First tourist group departs as Taiwan-Palau travel bubble resumes

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COVID-19: Flight departs as Palau program restarts

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COVID-19: Flight departs as Palau program restarts

Staff writer, with CNA

A group of 148 people departed from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday morning as Taiwan’s suspended travel bubble with Palau resumed.

A China Airlines flight took off at about 10:30am under a program in which the Pacific island country is offering up to 2,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to arrivals from Taiwan.

The “travel bubble,” which allows Taiwanese to visit Palau under eased protocols, was initially launched on April 1, but was suspended in the middle of May after a surge of COVID-19 cases in Taiwan.

Palauan Ambassador to Taiwan Dilmei Olkerii, right, presents a US$50 travel voucher to a woman at Taiwan Taoyuan International Aiport yesterday. Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

While Taiwan has contained the outbreak, it still faces a shortage of vaccines.

The first group in the program arrived at the airport at about 4am yesterday and from 5am underwent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19.

By 8:30am, the tests had all come back negative, Taoyuan International Airport Corp president Jerry Dan (但昭璧) said.

The airport has streamlined procedures for administering the tests, which allowed them to finish ahead of schedule, Dan said.

In accordance with disease prevention protocols, participants in the travel bubble will be isolated upon their return to Taiwan, he said.

Palauan Ambassador to Taiwan Dilmei Olkerii was at the airport to see the flight off and gave each passenger US$50 of travel vouchers to use in Palau.

Olkerii expressed gratitude to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) for allowing the program to resume.

She cited Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr as saying that while Taiwan has continued to report domestic COVID-19 cases, it has done well to contain the virus.

Earlier this week, Alex Lei, the director of the Palau Visitors Authority’s Taiwan office, said that Palau would provide 2,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwanese travelers in view of the countries’ “long-standing friendly ties.”

Palau — which has doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines — will offer the shots, along with proof of vaccination documents, to Taiwanese on the day of their arrival, Lei said.

People who have already confirmed their travel plans can reserve a jab by contacting the Taiwan office by e-mail, he said.

Many of the first group of tourists on yesterday’s flight were planning to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine shot in Palau, while others who had already received one vaccination in Taiwan were hoping to receive a jab from another brand there.

Travelers returning from Palau have to undergo five days of enhanced self-health management, either at a quarantine hotel or at home, if they can keep one person to a room, the CECC has said.

On the fifth day after their return, they are required to take a PCR test, and with a negative result they will be allowed to follow standard self-health management protocols until the 14th day, it said.

Separately yesterday, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said that the government is drafting a protocol on the recognition of COVID-19 vaccination records from abroad.

Currently, if people who have been vaccinated against the virus abroad are asked for their record, they can use a certificate issued to them in the country where they were vaccinated, because there are no bilateral agreements on recognition of COVID-19 vaccination records yet, Chen said.

However, the planned protocol would only recognize records that show vaccination with a product that has emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while a certificate declaring that they are to be inoculated abroad would also be required, he said.

COVID-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Moderna, which have been part of Taiwan’s vaccine program since March 22, would be recognized, and the FDA has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech and the one developed locally by Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp, he said.

Taliban says no one will use Afghan territory to launch attacks

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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says group won’t allow territory ‘to be used against anybody or any country’.

The Taliban held its first official news conference in Kabul since the shock seizure of the city, declaring on Tuesday it wished for peaceful relations with other countries.

“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” the movement’s main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, said.

The spokesman asserted that the rights of women will be protected within the framework of Islam.

The group previously declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government, trying to calm nerves across a tense capital city that only the day before saw chaos at its airport as thousands mobbed the city’s international airport in a desperate attempt to flee.

Evacuation flights from Afghanistan resumed as a Western security official told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the Kabul airport’s tarmac and runway – which troops from the United States control – were now clear of crowds.

The official said military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan have started taking off.

At least seven people died in Monday’s chaos, including several people who clung to the sides of a jet as it took off.

The Taliban has meanwhile declared the war in Afghanistan over and a senior leader said the group would wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.

China said it was ready for “friendly relations” with the Taliban, while Russia and Iran also made diplomatic overtures.

Here are the latest updates:

41 mins ago (20:46 GMT)

US does not rule out diplomatic presence in Kabul beyond deadline

The United States said it is possible to maintain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan beyond the August 31 deadline for troop withdrawal from the country.

State Department Ned Price said the US embassy in Afghanistan, which is now based at the airport in Kabul, is assisting in the evacuation of Americans, Afghan civilians and other nationals.

“We are thinking about this in terms of August 31; if it is safe and responsible for us to potentially stay longer, that is something that we may be able to look at,” he told reporters at a news briefing on Tuesday.

Price said relations with a new Afghan government will depend on the actions of the Taliban.

The Afghan group, which swiftly took over the country amid US withdrawal, had vowed earlier on Tuesday to respect human rights within an Islamic framework.

“Any future relationship between the Taliban and the United States… is going to be predicated on deeds,” Price said.

“Words are important; words can be reassuring; words can signal, but what we are going to be looking for are deeds. We want to see the follow through.”

44 mins ago (20:42 GMT)

Thousands of Afghans enter Pakistan via Chaman border crossing

Thousands of Afghans have entered Pakistan through the Spin Boldak/Chaman border crossing in Afghanistan’s southeast after the Afghan Taliban’s takeover of the country earlier this week, including patients seeking medical attention and freed Afghan Taliban prisoners.

On Tuesday, the border remained open for all Afghans carrying valid Afghan identity documents or proof of being a registered Afghan refugee resident in Pakistan, Afghan travellers and authorities told Al Jazeera.

Read more here.

Chaman/Spin Boldak border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan [Saadullah Akhtar/Al Jazeera]

55 mins ago (20:31 GMT)

US lawmakers to probe events in Afghanistan

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

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

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

1 hour ago (20:12 GMT)

US agencies scrub websites to protect Afghans left behind

Multiple federal agencies that operated in Afghanistan and worked with Afghan citizens have been hastily purging their websites, removing articles and photos that could endanger the Afghan civilians who interacted with them and now fear retribution from the Taliban.

The online scrubbing campaign appeared to begin late last week when it became clear that the Afghan security forces had completely collapsed and the Taliban would take over the country far faster than even the most alarmist official predictions.

The concern is that the Taliban or its supporters would search the websites and identify Afghans who had worked with the Americans or merely benefited from their services.

1 hour ago (19:57 GMT)

Human remains found in landing gear of military flight: US Air Force

The US Air Force said that it was investigating the circumstances surrounding human remains that were found in the wheel well of one of its C-17s that flew out of Kabul amid the chaos of the Taliban taking over the city.

In a statement, the Air Force said that the aircraft landed at Kabul’s airport on Sunday and was surrounded by hundreds of Afghan civilians.

“Faced with a rapidly deteriorating security situation around the aircraft, the C-17 crew decided to depart the airfield as quickly as possible,” the statement said.

Evacuees crowd the interior of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, carrying some 640 Afghans to Qatar from Kabul, Afghanistan August 15, 2021. Picture taken August 15, 2021 [Defense One/Handout/Reuters]

2 hours ago (19:47 GMT)

Support for Afghanistan pullout plummets in US

American support for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has dropped sharply after the Taliban’s stunning return to power, according to an opinion poll.

A Politico-Morning Consult survey of nearly 2,000 US voters showed that only 49 percent approve of the pullout, compared to 69 percent in April, when President Joe Biden announced that all US troops must be out of Afghanistan by September 11, though he later moved that date up to August 21.

Among Democrats, support dropped from 84 to 69 percent, among Republicans it fell from 52 to 31 percent.

The survey, conducted August 13-16, came as the Taliban captured Kabul and most other main Afghan cities with little resistance, while the US-backed government fled the country.

2 hours ago (19:27 GMT)

Afghans still skeptical about Taliban promises: analyst

Despite their assurances, a large part of the Afghan population does not find the messaging of the Taliban to be credible, Afghan academic Haroun Rahimi told Al Jazeera.

“That’s what you seeing the rush to the door and the refugee exodus,” he said from Istanbul.

“I think it has to do with some of the fear environment that exists. It has to do with the past brutality of the Taliban. Some people may find it very hard that they have changed.”

People wait outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 17, 2021 [Reuters]

2 hours ago (19:05 GMT)

Top UN rights forum to hold session on Afghanistan next week

The UN Human Rights Council is to hold a special session next week on the situation in Afghanistan to address “serious human rights concerns” after the Taliban takeover, a United Nations statement said.

The Geneva forum is set to convene on August 24 at the request of Pakistan and nearly 90 other countries supporting the move, it said.

Convening a special session requires support from one-third of the Council’s 47 member states.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid (L) gestures as he speaks during the first press conference in Kabul on August 17, 2021 following the Taliban stunning takeover of Afghanistan [Hoshang Hashimi/AFP]

3 hours ago (18:31 GMT)

Taliban agreed to allow ‘safe passage’ to airport, US says

The Taliban has told the US administration that it will allow a “safe passage” to the airport in Kabul, which remains under the control of American forces, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Sullivan confirmed that the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) is now operational, and flights evacuating Americans and Afghan civilians are underway after a pause on the operation on Monday following chaotic scenes of people looking to flee the country.

“The Taliban have informed us that they are prepared to provide a safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we intend to hold them to that commitment,” he said.

Despite earlier reports that the Taliban was blocking routes to the airport, Sullivan said those looking to leave have largely been able to make it to HKIA.

“By and large, what we have found is that people have been able to get to the airport,” Sullivan told reporters. “In fact, very large numbers of people have been able to get to the airport and present themselves.

“There have been instances where we have received reports of people being turned away or pushed back or even beaten; we are taking that up in a channel with the Taliban to try to resolve those issues.”

3 hours ago (18:11 GMT)

North Macedonia to accept 450 Afghan refugees

North Macedonia will by the end of the week temporarily take in 450 Afghans fleeing the Taliban takeover of their country and seeking visas to enter the United States, the Skopje government said.

North Macedonia is the third country in the Western Balkans, along with Albania and Kosovo, to have approved a request by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to admit Afghan refugees.

4 hours ago (17:40 GMT)

EU says will work with Taliban only if rights are respected

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

Josep Borrell outlined the EU’s stance in a statement after an emergency meeting of European Union foreign ministers.

4 hours ago (17:04 GMT)

US evacuations from Afghanistan to increase

The US says it will step up the pace of evacuations from Kabul airport, and plans to have one plane traveling out every hour by Wednesday, Major General William Taylor said at the Pentagon.

The US has airlifted about 1400 people out of the Afghanistan, a combination of US citizens, Afghans who qualify under the US special immigrant visa (SIV) programme and people from other countries.

Taylor said there will be ‘approximately 4000 troops on the ground’ by the end of Tuesday with more to come in.

He said the airport is secure, and that the US mission hopes to be able to evacuate between 5000-9000 people a day from now until the White House mandated end of the mission August 31.

Afghan security officials stand guard as people gather outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport to flee the country, after Taliban took control of Kabul, Afghanistan, 17 August 2021 [EPA]

4 hours ago (17:00 GMT)

Pakistan will not ‘unilaterally’ recognise Taliban government: minister

Pakistan’s government has said that it will not “unilaterally” recognise the Afghan Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, and will only take a decision on this after consultation with regional and international partners.

Speaking after a meeting of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Pakistan – which was one of three countries to recognise the Afghan Taliban’s previous regime in the 1990s – would not make its decision in isolation on this occasion.

“Pakistan will not take an isolated decision of accepting the Taliban government […] we are in contact with other countries and will make a decision in line with the world powers,” he said.

Chaudhry said Pakistan was “pleased” that the transfer of power in Kabul had occurred without bloodshed on Sunday.

5 hours ago (16:11 GMT)

Czech president: NATO’s failure in Afghanistan puts its legitimacy in question

Czech President Milos Zeman said NATO had failed in Afghanistan and its legitimacy was in question, as he called for his country to focus to national defence rather than “wasting money” on the alliance.

“The distrust towards NATO from a number of member countries will grow after this experience, because they will say – if you failed in Afghanistan, where is a guarantee that you won’t fail in any other critical situation?” Zeman said in an interview.

The Czech Republic has pledged to raise its defence spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product, the NATO target level, by 2024, but the government said in June that this deadline would not be met due to the economic crisis after the coronavirus pandemic.

5 hours ago (16:02 GMT)

ICC prosecutor urges all sides in Afghanistan to respect humanitarian law

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court called on all parties in the Afghanistan conflict to respect humanitarian law.

In a statement, Karim Khan noted that the court may exercise jurisdiction over any genocide, crime against humanity or war crime committed in Afghanistan since it joined the court in 2003.

“I call on all parties to the hostilities to fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including by ensuring the protection of civilians,” Khan said, adding that he was concerned about reports of revenge killings and persecution of women and girls.

6 hours ago (15:41 GMT)

Canada will not recognise Taliban as Afghan gov’t – PM Trudeau

Canada has no plans to recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government following the hardline movement’s takeover of Kabul, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

“Canada has no plans to recognise the Taliban as the Government of Afghanistan,” Trudeau told reporters. “They have taken over and replaced a duly elected democratic government by force.”

A Taliban fighter patrols along a street in Kabul on August 17, 2021 [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

6 hours ago (15:32 GMT)

Taliban wants private media to be independent, but not work against ‘national values’: Mujahid

The Taliban spokesman has assured that the group wanted private media to “remain independent”, but stressed journalists “should not work against national values”.

6 hours ago (15:19 GMT)

Taliban does not seek retribution: spokesman

The Taliban will not seek revenge against former soldiers and members of the Western-backed government, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters.

He said there was an amnesty for former Afghan government soldiers, as well as contractors and translators who worked for international forces.

“Nobody is going to harm you, nobody is going to knock on your doors,” he said.

“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” the movement’s main spokesman.”

6 hours ago (15:07 GMT)

Women’s rights will be protected: Taliban spokesman

Zabihullah Mujahid asserted that the rights of women will be protected within the guidance of Islamic law.

“The women are going to be very active in the society, but within the framework of Islam,” he said in response to a question from an Al Jazeera correspondent.

6 hours ago (15:01 GMT)

No one will be allowed to use territory for attacks: Taliban spokesman

The Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has asserted that no will be allowed to use Afghan territory for attacks against any nation.

“I would like to ensure I would like to assure the international community, including the United States, that nobody will be harmed,” he said at the group’s first news conference in Kabul.

“In Afghanistan, I would like to assure our neighbors, our original countries we are not going to allow our territory to be used against anybody or any country in the world. So the whole global community should be assured that we are committed to these pleasures that you will not be harmed.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks at his first news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, August 17, 2021 [Rahmat Gul/AP Photo]

7 hours ago (14:53 GMT)

‘Freedom and independence’ right of all every nations: Taliban spokesman

The Taliban in its first conference congratulated the Afghan people for being “emancipated” from 20 years of occupation, adding that “freedom and independence” was the legitimate right of every nation.

Zabuhullah Mujahid made the comments at the movement’s first news conference in Kabul.

7 hours ago (14:50 GMT)

Chief of Taliban’s political office arrives in Kandahar province

Mullah Baradar, the chief of the Taliban’s political office, has arrived in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province along with a delegation, the group’s spokesperson said in a tweet.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the co-founders of the Taliban, now heads its political office and is part of the negotiating team that the group has in Doha, where talks on a ceasefire had been under way.

Baradar, reported to have been one of Mullah Omar’s most trusted commanders, was captured in 2010 by security forces in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi and released in 2018.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar [File: Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

7 hours ago (14:35 GMT)

US evacuations from Afghanistan to increase

The United States says it will step up the pace of evacuations from Kabul airport, and plans to have one plane travelling out every hour by Wednesday, Major General William Taylor said at the Pentagon.

The US has airlifted about 1400 people out of Afghanistan, a combination of US citizens, Afghans who qualify under the US special immigrant visa (SIV) programme and people from other countries.

Taylor said there will be “approximately 4000 troops on the ground” by the end of Tuesday with more to come in.

He said the airport is secure, and that the US mission hopes to be able to evacuate between 5000-9000 people a day from now until the White House mandated end of the mission August 31.

7 hours ago (14:19 GMT)

Afghan VP claims to be inside Afghanistan, seeks support

Afghan First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh has said he was still in the country, and according to the constitution, was the legitimate caretaker president of country in the absence of President Ashraf Ghani.

“Am reaching out to all leaders to secure their support and consensus,” he posted on Twitter.

Clarity: As per d constitution of Afg, in absence, escape, resignation or death of the President the FVP becomes the caretaker President. I am currently inside my country & am the legitimate care taker President. Am reaching out to all leaders to secure their support & consensus. — Amrullah Saleh (@AmrullahSaleh2) August 17, 2021

7 hours ago (14:09 GMT)

Infographic: Tracking the flights out of Kabul

Scenes of desperation in Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport have haunted the world as people try to leave Afghanistan and governments try to get their citizens and affiliated Afghan nationals out.

After the Taliban took over Kabul on Sunday, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Taiwan’s China Airlines, Air France, KLM Lufthansa, Terra Avia, Air India, all US airlines effectively stopped using Afghan airspace, taking longer routes to avoid the country.

Read more here.

8 hours ago (13:46 GMT)

Uganda to take 2,000 Afghan refugees temporarily

Uganda said it had agreed to a request from the United States to take in temporarily 2,000 refugees from Afghanistan fleeing after the Taliban takeover.

The East African nation has long experience receiving people escaping conflict and currently hosts about 1.4 million refugees, most from South Sudan.

“The request was made yesterday by the US government to H.E. (President Yoweri Museveni) and he has given them an OK to bring 2,000 (Afghan) refugees to Uganda,” Esther Anyakun Davinia, Uganda’s junior minister for relief, disaster preparedness and refugees, told Reuters news agency.

8 hours ago (13:34 GMT)

Afghan leaders responsible for military collapse NATO chief

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is blaming a failure of Afghan leadership for the swift collapse of the country’s armed forces but says the alliance must also uncover flaws in its military training effort.

Stoltenberg says “the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up” and that “this failure of Afghan leadership led to the tragedy we are witnessing today.”

His remarks came after he chaired a meeting Tuesday of NATO envoys to discuss the security implications of the Taliban’s sweeping victory in Afghanistan in recent weeks.

NATO has been leading international security efforts in Afghanistan since 2003 but wound up combat operations in 2014 to focus on training the national security forces.

8 hours ago (13:15 GMT)

Luxembourg to send evacuation plane to Kabul in joint move with Belgium

Luxembourg said that it would send a military plane to Kabul in a joint move with Belgium to evacuate its citizens and allies.

The Grand Duchy said it was in contact with four Luxembourg citizens and two Luxembourg residents who are still in Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters on a pick-up truck move around a market area, flocked with local Afghan people at the Kote Sangi area of Kabul on August 17, 2021 [Hoshang Hashimi/AFP]

9 hours ago (12:40 GMT)

Dutch send new evacuation plane to Kabul

The Netherlands has sent a second military plane to Afghanistan to help evacuate people from the country, fearing time for the operation is running out, Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag said.

Kaag said the aim was to extract at least the almost 40 local Afghan staff at the Dutch Embassy and their families, along with translators and other Afghans whose lives may be in danger from Taliban militants because of their work for the Netherlands or non-governmental organisations.

But Kaag said it was very uncertain how many people would get out and how much time there was for the operation. “We will do everything we can to get those who deserve our protection out”, she said in a debate with Dutch members of parliament.

10 hours ago (11:49 GMT)

Russia calls on Afghan ethnic groups to gather for talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged all ethnic groups in Afghanistan to gather for talks on the country’s future after the fall of its government.

Lavrov also said it was a positive sign that the Taliban has demonstrated willingness to take into account the position of other groups.

Taliban fighters stand guard on a tower at the interior ministry, in Kabul, Afghanistan [AP]

10 hours ago (11:46 GMT)

Second German evacuation flight lands at Kabul airport

A second German evacuation flight has landed at Kabul airport, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

10 hours ago (11:41 GMT)

Russia says Taliban’s initial assurances ‘positive signal’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the Taliban’s initial assurances since completing their military takeover of Afghanistan over the weekend have been a “positive signal”.

“I consider it a positive signal that the Taliban in Kabul are declaring and in practice showing their readiness to respect the opinion of others,” Lavrov said.

US soldiers stand guard along a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan [File: Shekib Rahmani/AP]

10 hours ago (11:32 GMT)

Taliban tries to reassure population

Reporting from Kabul, Al Jazeera’s Rob Mcbride said that the Taliban was very conscious of how it is perceived, as it tries to reassure a “very nervous population”.

“We’ve seen in recent weeks as the Taliban have made these gains across the country that some Taliban units in certain provinces have been accused of carrying out atrocities, human rights abuses, war crimes,” said McBride.

“You sense that the Taliban wants to distance itself from that,” he added, highlighting that the Taliban has attempted to assure government employees to return to work without fear of recrimination.

“People who worked alongside the military over the past two decades and a lot of government … were considered to be targets in the past,” said McBride.

Taliban fighters patrol in Jalalabad, Afghanistan [EPA]

10 hours ago (11:24 GMT)

Afghanistan: Macron’s comments on ‘irregular’ migration draw ire

President Emmanuel Macron has said France, Germany and other EU countries are working on a coordinated response against expected “irregular migratory flows” from Afghanistan, where the Taliban’s takeover has fuelled fears among rights groups of a looming crisis.

Speaking on Monday in a televised address from his summer residence, Macron described the situation in Afghanistan as an “important challenge for our own security”.

Read more here.

French President Emmanuel Macron said his country must anticipate and protect itself ‘against significant irregular migratory flows’ [File: Christophe Archambault/AFP]

10 hours ago (11:18 GMT)

India evacuates 170 people from Afghanistan

An Indian air force plane has evacuated more than 170 people from Kabul, including India’s ambassador to Afghanistan, a government official says, as diplomats and civilians scramble to leave the country.

The flight landed in the western Indian city of Jamnagar for refuelling on the way to the capital New Delhi, Jamnagar collector Sourabh Pardhi told the Reuters news agency.

Read more here.

Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon said that nearly 200 personnel of the Indian mission in Afghanistan had been evacuated within three days [File: Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

10 hours ago (11:12 GMT)

US to press on with Afghan evacuations, says Pentagon

The United States is still committed to its drawdown in Afghanistan and will seek to evacuate as many US citizens and Afghan interpreters as possible in coming weeks, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

“We remain committed to completing this drawdown in a safe and orderly way, and to doing what we can to getting as many of our American citizens out as well as many of those interpreters and translators” who assisted US forces, Kirby told MSNBC in an interview.

“We’re going to work really hard in the coming weeks to get as many of them out of the country as we can.”

11 hours ago (10:56 GMT)

Greece says cannot become gateway to EU for fleeing Afghans

Greece cannot become a gateway into the European Union for Afghans fleeing the escalating conflict in their homeland, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said, calling for a common EU response to the crisis.

“We are clearly saying that we will not and cannot be the gateway for Europe for the refugees and migrants who could try to come to the European Union,” Mitarachi told state television ERT.

Mitarachi reiterated calls for a common EU response as unity between EU member states over whether to deport failed Afghan asylum-seekers crumbled last week.

Greece was on the front line of Europe’s migration crisis in 2015, when nearly a million people fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan landed on its islands [File: AP]

11 hours ago (10:53 GMT)

Germany ending development aid to Afghanistan

Germany is ending development aid to Afghanistan in light of the Taliban’s takeover there, said German Development Minister Gerd Mueller.

11 hours ago (10:51 GMT)

More than 600 fleeing Afghans cram into dramatic US military flight

A photo showed more than 600 Afghans – women, men, children and the elderly – sitting packed on the floor of a cavernous US military plane, part of a dramatic airlift hours after Kabul fell to the Taliban.

The now-viral image, obtained and posted by the respected military news site Defense One, was taken inside a US Air Force C-17 transport.

Inside a US transport taking off from Kabul. Extraordinary. — ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) August 16, 2021

The Afghans crammed in the giant cargo hold on the Sunday night flight were among those approved for evacuation by US authorities, according to the site.

The US military said about 640 Afghans were on board.

11 hours ago (10:46 GMT)

UNICEF says some Taliban support girls’ education

The UN children’s agency (UNICEF) said Taliban representatives in some parts of Afghanistan have expressed support for educating girls after they seized control when US troops withdrew, its field operations chief for the country said.

Mustapha Ben Messaoud, UNICEF’s chief of field operations in Afghanistan, said some Taliban local representatives had said they were waiting for guidance on the issue from their leaders, while others have said they want schools to run for girls.

“We are cautiously optimistic on moving forward,” he told a UN briefing in Geneva.

Women with their children try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan [Reuters]

11 hours ago (09:57 GMT)

UN issues a non-return advisory for Afghanistan

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has released yesterday a non-return advisory for Afghanistan, calling for a bar on forced returns of Afghan nationals, including asylum seekers who have had their claims rejected.

“In the wake of the rapid deterioration in the security and human rights situation in large parts of the country and the unfolding humanitarian emergency, UNHCR calls on States to halt forcible returns of Afghan nationals who have previously been determined not to be in need of international protection,” UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said at a news briefing in Geneva.

“UNHCR remains concerned about the risk of human rights violations against civilians in this evolving context, including women and girls, those perceived to have a current or past association with the Afghan government, international organisations or with the international military forces,” Mantoo added.

12 hours ago (09:06 GMT)

Turkey says in talks with all Afghan parties

Turkey is in talks with all parties in Afghanistan including the Taliban and views the messages from the group since taking control of the country positively, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

Turkey dropped plans to take over Kabul airport after NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan but is ready to provide support if the Taliban requests it [File: Pavel Golovkin/Reuters]

12 hours ago (09:03 GMT)

With economic assets to secure, China embraces the Taliban

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan the first time in 1996, China refused to recognise the movement’s rule and left its embassy shut for years.

This time around, Beijing has been among the first to embrace the group next door.

China’s remarkable shift was on display little more than two weeks ago, when Foreign Minister Wang Yi welcomed a Taliban delegation to the northern port of Tianjin as the group made gains against the administration of President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country on Sunday.

Read more here.

China FM Wang Yi’s endorsement of the Taliban’s ‘important role’ in governing Afghanistan provided a crucial boost of legitimacy for an organisation that has long been a global pariah [File: AFP]

13 hours ago (08:45 GMT)

India ferries 120 officials from Afghanistan

A military flight carrying Indian officials has landed in the western state of Gujarat after taking off from Kabul’s main airport, reported Indian media.

India’s foreign ministry had said the country was evacuating its ambassador and other Indian staff from Kabul.

India’s public broadcaster reported that the plane carried more than 120 Indian officials. Another military aircraft brought home around 40 Indian diplomats and other staff on Monday, local media reported.

The Indian government also announced a new electronic visa that would fast-track applications from Afghans who wish to escape to India.

13 hours ago (08:40 GMT)

Berlin calls on NATO to learn lessons from Afghanistan

Germany’s defence minister urged NATO to learn lessons from its Afghanistan mission – slammed as a “debacle” by critics.

Speaking before an emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told German broadcaster ZDF “there’s a lot that we have to work on within NATO.”

“The question for us will be to what extent are we willing to carry the consequences for this, and to what extent we are prepared to take measures that up to this point we have left to the Americans,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

13 hours ago (08:33 GMT)

‘Our future unknown’: Afghan nationals in India wary of Taliban

Last week, Mohammad Nadir, 70, and his wife Jameela left Afghanistan and arrived in the Indian capital on a medical visa for treatment of age-related health complications.

Jameela, who struggles to walk due to the pain in her knees, says she is “a bit relieved because we were lucky that we left on time”.

The couple left Afghanistan as a resurgent Taliban was making a stunning advance as US-led foreign forces leave the war-torn country 20 years after invading it.

Read more here.

Jameela, seated, reached the Indian capital last week for medical treatment [Zafar Aafaq/Al Jazeera]

13 hours ago (08:01 GMT)

Taliban issues decree not to enter people’s houses

The head of the Taliban’s Military Commission, Mullah Yaqoob, has issued a voice statement declaring that no one is allowed to enter anyone’s house, especially in the city of Kabul.

The statement comes after unconfirmed reports that the group had entered the homes of people in the capital.

The group also issued a blanket amnesty and urged all government employees to return to work.

The mayor of Kabul and the acting minister of public health were both among those who returned to their jobs on Tuesday.

Reporting by Ali M Latifi from Kabul

13 hours ago (07:59 GMT)

Hamas chief congratulates Taliban on end of US ‘occupation’

The political chief of Palestinian resistance group Hamas, Ismail Haniya, has congratulated the Taliban on the end of the US “occupation” of Afghanistan.

This came in a phone call between Haniya and Taliban leader Abdul-Ghani Baradar on Monday.

Haniya said the end of the US occupation of Afghanistan “is a prelude to the demise of all occupation forces, foremost of which is the Israeli occupation of Palestine”, according to Hamas’s website.

Taliban leader Abdul-Ghani Baradar expressed his gratitude for Ismail Haniya’s call, wishing Palestine “victory and empowerment [File: Aziz Taher/Reuters]

14 hours ago (07:52 GMT)

First German plane evacuated only 7 people from Kabul

The first German military plane to land in Kabul since the Taliban takeover evacuated only seven people, the government said, due to chaos at the Afghan capital’s airport.

Germany wants to airlift thousands of German-Afghan dual nationals as well as rights activists, lawyers and people who worked with foreign forces.

Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the A400M transport plane undertook a “breakneck landing” on Monday evening, with its main aim to bring in German soldiers to secure the evacuation.

Read more here.

Germany has the second-largest military contingent in Afghanistan after the United States [File: Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

14 hours ago (07:45 GMT)

Taliban urges women to join government

The Taliban urged women to join its government as Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, made the first comments on governance from a federal level across the country after their blitz across the country.

“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims” Samangani said, using the militants’ term for Afghanistan. “They should be in government structure according to Sharia (Islamic) law.”

He added, “The structure of government is not fully clear, but based on experience, there should be a fully Islamic leadership and all sides should join.”

Read more here.

Enamullah Samangani, member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, remained vague on details related to how a new government would be formed [File: Omar Sobhani/Reuters]

14 hours ago (07:29 GMT)

Pakistan’s FM calls for inclusive political settlement

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi about the “developing situation” in Afghanistan, the US State department said in a statement.

Commenting on the call, Pakistan’s foreign ministry stressed in a statement the importance of inclusive political settlement as the best way forward.

“The Foreign Minister [Qureshi] shared Pakistan’s perspective noting the significant change in the situation within a short span and the avoidance of violence,” read the Pakistani statement.

Pakistan “underlined that Pakistan would remain closely engaged with the US and other international partners in promoting efforts in support of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan”, and “stressed that continued US economic engagement with Afghanistan was of crucial importance as well”.

Foreign Minister Qureshi also briefed Secretary Blinken on Pakistani efforts to help with the evacuation of diplomats, media workers and international organisation staff from Kabul, the Pakistani statement said.

Reporting by Asad Hashim in Pakistan

14 hours ago (07:16 GMT)

UK cautions against militants using Afghanistan to attack West

The United Kingdom cautioned the Taliban that Afghanistan must never be used to launch terror attacks but added that the West must try to positively influence the armed group.

The UK fears the Taliban’s return and the vacuum left by the West’s chaotic withdrawal will allow fighters from al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) to gain a foothold in Afghanistan, just 20 years after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would try to see if it could moderate the new rulers of Afghanistan and even try to convince them to be “inclusive.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the West would have to be pragmatic in its relations with the Taliban [Hannah McKay/Reuters]

14 hours ago (07:10 GMT)

French evacuation plane lands in Abu Dhabi

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

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

14 hours ago (06:59 GMT)

US social media firms face new challenge in Afghanistan

The Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan poses a new challenge for big US tech companies on handling content created by a group considered “terrorists” by some world governments.

Social media giant Facebook confirmed that it designates the Taliban a terrorist group and bans it and content supporting it from its platforms.

Read more here.

ITaliban members have reportedly continued to use Facebook’s end-to-end encrypted messaging service WhatsApp to communicate [File: Dado Ruvic/Reuters]

15 hours ago (06:24 GMT)

Taliban announce ‘amnesty’ for govt officials

The Taliban declared a general amnesty for all government officials and urged them to return to work, two days after taking power following a lightning sweep through the country.

“A general amnesty has been declared for all … so you should start your routine life with full confidence,” said a statement from the Taliban.

Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar declared victory a day after the group entered Kabul [EPA]

15 hours ago (06:20 GMT)

Kabul airport situation stabilising: UK’s Raab

The position at Kabul airport is stabilising, the UK’s foreign minister said.

“The position at the airport is stabilising,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News. “The stability at the airport is absolutely key.”

15 hours ago (06:15 GMT)

Bush expresses ‘deep sadness’ over situation

Former US President George Bush said he and former First Lady Laura Bush feel “deep sadness” over the events unfolding in Afghanistan.

“Laura and I have been watching the tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan with deep sadness.

“Our hearts are heavy for both the Afghan people who have suffered so much and for the Americans and NATO allies who have sacrificed so much,” the former president said in a statement.

16 hours ago (05:44 GMT)

Europe needs humanitarian corridors for Afghan refugees, says official

Europe has to create humanitarian corridors to receive refugees fleeing from Afghanistan, and also to avoid uncontrolled flows of illegal immigrants, the European Union’s Economy Commissioner said.

“I think that Europe will inevitably have to equip itself for humanitarian corridors and organised reception, also to avoid uncontrolled flows of illegal immigrants. Or, at least, the countries that are willing to do so, should,” Paolo Gentiloni told Italian daily il Messaggero.

The EU’s foreign ministers will hold a crisis meeting later on Tuesday to discuss the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban.

17 hours ago (04:53 GMT)

Bush calls for safe passage for Afghan refugees, without ‘bureaucratic delay’

George W Bush, the former US president, has called on his country to expedite the evacuation of Afghans who helped Washington’s war effort.

“The Afghans now at the greatest risk are the same ones who have been on the forefront of progress inside their nation,” he said in a statement.

“The United States government has the legal authority to cut the red tape for refugees during urgent humanitarian crises. And we have the responsibility and the resources to secure safe passage for them now, without bureaucratic delay. Our most stalwart allies, along with private NGOs, are ready to help.”

17 hours ago (04:39 GMT)

Taliban leader reported in Kabul for talks – report

The Associated Press news agency says senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Muttaqi is in the Afghan capital negotiating with Kabul’s political leadership, including former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who once headed the country’s negotiating council.

The agency cited an official familiar with the talks and who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Muttaqi was a higher education minister when the Taliban last ruled and he began making contacts with Afghan political leaders even before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani secretly slipped away from the Presidential Palace on the weekend.

The official says the talks under way in the Afghan capital are aimed at bringing other non-Taliban leaders into the government that Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has said will be an “inclusive Afghan government”.

Afghans familiar with the talks say some sessions have gone late into the night and have been under way since soon after Ghani’s departure.

17 hours ago (04:16 GMT)

Blinken speaks to European counterparts

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held separate discussions on Monday with his counterparts in the United Kingdom, the European Union, Turkey and NATO on the situation in Afghanistan and Washington’s efforts to bring back their citizens.

“The Secretary expressed his profound appreciation for the EU, NATO, Turkey, and the UK’s efforts in Afghanistan,” the State Department said.

17 hours ago (03:58 GMT)

Indian embassy officials leaving Kabul

Indian embassy officials in Kabul, including the ambassador, are vacating the Afghan capital, a spokesman for the foreign ministry in New Delhi said.

“In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately,” spokesman Arindam Bagchi said on Twitter.

In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our Ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately. — Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) August 17, 2021

18 hours ago (03:40 GMT)

Military evacuation flights take off from Kabul

Military flights transporting diplomats and civilians out of Afghanistan started taking off on Tuesday morning, a Western security official at Kabul airport told the Reuters news agency.

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

US forces, which are in charge at the airport, had halted the departing flights because of the chaos.

18 hours ago (02:58 GMT)

Malala Yousafzai urges world leaders to act

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai says she is deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan – particularly the safety of women and girls – and is calling on world leaders to take urgent action.

Yousafzai says Biden “has a lot to do” and must “take a bold step” to protect the Afghan people.

“This is actually an urgent humanitarian crisis right now that we need to provide our help and support,” 23-year-old Yousafzai told BBC Newsnight show, adding that she had been trying to reach out to several world leaders.

Yousafzai survived being shot in the head by a Pakistani Taliban gunman in 2012, after she was attacked for her campaign against its efforts to deny women education.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in 2012, is calling on world leaders to take urgent action over the situation in Afghanistan [File: Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via Reuters]

19 hours ago (02:42 GMT)

Analyst: ‘The movie that everyone predicted but very much fast-forwarded’

President Biden is being criticised for his handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan but analysts note that people in the US, while appalled by the scenes at Kabul airport, remain broadly supportive of their troops leaving the country.

Douglas Ollivant, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, says that while Biden bears ultimate responsibility, few analysts or intelligence officers had predicted the speed of the Taliban’s advance.

“Ultimately, he’s the American president and the buck stops with him, but I think when we look back while none of these events have surprised analysts – all of these events were predicted – I don’t think even the most pessimistic of analysts would have predicted it would happen quite this fast,” Ollivant told Al Jazeera.

“In essence, we have been seeing the movie that everyone predicted but very much fast-forwarded, and fast-forwarded in a way that made it impossible to make decisions quickly enough or react in a way that got the US ahead of events.”

21 hours ago (00:55 GMT)

UN chief urges countries to accept Afghan refugees

UN chief Antonio Guterres is urging all countries to accept Afghan refugees and refrain from deportations.

The world is watching events in the country “with a heavy heart”, he said on Twitter.

“Afghans have known generations of war & hardship. They deserve our full support.”

As the world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart, I urge all countries to be willing to receive Afghan refugees & refrain from deportations. Afghans have known generations of war & hardship. They deserve our full support. Now is the time for solidarity. — António Guterres (@antonioguterres) August 16, 2021

21 hours ago (00:43 GMT)

Blinken speaks to counterparts in India, Pakistan

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been speaking to his counterparts in Pakistan and India on the situation in Afghanistan.

Blinken held calls with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, according to a State Department statement. It did not elaborate on what was discussed.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.

For key developments from yesterday, go here.