Taliban fighters fired their guns into the air in celebration in the Afghan capital Kabul as the United States completed the withdrawal of it forces from Afghanistan, nearly twenty years after it invaded the country following the September 11, 2001 attacks on America.
Marine General Frank McKenzie, the head of the US Central Command, made the withdrawal announcement at a Pentagon news briefing on Monday after the last troops sent to evacuate Americans and Afghans at risk following the Taliban’s return to power flew out of the capital Kabul.
“I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens,” McKenzie said.
The last flight, a large C-17 military transport, took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport one minute before midnight Kabul time, McKenzie said. President Joe Biden set a deadline of August 31 for the withdrawal earlier this year.
The final flight took place under heavy security following two attacks on the two-week evacuation operation by Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) – one a suicide bombing that left at least 175 people dead, including 13 US troops.
Here are the latest updates:
Biden vows to ensure ‘safe passage’ out of Afghanistan
In a statement confirming the withdrawal of US forces, President Biden lauded the evacuation operation and vowed to work to ensure “safe passage” out of Afghanistan for Americans and Afghans wishing to leave who may remain in the country.
“The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments,” Biden said.
“It will include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.”
US State Department solely responsible for remaining evacuations
Al Jazeera’s Rosalind Jordan, reporting from Washington DC, said that after the completion of the US mission in Afghanistan, it was now solely the responsibility of the state department to evacuate remaining eligible Afghans and American citizens.
The state department and the Pentagon had been working together on the evacuations.
“What we hope to hear from the Secretary of State Antony Blinken is the result of a meeting with his foreign minister counterparts in the G7, as well as with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey,” she said.
“To talk about the way forward how to actually get these people out of the country, if they want to leave Afghanistan, how they’re going to continue to work with the Taliban – using the leverage, which officials here in Washington, in London and in other countries have said that they do have over the Taliban.”
Taliban proclaim ‘full independence’ after US troops leave
The Taliban have proclaimed “full independence” for Afghanistan after the last US soldiers flew out following 20 years of war.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that “American soldiers left the Kabul airport, and our nation got its full independence”.
The US confirmed its last forces withdrew ahead of a Tuesday deadline, ending America’s longest war and a frantic two-week evacuation effort. The Taliban seized most of the country in a matter of days earlier in August.
Pentagon admits it could not evacuate as many from Kabul as hoped
The final withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan meant the US military could not evacuate all the people that it had hoped to, said Central Command head General Kenneth McKenzie.
Even after an airlift that flew more than 120,000 people from the country since July, “we did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out,” said McKenzie.
Kabul skyline ‘completely lit up’ with celebratory gunfire: AJ correspondent
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride said celebrations erupted in Kabul as the last US troops left Afghanistan on a flight from the capital.
“The celebrations here in Kabul have been underway for the past hour or so – the whole skyline around the city here has been completely lit up with bursts of gunfire, although it has died off in the last few minutes or so,” McBride said, reporting from the Afghan capital.
“This is celebratory gunfire … it’s all aimed up into the sky but it has to come down somewhere.”
US commander, ambassador were last to board evacuation flight: General
The commander of American military forces on the ground in Afghanistan and Washington’s ambassador there were the last to board the final evacuation flight from Kabul, the head of US Central Command said.
“On the last airplane out was General Chris Donahue, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, and my ground force commander there,” Marine General Frank McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon. “And he was accompanied by ambassador Ross Wilson.”
‘We have made history’: Senior Taliban official after US troops leave
A senior Taliban official said the Taliban had “made history”, as celebratory gunfire was heard across the Afghan capital after the last US troops pulled out.
“We made history again. The 20-year occupation of Afghanistan by the United States and NATO ended tonight,” said Anas Haqqani, a senior official in the movement, in a tweet.
“I am very happy that after 20 years of jihad, sacrifices & hardships I have this pride to see these historic moments.”
Last US troops leave Afghanistan: Pentagon
United States General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, announced completion of the US troop withdrawal during a press briefing.
“The last C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30, this afternoon, at 3:29pm east coast time (19:29 GMT) and the last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan,” McKenzie told reporters.
“Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation, but also the end of the near 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after September 11, 2001.”
Read more here.
Flight with last US troops reportedly leaves Kabul: AJ correspondent
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Kabul, said the Taliban had claimed that the last flight has left Kabul.
“This has not been confirmed by anybody but there’s been an awful lot of chatter on social media that may have seen the wheels up on the last of the evacuation transport aircraft from Kabul airport. There are emails quoting the Taliban as saying that this finally the end, they are taking control of the airport,” he said.
“In the last couple of minutes or so we’ve seen and heard a build up of what could be celebratory gunfire. There have been bursts of gunfire around the streets here. Over in the direction of the airport itself, we’ve seen streams of a red tracer firing up into the air, which might suggest a kind of celebration,” he added.
“Most importantly, the aircraft noises that we’ve been hearing constantly now for days and especially this Monday evening, they have suddenly in the last 15, 20 minutes suddenly dropped.”
Professors, rectors required to report back to work: Taliban spokesman
The Afghan ministry of higher education has requested deans, professors and others to report back to work starting August 31, a member of the Taliban negotiation team in Doha announced on social media.
“Ministry of Higher Education informs rectors, deans, professors and administrative staff of governmental and private universities to report to their jobs tomorrow 31st August and resume their administrative and academic works including making due preparations for starting classes,” he tweeted.
Ministry of Higher Education informs rectors,deans, professors and adminstrtive staff of governmental and private universities to report to their jobs tomorrow 31st August and resume their administrative and academic works including making due preparations for starting classes.
— Suhail Shaheen. محمد سهیل شاهین (@suhailshaheen1) August 30, 2021
US has ‘responsibility’ to families of civilians killed in drone strike: Amnesty
Human rights group Amnesty international condemned the US drone strike that killed civilians including several children, saying it had a “responsibility to the families of the dead”.
“For two decades the United States has carried out strikes with no accountability to the public for how many civilians were killed by U.S. actions in Afghanistan and other countries. It is unconscionable that the Biden administration continues airstrikes in this shroud of secrecy,” Paul O’Brien, the executive director of Amnesty International USA said in a statement said.
“For two decades the United States has carried out strikes with no accountability to the public for how many civilians were killed by US actions in Afghanistan and other countries. It is unconscionable that the Biden administration continues airstrikes in this shroud of secrecy.”
UN Security Council adopts resolution on ‘safe’ departure from Afghanistan
The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution calling on the Taliban to honour its pledges to allow Afghans and foreign nationals “safe” departure from Afghanistan, but the measure did not include a “safe zone” mentioned by French President Emmanuel Macron.
The 15-member Council passed the resolution with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions, from China and Russia.
Read more here.
Taliban condemns US attack in Kabul: CGTN
A Taliban spokesman condemned the United States for launching an attack in Kabul without informing it first, in an interview on China’s state television CGTN.
The spokesman told CGTN that it is unlawful for the United States to launch attacks in other countries at will.
UN Security Council to vote on resolution to put pressure on Taliban
The UN Security Council is planning to vote soon on a resolution that would increase pressure on the Taliban to give people safe passage out the country.
A draft seen by Al Jazeera also calls for the rights of women, children and minorities to be respected. Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey reporting for New York said the United Kingdom and France have been pushing a resolution that essentially calls for the continued safe passage of civilians and aid agencies in and out of Kabul.
“It is worth noting that the Taliban has said that civilians will be able to come and go as they please. This essentially puts it in writing lets the Taliban know that the international community plans to hold them to that commitment by enshrining it in international law,” she added.
Saloomey said the resolution attempts to put the focus back on the humanitarian situation in the country.
“UN officials have been warning that the situation on the ground is increasingly dire, there was concern about medical supplies running out earlier today. The World Health Organization got its first flight into the country since the Taliban takeover, bringing much needed medical supplies and health related supplies into the country.”
Psaki on Afghan civilian casualties: ‘Loss of life from anywhere is horrible’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there is an investigation to “determine what happened” in the US drone attack that killed 10 Afghan civilians in Kabul, according to family members.
“We take efforts, take steps from the United States to avoid civilian casualties in every scenario and probably more than almost any country in the world,” Psaki told reporters.
She cited a statement from the Pentagon suggesting that the targeting of a vehicle filled with explosives may have caused unintended blasts.
“The loss of life from anywhere is horrible, and it impacts families no matter where they’re living – in the United States or around the world,” she said.
UNICEF says 10 million Afghan children vulnerable
The United Nations says 10 million children are in desperate need of assistance in Afghanistan.
“Unfortunately, those least responsible for this crisis are paying the highest price,” said Herve Ludovic De Lys, UNICEF’s Afghanistan representative.
De Lys said the welfare of children in the country is the relief agency’s highest priority: “The events of last week amplified the imperative of protecting the most vulnerable children.”
INSIDE STORY: Is ISIS-K a challenge for the Taliban?
The Islamic State in Khorasan Province claimed the worst attack in Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power.
The United States is hours away from ending its longest war.
But with its 20-year mission in Afghanistan finally coming to an end, it leaves behind a new threat.
Pakistan not granted refugee status to Afghans fleeing since Taliban takeover: interior minister
Pakistan’s interior minister says his country has not granted refugee status to a single person from Afghanistan since the Taliban took control in Kabul this month.
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said Monday that Pakistan is helping to facilitate the evacuation of those foreigners desiring to leave Afghanistan.
However, he said so far there has not been any influx of foreigners from Afghanistan, as was feared last week following the attack at the Kabul airport.
Pakistani authorities have repeatedly said they cannot accommodate any new influx of Afghan refugees.
About 2 million Afghans are already living as refugees in Pakistan, some for more than 40 years reflecting Afghanistan’s decades of violence.
Exact time of withdrawal deadline unclear: AJ correspondent
Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane said that a day before the United States’ withdrawal deadline, many final details remain unclear – including whether the deadline is on Kabul or Washington time.
“They’re being really tight lipped because things have been pretty tense in the Pentagon over the past couple of weeks, but not quite like this though,” she said, reporting from Washington DC.
“This is a very very tense time for the US military just trying to get everyone safely out.”
Needs of internally displaced Afghans a major humanitarian issue: UNHCR spokeswoman
A spokeswoman for the Middle East and North Africa region with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) believes there are several key issues concerning refugees that need to be addressed, including those seeking refuge outside Afghanistan and those internally displaced.
“A concern is for people who may need to seek safety across the borders – and on that we advocate that neighboring countries to keep the borders open even faraway countries should keep their borders open – because that’s a right, for the Afghans to practice the right to seek asylum across the world,” Rula Amin told Al Jazeera
Secondly, she more than 550,000 people who were displaced within Afghanistan now have “huge, increasing, growing material needs”.
“We want to be able to stay on the ground to reach these people with assistance and to ensure the international community does not turn away and keeps its attention on Afghanistan, on the needs of the people there.”
Threat to Kabul airport remains ‘real’ and ‘specific’: Pentagon
The threat to Kabul airport remains “real” and “specific” as the United States winds down its withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
“We’re in a particularly dangerous time right now,” Kirby told reporters. “The threat stream is still real, it’s still active, and in many cases it’s still specific.”
US Army Major General Hank Taylor said more than 122,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul so far including 5,400 Americans.
US jets flying lower the usual, more visible: AJ correspondent
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride reporting from Kabul said some US war planes have been flying lower the usual, making them more visible, a warning to armed groups that “American air superiority remains very much in play”.
“It has a two fold purpose: it is morale boost to US forces on the ground … and it is a warning to anybody else who is trying to launch attacks of the lethal consequences that can be delivered from on high,” he added.
Moreover, McBride said that US-led evacuations from Kabul airport were ongoing throughout the day as the withdrawal deadline of August 31 nears.
US investigating reports of civilian casualties
The Pentagon said Monday it is “aware” of reports of civilian casualties in Sunday’s US drone strike on suspected ISKP (ISIS-K) suicide bombers, but added while it is still assessing the reports, it is not in a position to dispute them.
“Make no mistake, no military on the face of the earth works harder to avoid civilian casualties than the United States military. And nobody wants to see innocent life taken,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday. “We take it very, very seriously, and when we know that we have caused innocent life to be lost and conduct of our operations, we’ll be transparent about it.
“Nobody wants to see that happen. But you know what else we didn’t want to see happen? We didn’t want to see happen, what we believe to be a very real, a very specific and a very imminent threat to the Hamid Karzai International Airport and to our troops, operating at the airport as well as civilians around it and in it,” Kirby said.
Afghanistan’s healthcare system near collapse, aid agencies warn
Afghanistan’s healthcare system is at risk of collapse, two major aid agencies told Reuters news agency, after foreign donors stopped providing aid following the Taliban takeover.
After the United States withdraw the bulk of its remaining troops last month, the Taliban accelerated its military campaign, taking control of the capital Kabul on Aug. 15.
International donors including the World Bank and European Union froze funding to Afghanistan shortly afterwards.
“One of the great risks for the health system here is basically to collapse because of lack of support,” said Filipe Ribeiro, Afghanistan representative for Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF), one of the largest medical aid agencies in the country.
“The overall health system in Afghanistan is understaffed, under-equipped and underfunded, for years. And the great risk is that this underfunding will continue over time.”
Read more here.
Mexico welcomes evacuated Afghan employees of WSJ
Mexico received a third group of Afghan nationals on Sunday night.
This latest group was made up of 86 people, journalists and their families, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The refugees, including Wall Street Journal staff, arrived in Mexico from Qatar and the United Kingdom, and requested humanitarian protection.
Kabul families say children killed in US drone attack
The Ahmadi and Nejrabi families had packed all their belongings, waiting for word to be escorted to Kabul airport and eventually moved to the United States, but the message Washington sent instead was a rocket into their homes in a Kabul neighbourhood.
The Sunday afternoon drone attack, which the US claimed was conducted on an Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP, or ISIS-K) target, killed 10 members of the families, ranging from two to 40 years old.
Read more here.
Qatar lauded for its role in Afghanistan evacuations
Qatar has played an outsized role in US efforts to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan.
Now it is being asked to help shape what comes next for Afghanistan because of its ties with both Washington and the Taliban, which is in charge in Kabul.
Read more here.
Pakistani plane carrying medical supplies lands in Mazar-i-Sharif
A Pakistani plane carrying medicines and health supplies has landed in Afghanistan’s northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, bringing the first shipment of supplies since Kabul came under the control of Taliban.
Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul announced the development as part of a humanitarian air bridge for essential supplies to Afghanistan in coordination with international agencies.
This was the first of three flights planned with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to meet urgent shortages in medicines and medical supplies in Afghanistan, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.
The plane was loaded with the supplies by the WHO’s logistics team at the International Humanitarian City in Dubai and flew directly to Mazar-i-Sharif airport in Afghanistan.
ISIL claims responsibility for rocket attack on Kabul airport
The ISIL (ISIS) armed group has claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Kabul airport, the group’s Nasher News said on its Telegram channel.
“By the grace of God Almighty, the soldiers of the Caliphate targeted Kabul International Airport with six Katyusha rockets,” it said.
US moved 1,200 people from Kabul on Sunday: White House
The United States airlifted about 1,200 people from Kabul on Sunday, the White House says, as the enormous evacuation from Afghanistan enters its final day.
EU should support Afghanistan’s neighbours: Josep Borrell
The European Union should provide financial support to countries neighbouring Afghanistan to help them manage refugees fleeing the Taliban, the bloc’s foreign policy chief says in an interview.
“We will have to increase cooperation with the neighbouring countries to resolve issues related to Afghanistan. We must help them with the first refugee wave,” Josep Borrell told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper.
“Afghans fleeing the country are not going to reach Rome in the first place, but maybe Tashkent (Uzbekistan). We need to help those countries that will be on the front line.”
Russia calls for conference to rebuild Afghan economy
Russia has proposed an international conference to rebuild Afghanistan’s economy following the Taliban’s takeover of the country and an ensuing wave of migrations.
“All the wealthy countries of the world must meet with representatives of the new Afghan authorities to discuss issues of economic and social reconstruction,” Moscow’s Afghanistan envoy, Samir Kabulov, said on state television.
Kabulov said he saw countries that had deployed troops in Afghanistan as first in line for such efforts, saying: “This is a question of honour and conscience.”
However, he also clarified that the conference would not mean “leaving the money to the Taliban,” but said the money was needed to support the national currency, for example.
Infographic: Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis
One in three Afghans is going hungry and more than half a million people have been displaced by conflict since January.
Read more here.
Russia calls on US to release Afghan central bank reserves
Russia has called on the US to release Afghan central bank reserves that Washington blocked after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul earlier this month.
“If our Western colleagues are actually worried about the fate of the Afghan people, then we must not create additional problems for them by freezing gold and foreign exchange reserves,” said the Kremlin’s envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov.
The US must urgently unfreeze these assets, he said on the state-run Rossiya 24 network, “to bolster the rate of the collapsing national currency”. Kabulov added that without doing so the new Afghan authorities will turn to “the trafficking of illegal opiates” and “sell on the black market the weapons” abandoned by the Afghan army and the US.
‘Far greater humanitarian crisis’ looms in Afghanistan: UNHCR
As evacuations from Kabul wind down in coming days, “a larger crisis is just beginning” in Afghanistan and for its 39 million people, the UN refugee agency UNHCR says, appealing for support.
Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, whose agency said last Friday that up to 500,000 Afghans could flee by year-end, reiterated a call for borders to remain open and for more countries to share “this humanitarian responsibility” with Iran and Pakistan which already host 2.2 million Afghans.
“The airlifts out of Kabul will end in a matter of days, and the tragedy that has unfolded will no longer be as visible. But it will still be a daily reality for millions of Afghans. We must not turn away. A far greater humanitarian crisis is just beginning,” Grandi said in a statement.
Germany’s Maas urges talks with Russia, China over Afghanistan
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said Russia and China need to be involved in talks on the future of Afghanistan, including on plans for the evacuation of Afghans facing possible persecution by the Taliban.
An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in New York later on Monday would be an indication of whether Moscow and Beijing are willing to cooperate, he said.
There are efforts under way “to bring all important international partners to the table, and so it will be important that Russia and China are also there”, Maas said during a visit to the Uzbek capital Tashkent.
Unlike the other permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, the United Kingdom and France – Russia and China still have embassies open in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Afghan refugees stranded between Poland and Belarus are unwell
An aid group has expressed concern about the health of a group of Afghan refugees who have been stranded for weeks at the border between Poland and Belarus amid a spat about migration between the two countries.
“Many are complaining of fever, vomiting and diarrhoea,” spokesperson Kalina Czwarnog, of the aid organisation Ocalenie, which means “rescue”, told DPA news agency. Polish border guards had stopped an ambulance from reaching the people, she said.
The group is made up of 32 people from Afghanistan, according to the aid organisation. They have been staying in a forest near the village of Usnarz Gorny for almost three weeks, hoping to cross into the EU.
Taliban condemns US attack in Kabul: Chinese media
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, has condemned the United States for launching an attack in Kabul without informing it first, according to an interview on China’s state television CGTN.
The spokesman told CGTN that it is unlawful for the US to launch attacks in other countries at will, adding that seven people were killed in Sunday’s drone attack.
“If there was any potential threat in Afghanistan, it should have been reported to us, not an arbitrary attack that has resulted in civilian casualties,” Mujahid said in a written response to CGTN.
Uzbekistan ready to help Germany with evacuations: Minister
Uzbekistan is willing to open its borders to people fleeing from Taliban rule in Afghanistan who are on a German list of those at-risk in the country and need to be evacuated, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says.
Maas is on a trip to Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Qatar, among other to find ways to evacuate these people, either by plane, if Kabul airport can be kept open after NATO withdraws or overland to neighbouring countries.
“Uzbekistan is prepared to help us with this group of people,” Maas said.
US has capacity to evacuate remaining Americans: Official
The United States has the capacity to evacuate the approximately 300 US citizens remaining in Afghanistan who want to leave before the Tuesday deadline, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, says.
“We have the capacity to have 300 Americans, which is roughly the number we think are remaining, come to the airport and get on planes in the time that is remaining,” he said.
Sullivan said the US does not currently plan to have an ongoing embassy presence after the final US troop withdrawal. But he pledged the US “will make sure there is safe passage for any American citizen, any legal permanent resident” after Tuesday, as well as for “those Afghans who helped us”.
About 500 Russian troops in drills near Afghanistan
About 500 Russian motorised infantry troops are carrying out drills in the mountains of Tajikistan against the backdrop of instability in neighbouring Afghanistan, Russia’s defence ministry is quoted as saying.
All servicemen involved in the exercise come from the Russian military base in Tajikistan, the Interfax news agency quoted the Central Military District command as saying.
The current set of drills is the third one carried out by Russia close to the Afghan border this month. Next month, a Russia-led security bloc will hold another exercise in Kyrgyzstan which hosts a Russian military airbase.
Children among civilians killed in US drone attack
Several children have been killed in a US drone attack that destroyed a car laden with explosives near the international airport in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, according to witnesses.
Witnesses told Al Jazeera at least three children were among six civilians who died in Sunday’s attack, while some media reports say nine members of one family – including six children – were among the dead.
Read more here.
Japan evacuates one national and 14 Afghan people
Japan said that military aircraft the government had deployed for Afghanistan left Kabul carrying one Japanese person, and are currently staying in a neighbouring country.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said during a news conference that the aircraft also evacuated 14 Afghan people to another country at the request of the United States.
A small number of Japanese remain in Afghanistan as they did not wish to leave the country, Kato said.
Mexico receives more fleeing Afghan journalists, families
Mexico has received 86 media workers and their family members from Afghanistan, the government says.
Most of the people who arrived with the latest flight worked for The Wall Street Journal newspaper in Afghanistan, the government said in a statement. The group, the third one to arrive since evacuations began, landed at Mexico City’s international airport.
Mexico called the reception of people from Afghanistan “a political decision” carried out in full adherence to the historical tradition of humanitarian assistance. “The government of Mexico … reiterates its willingness to grant protection and assistance for humanitarian reasons – within its capacities – to people from that country, whose life and integrity are in imminent danger.”
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