The Latest: Biden warns of IS threat to Kabul evacuation
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is raising concerns that the Islamic State poses a threat as American troops seek to evacuate thousands of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies from Afghanistan.
Biden in remarks at the White House on Sunday noted that the terror group is a “sworn enemy of the Taliban” and said that the longer U.S. troops are on the ground increases the chance that the group will attempt to strike innocent civilians and American personnel near the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has been warning Americans to avoid traveling to the airport in part because of concerns about Islamic State fighters.
The extremist group has long declared a desire to attack America and U.S. interests abroad and it has been active in Afghanistan for a number of years, carrying out waves of horrific attacks, mostly on the Shiite minority.
The group has been repeatedly targeted by U.S. airstrikes in recent years, and faced Taliban attacks.
MORE ON THE CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN:
— British military: 7 Afghans killed in chaos at Kabul airport
— China both worries and hopes as US departs Afghanistan
— Europe fears Afghan refugee crisis after Taliban takeover
— AP PHOTOS: Two decades of war, and daily life in Afghanistan
— Biden vows to evacuate all Americans — and Afghan helpers
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says 11,000 individuals were evacuated from Kabul over the weekend and he remains committed to assisting all Americans who want to leave Afghanistan get out.
Biden added Sunday that his first priority is getting American citizens out of Afghanistan “as quickly and safely as possible.”
In the president’s words: “We’re working hard and as fast as we can to get people out. That’s our mission. That’s our goal.”
Biden also says he is also activating the civilian reserve air fleet provided by commercial airlines to help move evacuees from third country waystations on to the United States.
MILAN — Italy’s defense minister has discussed the massive evacuation under way from Kabul in a phone call with his U.S. counterpart, including access to bases in Italy.
Lorenzo Guerini thanked the U.S. military for securing the airport in Kabul, and he exchanged ideas with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on how to “ensure the safe and effective flow of departures from Kabul,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Guerini said that close ties between the countries was key to helping “assist compatriots and Afghans who have worked with our institutions and organizations.”
The Italian military has flown out of Kabul 2,100 Afghans workers and their families since June, most of those in the last week. Around 1,300 of those have been transferred to Italy.
BERLIN — The World Health Organization and UNICEF are calling for a “humanitarian airbridge” to be set up immediately to allow the unhindered delivery of medicines and other aid supplies to Afghanistan.
The two U.N. agencies said in a statement Sunday that they are “committed to stay and deliver for the people of Afghanistan.”
But they added that “with no commercial aircraft currently permitted to land in Kabul, we have no way to get supplies into the country and to those in need.” They noted that other humanitarian agencies face similar problems.
The agencies said that, even before the Taliban’s recent takeover of Afghanistan, the country required the world’s third-largest humanitarian operation, with more than 18 million people needing help.
They said that while the main focus in recent days has been the evacuation of foreigners and vulnerable Afghans, “the massive humanitarian needs facing the majority of the population should not — and cannot — be neglected.”
LONDON — Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan says British authorities have managed to evacuate more than 5,000 people, with 1,000 in the last 14 hours alone.
In a statement on Twitter, Laurie Bristow said the “huge effort” to move evacuees out of Afghanistan is “gathering pace” but that there is still “a huge amount of work to do.”
Bristow said he is in the evacuation handling center in Kabul where soldiers, diplomats and forces have been “working around the clock to get our British nationals, Afghan colleagues and Embassy staff to safety.”
In addition to the 4,000 or so U.K. nationals, there are thought to be around 5,000 Afghan allies, such as translators and drivers, who are earmarked for a seat on a British plane.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Bahrain says its national carrier is flying people to the United States as part of efforts to evacuate people from Afghanistan a week after the Taliban takeover.
The U.S.-allied kingdom said Sunday that a Gulf Air flight will transport people from its Isa Air Base to Dulles International Airport south of Washington, DC.
The official statement said the flight was an “affirmation of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s efforts to protect lives.”
Earlier Sunday, the Pentagon activated the initial stage of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, asking for 18 aircraft from American carriers to help transport Americans and Afghans who aided the U.S. war effort.
The commercial airlines will be used to transport people from third countries to their final destinations, allowing the U.S. military to focus on evacuating people from Afghanistan.
PARIS — About 200 people, mostly Afghan nationals, gathered in Paris on Sunday to show solidarity toward evacuees and refugees from Afghanistan, one week after the Taliban took power in the country.
Many were brandishing posters writing “Afghanlivesmatter” and “Evacuation now.”
Safi Matiullah, a 33-year-old Afghan who left his country two years ago and has been living in France for about nine months, said “we want to bring our family here.”
Matiullah said his parents and sisters remained in Afghanistan amid “big danger” and he was not able to get in touch for two weeks.
Ezat, a co-organizer of the gathering who asked not to be identified by his last name, said the Taliban “are taking back all freedoms we had until now and for 20 years.”
He called on France to welcome refugees because “it’s not the Taliban who are fleeing the country, it’s people whose lives are in danger.”
Macron said Monday that France would “do its duty to protect those who are most at risk,” but also said Europeans must “protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows.”
France has evacuated almost 600 people from Kabul since Monday, most of them Afghan citizens who worked with the French government or French groups in Afghanistan.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates— The world’s largest organization of Muslim nations held an extraordinary session in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, with calls for it not to be turned into a hub for terrorism.
The secretary general of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Yousef al-Othaimeen, pointed to the escalating humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and noted that “reconciliation is the key to bringing peace.”
The OIC issued a statement after the meeting saying its member states called upon future Afghan leaders and the international community “to ensure that Afghanistan is never used again as a platform or haven for terrorists, and not allow terrorist organizations to have a foothold there.”
The OIC urged Afghan parties to renounce violence, work together and protect and respect the right to life and security in compliance with “tolerant Islamic principles.”
Member states agreed on the need to provide humanitarian assistance in areas that need it most, though no new specific commitments were announced. The meeting also called for dispatching a high-level delegation from the OIC to visit Afghanistan to convey the group’s message of supporting peace and national reconciliation.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will convene a meeting of leaders from the Group of Seven nations on Tuesday for “urgent talks on the situation in Afghanistan.”
In a statement posted on Twitter, Johnson said it is “vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years.”
The U.K. holds this year’s presidency of the G-7 nations, which is also made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. The meeting, which will be held virtually, will also address plans to provide humanitarian assistance and support for Afghan refugees.
U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement that the meeting would seek to help Afghans who aided the war effort and others considered targets under Taliban control of the country.
MOSCOW — Russia’s president has criticized Western nations for seeking to temporarily house Afghan refugees in Central Asian countries, citing security concerns for Russia.
Speaking at a meeting with top officials of the Kremlin’s United Russia party on Sunday, Vladimir Putin blasted what he described as a “humiliating approach” by Western states.
The Russian president noted that there are no visa restrictions between Russia and its Central Asian allies, and said that Moscow doesn’t “want militants appearing (in Russia) again under the guise of refugees.”
“We don’t want to repeat, even in part, something what we had in the 90s and in the mid-2000s, when there were hostilities in the North Caucasus,” Putin said.
Thousands of people in Afghanistan have been looking for ways to leave the country after the Taliban took control of Kabul in a swift power grab, seeking to escape what they see as a return to ruthless fundamentalist rule. Hundreds have headed to the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which share a border with Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Sunday that it is formally seeking airlift help from commercial airlines to relocate evacuees from Afghanistan once they have gotten out of their country.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has activated the initial stage of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, asking for 18 aircraft: three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the Department does not anticipate a major impact to commercial flights from this activation.
According to Kirby, those aircraft will not fly into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. They will be used to move passengers from way stations once they leave Kabul, allowing the U.S. military to focus on the Afghanistan portion of the evacuation.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch military is sending extra troops to Kabul to bolster 62 soldiers already in the Afghan capital to help secure evacuation efforts and protect the country’s consular team.
The ministry said Sunday that the extra forces already are on their way to Afghanistan. It did not say how many troops make up the fresh deployment.
A further company of marines and a company of paratroopers also are available for deployment.
Foreign Affairs Minister Sigrid Kaag tweeted earlier Sunday that she had spoken to her British counterpart Dominic Raab about cooperation of the two countries’ military forces in Kabul.
LONDON — Britain’s Ministry of Defense says the country’s armed forces have evacuated nearly 4,000 people from Afghanistan since Aug. 13.
Though it did not provide further details, it’s clear that the majority of those evacuated by British troops are Afghans who have helped Britain over the past 20 years.
In addition to 4,000 or so U.K. citizens, there are thought to be around 5,000 Afghan allies, such as translators and drivers, who are earmarked for a seat on a plane. As of last Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain had managed to get out over 2,000 Afghans and 300 or so U.K. citizens.
“Our Armed Forces continue to work tirelessly at Kabul Airport to ensure the safe evacuation of British nationals and Afghan civilians,” the ministry said in a statement on Twitter.
KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian military plane evacuated 83 more people out of Kabul on Sunday, according to Ukraine’s foreign minister.
Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that the plane carried 31 Ukrainians back to Kyiv, as well as “foreigners — Afghan women and children, human rights activists, journalists working with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today.
“They’re safe in Kyiv,” Kuleba said in the tweet. “We don’t abandon our people and help others,” he said, adding that Ukrainian authorities were working on “further evacuations.” Last week, a Ukrainian plane evacuated some 80 people out of Kabul.
Thousands of people in Afghanistan have been looking for ways to leave the country after the Taliban took control of Kabul in a swift power grab, seeking to escape what they see as a return of a ruthless fundamentalist rule.
BERLIN — The U.S. military says an Afghan woman gave birth aboard an Air Force C-17 that flew from the Middle East to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The base is being used as a transit post for people being evacuated from Afghanistan.
The military’s Air Mobility Command tweeted that the mother began having complications during the flight Saturday. It says: “The aircraft commander decided to descend in altitude to increase air pressure in the aircraft, which helped stabilize and save the mother’s life.”
On arrival at Ramstein, U.S. medical personnel came aboard and delivered the child in the aircraft’s cargo bay. “The baby girl and mother were transported to a nearby medical facility and are in good condition,” the military said.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government is donating 10 million euros to fund aid such as food, clean drinking water and medical supplies for Afghans.
The foreign ministry said Sunday the money will go to the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund that can be tapped by United Nations organizations and NGOs working in Afghanistan.
Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Tom De Bruijn says “we want to support the Afghan population under these difficult circumstances.”
Meanwhile, the Dutch defense ministry said a plane it chartered arrived in the Netherlands on Sunday carrying 160 passengers from Afghanistan. It did not disclose the nationalities of the evacuees.
MADRID — Spain’s government says that U.S. President Joe Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez have agreed that the Rota and Morón military bases in Spain used by U.S. forces will temporarily take in Afghans who worked for the Americans and fear Taliban reprisals.
One Spanish plane carrying 64 people who worked for the U.S. landed late Saturday at Spain’s Torrejón air base near Madrid.
Additionally, Spain has received another 230 evacuees this week from Kabul, mostly Afghans who worked for Spain and for the European Union. Fifty-five of these evacuees have already flown on to other EU countries.
LONDON — Tony Blair, the British prime minister who deployed troops to Afghanistan 20 years ago after the 9/11 attacks, says the U.S. decision to leave has “every Jihadist group round the world cheering.”
In a lengthy essay posted on his website late Saturday, Blair said the decision to withdraw troops was “tragic, dangerous, unnecessary.” He added that Britain has a “moral obligation” to stay until “all those who need to be are evacuated.”
He said the exit was not in the West or Afghanistan’s interest, with the Taliban reasserting itself across most of the country.
He also warned that the decision by the U.S. to keep Britain largely in the dark about the withdrawal risks relegating the country to “the second division of global powers.”
Blair accused U.S. President Joe Biden of making the decision on the back of “an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars’.”
KABUL, Afghanistan — The British military says seven Afghan civilians have been killed in the crowds near Kabul’s international airport amid the chaos of those fleeing the Taliban takeover of the country.
The Defense Ministry said in a statement Sunday that “conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible.”
The airport has been the focal point for thousands trying to flee the Taliban, who swept into Kabul a week ago after their lightning advance seized the country.
ISLAMABAD — The spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines says the airline has suspended flights from Kabul and is not evacuating anyone at the moment.
Abdullah Hafeez Khan says Sunday that the airline has no on-ground arrangements and lacks appropriate facilities at Kabul international airport to operate evacuation flights.
Khan said the suspension is temporary and the airline will resume its operations once the required arrangements are made there.
NEW DELHI — An Indian official says an air force transport plane has left Kabul for New Delhi carrying 168 people on board.
Arindam Bagchi, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, says the plane took off from Kabul on Sunday morning and the passengers include 107 Indian nationals. He didn’t give the nationalities of 61 others evacuated from the Afghan capital.
Meanwhile, another group of 87 Indians who were evacuated from Kabul to Tajikistan on Saturday in an Indian air force plane are being flown to New Delhi on Sunday, Bagchi said in a tweet. Two Nepalese nationals also were evacuated on that flight.
India began evacuating its nationals last Sunday after the Taliban swept into Kabul.
The Press Trust of India news agency said around 400 Indians were believed to be stranded in Afghanistan. No official figure was available.