Final evacuation flight leaves Kabul – as it happened

Last modified: 12: 09 AM GMT+0

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The Australian government’s newly appointed adviser on resettling Afghan nationals has predicted the “residual trauma” among those fleeing Taliban-controlled Afghanistan will be “amongst the highest levels of any groups we’ve ever resettled”.

Paris Aristotle, the co-chair of an advisory panel announced on Monday, also said he welcomed signals from the government that it was open to taking more than the 3,000 Afghan nationals it initially pledged to accommodate by June next year.

“If the government decides to do that, I am absolutely confident that we have the capacity to do it well,” he said of an increased intake.

Aristotle said the new panel would focus immediately on how to help people who were airlifted out of Kabul over the past two weeks to access trauma and mental health services in Australia and to sponsor family members who were left behind in Afghanistan:

An image of the last U.S. soldier leaving Afghanistan after 20 years of war, Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. https://t.co/LqLHSKCmmJ

— Idrees Ali (@idreesali114) August 30, 2021

The New York Times’ diplomatic correspondent Lara Jakes calls the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw all of its diplomats from Kabul and place them in Doha instead a “a stunning turnabout”. She writes:

American diplomats have left Afghanistan, and the US Embassy in Kabul will remain closed, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Monday, after the military announced that it had completed its withdrawal from the country.

The disintegration of US diplomacy was a stunning turnabout from plans to stay and help Afghanistan transition away from 20 years of war and work toward peace, however tenuous, with a government that would share power with the Taliban. Earlier this month, Mr. Blinken had pledged that the United States would remain “deeply engaged” in Afghanistan long after the military left.

But that mission was largely dashed on Aug. 15, when the Taliban advanced into the capital, Kabul, forcing President Ashraf Ghani to flee the country and American diplomats to evacuate to a compound secured by the US military at the international airport.

A reminder that the final evacuation came as the Pentagon announced an investigation into reports of civilian casualties from a drone strike in Kabul, saying it was “not in a position to dispute” accounts of nine people from one family being killed, including seven children, in a drone strike on Sunday.

The attack happened on the same Kabul street where the extended family lived, adding to the bloodshed and chaos of the last days of the US military presence. Among the dead were three children aged two, two children aged three and two older children.

Reports from Kabul suggested some of the children had run out to greet one of the adults killed, an NGO worker, as he returned home.

A relative of the victims, Ramin Yousufi, told the BBC that the youngest victim was two-year-old Sumaya, and the oldest child was Farzad, 12.

“It’s wrong, it’s a brutal attack, and it’s happened based on wrong information,” he told the broadcaster. “Why have they killed our family? Our children? They are so burnt out we cannot identify their bodies, their faces.”

Another relative said the family had applied for evacuation to the US and were waiting to be called to Kabul airport:

Blinken did not stay to take questions.

'American's work in Afghanistan continues', says Blinken

Blinken says the main point he wants to drive home today is that “America’s work in Afghanistan continues.”

“We’ll make sure we find every opportunity to make good on our commitment to the Afghan people,” he says. “In this way we’ll honour all those brave men and women from the US and many other countries who risked and sacrificed their lives on this long mission, right up until today.”

With that, his remarks end.

US aid will flow through independent organisations

The US will continue to send aid to Afghanistan, but it “will not flow through the government” says Blinken. Rather it will flow through independent organisations including the UN’s refugee agency.

Blinken: 'We will stay focused on counter-terrorism'

Outlining the way forward, US secretary of state Antony Blinken says that the US will “maintain robust counterterrorism capabilities in the region”.

The US will engage with the Taliban but not rely on them.

“Going forward any engagement with the Taliban will be driven by one thing only: our national interests,” he says.

But “Every step we take will be based not on what a Taliban government says but by its actions”

Support “will have to be earned,” he says.

The Taliban will have to respect women and minorities and form an “inclusive” government. They must not carry out reprisal attacks, he says.

US will hold Taliban to commitment on freedom of movement

The Taliban have promised to allow any Afghans who want to leave to leave. The US will hold them to this and assist those who want to leave, says Blinken.

The US hopes that civilian departures from Kabul airport will resume shortly – as will overland departures via land borders.

Up to 200 American citizens remain in Afghanistan

Blinken says there are still Americans who remain in Afghanistan – somewhere between 100 and 200.

He says the number is difficult to determine because many are dual citizens with deep roots who are deciding whether to leave.

“The protection of Americans abroad remains the department’s most vital and enduring mission,” he says.

If Americans who want to stay now decide in a week’s time, for example, that they want to leave, they will be helped.

The US commitment to Afghans, too, “has no deadline,” he says.

Updated

Diplomatic operations suspended in Kabul, moved to Doha, says Blinken

Blinken says that the US’s diplomatic operations in Afghanistan have ended, and have been moved instead to Doha.

“This operation was a global endeavour in every way,” says Blinken.

He hopes more countries will offer to resettle Afghans permanently.

“A new chapter of American’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun.”

“It is one in which we will lead with diplomacy.”

Blinken calls evacuation 'one of the most difficult in our nation's history'

“This evacuation operation was very very personal,” says Blinken, because US forces and embassy staff had worked alongside Afghans for so many years.

At the moment he is praising the people behind the evacuation mission, which he called “one of the most difficult in our nation’s history”.

“They’re also providing vital support right now” by helping Afghans who have arrived in allied countries and the US.

Blinken is speaking now:

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, who was Donald Trump’s Afghan envoy, has tweeted saying calling this “a moment of decision and opportunity” for Afghans and saying:

“The Taliban now face a test. Can they lead their country to a safe & prosperous future where all their citizens, men & women, have the chance to reach their potential? Can Afghanistan present the beauty & power of its diverse cultures, histories, & traditions to the world?”

Julian Borger has called the strangely optimistic comments as “surreal”:

Surreal is the right word https://t.co/RAJOXLsQrN

— Julian Borger (@julianborger) August 30, 2021

The BBC’s Sana Safi:

US troops leave Afghanistan

• My cousin was shot by US forces.
• My sister’s husband was was killed in a Taliban suicide attack.
• My people are the beggars of the world. #Taliban control #Afghanistan.

— Sana Safi ثنا ساپۍ (@BBCSanaSafi) August 30, 2021

“The closing hours of the evacuation were marked by extraordinary drama,” the Associated Press reports.

“American troops faced the daunting task of getting final evacuees onto planes while also getting themselves and some of their equipment out, even as they monitored repeated threats — and at least two actual attacks — by the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken due to speak

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, was due to speak at 6pm EDT – so far he is half an hour late. We’ll bring you those comments as soon as they start.

More of that celebratory gunfire – in video by the BBC’s chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet:

Celebratory gunfire #Kabulairport #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/behl9ZRPU0

— lyse doucet (@bbclysedoucet) August 30, 2021

Biden: full statement

Here is US president Joe Biden’s full statement confirming the end of a 20-year US military presence in Afghanistan.

I want to thank our commanders and the men and women serving under them for their execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled – in the early morning hours of August 31, Kabul time – with no further loss of American lives. The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States. They have done it with unmatched courage, professionalism, and resolve. Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended.

Tomorrow afternoon, I will address the American people on my decision not to extend our presence in Afghanistan beyond August 31. For now, I will report that it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned. Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead.

I have asked the Secretary of State to lead the continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan. This will include work to build on the UN Security Council Resolution passed this afternoon that sent the clear message of what the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably freedom of travel. The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments. It will include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

For now, I urge all Americans to join me in grateful prayer tonight for three things. First, for our troops and diplomats who carried out this mission of mercy in Kabul and at tremendous risk with such unparalleled results: an airlift that evacuated tens of thousands more people than any imagined possible. Second, to the network of volunteers and veterans who helped identify those needing evacuation, guide them to the airport, and provide support along the way. And third, to everyone who is now – and who will – welcome our Afghan allies to their new homes around the world, and in the United States.

Finally, I want to end with a moment of gratitude for the sacrifice of the 13 service members in Afghanistan who gave their lives last week to save tens of thousands: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss.

Biden to address US on Tuesday on 'decision not to extend our presence in Afghanistan beyond August 31'

In case you missed this in our earlier post – the US president will address the nation on Tuesday on his decision not to extend the withdrawal.

Biden said in a statement released late on Monday night:

Tomorrow afternoon, I will address the American people on my decision not to extend our presence in Afghanistan beyond August 31. For now, I will report that it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned. Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead.

And here, LA Times correspondent Nabih Bulos reports, are Taliban fighters entering “what was only minutes ago an American patrolled portion of the airport”:

#Taliban fighters enter a hangar in #Kabul Airport and examine #chinook helicopters after #US leaves #Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/flJx0cLf0p

— Nabih (@nabihbulos) August 30, 2021

Here is a (very dark but noisy) video of the Taliban fighters’ celebratory gunfire we mentioned earlier:

Celebratory gunfire from #Taliban fighters shooting tracer rounds into #Kabul's night sky after #US withdrawal. pic.twitter.com/4dhrHz7CNw

— Nabih (@nabihbulos) August 30, 2021

Biden confirms end of 20-year military presence

US President Joe Biden has released a statement confirming the end of America’s 20-year military presence in Afghanistan.

“Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended,” he says.

“The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States,” says Biden.

Ending the mission as planned was “the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground”, he writes.

He continues:

I have asked the Secretary of State to lead the continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan. This will include work to build on the UN Security Council Resolution passed this afternoon that sent the clear message of what the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably freedom of travel. The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments. It will include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

He adds that he will address the country tomorrow on his decision not to extend the 31 August deadline.

Updated

Hi, Helen Sullivan taking over our live coverage now on this historic day.

You can get in touch with me directly on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

A summary of today's developments

  • The 20-year US military presence in Afghanistan is over. The head of US Central Command, Gen Kenneth McKenzie, announced that the last flight out of Kabul “is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan”.
  • Western powers have been forced to accept the reality of the Taliban’s control of Afghanistan as they swung behind a watered down UN resolution that says it “expects” the Taliban to honour a commitment to allow Afghans to leave the country and “requests” that Kabul airport be securely reopened, but falls short of demanding a UN-sponsored safe zone in the Afghan capital.
  • British troops and international allies could return to Kabul airport to help police a UN safe zone in the capital in order to allow safe passage for people trying to leave Afghanistan.
  • The White House said around 6,000 Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan since 14 August.
  • Responding to repeated questions about civilian casualties from a drone strike on Kabul on Sunday, the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, said: “We are not in a position to dispute it right now, and ... we’re assessing, and we’re investigating.” The Pentagon insists that the target was an Islamic State car bomb heading for the airport, but reports from Kabul say there were many civilian casualties, including at least six children. Kirby said that the strike would be thoroughly scrutinised, but added decisions about such strikes had to be made very quickly because of the nature of suicide attacks carried out by Isis-K.
  • Politico is reporting that US commanders had planned to close gates at the airport on Thursday, fearing an attack, but chose to keep them open to allow the British to continue to evacuate. Hours later a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at the airport, killing nearly 200 people, including 13 US service members.

Updated

After the plane departed, Taliban fighters fired their guns in the air in celebration.

“At 12 o’clock tonight, the last American troops left Kabul airport, on which account Afghanistan was completely liberated and independent” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, declared.

Kabul airport without air traffic control services

Kabul airport is without air traffic control services now that the U.S. military has withdrawn from Afghanistan and U.S. civil aircraft are barred from operating over the country unless given prior authorisation, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.
The FAA said in a statement that “due to both the lack of air traffic services and a functional civil aviation authority in Afghanistan, as well as ongoing security concerns, U.S. civil operators, pilots, and U.S.-registered civil aircraft are prohibited from operating at any altitude over much of Afghanistan.” It added U.S. civil operators “may continue to use one high-altitude jet route near the far eastern border for overflights. Any U.S. civil aircraft operator that wants to fly into/out of or over Afghanistan must receive prior authorisation from the FAA.”

Updated

Paul “Pen” Farthing, a former Royal Marine, returned to Britain on a chartered plane carrying about 200 dogs and cats at the weekend from Afghanistan.

Right now celebratory gunfire across Kabul from the Taliban. The last US soldiers have left the airfield. My heart is broken 💔 for the people of Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/1jIYBplA1t

— Pen Farthing (@PenFarthing) August 30, 2021

The front page of Tuesday’s Guardian:

GUARDIAN: Chaos and bloodshed as last flight leaves Kabul #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/YD8HfQzMH2

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) August 30, 2021

Updated

General Frank McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command, added that they were not able to evacuate everybody from Afghanistan but no one was left at the airport when the last military flight left.

Updated

Afghan refugees keep coming to Dulles Airport from Kabul a day before deadline for evacuees to flee Afghanistan, today on August 30, 2021 at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, USA.
Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles airport in Virginia from Kabul on 30 August 2021 – a day before the deadline for evacuees to flee Afghanistan. Photograph: Lenin Nolly/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Updated

The UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson said the UN security council resolution “makes clear that the international community stands with Afghans”.

He added: “There can be no return to repression or terror. We will push as one voice for safe passage, humanitarian access and respect for human rights.”

Updated

Final US evacuation flight leaves Afghanistan, ending 20-year war

The 20-year US military presence in Afghanistan is over. The head of US Central Command, Gen Kenneth McKenzie, announced that the last flight out of Kabul “is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan”.

“Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation, but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after September 11 2001,” he said. “It is a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to justice along with many of his al-Qaida co-conspirators.

“The cost was 2,461 US service members and civilians killed and more than 20,000 who were injured. Sadly, that includes 13 US service members who were killed last week by an Isis-K suicide bomber.

“We honour their sacrifice today as we remember their heroic accomplishments,” McKenzie added.

“No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who served, nor the emotions they’re feeling at this moment, but I will say that I’m proud that both my son and I have been a part of it.”

Updated

UN adopts watered down resolution on Afghanistan

Western powers have been forced to accept the reality of the Taliban’s control of Afghanistan as they swung behind a watered down UN resolution that says it “expects” the Taliban to honour a commitment to allow Afghans to leave the country and “requests” that Kabul airport be securely reopened, but falls short of demanding a UN-sponsored safe zone in the Afghan capital

Woodward said the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan requires “urgent attention”.

Speaking at a UN security council meeting, she said: “We are coordinating closely with partners to strengthen efforts to support humanitarian assistance and ensure unimpeded access for humanitarian workers and organisations.”

She said the progress made in the last 20 years must be protected, including safeguarding the human rights of women, children and minorities, PA reports.

Updated

Woodward told a meeting of the security council in New York: “Afghanistan can never again become a safe haven for terrorists.

“We have condemned, unequivocally, the attack on Kabul airport last week and we reiterate our condolences and sympathy to the bereaved and to the injured.

“A coordinated approach will be vital to counter any extremist threat emanating from Afghanistan and we call on the Taliban to honour their commitments contained in the Doha agreement.”

The Doha agreement was struck between the Taliban and US in 2020.

Updated

The UN security council has adopted a resolution on the situation in Afghanistan.

The UK’s ambassador to the UN, Dame Barbara Woodward, said: “Today this council has spoken clearly on the situation in Afghanistan and set out its minimum expectations of the Taliban,” PA reports.

“The immediate priority is ensuring all those who wish to leave Afghanistan can do so safely.

“We have been clear that the Taliban must adhere to their own stated commitments to ensure safe passage beyond 31 August.”

Updated

The Pentagon has said it is investigating reports of civilian casualties from a drone strike on Sunday in Kabul, but is “not in a position to dispute” accounts from the scene of nine people from one family being killed, including seven children.

US military officials continued to insist however that the strike hit an Islamic State car bomb, pointing to “secondary explosions” at the scene. That conflicted with reports from Kabul, that the targeted vehicle belonged to a civilian and that children were in it when it was struck by a missile from a US drone.

Initial reports said at least 10 people were killed, nine from the same family, who lived on the street where the attack happened, adding to the bloodshed and chaos of the last days of the 20-year US military presence. Among the dead were three two-year-old children, two aged three and two aged 10, according to reports from Kabul.

Updated

German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron agreed in a phone call that vital aid for civilians in Afghanistan and those who fled to neighbouring countries should be sent through the United Nations, Reuters reports.
The two also discussed plans to evacuate civilians after the US completes its pullout on Tuesday 31 August, a German statement said.

Updated

British troops could help police Kabul airport safe zone

British troops and international allies could return to Kabul airport to help police a UN safe zone in the capital in order to allow safe passage for people trying to leave Afghanistan.

Defence sources in the UK indicated the idea was one of several options under consideration to ensure safe evacuation routes for the thousands of people still trapped in Afghanistan while eligible for resettlement in the west.

The safe zone plan is part of a Franco-British proposal, set out by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, which was being discussed by UN security council members as western forces retreated from Kabul over the past few days.

Updated

The White House said it was trying to determine how many Americans who remain in Afghanistan want to depart and believe it was a small number, Reuters reports.

Updated

The White House said around 6,000 Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan since 14 August.

Updated

MPs are scrambling to rescue more than 7,000 constituents and family members trapped in Afghanistan, according to figures provided to the Guardian, dwarfing the estimates provided by the government of the number left behind.

Scores of Labour MPs have been inundated with pleas for help from thousands of constituents whose relatives have been left stranded since the UK’s final emergency airlift left Kabul following the country’s rapid fall to the Taliban. Among them are children, disabled relatives and people who face persecution due to their work, all with potential eligibility to be resettled in Britain.

The MPs recorded multiple, harrowing cases of UK residents reporting family members having been abducted or killed in the past week, and others whose front doors have been marked with a red cross by the Taliban. The cases of at least 5,000 at-risk people have been passed to the Foreign Office but only a fraction have received a reply, MPs said.

Updated

A s the final evacuation flights leave Kabul, watched in despair by those abandoned and in peril, the lasting consequences of strategic failure must now be faced. During the Doha peace talks, American diplomats liked to talk of a process towards an inclusive political settlement that would be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.

The “process” turned out instead to be a victory procession for the Taliban. What comes now will therefore be Taliban-led and Taliban-owned.

Hamstrung as a result of their own mistakes, the United States, Britain and their allies have little choice but to engage with the new reality.

The Taliban government in Afghanistan would take back any Afghan migrants whose applications for asylum were rejected in Europe and they would then face court, an Austrian newspaper quoted a Taliban spokesman as saying.

Austria’s conservative-led government has taken a hard line on Afghan asylum seekers and refugees within the European Union, with the interior minister initially saying Austria should keep deporting rejected asylum seekers back to Afghanistan for as long as possible.

Austrian interior minister Karl Nehammer has since conceded that that is no longer possible, but said he wants “deportation centres” set up in neighbouring countries that would take them in.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Kronen Zeitung newspaper his government would be willing to accept such deportees.

“Yes. They would be taken to court. The court would then have to decide how to proceed with them,” Zabihullah told the newspaper when asked if it would take in Afghans whose asylum claims had been rejected in Austria or Germany or who had committed crimes in those European countries.

He did not elaborate on why they should be taken to court or what judgment they might face there, Reuters reports.

Updated

Taliban fighters guard the Afghanistan side of the Torkham crossing as seen from Torkham, Pakistan. The Torkham crossing, 180 miles from Kabul, is one of the nearest land routes out of the country and into Pakistan, for those unable to flee by other means.
Taliban fighters guard the Afghanistan side of the Torkham crossing as seen from Torkham, Pakistan. The crossing, 180 miles from Kabul, is one of the nearest land routes out of the country for those unable to flee by other means. Photograph: Danial Shah/Getty Images

Updated

A Scottish Afghan charity has said its staff trapped in Kabul have been forced to return to their homes after a “relentless 46 hours” facing gunfire at the city’s airport.
The Linda Norgrove Foundation previously said it has two staff, sisters aged 25 and 29, who were “holed up in their flat in Kabul” after the Taliban seized control of the city. In a statement on Twitter, it said evacuation attempts had so far failed. “Thanks to all of you who supported our campaign to evacuate our staff, and to all who worked behind the scenes,” it said.

“Although not successful at this time, we are continuing to support our staff in Kabul and are still working towards their eventual evacuation.”
It added: “After a relentless 46 hours at the airport entrance, either in a bus or a panicky crowd, with incessant gunfire and the constant, real threat of a terrorist bomb, our staff and their family returned home safely.” The charity was set up in memory of a Scots aid worker who was killed after being kidnapped by the Taliban. Norgrove’s parents, John and Lorna, established the charity as a way of continuing their daughter Linda’s work after she died in an attempted rescue by US forces in 2010.

An Afghan journalist has said he fears his family will soon starve to death amid a collapsing economy triggered by the Taliban takeover.
The 23-year-old reporter in northern Afghanistan said he is the sole breadwinner for a family of six, but has been unable to work because offices, banks and universities are still closed and there is no government control, PA Media reports. The journalist, who has not been named for his safety, has been in hiding from the Taliban in his home city of Mazar-i-Sharif because he “has written news against them” and believes they will kill him. He added that although the imminent threat to his family is starvation, they are worried they will become targets of a war between the Taliban and the affiliate of the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), who are based in the same region.

The journalist, who lives with his elderly parents, 15-year-old brother and two sisters aged 13 and 14, said: “I am very afraid for the future. My family are hungry, my father is too old to work and I am the main worker in my family.”

Updated

A Pakistani plane flew 12.5 tonnes of World Health Organization (WHO) medical emergency and trauma kits to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the WHO’s first supplies to Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.
Afghanistan’s healthcare system is at risk of collapse, two aid agencies told Reuters, after foreign donors including the World Bank and European Union stopped providing aid following the Taliban’s victory. “We are in danger,” said one woman. “They must show us a way to be saved. “We must leave Afghanistan or they must provide a safe place for us.”

The UK’s UN ambassador, Dame Barbara Woodward, will discuss the situation in Afghanistan with her counterparts from the four other permanent member countries of the UN security council - China, France, Russia, and the US.
The UK hopes the influence Russia and China could have over the new Afghan government could be key to countering terrorism and the trade in narcotics, preventing a refugee crisis and further economic collapse, PA reports. The focus on ensuring safe passage for eligible Afghans comes with uncertainty about how many might seek to reach the UK and how they can hope to make the journey following the end of the airlift.

Updated

During talks between Dominic Raab and counterparts from nations including the US, France and Germany, the UK’s foreign secretary emphasised the need for countries to work on “safe passage and exit arrangements” for Afghans seeking to leave the country.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “He [Raab] affirmed Taliban assurances that foreign nationals and Afghan citizens with travel authorisation will be allowed to depart the country, but underlined we must judge them on their actions, and whether people are allowed safe passage to leave.

The foreign secretary also welcomed the participants’ unity of purpose and close collaboration on a wider new strategy for Afghanistan.

“He explained the strategic priorities to prevent Afghanistan becoming a haven for terrorism, ensure humanitarian access, protect human rights and the gains of the last 20 years, preserve regional stability, and working with a range of international partners in order to exercise the maximum moderating influence on the Taliban.”

Updated

US can’t ‘dispute’ accounts of Kabul strike that killed children – Pentagon spokesman

Responding to repeated questions about civilian casualties from a drone strike on Kabul on Sunday, the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, said:

We are not in a position to dispute it right now, and ... we’re assessing, and we’re investigating.

The Pentagon insists that the target was an Islamic State car bomb heading for the airport, but reports from Kabul say there were many civilian casualties, including at least six children.

Kirby said that the strike would be thoroughly scrutinised, but added decisions about such strikes had to be made very quickly because of the nature of suicide attacks carried out by IS.

We have to try to be as quick and as nimble as [IS] are. ..We believed this to be an imminent threat. We took the action that we believed was the most necessary at the best opportunity to thwart that attack.

Updated

The threat to Kabul airport remains “real” and “specific” as the US winds down its withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has said.

Kirby told reporters:

We’re in a particularly dangerous time right now. The threat stream is still real, it’s still active, and in many cases it’s still specific.

US Army major general Hank Taylor said more than 122,000 people had been evacuated from Kabul so far including 5,400 Americans, AFP reports.

The US is scheduled to complete the pullout of US troops from Afghanistan on Tuesday.

Updated

The group of countries that have banded together to fight Islamic State, including the United States, has released a statement pledging to work to eliminate the group and taking special aim at its affiliate in Afghanistan that took responsibility for Monday’s rocket attack on Kabul’s airport.

“We will draw on all elements of national power - military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, law enforcement - to ensure the defeat of this brutal terrorist organization,” the coalition said in a statement released by the US state department, which also said the countries would “identify and bring their members to justice”.

Updated

A US marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) carrying a baby as the family processes through the evacuation control centre
A US marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) carrying a baby as the family processes through the evacuation control centre as the US winds down its evacuation operation from Kabul. Photograph: Victor Mancilla/US Marine Corps/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

A plane carrying World Health Organization medicines and health supplies landed in Afghanistan on Monday, the UN health agency said, the first shipment to get in since the country came under the control of the Taliban.

“After days of non-stop work to find a solution, I am very pleased to say that we have now been able to partially replenish stocks of health facilities in Afghanistan and ensure that, for now, WHO-supported health services can continue,” Ahmed Al Mandhari, WHO regional director for the eastern Mediterranean, said in a statement.

The WHO had warned on Friday that medical supplies would run out within days in Afghanistan, announcing that it hoped to establish an air bridge into the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif by then with the help of Pakistani authorities.

The 12.5 tonnes of supplies that arrived on Monday consist of trauma kits and emergency health kits, enough to cover the basic health needs of more than 200,000 people as well as provide 3,500 surgical procedures and treat 6,500 trauma patients, the WHO said. They will be delivered to 40 health facilities in 29 provinces across Afghanistan.

The plane, which was provided by the government of Pakistan, flew from Dubai to Mazar-i-Sharif airport. It was the first of three flights planned with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to fill urgent shortages in medicines and medical supplies in Afghanistan.

The UK is a “long way” from offering diplomatic recognition to the Taliban in Afghanistan, a Foreign Office minister said as international powers considered how to deal with the new regime in Kabul.

James Cleverly said the Taliban would be judged on its actions as an intensive round of diplomacy began in Washington and at the United Nations, PA news reports.

The Taliban have been urged to allow safe passage to people seeking to leave Afghanistan as Cleverly acknowledged it was impossible to say how many people eligible to come to the UK were still in the country.
Around 15,000 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan in a “herculean” effort, Cleverly said, but Labour has claimed around 5,000 may have been left behind and ministers have faced criticism over the UK response.

Cleverly acknowledged some emails about desperate Afghans seeking to leave may not have been read in the Foreign Office as priority in the evacuation effort was given to people who could be processed and reached Kabul airport before the airlift ended.

With the final withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan due on Tuesday, violence continues in Kabul.

Updated

Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan two weeks ago, Chinese analysts have been debating to what extent the security vacuum left by the US would pose a potential threat – or an opportunity – to China, and how the issue of Afghanistan could play a role in the US-China bilateral relationship.

Andrew Small, a senior fellow at the Asia programme of the German Marshall Fund, a thinktank said:

China does think the US will have to count on it more in Afghanistan in [the] future, and they’re [also] attempting to couple it with climate change, which they know is also seen on the US side as an area where they rely on Chinese cooperation.

But Small said it was also clear from the call between the two top diplomats on Sunday that China needed the US in various ways on Afghanistan too. After all, Beijing does not want a pariah state in dire economic straits in its backyard that would magnify all the security concerns it already has around Afghanistan.

Small said:

The two sides need to keep channels open and maintain at least some minimal levels of cooperation but that’s very much in Beijing’s interest, too.

It is the second time since the Taliban’s takeover that the two diplomats had spoken. On 16 August, Wang told Blinken in a call that the hasty pullout of US troops from Afghanistan had a serious negative impact, but pledged to work with Washington to promote stability in the country.

But Wang said Washington could not expect China’s cooperation if it was also trying to “contain and suppress China and harm China’s legitimate rights and interests,” Chinese state media reported at the time of the earlier call.

Read the full story here:

Talks are due in Doha and New York to try to reach an international consensus on the conditions for recognising the Taliban government in Afghanistan. There are signs of tensions between superpowers after Russia called on the US to release Afghan central bank reserves that Washington blocked after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul earlier this month.

“If our western colleagues are actually worried about the fate of the Afghan people, then we must not create additional problems for them by freezing gold and foreign exchange reserves,” said the Kremlin’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov.

He said the US must urgently unfreeze these assets, “to bolster the rate of the collapsing national currency”.

The leading western G7 powers are meeting Turkey, Qatar and Nato in Doha to discuss further details of the how Kabul’s civilian airport could be reopened to allow those that want to leave Afghanistan with valid documents to do so. More than 100 nations signed a joint statement saying the Taliban has agreed to facilitate this. The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is chairing the meeting and due to announce its outcome later.

At the same the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, started a four-day sweep through countries bordering Afghanistan to secure their agreement to house refugees temporarily, or to use the country as a transit point pending processing. So far Qatar has acted as the transit point for more than 40% of the 100,000-plus refugees airlifted out of the country. Maas is due to visit Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Pakistan.

In Turkey, his first stopover, Maas said he was grateful for the country’s offer. “We ask the Taliban to promise to provide security,” he said. “We have to negotiate with the Taliban. They want the airport to be operated. In this regard, we are ready to contribute both financially and technically.”

James Cleverly, the UK minister for the Middle East and north Africa, said he could not see how Kabul airport could be operated by foreign powers without boots on the ground, something that is not currently possible.

Read more here:

Updated

Gate in Kabul terror attack 'kept open to aid UK evacuations'

Politico is reporting that US commanders had planned to close gates at the airport on Thursday, fearing an attack, but chose to keep them open to allow the British to continue to evacuate.

Hours later a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at the airport, killing nearly 200 people, including 13 US service members.

According to Politico:

Commanders calling in from Kabul relayed that the Abbey Gate, where American citizens had been told to gather in order to gain entrance to the airport, was “highest risk,” and detailed their plans to protect the airport.

“I don’t believe people get the incredible amount of risk on the ground,” Austin said, according to the classified notes.

On a separate call at 4 that afternoon, or 12:30 am on Thursday in Kabul, the commanders detailed a plan to close Abbey Gate by Thursday afternoon Kabul time. But the Americans decided to keep the gate open longer than they wanted in order to allow their British allies, who had accelerated their withdrawal timeline, to continue evacuating their personnel, based at the nearby Baron Hotel.

The publication has gone to the Ministry of Defence for a response and this is what they have received back:

Updated

China’s top diplomat has urged the international community to engage with Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers and “guide it actively” in a phone call with US secretary of state. Antony Blinken, on Sunday, according to China’s foreign ministry.

Wang Yi, Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, also said that Washington should work with the international community to help the new regime run governmental functions normally, according to a Chinese statement. He added that US’s “hasty withdrawal” could allow terrorist groups to “regroup and come back stronger”.

US state department spokesperson Ned Price said in a short statement that Blinken and Wang spoke about “the importance of the international community holding the Taliban accountable for the public commitments they have made regarding the safe passage and freedom to travel for Afghans and foreign nationals”.

The two foreign ministers also spoke of the bilateral relationship, with Wang saying that the Chinese side would consider how to engage with the United States “based on its attitude towards China”. But he also said that “dialogue is better than confrontation, and cooperation is better than conflict”.

Analysts said that the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is likely to deteriorate further as the deadline for US withdrawal looms on 31 August. On Monday, the US announced that its anti-missile system had intercepted as many as five rockets fired early in the morning towards the airport in Kabul.

We’ll have more on this story shortly.

Updated

Russia has called on the US to release Afghan central bank reserves that Washington blocked after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul earlier this month.

“If our western colleagues are actually worried about the fate of the Afghan people, then we must not create additional problems for them by freezing gold and foreign exchange reserves,” said the Kremlin’s envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, AFP reports.

The US must urgently unfreeze these assets, he said on the state-run Rossiya 24 network, “to bolster the rate of the collapsing national currency”.

Kabulov added that without doing so the new Afghan authorities will turn to “the trafficking of illegal opiates” and “sell on the black market the weapons” abandoned by the Afghan army and the US.

The Afghan central bank’s gross reserves totalled $9.4bn (£6.83m) at the end of April, according to the IMF. The majority of these funds are held outside of Afghanistan.

Washington has indicated that the Taliban will not have access to assets held in the US, without specifying the total amount there.

Afghanistan has long been the world’s largest producer of opium and heroin, with profits from the illicit trade helping fund the Taliban.

Updated

As evacuations from Kabul wind down in coming days, “a larger crisis is just beginning” in Afghanistan and for its 39 million people, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Monday, appealing for support.

Filippo Grandi, UN high commissioner for refugees, whose agency said last Friday that up to 500,000 Afghans could flee by year-end, reiterated a call for borders to remain open and for more countries to share “this humanitarian responsibility” with Iran and Pakistan which already host 2.2 million Afghans, Reuters reports.

Grandi said in a statement:

The airlifts out of Kabul will end in a matter of days, and the tragedy that has unfolded will no longer be as visible. But it will still be a daily reality for millions of Afghans. We must not turn away. A far greater humanitarian crisis is just beginning.

Updated

A Foreign Office minister has defended the organisation’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan amid allegations that Dominic Raab is a “control freak” who faces the sack.

James Cleverly insisted the allegations about the foreign secretary’s style of leadership were “not true” and insisted the organisation had responded swiftly to the unprecedented events in Afghanistan.

Raab has faced criticism for being on holiday in Crete as the Taliban swept across Afghanistan. In the latest sign of the Whitehall infighting, one government source told the Times: “I think he is toast in the next reshuffle,” and the Foreign Office “is a poorly-led organisation with a control freak in charge who won’t delegate anything”.

But Cleverly told Times Radio:

I don’t know where that’s where that’s coming from. The organisation that I see really sprang quickly into an activity that was at a scale and nature that was unprecedented.

Asked directly whether Raab was a “control freak”, Cleverly said: “No, that’s not true. It’s not true.”

On the suggestion Raab was “toast” in the next reshuffle because of his failings, Cleverly told LBC Radio:

Government departments and ministers – including Dominic – worked incredibly hard, we worked together, we were able to get out over 15,000 people in those last couple of weeks, because all bits of government had a role to play and discharged those roles and those functions incredibly, incredibly, professionally.

That includes Dominic, as well. None of us could have done it on our own, we could only do it working collaboratively, that’s what happened.

It was a brutal, horrible, incredibly difficult time and yet - as I say - we were able to evacuate over 15,000 people and that is a herculean task.

Updated

The UK evacuation effort from Afghanistan had to focus on people already at Kabul airport meaning many cases raised by MPs and others may not have been looked at, a Foreign Office minister has said.

James Cleverly did not deny that a large numbers of emails about Afghans potentially eligible to leave the UK might still be unopened in official inboxes, as revealed by the Observer. There had been “a flood of requests” for help, Cleverly said.

“We focused on the people who were at the airport, were being processed, and who we felt we could get out through whilst we still had security of Kabul airport,” he told the BBC, though many people have told of failed attempts to be allowed into the airport despite having their UK passport and evacuation authorisation documents.

“We will of course continue to work through applications from people who have contacted us, who are still try to get out of Afghanistan,” Cleverly said.

He said it was “impossible number to put a figure on” the number of people stuck in Afghanistan who would be eligible for UK help, though Whitehall sources have suggested this number was about 9,000.

While the “vast, vast bulk” of British nationals had left Afghanistan, Cleverly added, the figures were less clear both for people who could qualify under Arap, the formal scheme for Afghan nationals who assisted UK forces, or for others potentially targeted by the Taliban.

He said: “We are going to continue working to get people out who fall into those groups – predominantly now, of course, it will be in that third group – people at risk of reprisals, whether they be high-profile individuals … religious minorities or others who may be under severe risk of reprisals from the Taliban.”

Up to 5,000 emails to the Foreign Office detailing urgent cases of Afghans seeking to escape Kabul remained unread, including those sent by MPs and charities, the Observer reported on Sunday.

It followed complaints from MPs that they and constituents who alerted officials to people inside Afghanistan needing UK assistance had received no response.

Read the full story here:

They arrived shoeless and shivering, with some toddlers wearing the same nappies they wore when fleeing their homes days earlier. Volunteers have described the extraordinary dignity and stoicism of the Afghan refugees, including about 2,200 children, who were airlifted to the UK out of the clutches of the Taliban.

A member of Border Force staff assists a female evacuee as refugees arrive from Afghanistan at Heathrow airport.
A member of Border Force staff assists a female evacuee as refugees arrive from Afghanistan at Heathrow airport. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

Some of the new arrivals were passing out from exhaustion in airport terminals, said Dara Leonard, a team leader for the British Red Cross. Others, including pregnant women and “the sick and incredibly frail” were rushed straight to hospital.

“These were people on the far side of exhausted,” said Leonard, who was among the first to meet the Afghan families arriving at Heathrow airport last week.

My word, they are so stoical, so dignified but they were literally putting one foot in front of the other. To see mothers pushing their children forward towards safety was quite phenomenal.

Emergency responders described scenes at British airports as “shocking” and “absolute chaos” as thousands of vulnerable people were processed before being transported to hotels sometimes more than 100 miles away, where they have to quarantine for 10 days.

As the last British military personnel returned to the UK on Sunday, the government said about 5,000 British nationals and their families had been airlifted from Kabul, alongside more than 8,000 Afghan former UK staff and their families and those considered at risk from the Taliban.

Refugees from Afghanistan wait to be processed after arriving on a evacuation flight at Heathrow airport.
Refugees from Afghanistan wait to be processed after arriving on a evacuation flight at Heathrow airport. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

All have suffered trauma that could be compounded if they are not settled quickly into life in Britain, experts say.

Dr Jennifer Wild, an Oxford academic who specialises in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), said it would be vital to break the cognitive link between the things they experienced in Afghanistan and the present, to quickly get into a stable routine and to speak to people about what they went through.

“It’ll be quite individual. It’ll be a cultural shift for Afghans that we’re bringing here – and for UK citizens coming home,” said Wild, an associate professor in experimental psychology and a consultant clinical psychologist.

Read more from my colleagues Kevin Rawlinson and Josh Halliday here:

Updated

Several rockets were fired at Kabul airport on Monday, less than 48 hours before the United States is due to complete its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Witnesses said the rockets were launched from a car and were aimed towards the airport on Monday morning. It appears Salim Karwan, a neighbourhood adjacent to the airport, was hit in one of the blasts. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Smoke could be seen rising above buildings in the north of the city, where the Hamid Karzai international airport is located, and gunfire could be heard after the explosions.

Locals reported hearing the activation of airport’s missile defence system, and pictures on social media showed shrapnel falling on to rooftops and the street, suggesting that at least one rocket had been intercepted.

Social media posts, which could not immediately be verified, also showed a vehicle in flames after being apparently struck by retaliatory fire.

In Washington, the White House issued a statement saying the president, Joe Biden, was being briefed on “the rocket attack at Hamid Karzai international airport” in Kabul.

“The president was informed that operations continue uninterrupted at HKIA [Hamid Karzai international airport], and has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritise doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground,” the statement said.

It followed warnings issued by Biden on Saturday that another terrorist attack in Kabul was highly likely in the next 24 to 36 hours. On Thursday, Islamic State, rivals of the Taliban, carried out a suicide bomb attack at the airport that killed more than 150 people, including 13 US troops, and IS militants pose the greatest threat to the final phase of US evacuations.

Biden has set a deadline of 31 August to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan, drawing to a close his nation’s longest military conflict. The UK, Nato and all other western countries ended their evacuation missions over the weekend.

Read more here:

Updated

James Cleverly defended the response of the UK foreign office and his boss Dominic Raab to the crisis in Afghanistan.

The foreign office minister told ITV’s Good Morning Britain:

This was, at every level - from senior ministerial level right through to the people on the ground in Afghanistan – a team effort and every bit of the team pulled out the stops.

It could never be a perfect operation because of the circumstances that we were operating in.

Stephen Kinnock accused the British government of an “unforgivable” failure to evacuate thousands of eligible Afghans.

“Government ministers have had 18 months to prepare for this. The French government started evacuating its people in May so it is utterly unforgivable that we have left so many behind,” the shadow minister,” the shadow foreign office minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He said:

The efforts of our armed forces, our diplomats, our civil servants on the ground, have been incredibly impressive and we should be very proud of that.

But they have been badly let down by their political masters who have failed to prepare and therefore we are in this situation where we are leaving thousands behind.

Labour has claimed as many as 5,000 people need help to get out following the Taliban takeover and Kinnock criticised the foreign secretary for failing to facilitate overland exit routes.

He said:

It’s shocking that whilst Dominic Raab was on the sun lounger he should have been speaking with his counterparts in Pakistan and the other neighbouring countries.

Foreign office minister James Cleverly said the UK would have to work with the Taliban to help ensure the safe passage of Afghans out of the country.

“We will judge the Taliban by their actions. They have made certain commitments about not taking out reprisals on individuals, about facilitating exit,” he told Sky News.

Obviously we are sceptical about those commitments but we will continue working with them to an extent, based on their conduct, to try to facilitate that further evacuation and repatriation effort.

What we are not going to do is just assume good faith in every respect - we are going to judge them on their actions, we are going to hold them to account if they fall short of their promises and commitments.

But we are going to keep working to get people out of Afghanistan that need to leave Afghanistan.

Paul “Pen” Farthing dismissed claims that he was helped by the UK government to get into Kabul airport with his animals.

The former marine and founder of the Nowzad charity told ITV’s Good Morning Britain:

Nobody in the British government facilitated my entry into that airport - I did that with the Taliban.

I came up to the British checkpoint, that was the first time – and this is well into the airport, the Taliban and British are stood there, there’s some barbed wire separating them - that was the first time I spoke to any British people.

So whoever is making any accusations or any comments needs to actually have been stood there on the ground to see how I got into that airport.

Nobody facilitated my entry... any interpreters or anybody else, there was me and the truck full of dogs and cats, which went into a cargo hold where you cannot put people.

James Cleverly acknowledged that emails from Afghans desperate to leave the country may not have been read.

Asked if he had unread emails in his inbox, the UK foreign office minister told the BBC: “I suspect everybody has.”

The British government had received a “huge number of emails directly from Afghanistan and from third parties” after announcing it would help Afghans at risk of reprisals from the Taliban.

He said:

Obviously we had a limited time window and limited flight availability in Kabul airport. We of course were prioritising getting people who had been processed, who were at the airport, on to planes and out of the country.

We will continue to work with those Afghans in other parts of Afghanistan who had not been processed when the airport closed and we will continue working to get them out of the country.

We have been and will continue to work through the significant number of emails that we have received to try to get as many other people out of Afghanistan as possible.

A former Royal Marine said there were “several empty seats” on his evacuation flight with around 170 dogs and cats from an animal shelter in Afghanistan.

Paul “Pen” Farthing told ITV’s Good Morning Britain he was the only person on the flight.

He arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport in a privately funded charter flight at about 7.30am on Sunday, following his Operation Ark campaign to get workers and animals from the Nowzad shelter in Kabul out of the country.

He added:

I went around and they reassured me that they had enough capacity for all the people that needed to leave.

I was probably like the last person to enter that airport - it was closed. Americans, the British, had obviously stopped taking people in because there had to be a point where they stopped taking people in.

So they assured me they had enough capacity for everybody who was inside the airport.

He said emotions “got the better” of him during an expletive-laden message left for a government aide.

A recording, obtained by The Times, captured Farthing berating Peter Quentin, a special adviser to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who he accused of “blocking” efforts to arrange the evacuation flight.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain:

I’m incredibly embarrassed about my language, I do apologise to everybody who’s listened to that.

I was at the lowest point I could possibly be. I understand how the world works but emotions got the better of me, so for all those who had to listen to that I do apologise for my language.

I should not have said it like that, but the sentiment, yes, I was just incredibly upset, angry, frustrated, it was the lowest point. I had no other option, I didn’t know what else to do.

So that’s why you’ve probably heard some colourful language.

Updated

James Cleverly, the UK foreign minister, said it was impossible to say how many people were left in Afghanistan who were eligible to come to the UK.

“That’s an impossible number to put a figure on,” he told Sky News.

The “vast, vast bulk” of British nationals had left Afghanistan, he said, but there were also eligible people under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) scheme – for people who helped UK forces - and others who could be under threat from the Taliban.

He said:

We are going to continue working to get people out who fall into those groups – predominantly now, of course, it will be in that third group – people at risk of reprisals, whether they be high-profile individuals, of religious minorities or others who may be under severe risk of reprisals from the Taliban.

That’s it from me, Helen Livingstone, for today, I’m handing over to my UK colleague Nicola Slawson.

Here’s a a summary of recent developments:

  • Up to five rockets were fired at Kabul airport from a car in a northern suburb of the city, but were intercepted by a US anti-missile shield. Shrapnel landed in the neighbourhood of Salim Karwan. There have, as yet, been no reports of injuries. The White House has said there was no interruption to its evacuations, which have entered their last 48 hours (to end a 20-year war).
  • A US drone strike on a vehicle in a Kabul neighbourhood has killed nine people, including, allegedly, an unconfirmed number of children, according to local reports. The death toll has not been confirmed. US Central Command has said it is assessing the possibility of civilian casualties. It reported the vehicle was carrying explosives and suicide bombers who were set to target Kabul airport imminently.
  • Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said the US would continue working with the Taliban to ensure safe passage for those wishing to leave Afghanistan beyond the 31 August deadline. Nearly 100 countries have issued a joint statement saying foreign nationals, Afghans who worked alongside coalition forces, and vulnerable people, would be allowed to leave the country.
  • Coalition countries say the Taliban has committed to allowing safe passage for those seeking to leave Afghanistan. “We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorisation from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country,” a joint statement, from nearly 100 countries, said.
  • The Taliban has confirmed its supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, who has never made a public appearance and whose whereabouts have largely remained unknown, is in Afghanistan.
  • US president Joe Biden travelled to Dover Airbase for the return to home soil of the bodies of 11 of the 13 American service members killed in the Kabul attack last week which also killed 169 Afghans.
  • France and Britain will submit a resolution to an emergency United Nations meeting due Monday on Afghanistan proposing a safe zone in Kabul to protect people trying to leave the country, French president Emmanuel Macron said.

In case you missed it, Suzanne Wrack has written this equally heart-rending, but also hopeful, account of how a dedicated crew of people helped the Afghan women’s national football team and others to flee the Taliban.

Associated Press has the story of several of those who were killed in last week’s suicide bomb attack at Kabul airport. It’s heart-wrenching reading:

Mohammed Jan Sultani had clutched his national Taekwondo championship certificates as he waded through the multitudes pushing to get into Kabul airport late last week.

The 25-year-old athlete wasn’t on any evacuation lists. Yet he had hoped his achievements would make him and his young family special enough to be let into the gate and onto one of the flights rescuing foreigners and Afghans fleeing the Taliban.

As he forged ahead, an Islamic State suicide bomber detonated two dozen pounds of explosives in the crowd just before nightfall Thursday, killing 169 Afghans, including Sultani, and 13 US service members.

Mohammed Jan Sultani’s father, Ali, right, looks at his son’s Taekwondo championship certificates along with picture of him.
Mohammed Jan Sultani’s father, Ali, right, looks at his son’s Taekwondo championship certificates along with picture of him. Photograph: Kathy Gannon/AP

His wife and two children, 4-year-old Zahid and 2-year-old Zahra, survived; he had told them to stay back a bit as he advanced toward the gate.

Three days later, Zahid remains in shock. He cries, but doesn’t speak.

The athlete’s father, Ali, said his son had expected a bleak future under the Taliban.

“He didn’t know where he would go,” the bereaved man, who goes by the last name Rahmani, said Sunday. “The United States, Europe, it didn’t matter,” Rahmani said, holding some of his son’s medals, his voice laced with sadness. “Everyone in the country seemed to be escaping,” he said.

Najma Sadeqi was also among those trying to get out that afternoon. The 20-year-old, who was in her last semester in journalism school, feared the Taliban’s return to power would bring a harsh version of Islamic rule in which women would largely be confined to their homes.

Getting through those airport gates held the promise of career somewhere else, far away from all the threats and judgement.

Thursday’s blast killed Najma, as well as her brother and a cousin who had escorted her to the airport to ensure her safety.

Najma had gotten her start in journalism with a YouTube channel a few years back and eventually went to work for a couple of private broadcasters, said her older sister, Freshta.

In the two decades since the US-led invasion drove the Taliban from power, women have made gains in education, politics and business — but it hasn’t been easy.

Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative country, especially outside urban areas. Many of Najma’s own relatives objected to her nascent career, with some even cutting off contact.

Freshta said her sister received threatening phone calls and text messages from unknown men who objected to her appearing in public.

“I was the only one she told about her security concerns,” Freshta said. “She didn’t want to share it with the family because they might prevent her from working with media.”

Najma and tens of thousands of others outside the airport gate have not been swayed by Taliban promises to allow women in public life and girls to attend schools.

Ali Reza Ahmadi, a 34-year-old who had worked as a journalist for nearly a decade, was so desperate to get out that he went to the airport just months after getting engaged. He and his younger brother, who had hoped to travel with him, were both killed, according to Khadim Karimi, a close friend and colleague.

He said Ahmadi was already struggling with depression and financial problems before the Taliban swept in. “He was so distraught, so he decided to go to the airport and stay there until he could get an airlift from whatever country would take him,” Karimi said.

The Russian embassy in Kabul has said it is accepting applications from those seeking to leave Afghanistan on additional evacuation flights, after Moscow evacuated about 360 people from the country last week, Reuters reports.

The embassy said in a series of tweets that the flights would be open to Russian citizens and residents as well as nationals of countries that are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a Moscow-led post-Soviet security bloc.

Hello, this is Helen Livingstone here bringing you our rolling coverage of Afghanistan, a day before all foreign troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan after a 20-year presence.

If you’re just joining us, here’s our latest news story on events on the ground in Afghanistan from our correspondent Hannah Ellis-Peterson, who writes:

Several rockets were fired at Kabul airport on Monday, less than 48 hours before the United States is due to complete its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Eyewitnesses said the rockets were launched from a car and were aimed towards the airport on Monday morning. It appears Salim Karwan, a neighbourhood adjacent to the airport, was hit in one of the blasts. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Locals reported hearing the activation of airport’s missile defence system, and pictures on social media showed shrapnel falling on to rooftops and the street, suggesting that at least one rocket had been intercepted.

Social media posts, which could not immediately be verified, also showed a vehicle in flames after being apparently struck by retaliatory fire.

In Washington, the White House issued a statement saying president Joe Biden was being briefed on “the rocket attack at Hamid Karzai international airport” in Kabul.

Smoke could be seen rising above buildings in the north of the city, where the Hamid Karzai international airport is located, and gunfire could be heard after the explosions.

Summary

This is Ben Doherty, signing off. Thanks all for your comments, correspondence and company. My apparently, indefatigable colleague Helen Livingstone is helming our coverage from here on.

I leave you with a summary of recent developments:

  • Up to five rockets were fired at Kabul airport from a car in a northern suburb of the city, but were intercepted by a US anti-missile shield. Shrapnel landed in the neighbourhood of Salim Karwan. There have, as yet, been no reports of injuries. The White House has said there was no interruption to its evacuations, which have entered their last 48 hours (to end a 20-year war).
  • A US drone strike on a vehicle in a Kabul neighbourhood has killed nine people, including, allegedly, an unconfirmed number of children, according to local reports. The death toll has not been confirmed. US Central Command has said it is assessing the possibility of civilian casualties. It reported the vehicle was carrying explosives and suicide bombers who were set to target Kabul airport imminently.
  • Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said the US would continue working with the Taliban to ensure safe passage for those wishing to leave Afghanistan beyond the 31 August deadline. Nearly 100 countries have issued a joint statement saying foreign nationals, Afghans who worked alongside coalition forces, and vulnerable people, would be allowed to leave the country.
  • Coalition countries say the Taliban has committed to allowing safe passage for those seeking to leave Afghanistan. “We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorisation from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country,” a joint statement, from nearly 100 countries, said.
  • The Taliban has confirmed its supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, who has never made a public appearance and whose whereabouts have largely remained unknown, is in Afghanistan.
  • US president Joe Biden travelled to Dover Airbase for the return to home soil of the bodies of 11 of the 13 American service members killed in the Kabul attack last week which also killed 169 Afghans.
  • France and Britain will submit a resolution to an emergency United Nations meeting due Monday on Afghanistan proposing a safe zone in Kabul to protect people trying to leave the country, French president Emmanuel Macron said.

Updated

They arrived shoeless and shivering, with some toddlers wearing the same nappies they wore when fleeing their homes days earlier. Volunteers have described the extraordinary dignity and stoicism of the Afghan refugees, including about 2,200 children, who were airlifted to the UK out of the clutches of the Taliban.

Some of the new arrivals were passing out from exhaustion in airport terminals, said Dara Leonard, a team leader for the British Red Cross. Others, including pregnant women and “the sick and incredibly frail” were rushed straight to hospital.

“These were people on the far side of exhausted,” said Leonard, who was among the first to meet the Afghan families arriving at Heathrow airport last week.

“My word, they are so stoical, so dignified but they were literally putting one foot in front of the other. To see mothers pushing their children forward towards safety was quite phenomenal.”

Kevin Rawlinson and Josh Halliday report on the Afghan refugees who arrived in the UK

US president Joe Biden was briefed on the rocket attack at the Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul on Monday and was informed that operations at the airport were not interrupted, the White House said in a statement.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan and chief of staff Ron Klain have briefed the president on the rocket attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport”, the White House said.

As many as five rockets were fired at Kabul’s international airport but were intercepted by a missile defence system, a US official told Reuters earlier. There have been no reports injuries yet, but this may change.

In the video, New Zealand flags are burning. Their edges curl and the stars of the southern cross turn black, crumbling into the soil of a Kabul backyard. The flags are printed on sheet after sheet of paper: certificates of appreciation, thanks, and recognition of service to New Zealand.

The family burning them has held on to them for the past decade, memorialising the translation services they provided for New Zealand troops in Afghanistan. Now, those papers have become a potentially deadly hazard.

“The first day when the Taliban arrived in Kabul, my house was searched by the Taliban,” says Abdul (whose name has been changed to protect family who remain in Afghanistan).

“Before my house was searched, just half an hour [before], I asked my brother to burn all the documents. And he burned all the documents … about 40 papers that I got from the New Zealand Defence Forces.”

Rockets struck a neighbourhood near Kabul’s international airport on Monday amid the ongoing US withdrawal from Afghanistan. It wasn’t immediately clear who launched them.

The rockets struck Monday morning in Kabul’s Salim Karwan neighbourhood, witnesses said. Gunfire immediately followed the explosions but it wasn’t immediately clear who was firing.

A witness who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said they heard the sound of three explosions and then saw a flash, like fire, in the sky.

People fled after the blasts, the witness said.

US officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. US military cargo planes continued their evacuations at the airport after the rocket fire.

On Sunday, a US drone strike blew up a vehicle carrying “multiple suicide bombers” from Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate on Sunday before they could attack the ongoing military evacuation at Kabul’s international airport, American officials said.

An Afghan official said three children were killed in the strike.

The US is to withdraw from Afghanistan by Tuesday.

Damage at the scene of an US drone attack near the Hamid Karzai International airport, in Kabul
Damage at the scene of an US drone attack near the Hamid Karzai International airport, in Kabul Photograph: EPA

Mexico received 86 media workers and their family members from Afghanistan on Sunday, the Mexican government said, as more people flee the country after the Taliban militant group’s takeover earlier this month.

Most of the people who arrived with the latest flight worked for The Wall Street Journal in Afghanistan, the government said in a statement.

They arrived at Mexico City’s international airport as the third group since widespread evacuations began.

Mexico called the reception of people from Afghanistan “a political decision” carried out in full adherence to the historical tradition of humanitarian assistance.

“The government of Mexico ... reiterates its willingness to grant protection and assistance for humanitarian reasons - within its capacities - to people from that country, whose life and integrity are in imminent danger.”

Media workers from Afghanistan arrive in Mexico to apply for humanitarian status
Media workers from Afghanistan arrive in Mexico to apply for humanitarian status Photograph: Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Last week, Mexico received 124 media workers and their family members from Afghanistan, including New York Times journalists.

A Dow Jones spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment out of business hours but the group has previously said in a statement that, along with other news organisations, it was “committed to ensure the long-term safety of those who risked everything in support of journalism”.

In the past two weeks the United States and allies have taken about 114,400 people out of Afghanistan, including foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans who fear persecution under Taliban rule.

Rocket attacks on Kabul Monday morning

More on those rocket attacks on Kabul early Monday morning. From agencies in the Afghan capital:

Several rockets were fired at Kabul’s airport on Monday, witnesses and security sources said, less than 48 hours before the United States is due to complete its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The sound of rockets whooshing over the capital was heard by AFP staff before the morning rush hour began.

A security official who worked in the administration toppled two weeks ago by the Taliban said the rockets had been fired from a vehicle in north Kabul.

The sound of the airport’s missile defence system could be heard by local residents, who also reported shrapnel falling into the street - suggesting at least one rocket had been intercepted.

Smoke could be seen rising above buildings in the north, where the Hamid Karzai International Airport is located.

A woman passes a Taliban checkpoint outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
A woman passes a Taliban checkpoint outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul Photograph: EPA

Social media posts - which could not immediately be verified - also showed a vehicle on fire after being apparently struck by retaliatory fire.

A US official told Reuters as many as five rockets had been fired at Kabul airport but were intercepted by US anti-missile system. Initial reports said there were no US casualties. More details are being sought.

An evacuation of foreigners and Afghans considered at risk of Taliban retribution for working with US-led forces for the last 20 years is in its finals stages and will officially end Tuesday when the last American troops pull out.

The Islamic State group, rivals of the Taliban, pose the biggest threat to the withdrawal after carrying out a suicide bomb attack at the airport last week that claimed more than 100 lives, including 13 US troops.

US president Joe Biden had warned more attacks were highly likely, and the United States said it carried out an air strike Sunday night in Kabul on an explosives-laden vehicle.

Rockets fly in Kabul as US evacuations wind down

Rockets flew across the Afghan capital on Monday as the United States raced to complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan, with the evacuation of civilians all but over and terror attack fears high.

President Joe Biden has set a deadline of Tuesday to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan, drawing to a close his nation’s longest military conflict, which began in retaliation for the September 11 attacks.

The return of the hardline Islamist Taliban movement, which was toppled in 2001 but took back power a fortnight ago, triggered an exodus of terrified people aboard US-led evacuation flights.

Those flights, which took more than 114,000 people out of Kabul airport, will officially end on Tuesday when the last of the thousands of American troops pull out.

But US forces are now focused chiefly on flying themselves and American diplomats out safely.

The Islamic State group, rivals of the Taliban, pose the biggest threat to the withdrawal after carrying out a suicide bomb attack at the airport late last week that claimed more than 100 lives, including 13 US troops.

Biden had warned more attacks were highly likely, and the United States said it carried out an air strike on Sunday night in Kabul on an explosives-laden vehicle.

A US drone strike destroyed a vehicle carrying “multiple suicide bombers” from Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate on Sunday, but the US is also investigating reports of multiple civilian casualties, including children
A US drone strike destroyed a vehicle carrying “multiple suicide bombers” from Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate on Sunday, but the US is also investigating reports of multiple civilian casualties, including children Photograph: Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi/AP

That was followed on Monday morning by the sound of rockets flying across Kabul, according to AFP journalists in the city.

People living near the airport said they heard the sounds of the missile defensive system being activated.

Smoke could be seen rising near the airport.

A Taliban spokesman confirmed Sunday’s incident, saying a car bomb destined for the airport had been destroyed - and that a possible second strike had hit a nearby house.

The United States has been accused of killing many civilians in air strikes throughout the war, one reason for losing local support, and that was again a possibility on Sunday.

“We are aware of reports of civilian casualties following our strike on a vehicle in Kabul today,” Captain Bill Urban, a US Central Command spokesman, said in a statement.

Urban said the US military was investigating whether civilians were killed, noting there were “powerful” explosions that resulted from the destruction of the vehicle.

“We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life,” he said.

In recent years, the Islamic State’s Afghanistan-Pakistan chapter has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in those countries.

They have massacred civilians at mosques, public squares, schools, and even hospitals.

While both IS and the Taliban are hardline Sunni Islamists, they are bitter foes - with each claiming to be the true flag-bearers of jihad.

Last week’s suicide bombing at the airport led to the worst single-day death toll for the US military in Afghanistan since 2011.

The IS threat has forced the US military and the Taliban to co-operate in ensuring security at the airport in a way unthinkable just weeks ago.

On Saturday, Taliban fighters escorted a steady stream of Afghans from buses to the main passenger terminal, handing them over to US forces for evacuation.

Taliban leader

The Taliban have promised a softer brand of rule compared with their first stint in power, which the US military ended because they gave sanctuary to Al-Qaeda.

But many Afghans fear a repeat of the Taliban’s brutal interpretation of Islamic law, as well as violent retribution for working with foreign militaries, Western missions or the previous US-backed government.

Taliban fighters patrol a Kabul street
Taliban fighters patrol a Kabul street Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Western allies have warned many thousands of at-risk Afghans have not been able to get on the evacuation flights.

On Sunday, the Taliban revealed their supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada was in southern Afghanistan and planning to make a public appearance.

“He is present in Kandahar. He has been living there from the very beginning,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

“He will soon appear in public,” added deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi of the leader, whose whereabouts have remained largely unknown.

Reports of rocket attacks aimed at Kabul airport

Updated

Fears are growing for a group of Afghan refugees who fled their country last month and made their way to Europe, only to find themselves marooned on the border between Poland and Belarus in a “Kafkaesque” political standoff.

The 32 refugees – women, men, and a child of 15 years old – have been stuck in a small, muddy patch of land between the two countries for almost three weeks with no access to clean water, insufficient shelter and intermittent food supplies, according to a Polish NGO.

Despite seeking international protection in Poland, they are not being allowed in, with border guards preventing them from entering. Neither are they being allowed back into Belarus, where they came from in the hope of being able to cross into the European Union.

From AP, a summation of the US position a day ahead of its final withdrawal:

The United States has the capacity to evacuate the approximately 300 US citizens remaining in Afghanistan who want to leave before president Joe Biden’s Tuesday deadline, senior Biden administration officials said Sunday, as another US drone strike against suspected Islamic State militants underscored the grave threat in the war’s final days.

“This is the most dangerous time in an already extraordinarily dangerous mission these last couple of days,” secretary of state Antony Blinken said shortly before confirmation of that airstrike in Kabul, the capital.

The evacuation flow of Americans kept pace even as a new state department security alert, issued hours before the military action, instructed people to leave the airport area immediately “due to a specific, credible threat.”

A C-17 Globemaster takes off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
A C-17 Globemaster takes off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul Photograph: Marcus Yam/LOS ANGELES TIMES/REX/Shutterstock

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said that for those US citizens seeking immediately to leave Afghanistan by the looming deadline, “we have the capacity to have 300 Americans, which is roughly the number we think are remaining, come to the airport and get on planes in the time that is remaining.

“We moved out more than that number just yesterday. So from our point of view, there is an opportunity right now for American citizens to come, to be admitted to the airport and to be evacuated safely and effectively.”

Sullivan said the US does not currently plan to have an ongoing embassy presence after the final US troop withdrawal.

But he pledged the US “will make sure there is safe passage for any American citizen, any legal permanent resident” after Tuesday, as well as for “those Afghans who helped us.” But untold numbers of vulnerable Afghans, fearful of a return to the brutality of pre-2001 Taliban rule, are likely to be left behind.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks at the White House press briefing room.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks at the White House press briefing room. Photograph: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Blinken said the US was working with other countries in the region to either keep the Kabul airport open after Tuesday or to reopen it “in a timely fashion.”

He also said that while the airport is critical, “there are other ways to leave Afghanistan, including by road and many countries border Afghanistan.” The US, he said, is “making sure that we have in place all of the necessary tools and means to facilitate the travel for those who seek to leave Afghanistan” after Tuesday.

There also are roughly 280 others who have said they are Americans but who have told the State Department they plan to remain in the country or are still undecided.

According to the latest totals, about 114,000 people have been evacuated since the Taliban takeover on 4 August, including approximately 2,900 on military and coalition flights during the 24 hours ending at 3 am on Sunday.

Reuters reports on the Afghanistan’s ‘Gen Z’ and its fears for the future:

When 20-year-old Salgy found out last week that she had topped some 200,000 students who took Afghanistan’s university entrance exam this year, she was elated.

For months, she had locked herself away in her room in the capital Kabul to study, sometimes forgetting to eat. With her family crowding round their solar-powered TV as the results came in, she realised her hard work had paid off.

“That was a moment when I felt someone gifted me the whole world,” Salgy, who like many in the country goes by one name, told Reuters. “My mother cried out of happiness and I cried with her.”

That feeling turned almost immediately to worry when she remembered the events of the previous weeks.

Salgy, 18, received the highest the highest score in the entire country on Afghanistan’s university entrance exams this year
Salgy, 18, received the highest the highest score in the entire country on Afghanistan’s university entrance exams this year Photograph: Nillab Burhan/AP

Following the withdrawal of the bulk of the remaining US forces in Afghanistan, the Taliban began a lightning advance across the country, culminating in the fall of Kabul on 15 August.

“We are faced with a very uncertain future, thinking what will happen next,” Salgy told Reuters. “I think I am the luckiest and unluckiest person.”

Almost two third of Afghans are under the age of 25, and an entire generation cannot even remember the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until it was toppled by Western-backed militia in 2001.

During that time they enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law, banning girls from school, women from work and carrying out public executions. Since 2001, the militants fought an insurgency in which thousands of Afghans died.

Since re-taking power, the group has been quick to reassure students that their education would not be disrupted, also saying it would respect the rights of women and urging talented professionals not to leave the country.

But used to a life with cellphones, pop music and mixing of genders, Afghanistan’s “Generation Z” - born roughly in the decade around the turn of the millennium - now fears some freedoms will be taken away, according to interviews with half a dozen Afghan students and young professionals.

“I made such big plans, I had all these high reaching goals for myself that stretched to the next 10 years,” said Sosan Nabi, a 21-year-old graduate.

“We had a hope for life, a hope for change. But in just one week, they took over the country and in 24 hours they took all our hopes, dreams snatched from in front of our eyes. It was all for nothing.”

A Taliban spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions for this article.

Hard-won freedoms

On the morning of 15 August as the Taliban neared Kabul, 26-year-old Javid rushed home from the university where he worked after graduating. He declined to give his full name out of fear of reprisals.

He deleted all emails and social media messages he had shared with foreign organisations and governments, especially the United States.

He took hard copies of certificates given by US-funded development programs to the backyard of his house and set them on fire. He broke a glass trophy received for that work against the floor.

Many Afghans working for overseas organisations have tried to flee the country in the last two weeks.

Afghan students wait to receives a dose of Covid-19 vaccine at Kabul University
Afghan students wait to receives a dose of Covid-19 vaccine at Kabul University Photograph: Mariam Zuhaib/AP

With little to go on but stories from parents about the Taliban, some young people said they were afraid, whatever the reality of the situation on the ground.

The first time many of them ever saw members of the group was patrolling streets after their conquest of Kabul.

Besides safety, young people Reuters spoke to said they worried other hard-won freedoms could be taken away.

Secondary school enrolment rose from 12% in 2001 to 55% in 2018, according to the World Bank.

From a time when a single state-owned radio station broadcast mainly calls to prayer and religious teachings, Afghanistan now has an estimated 170 radio stations, over 100 newspapers and dozens of TV stations.

That’s not to mention smartphones and the Internet - non-existent under Taliban rule - giving young people access to events beyond Afghanistan’s borders, said Elaha Tamim, an 18-year-old who also just passed her university entrance exam.

“It is something we all use at all times,” she said. “We use it for entertainment when we want to relax, it’s our way of discovering what’s happening in the rest of the world. I don’t want to lose that.”

Women’s rights

Some young women are particularly concerned by the Taliban’s victory.

The number of girls in primary school rose from effectively zero under the Taliban to over 80%, according the World Bank.

10th grade class at the Zarghoona girls high school in Kabul
10th grade class at the Zarghoona girls high school in Kabul Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

The Taliban has said it will respect the rights of girls to go to school this time around, though Javid said many female students at his university had stopped coming to class out of fear.

“I grew up in an environment where we were free, we could go to school, we could go out and about,” Tamim said. “My mother tells stories of her bitter time (under the Taliban). Those stories are frightening.”

Ammar Yasir, a member of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, personally congratulated Salgy - the student who topped the university entrance exams - on Twitter for her results, and for gaining admission to medical school.

She now hopes to fulfil her dream of becoming a doctor, despite the uncertainty.

“If the Taliban allow girls access to higher education and they don’t create barriers for them then that is good, otherwise my whole life’s struggle is at risk,” she said.

Despite the assurances, some people Reuters spoke to said they were desperate to leave, but didn’t know how.

“If I thought me staying here would bring any hope of a positive change then I would be ready, like the thousands of other young people, to give up my life for it,” Naby said.

“But we all know that isn’t a reality.”

Updated

Professor Peter Greste, from the University of Queensland, writes of the Taliban re-ascendant in Afghanistan: “seizing control is not the same as holding it”.

A foreign correspondent for the BBC in Afghanistan in the 1990s, Greste remembers the original rise of the Taliban, from “not much more than a rumour” to an unstoppable force that overwhelmed competing militias and local warlords.

And he argues that the internal contest within the Taliban, between its pragmatists and the ideologues, will be critical in determining how it ‘governs’ Afghanistan.

The mixed messages coming out of Kabul now – the promises to form an inclusive government that respects the rights of women and a general amnesty for those who opposed them, compared to disturbing reports of hit-lists and searches for anyone who worked with Western governments – suggests that internal debate is alive once more.

Taliban fighters on a road in Kabul
Taliban fighters on a road in Kabul Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

Boris Johnson and other world leaders have received assurances from the Taliban that foreign nationals and those with authorisation to exit Afghanistan will be free to leave, as tensions and bloodshed escalate on the streets of Kabul.

By Wednesday morning the last US troops will have left Kabul and the day will break on a country entirely controlled by the Taliban, the last shadow of American threat banished.

It is still uncertain what this second iteration of the caliphate will look like, but with foreigners finally gone, the shape of the new Afghanistan will come into sharper focus.

More on the US drone strike in suburban Kabul. From agencies:

The US military says a drone strike on a vehicle suspected of being used for a planned attack in Afghanistan may have caused “additional casualties” as well as killed the two Islamic State militants it targeted.

An Afghan official has said three children were killed in the strike near Kabul’s airport. Witnesses to the blast say several citizens were killed or wounded. CNN has reported nine members of the same family, including six children, were killed. These figures are unverified.

In a statement Sunday night, a spokesman for US Central Command, Navy Captain Bill Urban, said US officials were aware of the reports of civilian casualties and were still investigating.

“We are still assessing the results of this strike, which we know disrupted an imminent Isis-K threat to the airport,” he continued, using an acronym for, Islamic State Khorasan, an Afghan branch of the Islamic State group, which carried out a suicide attack at the airport on Thursday.

“We know that there were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties,” Urban said.

Smoke rises in suburban Kabul after a reported drone strike
Smoke rises in suburban Kabul after a reported drone strike Photograph: World is One News - news access

“It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further. We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”

Separately, a US official said the drone fired a Hellfire missile at a vehicle in a compound between two buildings when individuals were seen loading explosives into the rear of the vehicle.

The official said there was an initial explosion caused by the missile, followed by a much larger fireball, believed to be the result of the substantial amount of explosives inside the vehicle.

In his statement, Urban said those powerful subsequent explosions may have caused civilian casualties.

The US believes that two Islamic State group individuals who were targeted were killed.

The officials said it appears that the secondary explosion did significant damage to one of the buildings next to the vehicle. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss information about a military operation.

To our headline, and reports of civilian casualties from a US drone strike in suburban Kabul. Reiterating this news from earlier.

Captain Bill Urban, US central command spokesperson, said:

US military forces conducted a self-defence unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International airport.

We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.

We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time. We remain vigilant for potential future threats.

One of the key elements beyond 31 August is the reported commitment of the Taliban to allow continued safe passage of foreign nationals, Afghans who supported coalition forces, and others potentially vulnerable to Taliban violence (such as members of ethnic and religious minorities) to leave Afghanistan.

The US and the UK have said they have commitments from the Taliban to allow continued safe passage from the country. Secretary of state Antony Blinken says the US intends to “hold” the Taliban to that commitment: the question remains, with US troops soon to depart the country, how?

Good morning/afternoon/evening/night - wherever these words find you, this is Ben Doherty here in Sydney helming our rolling coverage of what is, at least scheduled to be, the penultimate day of the 20-year presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

It is not yet 4am in Kabul. A summary of the most recent developments from around the world.

  • A US drone strike on a vehicle in a Kabul neighbourhood has killed nine people, including, allegedly, six children, according to local reports. This figure has not been confirmed. US Central Command has said it is assessing the possibility of civilian casualties. It reported the vehicle was carrying explosives and suicide bombers who were set to target Kabul airport imminently.
  • Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said the US would continue working with the Taliban to ensure safe passage for those wishing to leave Afghanistan beyond the 31 August deadline. Nearly 100 countries have issued a joint statement saying foreign nationals, Afghans who worked alongside coalition forces, and vulnerable people, would be allowed to leave the country.
  • Coalition countries say the Taliban has committed to allowing safe passage for those seeking to leave Afghanistan. “We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country,” a joint statement, from nearly 100 countries, said.
  • The Taliban has confirmed its supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, who has never made a public appearance and whose whereabouts have largely remained unknown, is in Afghanistan.
  • US president Joe Biden travelled to Dover Airbase for the return to home soil of the bodies of 11 of the 13 American service members killed in the Kabul attack last week which also killed 169 Afghans.
  • France and Britain will submit a resolution to an emergency United Nations meeting due Monday on Afghanistan proposing a safe zone in Kabul to protect people trying to leave the country, French president Emmanuel Macron said.

Contributors

Helen Sullivan (now); with Nadeem Badshah ,Lucy Campbell, Nicola Slawson, Helen Livingstone and Ben Doherty (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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