The Latest: About 60,000 in Afghan evacuation brought to US
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says about 60,000 people have arrived in the country since Aug. 17 from Afghanistan as part of the evacuation formally known as Operation Allies Welcome.
DHS said in the latest updated released Wednesday that 17% of those arrivals are U.S. citizens and permanent residents who were in Afghanistan when the government there fell to the Taliban.
The remaining 83% are a mix of people. They include those with Special Immigrant Visas, for people who worked as interpreters or in some other capacity for the U.S. or NATO. There are also other visa holders as well as applicants for visas who have not yet completed their processing. The remainder are various types of “vulnerable” Afghans who would be threatened under the Taliban, such as women and human rights advocates.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says a small number of evacuees have been prevented from entering the U.S. through “multi-layered” security vetting but he declines to provide specific numbers of provide details about the cases.
MORE ON AFGHANISTAN:
— Taliban name caretaker Cabinet that pays homage to old guard
— US-built databases a potential tool of Taliban repression
— Blinken and Austin to visit Gulf to address postwar stresses
— Taliban say they took Panjshir, last holdout Afghan province
— Over 24 hours in Kabul, brutality, trauma, moments of grace
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations women’s agency in Afghanistan says every day it is receiving reports of “rollbacks on women’s rights.” The complaints range from women barred from going to work without a male guardian or even leaving their homes to attacks on centers helping women who flee violence and on girls’ and coeducational schools.
Alison Davidian is the deputy Afghan representative for UN Women and she said in a video briefing from Kabul that “the lack of clarity of the Taliban’s position on women’s rights has generated incredible fear — and this fear is palpable across the country.”
She says UN Women is receiving reports of violations through its extensive network of women, civil society organizations, women leaders and human rights defenders. She the agency’s Afghan operation hopes to reopen its offices in five provinces once the security situation improves because “Afghan women have never needed us more.”
Davidian says the situation for women differs from province to province and she urges the Taliban “to show that it governs for all Afghans and that it has changed” and will protect and promote “the full spectrum of women’s rights.”
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is pressing the Taliban to allow charter flights carrying would-be evacuees to leave Mazar-e-Sharif.
Blinken said Wednesday that the Taliban aren’t permitting the flights’ departure because they claim that some of the passengers don’t have the required documentation.
He added: “While there are limits to what we can do without personnel on the ground, without an airport with normal security and procedures in place, we are working to do everything in our power to support those flights and to get them off the ground.”
He said those efforts include working with advocates and lawmakers to help coordinate their efforts and offer guidance, and helping to arrange landing rights and liaise with other countries in the region on overflights.
Blinken said: “We’ve made clear to all parties, we’ve made clear to the Taliban, that these charters need to be able to depart.” He said the U.S. will continue to press the Taliban.
He said some groups claiming to have all documentation and arrangements locked down “unfortunately don’t — often for good reason, but this creates further complications.”
WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Jen Psaki is defending the White House’s continued engagement with a Taliban government that includes an FBI most wanted terrorist and no women named to top positions.
Psaki says: “Should we not talk to the people who are overseeing Afghanistan and just leave it and not get the rest of the American citizens out?”
She added that the U.S. and international community are watching as it decides whether it will formally recognize the Taliban government.
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is telling the Taliban that “any legitimacy, any support will have to be earned” after the group named an interim government.
Blinken spoke after he and his German counterpart on Wednesday hosted a virtual meeting of ministers from 22 countries as well as NATO and the European Union.
Blinken reiterated the cautious initial U.S. response to the Taliban’s naming Tuesday of an interim government line-up.
The new government stacked with veterans of their hard-line rule from the 1990s and the 20-year battle against the U.S.-led coalition.
Blinken said that the government and the Taliban will be judged by their actions.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan says it will send food and medicine to the people of neighboring Afghanistan.
In a statement Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry said the first shipment of humanitarian aid will be dispatched to Afghanistan by three C-130 planes.
The announcement comes a day after the Taliban announced an interim government for Afghanistan.
The ministry said additional supplies of humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan would continue through the country’s land routes.
Afghanistan is suffering under a long-running economic crisis that has worsened in recent months. Near daily flights from Qatar bring in humanitarian aid, but the needs are massive.
Pakistan also urged the international community to help the people of Afghanistan to avert a possible humanitarian crisis there.
PARIS — France says the Taliban’s new government does not meet the demands of the international community.
“Their actions do not match their words,” French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told an online briefing Wednesday.
She said France and other countries had demanded the safe departure of Afghans who wish to leave, free access to humanitarian aid, the “total severing” of relations with terrorist groups and respect for human rights, especially women’s rights.
“We can only note that these demands have not been met,” she said
BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister has responded skeptically to the Taliban’s announcement of an interim government line-up for Afghanistan.
Heiko Maas released a statement Wednesday, a day after the Taliban announced an all-male interim government. The Cabinet is stacked with veterans of their hard-line rule from the 1990s and the 20-year battle against the U.S.-led coalition. Germany was a major troop provider for that alliance.
Maas said his country is ready to provide humanitarian aid via the United Nations and will continue to speak to the Taliban to secure the departure from Afghanistan of former employees and others.
He added that any commitment beyond that will depend on the Taliban’s behavior.
Maas said: “The announcement of an interim government without the participation of other groups and yesterday’s violence against female demonstrators and journalists in Kabul are not signals that make us optimistic about that.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Norwegian ambassador to Iran says the Taliban have taken over the Norwegian Embassy in Kabul.
Ambassador Sigvald Hauge wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that the Taliban “say they will return it to us later” and added “but first wine bottles are to be smashed and children’s books destroyed.”
Norway vacated its diplomatic post in the Afghan capital with the help of fellow Scandinavian neighbor Denmark before the Taliban took over the city
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s foreign minister has urged the international community to help prevent a humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi was addressing a virtual meeting of foreign ministers from countries neighboring Afghanistan. It was attended by his counterparts from China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The meeting took place a day after the Taliban announced an all-male interim government for Afghanistan. In his televised remarks, Qureshi said that Pakistan had noted the development.
He added that since Kabul’s takeover by the Taliban, “much dreaded bloodshed has not occurred,” and the prospect of a protracted conflict and civil war seems to have been averted. Qureshi said that so far, a much-feared exodus of refugees has also not taken place.
The situation remains complex and fluid in Afghanistan however and it “requires discarding old lenses, developing new insights, and proceeding with a realistic and pragmatic approach.”
BERLIN — Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken are set to meet at Ramstein U.S. Air Base for talks on Afghanistan on Wednesday.
The two foreign ministers are first set to talk bilaterally and later hold a virtual meeting with other foreign ministers, the German foreign ministry said in a statement.
Maas praised the close cooperation with the U.S. during the evacuation efforts of international and local Afghans from the country in recent weeks, and said that “in the next phase we want to continue to cooperate and coordinate, especially in regard of the new rulers in Kabul.”
Maas warned that a threefold humanities crisis was looming in Afghanistan due to hunger, the stop of aid from international relief groups, and the volatile political situation with the new Taliban regime in Kabul.
Ramstein has become a turnstile for the evacuation for people from Afghanistan with around 34,000 flown for layovers to the U.S. base. Some 22,000 evacuees have already left the base for the United States or other locations.
Germany has relocated more than 4,000 people from Afghanistan so far.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan is hosting a virtual meeting of foreign ministers from countries neighboring Afghanistan to discuss the situation there.
A foreign ministry statement said Wednesday’s meeting will be attended by China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will preside over the meeting, which aims “to work together for the shared objective of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, which is essential to forge strong economic links.”
The development comes a day after the Taliban announced an all-male interim government for Afghanistan, stacked with veterans from their hard-line rule in the 1990s and the 20-year battle against the U.S.-led coalition.
So far Pakistan has not commented on the formation of the interim government.