The evacuation of some 40,000 Brits, Americans and Afghans who sided with the West from Taliban-occupied Kabul is set to take weeks while thousands of people camp out at the US-controlled Kabul airport.
Currently flights are grounded after floods of desperate Afghans invaded the runways and tried to jump onto passing US planes before two stowaways fell to their deaths.
The airport is being secured by 6,000 US troops but they yesterday failed to stop the runway being invaded despite helicopters being used to try and herd people off the tarmac.
Meanwhile there are at least 34,000 people – both citizens and Afghan allies – hoping to be rescued by the US and Britain and an unknown number relying on European countries, Canada and Australia.
The US hopes to be able to evacuate 5,000 people a day and the UK 1,000 a day but has so far both have managed a tiny fraction of that.
Britain’s force in the Afghan capital currently stands at around 600 personnel, with another 300 on their way to help rescue the 4,000 or so UK nationals – along with locals who sided with Western forces against the jihadis.
The Government’s plan is to have all British nationals evacuated by the end of the month, flying out more than 1,000 every day.
But so far around 300 people, including Britons and Afghans eligible for settlement, have been flown out, meaning the rate stands at roughly 100 evacuations a day. Unless that rate increases dramatically, it will take more than a month to reach the 4,000-person target.
MailOnline understands that 12 British military aircraft have so far been utilised in bringing back Britons and others trapped in Kabul.
Britain’s force in the Afghan capital currently stands at around 600 personnel, comprised of 16 Air Assault Brigade, Logistics, Medics and RAF servicemen, with another 300 on their way to help rescue the 4,000 or so UK nationals – along with locals who sided with Western forces against the jihadis. Pictured: British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan being relocated to the U.K. as part of Operation PITTING
Afghan people sit as they wait to leave the Kabul airport on August 16, 2021, after an end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war
People struggle to cross the boundary wall of Hamid Karzai International Airport to flee the country after rumors that foreign countries are evacuating people even without visas, after the Taliban over run of Kabul, Afghanistan, 16 August
The UK Armed Forces are enabling the relocation of personnel and others from Afghanistan. On Sunday 16th August the first flight of evacuated personnel arrived at RAF Brize Norton in the UK
Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 revealed empty skies for civilian aircraft over Afghanistan on Monday evening
The U.S. military is aiming to fly up to 30,000 people out of the Afghan capital, including embassy personnel, U.S. citizens, special immigration visa (SIV) applicants and other at-risk individuals. Of that total, 8,000 will be transported to a third country for visa processing, with the other 22,000 heading to the United States.
Pentagon officials said America intends to send over enough aircraft to fly out as many as 5,000 civilians a day, including U.S. citizens along with Afghan translators and others who worked with the country during the war.
It is estimated that between 50,000 and 80,000 SIV applicants and family members require evacuation, but the Biden administration thus far has only evacuated a fraction of that total.
U.N. resident coordinator in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, said today that the recent fighting had displaced some 600,000 people, and the uncertainty and fluid nature of the situation means humanitarian teams are not able to help everywhere.
FALL OF KABUL: A TIMELINE OF THE TALIBAN’S FAST ADVANCE AFTER 40 YEARS OF CONFLICT
Feb. 29, 2020 Trump negotiates deal with the Taliban setting U.S. withdrawal date for May 1, 2021
Nov. 17, 2020 Pentagon announces it will reduce troop levels to 2500 in Afghanistan
Jan. 15, 2020 Inspector general reveals ‘hubris and mendacity’ of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan
Feb 3. 2021 Afghan Study Group report warns against withdrawing ‘irresponsibly’
March Military command makes last-ditch effort to talk Biden out of withdrawal
April 14 Biden announces withdrawal will be completed by Sept. 11
May 4 – Taliban fighters launch a major offensive on Afghan forces in southern Helmand province. They also attack in at least six other provinces
May 11 – The Taliban capture Nerkh district just outside the capital Kabul as violence intensifies across the country
June 7 – Senior government officials say more than 150 Afghan soldiers are killed in 24 hours as fighting worsens. They add that fighting is raging in 26 of the country’s 34 provinces
June 22 – Taliban fighters launch a series of attacks in the north of the country, far from their traditional strongholds in the south. The UN envoy for Afghanistan says they have taken more than 50 of 370 districts
July 2 – The U.S. evacuates Bagram Airfield in the middle of the night
July 5 – The Taliban say they could present a written peace proposal to the Afghan government as soon as August
July 21 – Taliban insurgents control about a half of the country’s districts, according to the senior U.S. general, underlining the scale and speed of their advance
July 25 – The United States vows to continue to support Afghan troops “in the coming weeks” with intensified airstrikes to help them counter Taliban attacks
July 26 – The United Nations says nearly 2,400 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in May and June in escalating violence, the highest number for those months since records started in 2009
Aug. 6 – Zaranj in the south of the country becomes the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in years. Many more are to follow in the ensuing days, including the prized city of Kunduz in the north
Aug. 13 – Pentagon insists Kabul is not under imminent threat
Aug. 14 – The Taliban take the major northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and, with little resistance, Pul-e-Alam, capital of Logar province just 70 km (40 miles) south of Kabul. The United States sends more troops to help evacuate its civilians from Kabul as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he is consulting with local and international partners on next steps
Aug. 15 – The Taliban take the key eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, effectively surrounding Kabul
Taliban insurgents enter Kabul, an interior ministry official says, as the United States evacuate diplomats from its embassy by helicopter
The U.S. force in Kabul airport currently stands at around 3,000-strong, but that number is expected to soon double amid mounting concerns that Afghan security contractors could mutiny if they think they will not be let out of the country.
America’s plans to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghan civilians now seem less likely to be realised as Taliban militants in U.S.-issued armored vehicles surround Hamid Karzai International Airport, cutting it off from the rest of Kabul.
On Sunday, more than 60 countries issued a joint statement calling for all Afghans wishing to depart Afghanistan to be allowed to do so. Of the 27 member states of the European Union, only Hungary and Bulgaria did not sign the statement.
Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said on Monday that the international community had ‘misjudged the situation’, adding: ‘Neither we nor our partners and experts did foresee the speed which with the Afghan security forces withdrew and capitulated.’
Maas said that of the 2,500 embassy staffer who had been identified previously for evacuation, 1,900 had already been brought to Germany. In addition to the 600 still remaining on the ground, Maas added that Germany feels responsible to evacuate another 2,000 people – including human rights activist and their families.
He said one of the biggest problems right now was to get the people from their homes or safe houses to the airport to fly them out.
And two German military transport planes that were on the way to Kabul to help with evacuations became currently stuck in Baku, Azerbaijan, where they initially stopped to get refueled.
Germany news agency dpa reported on Monday afternoon that the A400M planes could not continue their flight to Kabul as planned because they could not land there because of the chaos at the airport in the Afghan capital.
The news agency reported that one of the planes would try to continue its trip to Afghanistan later Monday to be near the airport when it opens again for evacuation planes.
All in all, the German Air Force has sent three planes to Afghanistan to help with the evacuation of embassy staff and local employees.
Poland’s prime minister says the country is sending planes to Afghanistan to evacuate translators and other people who have helped Poland over the years.
‘Our priority now is to ensure the safety of all those who are associated with Poland in Afghanistan,’ Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said, adding that ‘some these activities must, for obvious reasons, remain secret.’
He said that more planes than necessary will be sent and that Poland will be in a position to help other allies evacuate people as well.
He said Poland would do its best to ‘everyone who has helped Poland over the years, whether as a translator or in any other form of assistance’ as humanely as possible.
Japan’s top diplomat has urged all parties in Afghanistan to work on restoring security and order in the country after the Taliban seized power there.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi spoke on Monday at a joint news conference in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shukry.
Motegi also called for all concerned parties in Afghanistan to ensure the protection of lives and property in the country. He said he has agreed to cooperate with Egypt, as an influential power in the Islamic world, to ensure that the latest developments in Afghanistan don’t cause further unrest.
Some two-dozen human rights experts working with the United Nations say countries must not ‘stand on the sidelines’ now that the Taliban – a U.N.-listed terror organization – have seized control of Afghanistan.
A sharply worded statement on Monday demanded action from the U.N. Security Council. The experts denounced the Taliban’s ‘relentless campaign’ against civilians, aid workers and journalists that have included assassinations, illegal restrictions on the rights of women and girls, and ‘mass executions of civilians.’
‘It is unacceptable for states to stand on the sidelines when a United Nations Security Council listed terrorist organization overruns the territory of Afghanistan and engages in acts that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,’ the experts said in a joint statement that drew an unusually large number of signatures.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said that all embassy personnel had been transferred to Kabul airport, but it remained unclear on Monday how many had been successfully extracted from the country
People climb a barbed wire wall to enter the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday. U.S. troops have taken over air-traffic control functions at the airport and halted civilian flights
Thousands of Afghans have rushed onto the tarmac at the airport, some so desperate to escape the Taliban capture of their country that they held onto the American military jet as it took off and plunged to death
Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it moves down a runway of the international airport, in Kabul on Monday. Several people were killed as they tried to cling to the plane as it took off
Thousands sign petition to rescue British Council-backed educators
More than 85,000 people have now signed a Change.org petition to rescue British Council-backed educators who fear Taliban persecution.
The British Council, the UK’s cultural outreach organisation first established in Kabul in 1964, employs dozens of Afghans, including educators, who have ‘promoted British values such as democracy, justice, and education for all children, including girls’, the petition reads.
It goes on: ‘To the Taliban, they are one and the same as the British Embassy or armed service personnel.
‘British Council educators have often worked in hard-to-reach, remote areas at great personal risk. They have been at the forefront of efforts to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan. As such, they are known to the Taliban and their allies as spies and collaborators with Western ”infidels”. Despite this, they have worked fearlessly for a peaceful and better future.’
The withdrawal of western forces from Afghanistan has left them and their families ‘in great peril’, the petition says, revealing that one educator, who is currently in hiding in a regional capital city under Taliban occupation, said last week that his work means he is ‘perceived as promoting Christianity in schools’.
He adds: ‘Many people also see me as a British spy. The mullah in our local mosque preaches that anyone supporting the British Council and teaching its language is an infidel, and he refers to me personally as evidence. I humbly urge the British government to grant me and my family asylum to relocate to the United Kingdom and live peacefully.’
The petition demands that the educators are currently on Taliban ‘death lists’ and are in hiding.
It urges Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to ‘save these brave educators before it is too late’.
They cited unspecified reports from 16 provinces in Afghanistan that have shown women and girls have faced rights violations including the requirement to wear full-body burqas, forced marriage, ban on employment and limits to freedom of movement and health care. The experts alluded to similar restrictions when the Taliban last held power before being toppled by a U.S.-led coalition two decades ago.
The experts called on the Security Council – which was holding a special session on Afghanistan on Monday – to be ‘unequivocal in action.’
‘The people of Afghanistan deserve better than to endure the silence and by-standing of the member states of the United Nations at this perilous moment,’ they wrote. ‘We cannot stand idly by as the lives of the Afghan people are treated with contempt, derision, and weariness.’
The experts also demanded accountability for what they said were the deaths of 1,000 civilians who were killed ‘last month alone.’
A Hungarian official on Monday criticized the pullout of American-led forces from Afghanistan and said Hungary will not take in refugees fleeing the country after its takeover by the Taliban.
Levente Magyar, a state secretary with Hungary’s foreign ministry, told state news agency MTI that the government would not make Hungarians pay for the ‘flawed geopolitical decision’ of the U.S. military withdrawal by accepting refugees ‘without any kind of restrictions.’
Hungary’s right-wing government is a staunch opponent of immigration, and in 2015 built a fence along its southern border in response to an influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa.
That fence would be used to deter a potential wave of refugees from Afghanistan, Magyar said, adding that the government is assessing how it can help those Afghans who have worked as interpreters or in other capacities for Hungarian troops.
The head of the U.N. refugee agency says its recent interaction with the Taliban – Afghanistan’s new rulers – has been ‘relatively positive’ and that humanitarian aid teams will stay in the country to help people in need after the Kabul government was toppled.
Filippo Grandi, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, said UNHCR discussions with the Taliban ‘may at times be difficult.’
In an interview at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Grandi said the agency would continue to press for respect of the rights of women and girls, who had faced strict rules and bans on school education, for example, when the Taliban previously ran the country – before a U.S.-led international coalition drove them from power in 2001.
Grandi noted that most of the displacement in recent weeks has been within Afghanistan, but appealed to other countries to keep their borders open and take in any refugees who could flee in the future. He said a half-million people have been internally displaced this year, the ‘vast majority’ of which in the last few weeks alone.
Thousands of Afghans swarmed the runways at Hamid Karzai International Airport, which is now surrounded by the Taliban
Hug crowds gathered near the airport’s perimeter to try to find a way in, but the gates are now guarded by the Taliban
He said that while UNHCR and partners have been previously in contact with Taliban leaders in rural areas before its forces swept into cities in recent weeks. Most of the recent interaction has been on issues like security and safety of the sites of UNHCR and partners
The United Nations chief is calling for an immediate end to violence in Afghanistan and urging the international community to unite to ensure that the human rights of all people, especially women and girls, are respected.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to the U.N. Security Council at an emergency meeting on Monday ‘and the international community as a whole to stand together, work together and act together.’
He said he is ‘particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who fear a return to the darkest days’ in the 1990s when the Taliban ruled and barred girls for getting an education and imposed draconian measures on women.
HAMAS WELCOMES ‘DEFEAT OF AMERICAN OCCUPATION’ IN AFGHANISTAN
The Islamic militant group Hamas has congratulated the Taliban for their swift takeover of Afghanistan and the end to the United States’ 20-year presence in the country.
In a statement on Monday, Hamas welcomed ‘the defeat of the American occupation on all Afghan land’ and praised what it said was the Taliban’s ‘courageous leadership on this victory, which was the culmination of its long struggle over the past 20 years.’
Hamas, a Palestinian group that opposes Israel’s existence, has governed the Gaza Strip since taking over the area in 2007, a year after it won a Palestinian election. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.
It wished the people of Afghanistan future success and said the ouster of the American troops proves ‘that the resistance of the peoples, foremost of which is our struggling Palestinian people, is due for victory.’
Guterres said ‘the world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead’ and with the country’s future and the hopes and dreams of a generation of young Afghans in the balance, the coming days ‘will be pivotal.’
At this ‘grave hour,’ the secretary-general urged all parties, especially the Taliban, ‘to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met.’
Guterres said the U.N continues to have staff and offices in areas now under Taliban control, and which so far have been respected. ‘Above all, we will stay and deliver in support of the Afghan people in their hour of need.’
‘We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan,’ he said.
The Russian embassy in Kabul alleged Monday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled from Kabul with four cars and a helicopter full of cash, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported.
The report quoted embassy spokesman Nikita Ishchenko as saying that ‘the collapse of the regime … is most eloquently characterized by how Ghani escaped from Afghanistan: four cars were filled with money, they tried to shove another part of the money into a helicopter, but not everything fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac.’
Ghani left Kabul on Sunday as the Taliban swept into the Afghan capital. Media reports suggested that the president went to the neighboring Tajikistan or Uzbekistan, but there was no official confirmation of his whereabouts.
Kremlin envoy on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov on Monday described Ghani’s flight from Kabul as ‘disgraceful,’ adding that Ghani ‘deserves to be brought to justice and held accountable by the Afghan people.’
India’s Foreign Ministry has said the suspension of commercial operations at the Kabul airport has forced the Indian government to pause its repatriation efforts but the process would restart once the flights are resumed.
In a statement on Monday, the ministry said it is in touch with some Indian nationals in Afghanistan who wish to return to the country and that it has been issuing periodic advisories for their safety and security.
The ministry said it is in ‘constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities’ and it will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan.
‘There are also a number of Afghans who have been our partners in the promotion of our mutual developmental, educational and people to people endeavors. We will stand by them,’ the statement said.
The ministry said the Indian government is monitoring the rapidly developing situation ‘on a constant basis at high levels’ and that it will ‘ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals and our interests in Afghanistan.’
The Dutch defense minister says a Dutch military aircraft is en route to Afghanistan to evacuate embassy staff, their families and Afghan translators who worked with the Netherlands. Ank Bijleveld says in a tweet on Monday that more flights are planned ‘in part due to the uncertain situation.’
The Baltic country of Lithuania is trying to evacuate 30 Afghan interpreters who helped the country’s troops during peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, an official said Monday.
‘The possibilities for transporting them are decreasing fast,’ deputy minister Margiris Abukevicius told reporters. Lithuania estimates that when the family members are included, the figure is of 100 people.
The Baltic country depends on other nations, he said. ‘The only option is one of partners’ military transport as Lithuania currently has no troops or other personnel of Afghanistan soil’ he added.
Vilnius chiefly had troops in the southern Ghor province. The Baltic country joined the multinational operation in Afghanistan in 2002
ROME – An Italian military flight carrying 70 embassy staff, Afghan employees and Italian nationals has landed at Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci Airport.
All were undergoing COVID tests before being allowed to leave the airport after the overnight flight from Kabul.
Francesca Mannocchi, an Italian journalist who was among those evacuated, said 20 were Afghan employees and their families, including women and children, who have been evacuated for their safety.
The airlifts come as thousands packed into the Kabul airport on Monday, rushing the tarmac and pushing onto planes in desperate attempts to flee the country after the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government. U.S. troops fired warning shots as they struggled to manage the chaotic evacuation.
NATO envoys to meet on Tuesday amid Taliban crisis in Afghanistan
NATO envoys are set to meet Tuesday to discuss security developments in Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the strife-torn country over the weekend.
The 30-nation military organization said Monday that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who will chair Tuesday morning’s meeting of ambassadors, will hold a news conference after it, at 1300 GMT.
NATO took charge of international security operations in Afghanistan in 2003 – its first major mission outside Europe and North America – aiming to help stabilize the government, build up local security forces and remove a potential rear-base for terrorist groups.
The U.S.-led military alliance wound down combat operations in 2014 to focus on training Afghan security forces but the Afghan armed forces withered before the insurgent offensive.
The Taliban were emboldened by the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops and wind up the NATO training mission in Afghanistan. The mission numbered about 10,000 personnel a year ago. An official said Sunday that ‘there are no troops under NATO command in Afghanistan currently.’ NATO also has a small diplomatic mission in Afghanistan. An official said Sunday that the military organization continues to ‘maintain our diplomatic presence in Kabul.’
Doctors Without Borders says its operations across Afghanistan have not been affected by the recent developments in Kabul.
While many foreigners have fled the country, the group – known by its French initials, MSF – continues to have some international staff on the ground. It also has more than 2,300 Afghan colleagues spread out across five Taliban-held provinces: Kandahar, Herat, Kunduz, Khost and Helmand.
Filipe Ribeiro, MSF’s country representative in Afghanistan, told The Associated Press that the group’s female medical practitioners in these provinces have resumed work and were already veiled or in the sky-blue burqas before the Taliban takeover, in line with local norms and customs.
‘We do not face any impediments with regards to female staff coming to work,’ he said, referring to MSF-run projects in those provinces.
As the Taliban pushed to takeover Helmand and Kunduz, MSF staff tended to large numbers of people wounded in the fighting, he said.
Speaking from his base in Kabul, Ribeiro said the capital’s streets were quiet and calm on Monday, despite scenes of chaos unfolding at the airport.
The group halted its main operation in Kabul after May 2020 following an attack on a maternity ward that was blamed on the Islamic State group.
Ribeiro said the focus remains on supporting Afghanistan’s welfare.
‘We have to keep in mind the health system was already dysfunctional beforehand, and nowadays it’s important to keep supporting the Afghan population and to guarantee that the medical services will continue,’ he said.
Australia is sending three transport and air-to-air refueling jets with 250 military personnel to repatriate more than 130 Australians and their families from Afghanistan, officials said on Monday.
Australia is also working to evacuate an undisclosed number of refugees, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.
The support comes as the U.S. and other nations scramble to evacuate diplomats and Afghan employees and their families from Kabul. The Taliban a day earlier toppled the Western-backed government.
An Airbus A330 airliner modified for aerial refueling would support U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan later this week, Australia’s Defense Department said in a statement. Two C-17A Globemaster heavy transport aircraft would also be sent to the Middle East, the statement said.
Australia shut its Kabul embassy in May and withdrew the last of its troops from Afghanistan in June.
More than 39,000 Australian military personnel have served in Afghanistan since 2001, and 41 died there.