The Latest: US, others issue security alert at Kabul airport
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia on Thursday advised its citizens in Afghanistan not to travel to Kabul’s airport, where there as a “very high threat of a terrorist attack.”
Australians in the airport’s vicinity were advised to move to a safe location and await further advice.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the travel advice was consistent with revised British and New Zealand advice. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul warned American citizens away from three specific airport gates over an unspecified security issue.
Australia has helped evacuated around 4,000 people from the airport since Wednesday last week including 1,200 overnight, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
That was triple the number that Morrison said he thought was possible last week.
“It remains a highly dangerous environment,” Morrison said.
“That danger and those risks have been increasing each and every day as we always knew they would, and that’s why we’ve been moving with the haste that we have,” he added.
MORE ON AFGHANISTAN:
— Poland, Belgium end Afghan evacuation as clock ticks down
— US says 1,500 Americans may still await Kabul evacuation
— 2 US lawmakers’ Kabul trip prompts questions, criticism
— Immigrant families from San Diego area stuck in Afghanistan
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WASHINGTON — The head of the U.S. military’s European Command says that so far more than 7,000 evacuees from Afghanistan have been flown to eight locations around Europe, mainly in Germany and Italy.
Gen. Tod Wolters said Wednesday that 55 evacuation flights from Afghanistan have flown into Ramstein Air Base in Germany and three into Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy. He says the flights brought nearly 5,800 evacuees from Kabul to Ramstein and 662 to Sigonella.
Smaller numbers of flights and people have gone to six other European locations, largely bases in Germany. Flights will soon be going into the base at Rota, Spain.
Wolters says there have been few medical or security problems. He says fewer than 100 individuals have needed additional medical screening, and of those fewer than 25 needed medical attention at the military hospital. More than half of them have already returned to Ramstein for further processing and travel onward to more permanent destinations.
He says just 52 people have required additional security screening, and all of them were eventually cleared.
Wolters says evacuees are spending three to four days at the Europe transit stops before they move on. He says the plan is to move 1,500-1,800 people per day on to Dulles International Airport outside Washington.
LONDON — The British government is warning its citizens in Afghanistan to stay away from Kabul airport, citing the “ongoing and high threat” of a terrorist attack.
The Foreign Office says anyone in the area of the airport should “move away to a safe location and await further advice.”
It is unclear how many Britons remain in Afghanistan. U.K. military flights have evacuated more than 11,000 people in recent days, including several thousand British citizens and more than 7,000 Afghans.
Britain is planning to end its evacuations before U.S. forces depart at the end of the month.
WASHINGTON — The Afghan baby girl born on a C-17 military aircraft that made an evacuation flight from Afghanistan will forever carry that experience with her. Her parents have named her after the plane’s call sign — Reach.
The head of U.S. European Command told reporters Wednesday that officials had spoken to the newborn’s parents. Gen. Tod Wolters says the parents decided to name her Reach because the transport aircraft’s call sign is Reach 828.
She was born Saturday, and members of the 86th Medical Group helped in her birth as the plane flew from Kabul to Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
European Command says the mother went into labor during the flight and began experiencing complications due to low blood pressure. The pilot descended in altitude to increase air pressure in the aircraft, which helped stabilize the mother. Military medical personnel delivered the baby in the plane’s cargo bay.
Wolters says the baby and family are all in good condition. Two other babies whose parents were evacuating from Afghanistan have been born over the past week at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the U.S. military hospital in Germany.
BRUSSELS — Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo says the country has ended its evacuation flights carrying people from the Afghan capital of Kabul to Pakistan.
De Croo tweeted Wednesday that “the federal government took the decision to bring an end to evacuations from Kabul airport given the evolution of the situation in Afghanistan and in agreement with its European partners.”
He says five flights operated between Kabul and Islamabad on Wednesday and all personnel involved in the operation and those evacuated are now in Pakistan.
De Croos says that “Belgium will continue to repatriate to our country those people evacuated” in the days ahead. More than 1,100 people have been flown to Belgium in recent days.A
Belgium and other European countries have been obliged to wind down their operations as U.S. troops running Kabul airport prepare to leave by Aug. 31.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the administration believes about 1,500 American citizens remain in Afghanistan, 12 days into a massive U.S. military airlift.
Blinken said at a news conference Wednesday that another 4,500 Americans have been evacuated in a U.S.-run, round-the-clock operation since the Taliban reached the capital Aug. 14, completing a sudden rout of the U.S.-backed Afghan government and military.
Blinken’s count comes after days of pressing for official estimates of how many Americans remain to be safely gotten out of the country, ahead of a planned U.S. troop withdrawal Tuesday.
American officials are in contact with about 500 American citizens to try to get them safely out of the country, the U.S. official said.
Blinken described ongoing efforts to reach the final 1,000 Americans, ahead of the U.S. withdrawal.
“We’re aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day, through multiple channels of communication — phone, email, text-messaging — to determine whether they still want to leave,’’ he said.
WASHINGTON — Germany’s top military commander says 21 German citizens were picked up during an overnight helicopter mission in Afghanistan that was flown by U.S. forces.
Gen. Eberhard Zorn said Wednesday that U.S. troops flew the helicopter and German forces picked up the evacuees.
The Pentagon acknowledged that there was a U.S. military helicopter flight into Kabul overnight to gather evacuees and take them to the airport to be flown out of the country. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby and Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor said this was the third such helicopter rescue flight done by the military during the ongoing evacuation. They declined to say who the passengers were or provide any other details.
The U.S. and other nations are under increasing pressure to get people out before the Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
U.S. officials have said there have been ongoing efforts to collect Americans, at-risk Afghans and other NATO or allied individuals from Kabul and get them through the chaotic perimeter into the airport. They won’t say how these rescues are being done, but say the helicopter missions have been rare.
ISTANBUL — Turkey has begun to evacuate its troops from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years in the country.
The Defense Ministry made the announcement Wednesday.
“The Turkish Armed Forces are returning to our homeland with the pride of successfully fulfilling this task entrusted to them,” the ministry said in a statement. “The current situation and conditions were evaluated and the evacuation of TAF elements has started.”
Turkish soldiers have been helping evacuate people from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul since the Taliban took the city more than a week ago. The ministry said Turkish military aircraft evacuated 1,129 people.
Prior to the Taliban taking Kabul, NATO member Turkey had offered to secure and operate the airport following the U.S. withdrawal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted: “Turkey will continue to work for the peace, security and prosperity of our Afghan brothers and sisters.”
MILAN — Italian military planes have transported nearly 1,000 Afghans out of Kabul in the last 24 hours, bringing to 4,400 the number of Afghan nationals who worked with Italian institutions and charities flown to safety. The Defense Ministry made the announcement Wednesday.
A total of 3,959 Afghans have been flown onward to Rome during the air bridge, comprised of 63 flights since June.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico has welcomed a group of 124 Afghan media workers and their families after the group fled their country because of the Taliban takeover.
The group arrived Wednesday aboard a Qatar Emiri Air Force flight to Mexico City in the pre-dawn hours. The Foreign Relations Department said the Afghans had worked for “various media outlets” and had requested humanitarian visas because of the Taliban’s hostility toward journalists.
The New York Times reported that a group of its journalists had been taken in by Mexico and arrived Wednesday.
Mexico accepted its first group of refugees from Afghanistan on Tuesday, when five women and one man arrived in Mexico City.
The young women, who had to travel through six countries to reach Mexico, have competed in robotics competitions. They fled Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country earlier this month. The Taliban have been hostile to women working or going to school after a certain age.
MOSCOW — The Russian Defense Ministry says four planes sent to evacuate more than 500 people from Afghanistan have taken off from Kabul and are en route to Russia.
The Defense Ministry said Wednesday the planes would carry the nationals of Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine from Kabul. The flights marked the first such airlift for Russia since evacuations from Kabul began.
Teams of medical workers are present on each plane to provide assistance to the evacuees if necessary.
The evacuations will be carried out upon orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Separately, a representative of the Afghan community in Russia said Wednesday the Russian Embassy in Kabul has allowed more than 1,000 Afghan citizens to come to Russia once the Kabul airport reopens for regular flights. The Interfax news agency quoted Ghulam Mohammad Jalal as saying they include Afghan citizens of Russian origin, Afghan students studying in Russian universities and those who hold Russian residence or work permits.
ROME — The World Food Program says more than half a million Afghans are displaced inside the country’s borders after they sought to escape conflict — and many of them need food aid.
The U.N. organization with a 450-person team has managed to distribute food to some of those in need as much of the world’s attention focuses on Kabul’s airport and the frantic bid by countless Afghans to flee their country.
The agency’s deputy country director for Afghanistan, Andrew Patterson, said in Kabul on Wednesday that all four main border crossings that it uses to transport food remain open “and goods are flowing through.”
But Patterson worries about the possibility that international funding will be frozen, including for the WFP humanitarian operation, in the wake of the Taliban taking power.That, he said, would “precipitate catastrophe” for Afghanistan’s people.
Last week, Patterson in separate comments had noted that closure of banks in the country complicated the ability to distribute cash to purchase food locally for those at risk of going hungry.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch defense ministry says that two evacuation flights have landed Wednesday in Amsterdam carrying a total of 299 people.
The ministry says that among the arrivals were 54 Dutch nationals. It has not given details of the nationalities of the other evacuees.
The Dutch government has conducted 16 evacuation flights out of Kabul to countries in the Afghanistan region. Nine flights have brought evacuees to the Netherlands.
STOCKHOLM — Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde says that another 227 people have been evacuated from Kabul, adding they were citizens of the Scandinavian country, people with permanent residency permits and local hires.
She made the announcement Wednesday. A total of 771 persons have been evacuated to Sweden from Afghanistan.
PARIS — A French government spokesperson says France will continue its evacuation operation in Kabul “as long as possible” ahead of American Aug. 31 withdrawal date.
Gabriel Attal on Wednesday did not provide a date for the end of the French operation, saying only “we will likely need to anticipate a few hours, maybe a few days ahead” of the American forces’ departure from Kabul airport.
“We will continue as long as possible,” he said. “Due to extreme tension on the ground … and the scheduled departure of American forces, these evacuations are a true race against time.”
Attal declined to elaborate on how many people are still waiting for evacuation by France in Kabul.
A 10th flight carrying evacuees landed in Paris on Wednesday, with 21 French and 220 Afghan nationals, including 130 children onboard, according to the French Office of Immigration and Integration.
In total, at least 1,720 Afghans and a hundred French people have been evacuated by France since the beginning of the operation last week.
French President Emmanuel Macron promised France would evacuate Afghans who worked for the country as well as activists and others under threat.
BERLIN — Germany’s foreign ministry says it believes that more than 200 citizens of the country are still in Afghanistan.
Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger said Wednesday that the figure is higher than that previously given in part “because people are continuing to report to us.”
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had said Tuesday that about 100 Germans and their families were still on the ground, and Burger acknowledged that there was “a certain fuzziness” about the figure because some of the relatives are also German citizens.
Burger said that 540 Germans have been flown out so far. In all, more than 4,600 people have been flown out of Kabul on flights operated by the German military.
It isn’t clear when Germany’s evacuation effort will end. Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament on Wednesday that it will continue “as long as possible.”
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary will soon cease its evacuation operations in Afghanistan after the country extracted more than 500 people from Kabul in recent days, the country’s foreign minister told a news conference Wednesday.
The exact timing of the end of rescue operations will be announced by the commander of the Hungarian Army, “which could happen today,” Peter Szijjarto said.
Hungary transported more than 500 evacuees at the request of its allies, including the United States and Austria, Szijjarto said, as well as Afghan citizens and their families who assisted Hungarian military forces in Afghanistan.
Hungary is only willing to accommodate those Afghan asylum seekers that assisted Hungary, Szijjarto said. He urged Hungary’s allies to ensure the safety of Afghans who are in danger after assisting NATO operations in Afghanistan.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria says it will grant asylum to some 70 Afghan citizens and their families.
The country’s caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev told reporters on Wednesday that the Afghan nationals have previously worked at the Bulgarian Embassy in Kabul or within the Bulgarian military missions in Afghanistan.
He did not elaborate about the timing and the route of the evacuation.
“Their evacuation from Afghanistan will be a challenge, but with the arrangements in place I hope that we will be successful,” Yanev said.
Bulgaria, a member of the European Union and NATO, has already announced that it is going to shelter Afghans who worked for the Balkan country.
But it is hesitant to invite larger groups of refugees, saying that all temporary accommodation centers are already overcrowded with migrants from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
Bulgaria was used as a transit route for hundreds of thousands of migrants on their way to western Europe during the height of the migrant crisis. Since then, Bulgaria erected a razor-wire fence along most of its 269-kilometer (167-mile) border with Turkey and has pledged to deploy hundreds of army troops to support border police.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Protesters have burned car tires outside a military base in the central Netherlands where Afghans are being housed after being evacuated from Kabul.
Police dog handlers broke up the demonstration Tuesday night outside the base in the village of Harskamp, 85 kilometers (52 miles) east of Amsterdam.
A police spokeswoman said Wednesday that officers did not arrest or hand on-the-spot fines to anybody at the demonstration Tuesday night.
Hundreds of Afghans have arrived in the Netherlands in recent days after being flown out of Kabul. They are being housed in three military bases.
The base in Harskamp can house 800 evacuees.
VILNIUS, Lithuania — A plane carrying the first group of Afghan interpreters who had worked with Lithuanian forces in Afghanistan has touched down in the Baltic country.
The Defense Ministry said Wednesday that a total of 50 people were flown from Kabul via Warsaw, Poland.
They are the first of 115 interpreters who worked with Lithuanian forces in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2013, and Lithuania plans to bring all of them out of the country. The second group is expected to land in Vilnius later in the day.
Meanwhile in Norway, two planes from Afghanistan with a total of 278 passengers landed in Oslo, Norwegian news agency NTB reported.
MOSCOW — Russia is preparing to evacuate more than 500 people on four military planes from Afghanistan — its first airlift operation since evacuations from Kabul began.
The Defense Ministry said Wednesday that it will airlift the nationals of Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine from Kabul.
Teams of medical workers will be present on each plane, the ministry said, should any of the evacuees require medical attention.
The evacuations will be carried out upon orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the ministry noted.
KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda’s government says 51 people evacuated from Afghanistan have arrived in the East African country at the request of the United States.
Authorities said in a statement that the group, transported to Uganda in a chartered flight, arrived early Wednesday. That statement said they included men, women and children. No more details were given on the identities of the evacuees.
Ugandan officials said last week the country will shelter up to 2,000 people fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. They said the Afghans would be brought to Uganda in small groups in a temporary arrangement before they are relocated elsewhere.
Uganda has long been a security ally of the U.S., especially on security matters in the region.