Ghani defends departure amid anti-Taliban protests in Jalalabad

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he did not run away and denies taking large sums of money in his first comments since leaving Afghanistan – updates as they happened.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani makes an address about the latest developments in the country from exile in United Arab Emirates, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video on August 18, 2021 [Facebook/Ashraf Ghani/via Reuters]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking from exile in the United Arab Emirates, said on Wednesday that he had left Kabul to prevent bloodshed and denied reports he took large sums of money with him as he left the presidential palace.

Protests in the eastern city of Jalalabad against the Taliban replacing the Afghan flag with the group’s have now spread elsewhere in Afghanistan.

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In Jalalabad, at least three people have been reportedly killed and a dozen others wounded after shots were fired at protesters.

Meanwhile, at least 5,000 diplomats, security staff, aid workers and Afghans were evacuated from the capital, according to a Western security official, as countries sought to step up evacuation efforts.

This blog is now closed. Below are the key developments from Wednesday, August 18 – as they happened:

UK announces doubling humanitarian aid to Afghanistan

The UK will double its humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan this year, bringing it to 286 million British pounds ($393m), Foreign Minister Dominic Raab announced on Wednesday.

“The UK will double its humanitarian and development aid to Afghanistan to £286m this year,” Raab wrote on Twitter. “We call on others to follow our lead to ensure the most vulnerable Afghans receive the humanitarian assistance they need.”

He did not elaborate on how the aid will be delivered after the Taliban takeover of the country.

US forces could stay beyond August 31 to evacuate all Americans

US forces could stay beyond the August 31 deadline for troop withdrawal to get all American citizens out of Afghanistan, President Joe Biden said on Wednesday.

In an interview with ABC News TV network, Biden said the military is looking to evacuate US citizens before the end of the month but US forces would stay longer if the mission is not finished.

“Americans should understand that we’re going to try to get it done before August 31 … And if there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay to get them all out,” he said.

Biden did not extend the pledge to Afghans who worked with the US and are looking to flee.

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the worsening crisis in Afghanistan from the White House, August 16 [Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images via AFP]

Chaos at Kabul airport was unavoidable, Biden says

President Joe Biden has denied that the United States committed mistakes in the handling of the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan, saying that the panic that unfolded at the Kabul airport on Monday was unavoidable.

Quizzed on the situation during an ABC News TV network interview, parts of which were released on Wednesday, Biden said the situation could not have been handled better to prevent the chaos at the Kabul airport after the sudden collapse of the Afghan government.

“We’re going to go back in hindsight and look but the idea that somehow there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing – I don’t know how that happens,” the US president said.

UK PM rejects Afghanistan inquiry as MPs debate Taliban takeover

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rules out an inquiry into the United Kingdom’s involvement in Afghanistan, disappointing legislators who have called for one following the Taliban’s rapid seizure of power in the country.

Addressing Parliament, Johnson dismissed pleas from across the political spectrum for a public hearing into the part played by the UK in the years-long intervention in Afghanistan headed by the US in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Read more here.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a debate in Parliament on the situation in Afghanistan in London, UK, August 18, 2021 [UK Parliament/Roger Harris/Handout via Reuters]

China seeks stability in Afghanistan before economic dialogue

Shenzhen, China – In the coming weeks and months, if not years, China will need to walk a tightrope related to economic and security engagements in Afghanistan or risk the fate other major powers have suffered by engaging in conflicts that drained them financially and at the cost of many lives.

China’s concerns over stability in the region and the potential for a security vacuum that emboldens militants there outweigh a desire to tap into Afghanistan’s mineral wealth and further advance regional infrastructure connections through the area in the near term.

Read more here.

Top general says US military did not foresee dangerous Afghan ‘collapse’

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley, the top US military officer said on Wednesday that Pentagon decision-makers did not anticipate the rapid collapse of the US-trained Afghan military.

“There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army in this government in 11 days,” General Milley told reporters at the Pentagon, adding the military is focused on securing the Kabul airport and there will be time for reviews of the events later.

The US presently has 4,500 Marines at the airport in a “volatile” situation that is presently secure but could change rapidly, Milley said. More troops from the US Army’s 82nd Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions are flowing in bringing the total force up to 6,000.

“The situation is still very dangerous, very dynamic and very fluid,” Milley said at a news briefing.

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley [File: Erin Scott/Reuters]

Raisi calls Putin, Xi on Afghanistan

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi called his Russian and Chinese counterparts on the phone about Afghanistan which shares a border with his country, his website said.

He told Russian President Vladimir Putin that establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan has always been a priority for Iran, and “all active Afghan groups” must work together to turn the US exit into an opportunity towards that goal. He also said Iran and Russia’s history of cooperating in Syria can help them work together on Afghanistan.

Raisi also told Chinese President Xi Jinping that Iran is ready to work with China on Afghanistan. Xi reportedly told him that the two countries have similar demands and interests when it comes to Afghanistan, adding, “We are ready to strengthen coordination and cooperation under the new circumstances”.

President Ghani ‘no longer a figure’ in Afghanistan

A top US diplomat has dismissed the significance of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani emerging in the United Arab Emirates, saying that Ghani, who fled the capital Kabul amid the Taliban takeover, is “no longer a figure” in the country.

“We saw the announcement by the UAE this morning that Ghani had been welcomed by the government, and that is that … He is no longer a figure in Afghanistan,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Wednesday.

She suggested that the UAE hosting Ghani will not affect Abu Dhabi’s ties with Washington.

“We have a fine relationship with the UAE,” Sherman told reporters at a news briefing.

Members of Taliban forces sit at a checkpost in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 17, 2021 [Reuters]

Erdoğan says Turkey still willing to protect Kabul airport

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday said Turkey was still prepared to protect Kabul airport following the Taliban takeover, and Ankara was talking with all concerned parties.

“We aimed at ensuring the security of the airport and contributing to the security of this country after the withdrawal of American (troops). We still maintain this intention,” Erdoğan said in a televised interview.

Ankara has negotiated with US defence officials since offering to help secure and run Kabul airport, which is key to allowing countries to retain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after the US troop withdrawal.

US evacuated 2,000 people from Kabul over past day

The United States has evacuated around 2,000 people from Afghanistan on military flights over the past 24 hours, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said.

US officials have also processed more than 4,800 visas for Afghans looking to flee the country and are continuing to work on the applications for “thousands and thousands” of people, Sherman added.

US officials said on Tuesday that the Taliban had agreed to allow a “safe passage” to the airport, but Sherman said the State Department is receiving reports that the Afghan group is already violating that pledge.

“Our team in Doha and our military partners on the ground in Kabul are engaging directly with the Taliban to make clear that we expect them to allow all American citizens, all third-country nationals and all Afghans, who wish to leave, to do so safely and without harassment,” Sherman told reporters.

Afghans gather outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport to flee the country, after Taliban took control of Kabul, Afghanistan, August 17, 2021 [EPA]

Taliban are supporting UK evacuation plans: UK ambassador in Kabul

The United Kingdom is working with the Taliban in Kabul on a “tactical, practical level” to evacuate citizens and eligible Afghans, the UK’s ambassador to Afghanistan said, adding that the evacuation programme would last days, not weeks.

Western nations are scrambling to get diplomats, civilians and eligible Afghans out of Kabul as the Taliban make their first efforts to set up a government after their lightning sweep into the capital.

US legislators urge Biden administration to evacuate journalists from Kabul

Two leading members of the US House of Representatives have joined calls on the Biden administration to evacuate Afghan journalists from Kabul in addition to US media.

Representatives Adam Schiff, a Democrat, and Steve Chabot, a Republican, co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Freedom of the Press Caucus, sent a letter to President Joe Biden demanding the US offer safe passage and transport out of Afghanistan for journalists and media staff at risk of violence or death under Taliban rule.

“Journalists and media support staff who assisted media organizations are in imminent danger as Afghanistan continues to deteriorate,” Schiff and Chabot wrote.

“These courageous individuals should receive safe passage to Hamid Karzai International Airport, and be transported to safety outside of the country if they request it,” they said.

People wait to be evacuated from Afghanistan at the airport in Kabul on August 18, 2021, following the Taliban stunning takeover of the country [AFP]

Ghani says allegations he left with cash ‘baseless’

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani president has said allegations that he escaped with suitcases of cash were “completely baseless”, saying it was all “political and personality assassination”.

“You can find out from custom officials and other authorities that they (allegations) were baseless,” he added.

Afghan President Ghani says he left to prevent bloodshed

Speaking from exile in the United Arab Emirates, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he had to leave Afghanistan in order to prevent bloodshed and to make sure a huge disaster was prevented.

Ghani said he had to leave because he was forced by his security, leaving behind his main assets and “confidential documents”.

“My mission was going to be that for power seeking Kabul should not be turned into another Yemen or Syria,” he added in a video streamed on Facebook, his first public comments since it was confirmed he was in the UAE.

Ghani has been bitterly criticised by former ministers for leaving the country suddenly as Taliban forces entered Kabul on Sunday.

President Ghani to make statement from exile

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is currently in the United Arab Emirates, is set to give a live speech via Facebook, he posted on social media.

Former Afghan women’s captain tells players to burn kits, delete photos

The former captain of the Afghan women’s soccer team has urged players to delete social media, erase public identities and burn their kits for safety’s sake now that the country is again under Taliban rule.

Copenhagen-based Khalida Popal told the Reuters news agency in a video interview said that the Taliban had killed, raped and stoned women in the past and female footballers were scared of what the future might hold.

“Today, I’m calling them and telling them, take down their names, remove their identities, take down their photos for their safety. Even I’m telling them to burn down or get rid of your national team uniform,” she said.

Taliban should explain Islamic law it wants to apply: NGO

The chairperson of the Afghanistan Women’s Council has asked the Taliban to explain the interpretation of Islamic law the group is hoping to apply as soon as possible.

“I am not afraid from the Taliban, but I want from the Taliban … is security, to stop the war in Afghanistan … for the Afghan woman this is very, very important,” Fatana Gailani told Al Jazeera from Kabul.

“Second, the Taliban should explain which kind of Sharia they are bringing … we are not afraid from but by the name of Sharia, but we want to be sure what they say about women’s rights. Right now they are talking very nicely about women’s rights … but we want to know what is the future for Afghan women.”


Situation for women, children in Afghanistan ‘very concerning’: aid organisation

Save the Children is warning that the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan is exacerbating what was already an extremely dire situation in the country.

The aid organisation’s regional director for Asia, Hassan Noor, says the aid group paused its Afghanistan operations and closed its offices as of Sunday, pending an assessment of the security situation.

Speaking to journalists at an online press briefing, Noor said the future of Afghanistan’s population, particularly women and children, was “very concerning,” particularly with regards to how their humanitarian needs will be met.

Afghan envoy says hold-out Panjshir province can resist Taliban rule

The Afghan ambassador to Tajikistan rejected Taliban rule of his country and said hold-out Panjshir province, north of Kabul, would serve as a stronghold for resistance led by Amrullah Saleh, who has proclaimed himself acting president.

Lieutenant General Zahir Aghbar, who held senior positions in Afghan state security including chief of police before becoming ambassador, said Ghani was a traitor.

“I cannot say that the Taliban have won the war. No, it was just Dr Ashraf Ghani who gave up power after treacherous talks with the Taliban,” he told the Reuters news agency in an interview.

Protests in London to speed up Afghan evacuations

Protesters gathered outside the UK Parliament calling on the country’s government to do more to evacuate residents in Afghanistan.

The demonstrators, many of whom have family members living in Afghanistan, held signs with images of those who were stranded in the country.

In recent days, the UK government has deployed around 900 troops to help evacuate UK nationals and Afghan troops who helped UK forces during their time there.

Demonstrators hold Afghanistan flags, during a protest in Parliament Square, London, Wednesday, August 18, 2021 [Alberto Pezzali/AP Photo]

Millions of Afghans ‘starving’: Norwegian Refugee Council

The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council has raised the alarm about the number of displaced people in Afghanistan, warning that “millions” in the country were “starving”.

“Our (NRC) concern are the millions and millions who are now starving … who are very afraid of their existence in the future,” Jan Egeland of the NRC told Al Jazeera from Oslo, Norway.

“There is also remember, millions of refugees in Iran and Pakistan, that are also watching the drama of Afghanistan,” he added.

However, Egeland said the end of fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan forces was now over, that should “enable people to return to their homes”.


Where does the world stand on Afghan refugees?

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan is raising fears of a possible humanitarian crisis that could see huge numbers of people try to flee the country.

The group, which took control of Kabul on Sunday following a rapid nationwide offensive, has pledged not to seek retribution against officials who served in the now-deposed government headed by Ashraf Ghani.

Read more here.

A family walks with their bags upon arrival at Frankfurt Airport, Germany, August 18, 2021, after being evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan [Thilo Schmuelgen/Reuters]

Taliban soldiers ‘firing into air’ at Kabul airport to disperse crowds

Taliban commanders and soldiers were firing into the air to disperse crowds at Kabul airport, a Taliban official said.

“We have no intention to injure anyone,” he told the Reuters news agency.

Massive chaos continued outside the airport, the official said, adding that the Western forces’ “chaotic evacuation plan” from Afghanistan was to blame.


UAE says hosting Afghan president ‘on humanitarian grounds’

The United Arab Emirates said that it is hosting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani “on humanitarian grounds”, after he fled his country amid a Taliban takeover.

“The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation can confirm that the UAE has welcomed President Ashraf Ghani and his family into the country on humanitarian grounds,” it said in a brief statement.

Read more here.

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani [File: Reuters]

The Take: Watching the Taliban take over, one woman’s story

On August 15, the Taliban took over the Afghan capital of Kabul, entered the presidential palace, and declared an end to the 20-year war.

It took the group fewer than 10 days to sweep every province.

Listen here.

About 5,000 evacuated from Kabul in last 24 hours

About 5,000 diplomats, security staff, aid workers and Afghans have been evacuated from the capital Kabul in the last 24 hours, a Western official told the Reuters news agency.

The evacuations by military flights will continue around the clock, he said, adding that clearing the chaos outside the airport was a challenge.

Dutch get 35 citizens out of Afghanistan in slow start

The Netherlands has managed to get 35 of its citizens out of Afghanistan in a slow start to its evacuation operation amid chaos outside Kabul airport, Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld says.

The 35 Dutch were flown to Tbilisi in Georgia along with 16 Belgians, two Germans and two British citizens, Bijleveld said, on a Boeing C-17 plane operated jointly by NATO countries.

Anti-Taliban protests spread beyond Jalalabad

Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis, reporting from Kabul, says that the anti-Taliban protests have expanded beyond Jalalabad to several other provinces.

“People are very upset that the national flag was taken down and that the Taliban flag has been raised,” said Bellis.

She added, “That isn’t the only flashpoint in Afghanistan today. There is ongoing chaos at the airport where the Taliban is still trying to hold people off from reaching the airport, breaching the security perimeter and having a repeat of what happened on Monday when thousands of people made their way onto the tarmac and disrupted evacuation flights.”

The Taliban flag flies at the Ghazni provincial governor’s house [Gulabuddin Amiri/AP]

EU, US ‘deeply worried about Afghan women and girls’

The US, UK and 18 other countries, as well as the EU, issued a joint statement, saying they were “deeply worried about Afghan women and girls” and urging the Taliban to ensure their safety.

The statement was released as concerns soared about the Taliban’s return to power after their 1996-2001 rule was characterised by a strict interpretation of Islam that prevented Afghan women from working or studying, or travelling without a male “guardian”.

“We are deeply worried about Afghan women and girls, their rights to education, work and freedom of movement. We call on those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan to guarantee their protection,” said the statement, whose other co-signatories included Australia, Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, New Zealand, Senegal and Switzerland.

At least three dead after anti-Taliban protests in Jalalabad

At least three people were killed and more than a dozen wounded after Taliban fighters opened fire during protests against the group in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, two witnesses and a former police official told the Reuters news agency.

The witnesses said the deaths took place when local residents tried to install Afghanistan’s national flag at a square in the city, about 150km (90 miles) to the east of Kabul.

Aim should be to keep most Afghan refugees in the region: Austria

The European Union should aim to keep most of people fleeing Afghanistan in the region, Austria’s interior minister says, adding that failing to do so would be “very dangerous” for Europe.

“The aim must be to keep the bulk of people in the region,” Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told a news conference before a video conference with his EU counterparts, adding that countries near Afghanistan that take in Afghans should be provided with financial and other support.

Poland gets 50 people out of Afghanistan, offers to bring out more

Poland has evacuated about 50 people from Afghanistan, a deputy foreign minister says.

Poland said on Tuesday it had around 100 people on an evacuation list. It has pledged offer places on its planes to other people trying to leave Afghanistan from Kabul airport, where chaotic scenes have caused problems for some evacuation efforts.

“About 50 people were evacuated from Afghanistan, they are now safe in the care of the Polish consulate in Uzbekistan,” Marcin Przydacz told reporters. “A civilian plane is waiting for them that will soon transport them to Poland.”

Przydacz said that one Polish citizen was among those evacuated, while the others were people who had worked with the Polish military and diplomatic missions.

Poland is sending more planes to help evacuate people, he said.

Merkel speaks to Pakistan’s PM, Qatar’s emir on Afghanistan

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Kahn, the emir of Qatar and the head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), her spokesman says.

“The chancellor spoke yesterday, in the early evening, with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Kahn as well as with the emir of Qatar,” spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular news conference.

Merkel also spoke with Filippo Grandi, head of the UNHCR refugee agency, Seibert said, adding that the biggest flows of Afghans at the moment were within the country.

US agencies scrub websites in bid to protect Afghans

Multiple United States 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.

Read more here.

Taliban fighters sit on a vehicle along the street in Jalalabad province [AFP]

UK to take 5,000 Afghan refugees this year: Johnson

The British government says it will take in 5,000 Afghan refugees this year, primarily women and children, as lawmakers pack Parliament for a heated emergency debate on the UK response to the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has come under fire for the chaotic turn of events in Afghanistan, said a new “generous” refugee settlement programme would allow up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghans to seek sanctuary in the UK in the coming years.

That number is over and above the 5,000 or so Afghan allies the UK is trying to evacuate from Kabul’s international airport.

Pakistan issuing visas upon arrival to all foreigners leaving Kabul

Pakistan is issuing visas upon arrival to all diplomats, foreigners and journalists who want to leave Kabul over security concerns.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that since Sunday, 900 foreigners including diplomats and staff working for international organisations have arrived in Pakistan from Kabul via air travel.

He said transit visas were also being issued to foreigners upon arrival from Afghanistan at airports and land crossings so that they could travel on to their home countries.

Ahmed said hundreds of Pakistanis and Afghans crossed into Pakistan from two key land border crossings in recent days.

He said all Pakistanis who want to leave Afghanistan will be brought back over the coming two days.

A Pakistani newspaper displaying front page news about Afghanistan [Aamir Qureshi/AFP]

Afghan refugees cross into Turkey from Iran

Fearing a new refugee crisis, Turkey is reinforcing its border with Iran to stop a potential influx of Afghans fleeing the Taliban.

Irregular arrivals are already up as Afghans who fled weeks and months ago show up at the rugged border area after a long trek across Iran.

A group of Afghans encountered by The Associated Press news agency near the border said they had deserted the Afghan military and fled the country as the Taliban offensive accelerated.

Afghan women await Taliban’s definition of women’s rights: Gailani

Fatana Gailani, chairperson for the Afghanistan Women Council, told Al Jazeera the Taliban should unveil “the programme for the future of the Afghan women”.

“I have worked for Afghan women’s rights for four decades and more than three decades for peace and security for my country. I am not afraid of the Taliban. … The Taliban should explain which kind of Shariah they are bringing in Afghanistan.”

“Afghan people, Afghan women are Muslims, we are not afraid by the name of Shariah, but we want to be sure what they say about women’s rights. Up until now, they are just talking about women’s rights, very nicely, very kindly, but we want to see what is the programme for the future of the Afghan women.”

Schoolgirls sit at the schoolyard in Herat [Aref Karimi/AFP]

“I urge the international community, the Western countries and the United States … and Mr Joe Biden, not to leave Afghanistan’s people alone. Come back, because many diplomats closed their embassies in Afghanistan. Why? They should stay with Afghan people. We are of course working for women for the future. I hope that they understand us, that they should be nice and friendly with Afghan women, they will not leave Afghanistan alone. They should to work with Taliban for peace and for security.”

“I think the Taliban now say they are nice [to Afghan] women. I try to believe, I still hope. We are working and we are just waiting for a few more days.”

EU must take in Afghans: European Parliament chief

The European Union has a responsibility to accept Afghan refugees and cannot leave people who worked for the bloc in Afghanistan to “face revenge”, European Parliament President David Sassoli says.

He said refugees arriving from Afghanistan should be distributed evenly among  EU member states.

“We must protect those who worked and cooperated with us, we cannot allow them to be left to face revenge”, Sassoli, an Italian, told reporters during a visit to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

“We have a responsibility. I think that European Commission can authorise even distribution of them among the member states to keep a parity, and this can be done quickly.”

People sit near the French embassy in Kabul [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Swiss will not accept large groups of Afghan refugees directly

Switzerland will not accept large groups of Afghan refugees arriving directly from the country, the government says, but instead will review asylum applications on a case-by-case basis.

Humanitarian visas will be considered for people facing an “immediate, concrete, serious and directly life-threatening threat”, the government said, as it worked to evacuate local workers who aided the Swiss development office in Kabul.

Applicants for visa must also have a close and current connection to Switzerland, it added.

Stampede at gate of airport in Kabul injures 17: NATO official

Seventeen people were injured in a stampede at a gate to the airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul, a NATO security official says, as Western countries stepped up the evacuation of their diplomats and others.

Afghan civilians seeking to leave after the Taliban seized the capital on Sunday had been told not to gather around the airport unless they had a passport and visa to travel, said the official, who was working at the airport.

The official, who declined to be identified, said he had not heard any reports of violence by Taliban fighters outside the airport.

Russian and Turkish foreign ministers discuss Afghanistan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed the situation in Afghanistan and called on key players to ensure security there, Russia’s foreign ministry says in a statement.

Lavrov and Cavusoglu discussed Afghanistan in detail, the foreign ministry said, and expressed a mutual interest in stabilising the situation.

Afghan girls return to school in Herat after Taliban takeover

Girls wearing white hijabs and black tunics are streaming into classrooms in the western Afghan city of Herat just days after the Taliban’s takeover.

As the school opened its doors, the students scurried down corridors and chatted in courtyards, seemingly oblivious to the turmoil that has engulfed the country in the past two weeks.

Read more here.

Schoolgirls attend class in Herat [Aref Karimi/AFP]

The history of the Taliban

On Sunday, the Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan after a few weeks of stunning military victories.

The armed group had been toppled in a US-led invasion in 2001 following the September 11 attacks on US soil, but it gradually regained strength, carrying out numerous attacks on foreign as well as Afghan forces in the past 20 years.

Read more here.

Taliban fighters stand on a vehicle along the roadside in Herat [AFP]

The Taliban could be different this time: UK’s army chief

Nick Carter, the UK’s chief of the defence staff, told the BBC, “We have to be patient, we have to hold our nerve and we have to give them the space to form a government and we have to give them the space to show their credentials.”

“It may be that this Taliban is a different Taliban to the one that people remember from the 1990s.”

“We may well discover, if we give them the space, that this Taliban is of course more reasonable but what we absolutely have to remember is that they are not a homogenous organisation – the Taliban is a group of disparate tribal figures that come from all over rural Afghanistan.”

Carter said the Taliban were essentially “country boys” who lived by the so-called “Pashtunwali”, the traditional tribal way of life and code of conduct of the Pashtun people.

“It may well be a Taliban that is more reasonable,” Carter said. “It’s less repressive. And indeed, if you look at the way it is governing Kabul at the moment, there are some indications that it is more reasonable.”

Ousted Afghan President Karzai meets Taliban faction chief

A Taliban commander and senior leader of the Haqqani Network armed group, Anas Haqqani, has met former Afghan President Hamid Karzai for talks, a Taliban official says, amid efforts by the Taliban to set up a government.

Karzai was accompanied by the old government’s main peace envoy, Abdullah Abdullah, in the meeting, said the Taliban official, who declined to be identified. He gave no more details.

The Haqqani Network is an important faction of the Taliban, who captured the capital, Kabul, on Sunday.

The network, based on the border with Pakistan, was accused over recent years of some of the most deadly attacks in Afghanistan.

Karzai, centre left, Haqqani, right, meet in Kabul [Taliban handout via AP]

Taliban will be judged on actions, not words: British PM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the Taliban will be judged on their actions, not their words.

The Taliban has said they want peace, will not take revenge against old enemies and would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law. But thousands of Afghans, many of whom helped foreign forces, are desperate to leave.

“We will judge this regime based on the choices it makes, and by its actions rather than by its words, on its attitude to terrorism, to crime and narcotics, as well as humanitarian access, and the rights of girls to receive an education,” Johnson told parliament, which was recalled from its summer break to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

Taliban delegation in Pakistan for high-level talks

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from the Torkham border crossing in Pakistan, says the Taliban is in talks with the Pakistani government.

“A delegation comprising of senior Afghan officials are in Pakistan at the moment. They have already held a round of talks with the country’s military leadership and the prime minister. Pakistan is stressing that the new Afghan government has to be an inclusive one. The Taliban have already signaled that they will tolerate other religious minorities as well as ethnicities within Afghanistan to form an inclusive government.”

[Al Jazeera]

India’s right commission urged to grant Afghans refugee status

The Rights and Risk Analysis Group (RRAG) has urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to protect the Afghan nationals who have fled to India in the wake of the Taliban takeover of the country by granting them refugee status.

Suhas Chakma, director of the RRAG, said: “It would be a historic blunder if India fails to grant refugee status and protection to the Afghan nationals who have fled to India irrespective of their religion. The Afghans who fled to India including the members of parliament had worked with the Government of India in the last 20 years, which makes them special targets of the Taliban, and therefore, India cannot abandon them by granting only e-visas.”

Statue of Shia leader from 1990s civil war destroyed

The statue of a Shia leader, who had fought against the Taliban during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s, has been blown up in central Bamiyan province, according to photos circulating on social media.

Abdul Ali Mazari, a champion of Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazara minority, was killed by the Taliban in 1996, when the armed group seized power from rival militias.

The statue stood in the central Bamiyan province, where the Taliban infamously blew up 1,500-year-old massive Buddha statues in 2001, shortly before the US-led invasion that drove them from power.

Abdul Ali Mazari in Taliban captivity before he was executed [File: Stringer/AFP]

Deadly clashes reported in Jalalabad over national flag

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Kabul, says the situation is still volatile in Afghanistan.

“We are getting reports of very serious disturbances in Jalalabad. This is a very important city, east of Kabul, towards the border with Pakistan. It’s a very important trading city and so on. There has been protests there about the national flag,” he said.

“Since we have seen the arrival of the Taliban, they have gradually been removing Afghanistan’s national flag and replacing them with the Taliban flag. We have seen that in Kabul. A lot of people are not happy with that, but by and large they had to put up with that.”

“In Jalalabad, they have not put up with that. There have been resistance to that by a fairly sizable part of the community there. We have seen uploaded on social media, protests in the streets of hundreds if not thousands of people waving the national flag.”

“We know that they have put the flag back up again in an important square in Jalalabad and that there have been clashes with the Taliban with reports of gunfire and also that a number of people have been both killed and injured.”

Al Jazeera’s Ali M Latifi, also reporting from Kabul, said later that at least two people were killed and 12 injured in the Jalalabad clashes.

Read more here.

Central bank reserves not compromised: Governor

Afghanistan’s currency reserves are mostly held in foreign accounts and have not been compromised since the Taliban captured Kabul, the head of the central bank says.

Da Afghanistan Bank controlled about $9bn in reserves, about $7bn of which was held as a mixture of cash, gold US bonds and other paper at the Federal Reserve, Ajmal Ahmaty, the acting governor who has now fled Kabul, said on Twitter.

“In no way were Afghanistan’s international reserves ever compromised,” he said.

“No money was stolen from any reserve account … I can’t imagine a scenario where Treasury/OFAC would given Taliban access to such funds.”

US freezes Afghan central bank’s assets of $9.5bn

The US has frozen nearly $9.5bn in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank and stopped shipments of cash to the nation as it tries to keep a Taliban-led government from accessing the money, an administration official confirmed Tuesday.

The official said that any central bank assets that the Afghan government has in the US will not be available to the Taliban, which remains on the Treasury Department’s sanctions designation list.

Read more here.

[File: Victor J Blue/Bloomberg]

Minister: 25 French nationals and 184 Afghans evacuated

Twenty-five French nationals and 184 Afghans were evacuated from Afghanistan overnight and have just landed in Abu Dhabi, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says.

More than 2,200 diplomats and other civilians have been evacuated from Afghanistan on military flights, a Western security official told the Reuters news agency, as efforts gathered pace to get people out after the Taliban seized the capital.

India’s midnight evacuation from Afghanistan, escorted by Taliban

Outside the main iron gate of the Indian embassy in Kabul, a group of Taliban fighters waited, armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Inside the compound were 150 Indian diplomats and nationals, growing increasingly nervous as they watched news of the Taliban tightening their grip on the capital, which they took a day earlier without a fight.

Read more here.

Indian nationals sit aboard an Indian military aircraft at the airport in Kabul [Stringer/AFP]

Exiled Taliban co-founder returns from exile

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder and deputy leader of the Taliban, arrives back in Afghanistan.

He chose to touch down on Tuesday night in Afghanistan’s second-biggest city Kandahar – the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace and capital during their first time in power.

He arrived from Qatar, where he has spent months leading talks with the United States and then Afghan peace negotiators.

Footage released by pro-Taliban media showed crowds gathering around Baradar at the airport, pumping their fists in the air and chanting in celebration.

Abdul Ghani Baradar
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group’s top political leader [File: Hussein Sayed/AP]

Thousands of Afghans enter Pakistan via Chaman 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.

[Al Jazeera]

UK getting 1,000 out a day from Afghanistan: Patel

The United Kingdom has managed to evacuate about 1,000 people a day from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the country, Home Secretary Priti Patel says.

“We have been getting out approximately 1,000 people, so far, a day,” she told BBC TV.

“We’re still bringing out British nationals … and those Afghan nationals who are part of our locally employed scheme.”

Dutch efforts to evacuate Afghan staff fails

Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag says Dutch evacuation efforts in Afghanistan were unsuccessful on Tuesday night as chaos outside Kabul airport made it impossible to get eligible people on a plane.

The Netherlands aims to get up to 1,000 local embassy workers, translators and their families out of the country.

US armed forces securing the airport did not allow any Afghans to enter the gates even if they had the right credentials, and the plane was only on the ground in Kabul for about half an hour, Kaag said.

“It’s awful. Many were there at the gates of the airport with their families,” Kaag told Dutch news agency ANP.

People wait to be evacuated from Afghanistan at the airport in Kabul [AFP]

Taliban leaders will not stay in ‘shadow of secrecy’: group official

The leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban will show themselves to the world, an official of the group says, unlike during the past 20 years, when its leaders have lived largely in secret.

“Slowly, gradually, the world will see all our leaders, there will be no shadow of secrecy,” the senior Taliban official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters news agency.

The official said Taliban members had been ordered not to celebrate their recent sweep of the country, which brought them to the capital, Kabul, and added that civilians should hand over weapons and ammunition.

Hello and welcome to the live updates. This is Tamila Varshalomidze, taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.

More than 2,200 people evacuated from Afghanistan

A Western security official has told the Reuters news agency that more than 2,200 diplomats and other civilians have been evacuated from Afghanistan so far.

“We are continuing at a very fast momentum, logistics show no glitches as of now and we have been able to remove a little over 2,200 diplomatic staff, foreign security staff and Afghans who worked for embassies,” the official said.

It was unclear when civilian flights would resume, he said.

The official did not give a breakdown of how many Afghans were among the more than 2,200 people to leave nor was it clear if that tally included the more than 600 Afghan men, women and children who flew out on Sunday, crammed into a US military C-17 cargo aircraft.

Germans fear refugee influx after Taliban takeover – poll

Almost two-thirds of Germans fear an influx of refugees following recent developments in Afghanistan, according to a new survey.

Some 62.9 percent of people surveyed said they are worried about refugees arriving in the country like in 2015, according to the poll by the Civey polling institute for the daily Augsburger Allgemeine.

Some 30 percent think differently, the poll found. The rest were undecided.

Japan seeks to secure safety of its nationals

A government spokesman has said Japan is in close contact with a “small number” of its nationals still in Afghanistan and is seeking to ensure their safety.

Japan had closed its embassy after the Taliban took over Kabul and had evacuated the last 12 personnel there. The Japanese foreign ministry said an unspecified number of Japanese nationals, many who work with international organisations, remain in Afghanistan.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference that none of the Japanese still remaining in Afghanistan had been reported to have suffered injuries, but declined to give details, citing security concerns.

Canada to resume flights to aid evacuations

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has said it plans to resume military flights to Afghanistan to evacuate civilians.

“CAF flights will support ongoing operations and will evacuate as many Afghans, who are at risk due to their close and enduring relationship with Canada, as possible,” a CAF spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Chartered flights carrying fleeing Afghans have arrived in Canada from Monday evening and additional flights will be sent on Tuesday night, according to the statement.

Australia evacuates 26 people in first rescue flight

Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, said the first Australian rescue flight has flown 26 people out of Afghanistan.

“This was the first of what will be many flights, subject to and weather and we do note that over the back end of this week, there is some not too favourable weather forecast,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Australia said on Monday it would send 250 military personnel to Kabul to evacuate it citizens and an unspecified number of Afghans who had been given visas after working for Australia. The country’s goal is to evacuate 600 people, according to media reports.

Morrison did not provide a number. “Our goal is as many as we can, as safely and as quickly as we can,” he said.

Planes with Afghan evacuees arrive in UK, Germany

Planes carrying evacuees from Kabul have landed in the UK and in Germany.

A British Royal Air Force plane carrying British nationals and embassy staff arrived at an air base in Oxfordshire in the UK early on Wednesday morning. It is not clear how many people were on board the British plane.

The German government-chartered Lufthansa flight was carrying 130 evacuees from Kabul, according to DPA news agency. It had taken off from the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, and landed in Frankfurt in Germany early on Wednesday morning.

A spokesman for Lufthansa told DPA that the airline, in consultation with the German government, will also offer evacuation flights from Doha in Qatar and possibly from other countries bordering Afghanistan

UN refugee agency wants to keep working in Afghanistan

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says it wants to continue working in Afghanistan.

“We want to stay in the country because the people there need help now more than ever,” said Katharina Lumpp, the UNHCR representative in Germany.

“Most of the Afghans who have been displaced in the past few months are currently internally displaced in their own country,” she told the German daily Die Welt. “They now urgently need support and humanitarian aid.”

UK to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees

The United Kingdom is set to announce a plan to welcome as many as 20,000 Afghans under a new resettlement programme that will give priority to women, girls and religious and other minorities, according to British news outlets.

The scheme aimed at those seen “most at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban” will offer a safe and legal route to Britain, the Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.

About 5,000 people are expected to arrive in the UK in its first year.

Read more here.

White House: 1,100 citizens, permanent residents evacuated on Tuesday

The White House says about 1,100 Americans, permanent residents and their families were evacuated by military aircraft from Afghanistan on Tuesday.

“Now that we have established the flow, we expect those numbers to escalate,” a White House official said in a statement.

The US has evacuated 3,200 people in total, it added.

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, August 17, go here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies