

The U.S. government and countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Qatar and the UK said in a joint statement that "those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan bear responsibility - and accountability - for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order."

It added that "the Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them."

The Taliban declared the war in Afghanistan was over after insurgents took control of the presidential palace in Kabul as U.S.-led forces departed and Western nations scrambled to evacuate thousands of their citizens.

Taliban spokesman says 'the war is over in Afghanistan' - Al Jazeera

The spokesman for the Taliban's political office told Al-Jazeera Mubasher TV that the war is over in Afghanistan and that the type of rule and the form of regime will be clear soon.

Spokesman Mohammad Naeem said that no diplomatic body or any of its headquarters was targeted, saying that the group assures everyone it will provide safety for citizens and diplomatic missions.

"We are ready to have a dialogue with all Afghan figures and will guarantee them the necessary protection," he told the Qatar-based channel. He said the group takes every step responsibly and is keen on having peace with everyone.

Naeem said the group today is seeing the fruits of its efforts and sacrifices for 20 years. "We have reached what we were seeking, which is the freedom of our country and the independence of our people."

American forces will focus on evacuation effort in Kabul

Earlier today President Biden upped the number of US troops to be redeployed in Afghanistan to 6,000 after the Taliban retook the capital of Kabul in a lightening quick surge. They faced little-to-no oppostion in capturing the Presidential Palace and have left thousands of Afghans looking for a way out of their country. 

Throughout the day the US military has been overseeing a huge evacutaiton effort in the capital, attempting to move both diplomatic staff and locals out of the region before it falls to Taliban rule entirely. To help with this effort, the Biden administration has announced that US military personnel will be taking over air traffic control in Kabul. 

Reports of gunfire amid Kabul airport evacuation

The scenes on the ground in Kabul appear to be becoming increasingly chaotic as Afghans and international visitors attempt to flee the country in response to the Taliban offensive on the capital today. The Islamist militia have taken control of the Presidential Palace and appear set to take over the country's political infrastructure in the coming days. 

WORLD NEWS

Who funds the Taliban in Afghanistan?

In recent weeks the Taliban has almost entirely retaken the lands lost after the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001. The two decades-long military intervention in the country has been undone before American forced were even able to complete their withdrawal.

In recent years the US is thought to have spent around $88.3 billion to support the reconstruction effort, according to the aid spending watchdog, in the hope that they would leave before a functioning government. But who has been funding the Taliban in return and how are they able to afford it?

Read more

Trump freed new Taliban leader

In recent hours it has been reported that Mullah Beradar is set to become the new premier of Afghanistan, after the Taliban leader was seen walking into the Presidential Palace recently vacated by President Ashraf Ghani. Beradar is a man well known to US intelligence for his long-time association with the Taliban. 

However he was only freed from Pakistani prison after pressure from President Donald Trump to see him released. Following his release, in September 2020 a statement from the US Embassy in Afghanistan confirmed: "Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met today with Taliban Political Deputy and Head of the Political Office Mullah Beradar and members of the Taliban negotiating team in Doha, Qatar, on the historic occasion of the start of peace negotiations."

Biden underestimated threat posed by the Taliban

Images of a helicopter being used to evacuate workers from the US embassy in Kabul have been circulating widely today with many pointing to similarities beetween the events in Afghanistan and the botched withdrawal from Saigon in 1975. However when asked about parallels between the two situations last month, President Biden dismissed them, claiming that they Taliban were "not remotely comparable in terms of capability."

US NEWS

How long have US Troops been in Afghanistan?

The chaotic events of the last 24 hours in Afghanistan were spawned by the US' military withdrawal from the country that they have been involved in for the last 20 years. The hope had been that the two decade-long intervention would have produced an Afghan government capable of maintaining itself in the future but that has clearly not been the case. 

Read more

Full footage from Taliban occupation of Presidential Palace

Reporters from Al-Jazeera filmed as Taliban fighters, most of whom were armed with semi-automatic weapons, appeared to take up residence in the Presidential Palace. The Taliban have now regained almost all the land in Afghanistan that they lost when the US military first entered the country two decades ago, paving the way for a return to political power.  

Thousands scramble to flee Kabul after Taliban takeover

Footage from Kabul airport shows people swarming across the tarmac in search of an escape from the Afghan capital following the distressing events of today. The Taliban appears to have taken control of the country after being pictured in the Presidential Palace just hours ago. President Ashraf Ghani has left the country and millions who remain are now unsure of their position in society under Taliban rule. 

Taliban fighters pose for pictures in the Presidential Palace

More images have emerged of Taliban members in the Presidential Palace in Kabul, which had been home to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani until he was forced to flee early on Sunday morning. This marks the latest phase of the Taliban's efforts to retake Afghanistan as the US military continues its planned withdrawal. 

WORLD NEWS

How big is the Taliban army in Afghanistan?

The situation in Afghanistan escalated significantly on Sunday as it was reported that President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country amid an ongoing offensive from the Taliban. Fighters had already swept through all major cities in the country before being pictured in the Presidential Palace in the capital city of Kabul on Sunday.

The speed at which the Taliban has retaken the country after the United States announced its intention to withdraw in April has shocked observers and threatens to disrupt the region. How were the Taliban able to retake the capital in a matter of months, and how many fighters are they able to call upon?

Read more

Pentagon to send more US troops into Afghanistan

The United States was in the midst of a military withdrawal from Afghanistan when the Taliban began launching a nationwide offensive that has cumilated with fighters taking the Presidential Palace earlier today. In response to this staggering reversal, President Biden has sanctioned another wave of troops reentering the city of Kabul to aid the evacuation effort and ensure that embassy staff are kept safe. 

New pictures of the Taliban from the Presidential Palace 

In recent hours Taliban forces have made their way into the Presidential Palace in the Afghan capital of Kabul, despite earlier promises that they would remain on the outskirts of the city until a diplomatic solution could be found. Numerous men with firearms posed for photos in the heart of the palace and answered brief questions from journalists. 

"Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in U.S. history.

"One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me."

President Joe Biden, on his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan

Afghan President confirms he has left the country

Earlier today reports surfaced suggesting that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country in the face of mounting Taliban presence in Kabul. Within the last hour footage from the Presidential Palace in Kabul has shown Taliban fighters in the building, and a Facebook post from President Ghani confirms that he has left the country, insisting that the decision was taken to avoid a "big human disaster."

Chaos in Kabul

As the Taliban surged into Kabul on Sunday their arrival has sparked chaos in parts of the Afghan capital as a transition of power now appears inevitable. The speed at which the group and its supporters have swept across the country has caught out both the Afghan army and the US government, who are in the process of withdrawing from the country. 

New footage shows Taliban fighters in the Presidential Palace

The Taliban's efforts to regain control of Afghanistan appear to have come to a head on Sunday as fighters were filmed having taken over the Presidential Palace in Kabul. The buildings were home to President Ashraf Ghani until very recently when the premier was forced to flee the country. 

Images show Taliban fighters inside the Presidential Palace

The Taliban had previously claimed that they would not enter the city of Kabul until granted permission, but new footage released by Al Jazeera shows numerous Taliban fighters pictured in the Presidential Palace. The Taliban appeared to pose for pictures with weapons slung over their shoulders, just hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reportedly fled the country. 

Local reporter shares footage of chaotic scenes at Kabul airport

US spent $83 billion training Afghan military

As President Biden hastily sends thousands of troops back to Afghanistan to control the escalating situation in Kabul, the scale of mismanagement in the country is becoming increasingly clear. 

The New York Times reports that chaotic picture is the result of an overestimation of the "$83 billion the United States has spent since 2001 training and equipping the Afghan security forces and an underestimation of the brutal, wily strategy of the Taliban".

The Taliban have now reached Kabul after tearing through Afghanistan in a matter of weeks as the US continued its withdrawal from the country. The Afghan military appears unable to hold back the tide and the local government has collapsed after President Ashraf Ghani fled in the early hours of Sunday morning. 

Reports suggest US embassy in Kabul has lowered the flag

As the ongoing story from Kabul continues to unfold CNN have reporting that the US embassy in the Afghan capital has removed the flag from view. They say that this is the final stage of evacuation from the embassy, and add: "The withdrawal of US embassy personnel from Afghanistan is happening incredibly rapidly today and the process is now expected to conclude by this evening."

However the official response from the US government argues that this is not the case. 

"This is not abandonment. This is not an evacuation. This is not the wholesale withdrawal. What this is (is) a reduction in the size of our civilian footprint," according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price. "The embassy remains open and we plan to continue our diplomatic work in Afghanistan."

Biden sends extra troops as Taliban encircles Kabul

The Islamic militia group have now entered the Afghan capital of Kabul, less than a month after the end date of US involvement in the country. After two decades of American troops in the country President Biden announced his decision to withdraw earlier this year. 

However in response to the rapid progress made by the Taliban in recent weeks, Biden has been forced to sanction an emergency reintroduction of US troops. 

Footage from Kabul as the Taliban look to recapture the capital

MIDDLE EAST

Who are the Taliban and what are their motives?

The Taliban is currently encircling the Afghan capital of Kabul, the latest strategic attacks since the United States announced its withdrawal from the country earlier this year.

The militia group is now thought to control at least 14 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals with still more on the brink of falling due to ongoing fighting. The Taliban encroaches on Kabul as President Ashraf Ghani’s government's collapses and the premier is forced to flee the country. But who are the Taliban and what are their political aims?

Read more

US embassy staff destroy documents as Taliban encircle the Afghan capital

President Ghani flees the country as Taliban encircle the capital

Numerous news outlets are reporting that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country as Taliban fighters converge on the capital city of Kabul. The Taliban have launched an almost unopposed offensive since the US annnounced their intention to withdraw from the country and Ghani clearly felt the situation on the ground made his continued presence in the city untenable. 

The collapse of the Afghan government will be seen as victory for the Talbian who are looking to regain their grip over the political system. 

US looks to protect embassy staff in Kabul

In recent hours it has been reported that embassy staff in the Afghan capital of Kabul had been instructed to destroy documents to prevent classified information falling into the hands of the Taliban as they look to enter the city. Now there is concern about the safety of those still at the embassy and plans are being made to secure an emergency evacuation. 

Welcome to the AS English live feed of the ongoing situation in Afghanistan as the Taliban looks to resume control of the country. In April President Biden announced that US forces would begin to withdraw from Afghanistan after nearly two decades and the Islamic militia group has seized the opportunity. 

We'll keep you up to date on all the news as it happens.

.