The Latest: US in touch with Taliban on Kabul evacuations
WASHINGTON — The Defense Department says U.S. military commanders at the Kabul airport are in touch with Taliban leaders as they coordinate the evacuation effort of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday that necessary interactions with Taliban leaders will continue as the U.S. evacuates people. He said there have been no new hostile encounters with Taliban fighters at the airport.
Asked whether U.S. commanders had an agreement with the Taliban for safe passage to the airport of Afghan allies and others awaiting evacuation, Kirby said “There are interactions at the airport, by our commanders, with the Taliban leaders” outside the airport.
Officials hope the pace of evacuations will pick up so that as many as 9,000 people could be taken out of the country each day.
After their sweep into Kabul on Sunday and the takeover of the country, Taliban fighters are guarding Kabul airport’s entry points and gates.
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
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — A Taliban spokesman has said that Afghan women will have the right to work and be educated at the university level.
Suhail Shaheen also told Britain’s Sky News in an interview on Tuesday that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other world leaders have a “moral obligation” to help rebuild a new Afghanistan.
“The U.K. prime minister, all leaders of the world, they should respect the aspiration of the people of Afghanistan” and support its economic development, Shaheen said in a video interview from Doha, Qatar.
He added: “This is their obligation because they were behind the destruction of Afghanistan during the 20 years. It is their moral obligation to also help to reconstruct Afghanistan and to help the people to start a new life, and a new chapter.”
Shaheen said the Taliban intend to uphold the Doha peace deal and are “committed to women’s rights to education and work.” He said girls “can get education from primary to higher education. That means university. This is our policy and we are really working on this in all those areas falling to us in Afghanistan.”
He added that the group has already announced a general amnesty to all those who worked in the collapsed government, with foreigners or in foreign embassies. “Their property will be saved, their honor and their lives are safe. They should not be worried about it.”
PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s prime minister on Tuesday said the country would temporarily house Afghans threatened by the Taliban during the peacekeeping military mission there.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti said that since mid-July, two teams from Kosovo and the United States were coordinating efforts to shelter a number of Afghans under threat.
President Vjosa Osmani said Monday that a month earlier, U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had asked for a temporary shelter of Afghan local staff working with the U.S. forces.
Kurti said in an interview with The Associated Press that “by sheltering some of the refugees from Afghanistan we are doing a small help in return to an immense contribution that the United States did for our country and our people during the war and after it.”
Kurti did not give numbers of the place where they will be housed due to security concerns. Kosovo Albanians left in a mass exodus in 1999, amid a brutal war between separatist ethnic Kosovo Albanian rebels and Serb forces. The war ended after a 78-day U.S.-led NATO air campaign drove Serb troops out and a peacekeeping force moved in.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008, which is recognized by most of the West but not by Serbia and its allies, Russia and China.
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan vice president is claiming that after President Ashraf Ghani fled in the face of the Taliban sweep into Kabul over the weekend and with his whereabouts unknown, the vice president is the country’s “legitimate” caretaker president.
Amrullah Saleh made the comment on Twitter on Tuesday. He cited the Afghan constitution was empowering him to declare this. He wrote that he was “reaching out to all leaders to secure their support & consensus.”
As of now, Afghan leaders, including former President Hamid Karzai and peace council chief Abdullah Abdullah, have been negotiating with the Taliban since the fall of Kabul.
BERLIN — Ahead of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Berlin that the ministers would talk about how to support each other in getting EU citizens and local Afghan staffers out of the country.
Mass said they would also discuss how to deal with the Taliban in the future and how to keep the region stable in the face of possible refugee flows escaping Afghanistan. He added that “we will watch the developments very closely and those who are now executing power in Afghanistan will be judged by their action.”
The German foreign minister added that “we will especially focus our view on the stability of the region. The neighboring countries will certainly be confronted with further refugee movements.”
Maas added that, “we have already told the United Nations that we are ready to help with the humanitarian care of these people in neighboring countries — however, eventually we will need to have a common European approach for that.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen said that at the request of the United States, Denmark will help others out of Afghanistan using military planes.
“We are now in a situation where we are able to lift out our own and help allies,” Bramsen said. “In advance, we had decided to have military planes in the area so we (now) can help our allies.”
The Danish move became crucial when civilian aircraft no longer took off from the Kabul International Airport while the military side kept on operating.
“On Sunday, we were one of the first (nations) to move to a military action,” she said.
Denmark was able to help Norway to get its diplomats out of Afghanistan on Monday, along with those from the Danish Embassy.
It was unclear if all Danish nationals have been evacuated. Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said that he “can guarantee that we do everything humanly possible to help with the evacuation. It is really important to us,” and added “but some things are out of our hands.”
BERLIN — German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says that in addition to the 125 evacuees that were flown out of Kabul on Tuesday, another 100 people were waiting for the next German military transport plane to ferry them out of the country.
Maas said two more planes were expected to land later in the day. He added that German military personnel on the ground had secured a safe gate to the airport that people who are on the German government’s list for evacuation could use to to get in.
Following their sweep into Kabul on Sunday and taking over the country, Taliban fighters are now also guarding entry points and gates at the airport in the Afghan capital.
Meanwhile, Hungary’s foreign ministry confirmed that more than 26 Hungarian citizens are in Afghanistan waiting to be evacuated.
News site Hvg.hu reported Tuesday that the 26 Hungarians had previously provided private security services to the Dutch embassy in Kabul but were now stranded in the city.
In a statement to news site Index.hu, Hungary’s foreign ministry confirmed the report, saying Hungary had “already agreed with one of our military allies to bring out the 26-strong Hungarian team,” and was constantly monitoring the process.
The ministry also stated that additional Hungarian citizens in Afghanistan had sought assistance, but would not divulge their numbers or details of their whereabouts for security reasons. On Monday, the foreign ministry had told commercial television station ATV that it was unaware of any Hungarian citizens in Afghanistan.
LONDON — A British officer in charge of Britain’s evacuation of between 6,000 to 7,000 people from Afghanistan says Taliban commanders around the airport in Kabul have not sought to disrupt the effort.
Royal Navy Vice Admiral Ben Key says “pragmatic, tactical, low level” discussions have had to take place with the Taliban as they control entry points into the airport.
While conceding that it’s only been a day and a half since the evacuation commenced, Key told BBC Radio that the Taliban have so far appeared “acquiescent and understanding of what we’re trying to achieve.”
British officials are calling in people to go to the vicinity of the airport as and when a flight becomes available for them. There, they have to be allowed through into the airport grounds by the Taliban. Once inside, British officials undertake the necessary security checks before taking them to the airfield where they await their flight back to the U.K.
Britain is seeking to evacuate 4,000 U.K. nationals and Afghan allies who have helped over the past 20 years.
BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is blaming a failure of Afghan leadership for the swift collapse of the country’s armed forces but says the alliance must also uncover flaws in its military training effort.
Stoltenberg says “the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up” and that “this failure of Afghan leadership led to the tragedy we are witnessing today.”
His remarks came after he chaired a meeting Tuesday of NATO envoys to discuss the security implications of the Taliban’s sweeping victory in Afghanistan.
NATO has been leading international security efforts in Afghanistan since 2003 but wound-up combat operations in 2014 to focus on training the national security forces.
Referring to way the Afghan armed forces withered in the face of the Taliban offensive, Stoltenberg said that “it was a surprise, the speed of the collapse and how quickly that happened.”
He says “there are lessons that need to be learned” at NATO.
MOSCOW — Russia’s top diplomat on Tuesday said that Moscow was “in no rush” to recognize the new Taliban government in Afghanistan and called for an inclusive dialogue of all political forces in the country.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia was “just like all other countries” and “in no rush to recognize” the Taliban government. At the same time, Lavrov noted “encouraging signals from the Taliban, who are declaring their desire to have a government with the participation of other political forces.”
His remarks came as the Taliban in Kabul declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government. Lavrov also said Moscow supports “the beginning of an inclusive national dialogue with the involvement of all political and confessional forces in Afghanistan.”
Russia designated the Taliban a terrorist organization in 2003, but has since hosted several rounds of talks in Afghanistan, most recently in March, that involved the group.
Moscow, which fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with the Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989, has made a diplomatic comeback as a mediator, reaching out to feuding Afghan factions as it has jockeyed with the U.S. for influence in the country.
SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia will provide temporary shelter to 186 Afghan refugees before their transfer to the United States or other countries.
The government in Skopje said late Monday the decision concerns Afghans involved in democratic changes in their country or who worked for international organizations and agencies. It didn’t say when they were expected to arrive.
Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said the first group of six refugees, mostly women and children are relatives of the U.N. office staff in Kabul. The rest include family members or staff from charities, human rights and civic organizations, as well as journalists. The government did not say when they are to arrive.
The Afghans will be put up in motels, resorts and hotels, at the expense of international organizations, as well as the U.S.
North Macedonia’s authorities said on Tuesday that most of the country’s 75 nationals have been evacuated with U.S. military planes from Kabul to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Out of another 14 still in Kabul, 11 will be evacuated later on Tuesday, Osmani said. The remaining three have stated that they will stay in Afghanistan for the time being.
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.”
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A senior female broadcaster in Afghanistan said she remains in hiding at a relative’s house, too frightened to return home or to work following reports the Taliban had a list of journalists and had knocked on some of their doors after sweeping into Kabul over the weekend.
The 29-year-old woman, who is in Kabul, says her father told her to remain in hiding until the security situation becomes clearer. She spoke to The Associated Press by phone on Tuesday and declined to give her name for fear of retaliation.
The situation for women in Afghanistan is unclear, she said. “I do not believe the Taliban,” she said.
She said that Afghan women have made great gains over the years, but she doesn’t think the Taliban would accepts these strides. She said a friend of hers who is a presenter on Afghanistan’s national broadcaster, Mili TV, called her crying after she was told Tuesday by the station to stay home and not return to work until further notice.
PRAGUE — The second Czech military transport plane has taken off from Kabul and is heading for Prague.
Czech Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar says Czech ambassador to Kabul, Jiri Baloun, and the Afghans who worked with the Czech military during NATO missions together with their families are among those on board.
Metnar thanked the soldiers for doing their utmost to get onboard as many people as possible.
Czech Foreign Ministry Eva Davidova says there are 87 people on board, including two nationals from other European Union countries, and an unspecified member of crew.
During the flight to Kabul, the plane had to land in Baku, Azerbaijan on Monday, and was only able to continue to the Afghan capital on Tuesday as evacuation flights were interrupted after people desperate to flee the country flooded the tarmac in the Afghan capital.
The first evacuation flight on Monday airlifted to Prague 46 Czech and Afghan nationals.
Another European Union member, Slovakia, has not yet received the green light for its military transport plane to land in Kabul due to the chaos at the airport, Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok said Tuesday.
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.