The Latest: Top Taliban leader leaves Qatar for Afghanistan
The Latest on Afghanistan, where the Taliban declared general “amnesty,” two days after sweeping into the capital, Kabul, and taking over the country:
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A top Taliban official has met with a Qatari official before reportedly leaving the country for Afghanistan.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar met with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Tuesday.
A statement said the two “reviewed the latest security and political developments in Afghanistan, stressing the need for the protection of civilians, intensifying necessary efforts to achieve national reconciliation, working for a comprehensive political settlement and a peaceful transfer of power.”
MORE ON THE CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN:
— Taliban announce ‘amnesty,’ urge women to join government
— Taliban take over Afghanistan: What we know and what’s next
— Biden: Afghan chaos ‘gut-wrenching’ but stands by withdrawal
— Billions spent on Afghan army ultimately benefited Taliban
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
CHAMAN, Pakistan — Hundreds of Pakistanis and Afghans nationals crossed into Pakistan from the key border crossing of Chaman in southwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, witnesses and officials said.
However, they said that among these people were two suspected militants recently freed from the Pul-e-Charkhi and Bagram prisons by the Afghan Taliban. It was unclear on what charges the two had been held by the Afghanistan government.
No government official was immediately available for comment, but authorities have said they are allowing in all Pakistanis and Afghans who were stranded in Afghanistan.
One such suspected militant, Abdul Qadoos, told The Associated Press that he spent six years at Pul-e-Charkhi Prison until the Taliban let them go after capturing the facility. He refused to share any other details and only said that he was freed by the Taliban.
A second man, Hafiz Abdul Hadi, spent 10 years at Bagram Prison before his release by the Taliban, according to his close relative, Ameen Ullah, who was at the crossing to welcome him. The relatives of the men held up Taliban when they welcomed them into Pakistan.
TIRANA, Albania — Albania is waiting on Tuesday to temporarily shelter the first Afghans who worked with Western peacekeeping military forces in Afghanistan and are now threatened by the Taliban.
Government sources, who spoke anonymously under regulations, said that about 300 Afghans are expected to arrive later tonight or early morning Wednesday with a military plane. They will be sheltered at the students’ campus in the capital, Tirana, and some hotels in the nearby western port city of Durres.
U.S. Ambassador to Tirana Yuri Kim met with Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka saying the situation changes rapidly and no details were known yet about the schedule and the numbers.
“We’ve been deeply moved by the gesture of the Albanian people, the decision to give temporary refuge to those who are in greatest need,” she told reporters.
Kim said that “(Afghan) people will be coming here temporarily with the idea that they will move on to the US for final settlement … this is a matter of processing (the visa requirements).”
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Sunday said they had responded positively to the U.S. government’s request to Albania to serve as a “transit place for a certain number of Afghan political emigrants who have the United States as their final destination.”
WASHINGTON — A top U.S. defense official says plans are being made to temporarily house thousands of Afghans at three U.S. military installations.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that up to 22,000 Afghans and their families could be housed at the installations. Kirby did not identify more specific locations.
Thousands of Afghans who assisted the U.S. as interpreters and in other roles have been desperate to leave Afghanistan since before the government fell to the Taliban over the weekend, in the shadow of an Aug. 31 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Kirby told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the U.S. Defense and State departments are working together to evacuate as many Americans and Afghans as quickly as possible.
Kirby says several thousand U.S. service members now arriving in Afghanistan will there for the next couple of weeks to help with the evacuation.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin that she would speak to the head of the UN’s refugee agency later on Tuesday regarding the situation of people in Afghanistan who may want to leave the country because of the instable situation.
Merkel said on Tuesday that she wants to talk with Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, about “secure possibilities for refugees in the neighborhood” of Afghanistan.
Merkel said “it is a weakness of our EU that we didn’t create a common asylum policy.” The German chancellor has said before that the focus of helping possible Afghan refugees should be on supporting neighboring countries like Pakistan to take in Afghan migrants.
PARIS — France has evacuated several dozen people from Kabul in a military plane after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan.
The flight early Tuesday brought the evacuees to a military air base in Abu Dhabi, and several of the passengers were then sent back to France.
The French military did not say whether there were Afghan or other citizens among the several dozen people brought on the overnight flight. France withdrew its last troops from Afghanistan in 2014 and has already evacuated more than 1,000 Afghans who supported French forces.
Images released by the military showed French troops checking their weapons and guarding the plane in the Kabul airport while others checked the documents of those boarding the flight.
President Emmanuel Macron promised Monday that France would not abandon Afghans who worked for the country, from translators to kitchen staff as well as artists, activists and others potentially under threat with the collapse of the Afghan government.
BERLIN — Germany has suspended its development aid to Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
German Development Minister Gerd Mueller told daily newspaper Rheinische Post on Tuesday that “the state-run development aid has currently been suspended.”
Mueller added that all German and international employees of the German developmental agency GIZ had left the country and Germany was now trying to get local Afghan staff evacuated as well.
German news agency dpa reported that until now Afghanistan had been the country that received the most German developmental aid in world.
The agency reported that the German government had planned to give an estimated 250 million euros ($294 million) in developmental aid in 2021, but that money had not been paid out.
Other financial aid, not directly linked to the development aid, would have included support for police training or humanitarian aid. It was not immediately clear how much of that aid had already been given to Afghanistan. Dpa reported that altogether all German financial aid for Afghanistan would have added up to 430 million euros in 2021.
GENEVA — The United Nations is urging the Taliban to keep its “promises,” including its pledges to grant an amnesty to former government workers in Afghanistan, show inclusiveness for women and allow girls to remain in school.
“The Taliban have made a number of statements that on the surface are reassuring,” U.N. human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters Tuesday in Geneva. “But their actions speak deeper than words, and it’s very early now – it’s very fluid.”
He said the Taliban’s promises “need to be honored.”
“Understandably, given their past history, these declarations have been greeted with some skepticism,” Colville added. “Nevertheless, the promises have been made, and whether or not they are honored or broken will be closely scrutinized.”
Colville alluded to comments a day earlier from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about “chilling reports” of human rights abuses and restrictions on rights – especially those of women and girls – in areas captured by the Taliban in recent weeks.
He also called on U.N. member states to “use their influence” with the Taliban to protect civilian lives.
GUELPH, Canada — Talks to expand a future Afghan government beyond only Taliban members are continuing in Kabul.
Officials close to the discussions on Tuesday are hoping for “some good news” within a day or two. They spoke on condition of anonymity because until now no one wanted details of negotiations released to the media.
Senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Muttaqi has already held several rounds of talks with Kabul’s political leadership, including Abdullah Abdullah, who once headed the country’s negotiating council and former president Hamid Karzai.
At least one round of the talks went through the night. Discussion appeared to focus on how a Taliban-dominated government would respond to rights gained over the last 20 years.
The announcements of general amnesty and urging women to return to work appeared to indicate progress may have been made.
Muttaqi, a former higher education minister when the Taliban last ruled, began making contacts with Afghan political leaders even before President Ashraf Ghani secretly slipped away from the Presidential Palace on the weekend. Ghani’s departure left a devastating vacuum that Taliban who were surrounding the city strode in to fill.
Muttaqi had reached out to U.S-allied warlords prior to Kabul’s collapse seemingly starting the process of greater inclusivity in their government.
The talks underway are aimed at bringing other non-Taliban leaders into the government, which Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen earlier said would be an “inclusive Afghan government.”
Shaheen earlier told The AP a government will be announced after negotiations were completed.
-Kathy Gannon in Guelph, Canada;
KATHMANDU, Nepal — A chartered flight has flown 127 Nepalese nationals from Afghanistan who were working at the embassy of the United States and allies.
They had been first flown to Kuwait and then taken chartered flight to Kathmandu arranged by the American government.
Officials said that in Kathmandu, U.S. embassy officials received them and the Nepalese nationals were escorted by soldiers. They were to be driven later to a holding center where they would be tested for COVID-19.
They are the first group of Nepalese nationals to be rescued from Afghanistan. It is estimated there are hundreds of Nepalese nationals working in there mostly doing security work.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark is giving 100 million kroner ($16 million) for Afghanistan to be channeled through the Red Cross and the United Nations as “the situation is expected to worsen in the near future.”
Denmark’s Foreign Aid Minister Flemming Moeller Mortensen called the situation “deeply worrying.” He added in a statement Tuesday: “Even before the Taliban took power, almost half of the population was dependent on humanitarian aid, and the situation is expected to worsen in the near future.”
LONDON — British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says the government plans to increase humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, “probably by 10%.”
Raab said the aid budget will be reconfigured for development and humanitarian purposes in Afghanistan and that the Taliban will not get any of the money previously earmarked for security.
“I don’t think we will condition the humanitarian relief we provide to ordinary Afghans on what the Taliban does,” he said.
Raab added that the aid would not be based on the Taliban meeting certain criteria, such as on governance.
That the British government is planning an “open-hearted” and “bespoke” asylum policy for Afghan citizens.
The details, he said, will be set out soon by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel.
NEW DELHI — A military flight carrying Indian officials has landed in the western state of Gujarat after taking off from Kabul’s main airport.
The Press Trust of India reported the landing Tuesday after India’s foreign ministry had said the country was evacuating its ambassador and other Indian staff from Kabul. The announcement comes amid a scramble by many nations to get their diplomatic staff out of Afghanistan after the Taliban swept into power.
India’s public broadcaster reported that the plane carried more than 120 Indian officials. Another military aircraft brought home around 40 Indian diplomats and other staff on Monday, local media reported. However, India was forced to pause its repatriation efforts to bring back stranded citizens after Kabul suspended commercial operations at its airport.
The Indian government on Tuesday also announced a new electronic visa that would fast-track applications from Afghans who wish to escape to India. The foreign ministry had said it was in constant touch with Indian nationals in Afghanistan, especially those from the Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan says U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called the country’s foreign minister to discuss the path forward in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s swift takeover.
The ministry’s statement Tuesday quotes Shah Mahmood Qureshi as telling Blinken by phone that an “inclusive political settlement was the best way forward” for resolving the current political impasse.
Qureshi said Pakistan would remain closely engaged with the U.S. and other international partners in promoting efforts in support of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
The latest development comes hours after Pakistan’s political and military leadership called for a political settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have seized power in Afghanistan two weeks before the U.S. was set to complete its troop withdrawal after a costly two-decade war. A defiant U.S. President Joe Biden has stood by his decision to end America’s longest war.
The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 ousted the insurgents from power, but they never left.
After they blitzed across the country in recent days, the Western-backed government that has run the country for 20 years collapsed. Afghans, fearing for the future, are racing to the airport, one of the last routes out of the country.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says his government will not be able to evacuate as many Afghans from Kabul as he wanted.
Australia is sending three transport and air-to-air refueling jets with 250 military personnel to repatriate more than 130 Australians and their families from Afghanistan.
Australia also wants to evacuate hundreds of Afghans who had worked for Australian troops and diplomats in roles such as interpreters.
Morrison said he is optimistic that Australia’s evacuation operation would succeed despite the Taliban controlling Kabul.
“I want you to know that we will continue to do everything we can for those who have stood with us,” Morrison said in a message to 39,000 Australian military personnel who served in Afghanistan.
He added that “support won’t reach all that it should.”
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said “several hundred” Afghans who had worked for Australia remained in Afghanistan. Australia has resettled 430 since April.