Afghanistan updates: Pentagon pressed on evacuees’ barriers to airport 

Written by on August 19, 2021

WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government’s collapsed and the Taliban seized control, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.

As the crisis intensifies, with images from Kabul showing Afghans storming the airport tarmac and climbing onto military planes after the U.S. assumed control of the airport, President Joe Biden briefly left Camp David to address the nation from the White House on Monday.

Biden returned to Washington on Wednesday and sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Pentagon said that 6,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to the country’s capital as the military races to evacuate people from an increasingly chaotic Kabul. Despite criticism, the Biden administration is sticking by its decision to withdraw troops from the country, though he told Stephanopoulos the stay might extend beyond the original Aug. 31 date if it takes longer to get all Americans out of the country.

Here are some key developments. All times Eastern:

Aug 19, 3:58 pm
Pentagon pressed on evacuees’ barriers to airport 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a second press briefing with reporters on Thursday he had not received reports indicating American citizens are being stopped and harassed by the Taliban, but added a caveat.

“That said, we obviously don’t have perfect visibility into what is going on outside the airport, so I can’t say definitively that they aren’t stopping and or harassing people with U.S. passports or visas,” he said.

The State Department on Wednesday directed American and Afghan evacuees to Hamid Karzai International Airport for departure flights but said the U.S. “cannot ensure safe passage” for them to get there.

“We don’t want to see anybody hurt or harassed, period. And in our communications with the Taliban, they have indicated that people with the proper credentials will be allowed through,” Kirby added.

Pressed on additional steps the Defense Department could take, such as escorting consular officials to Taliban checkpoints, Kirby said their focus remains on maintaining the airport perimeter — not expanding operations into Kabul.

“Our presence is designed to maintain the shape, maintain the safety and security of the airport. And that’s what we’re focused on,” he said. “We are mindful that, that the checkpoints, there can be obstacles to entry for people that need entry and are qualified for entry, so we’re going to continue to work this with our communications with the Taliban in the hopes that we can clear up any stumbling blocks to that process.”

Aug 19, 2:43 pm
State Department update on tens of thousands trying to evacuate

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a briefing on Thursday that the State Department has deployed more consular officers to the airport in Kabul to help speed evacuations and that there are 6,000 people at the airport “right now” who have been fully processed and will soon board planes.

“We’re aware of congestion around the airport. We are working closely with the Department of Defense to facilitate safe and orderly access for consular processing on the airport compound,” Price said.

Pressed on problems faced by those Afghans the State Department has already directed to come to the airport, Price downplayed the disorder “at this hour” and said the agency is doing “everything we can.”

“I’m seeing the same reports on Twitter that you are, and every report of someone unable, for whatever reason, to reach the airport, is something we take very seriously,” he said. “My understanding is that things are moving quite efficiently at this hour at the airport now, but every report we see of someone unable to reach the airport is of concern.”

Price also said the State Department is offering evacuation flights for “vulnerable Afghans” — such as women activists who may not be Special Immigrant Visa holders but who fear their lives are at risk under Taliban control.

“We’re offering an airlift operation for American citizens, for locally employed staff members, for SIVs, for vulnerable Afghans,” he said.

Aug 19, 2:09 pm
Senators to receive briefing on Friday

All Senators will receive an unclassified virtual briefing on Afghanistan on Friday at 3:15 p.m., a Senate official told ABC News, as a bipartisan group of senators urges Biden to do more to evacuate Afghan allies.

Separately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has requested three briefings on Afghanistan in the coming days, a source familiar told ABC News, including an unclassified telephone briefing Friday for all members, a classified in-person briefing on Tuesday for all members and a “Gang of Eight” briefing.

Top Republican Leaders Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell have also called on the Biden administration for a classified briefing with the “Gang of Eight,” — which includes the top House and Senate leaders, including the heads of the intel committees in both the House and Senate.

-ABC News’ Trish Turner and Mariam Khan

Aug 19, 1:45 pm
Afghan flags fly as sporadic protests continue in Kabul

Dozens of protesters, including many women, marched throughout Kabul on Thursday, parading the Afghan national flag through the streets on Afghanistan’s Independence Day, days after the president fled the country and the Taliban seized control.

Taliban fighters have fired warning shots into the air to disperse the protests.

The national flag is now evolving into a symbol of both identity and resistance against the Taliban, who have a white flag, which has been displayed in towns across the country and at the Taliban’s first press conference earlier this week.

While Thursday’s protests aren’t mass in scale, they underline the challenges the Taliban face as they attempt to rule after Afghans have exercised new rights over the last 20 years.

There were also protests in several provinces on Wednesday, including in the eastern province of Jalalabad, where the Taliban flag was replaced with the Afghan national flag in a public square.

-ABC News’ Guy Daives and Sohel Uddin

Aug 19, 12:58 pm
Biden, Harris meet with national security team 

As the U.S. continues its evacuation efforts from Kabul, the president and vice president met with members of their national security team on Thursday “to discuss security, diplomatic, and intelligence updates in Afghanistan,” a White House official said in a statement.

The group included Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and other top officials.

“They discussed the status of operations at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), which continues to be secure and operational as a result of DOD’s efforts; our efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens, Embassy personnel, SIV applicants and their families, and vulnerable Afghans as quickly as possible; and that every day we operate troops on the ground are at risk,” the official said.

The statement confirmed the Pentagon’s reporting that it has evacuated 7,000 people since Saturday and 12,000 people from Afghanistan since the end of July.

Aug 19, 12:46 pm
EU foreign affairs chief: Situation is ‘a catastrophe’

The European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs held a virtual session on Afghanistan on Thursday at which the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Josep Borrell called the situation in Afghanistan “a catastrophe.”

“Since Sunday, we are facing a new painful reality on the ground in Afghanistan,” Borrell said.

“Let me speak clearly and bluntly. This is a catastrophe. This is a catastrophe for the Afghan people, for the West’s values and credibility and for the development of international relations,” he continued.

“Was it foreseeable? Was it preventable? In any case, it’s a nightmare because — you know — even if tonight the first 106 members of our staff of the European Union delegations has landed in Madrid, we cannot take all Afghan people out of the country.”

He said there are still 300 Afghan staffers of the European delegations blocked from reaching the airport and finding seats on some of the EU member states’ flights out of Kabul.

Aug 19, 12:11 pm
Getting evacuees to airport, on flights remains biggest challenge

ABC News’ Luis Martinez pressed Pentagon press secretary John Kirby at a briefing on Thursday on whether there’s been progress getting people access to the airport in Kabul.

While Kirby said the Pentagon is “hopeful” for a more consistent increase in the flow of people in the coming days, he said, “I can’t tell you right as we speak here, Louis, that there’s been some dramatic rise.”

“We’ve got additional consular officers now at the additional gates with additional troops helping the consular officers. And so I think we’re poised to see an increase, but I want to be careful before I make predictions,” he added.

The U.S. has evacuated 7,000 people from Kabul since Saturday but hopes to have the capacity to evacuate 6,000 to 9,000 a day, officials said. In the last 24 hours, 2,000 evacuees were airlifted out as getting evacuees safely to the airport and processing them to be let inside and onto flights remains the greatest hurdle for officials.

“It’s not about the math, it’s about what’s ready to fly, who’s on the airfield, ready to leave a holding area and get on the aircraft, and as those numbers increased, which you’ve seen they have in the last 24-48, the CENTCOM command team will continue to bring in the airflow required to fly out those people,” said Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor.

Kirby went on to list some of the choke points the U.S. is still facing.

“There are lots of factors that go into the throughput, including the situation out in town, including the checkpoints that the Taliban have set up, including processing at the gates where we have set up,” he said. “Weather is a factor, and of course security at the airport is a factor.”

Aug 19, 11:25 am
Pentagon: Overwatch flights not intended as ‘shows of force’

At a briefing on Thursday, Pentagon officials addressed the military’s use of armed F-18 overwatch flights above Kabul, saying the planes are there to ensure “close air support” if needed.

“There had been some reporting out there that we were, you know, flying low passes over the city or some kind of shows of force — that’s not what this is. This is just an added layer of force protection is the prudent and responsible thing to do,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

While Kirby said the Taliban has agreed to allow Americans to pass through to the airport, he said there’s “no update” on assurances from the Taliban on allowing safe passage for Afghans. He did indicate that there have been signs of progress in terms of vetting Afghans, which helps to get them through.

“We’ve made it very clear to the Taliban that any attack upon our people or our operations at the airport will be met with a forceful response,” he said. “There’s been no hostile interactions between the Taliban and our forces or American citizens.”

Kirby continued, “Now we have seen reports of the Taliban, harassing — and physically so — some Afghans that were trying to move to the airport. We are in constant communication with them.”

More than 5,200 troops are at the airport in Kabul and multiple gates are now open to “help expedite processing in a safe and orderly manner,” said Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, joint staff deputy director for regional operations.

Aug 19, 10:48 am
Pentagon: 7K evacuated from Kabul since Saturday

Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, joint staff deputy director for regional operations, said from the Pentagon on Thursday that the U.S. has evacuated approximately 7,000 people from Afghanistan since Saturday.

“We’re ready to increase throughput and scheduled aircraft departures accordingly. We intend to maximize each plane’s capacity,” he said. “We’re prioritizing people above all else, and we’re focused on doing this as safely as possible with absolute urgency.”

Taylor said multiple gates into the Hamid Karzai International Airport are now open and that the military has not experienced any security incidents overnight.

“We continue to recognize the inherent danger of operating in this environment, but our service members in Kabul remain agile, professional, in our posture to continue mission and to respond if required.”

Aug 19, 10:28 am
‘Was it all worth it?’ Top Marine general tells Marines, ‘Yes’

With the rapid collapse in Afghanistan leading some veterans of America’s longest war to question whether their service there was worth it, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps Gen. David Berger and Marine Corps. Srgt. Major Troy Black have sent a message to all Marines telling them, “Yes.”

“We both believe – without question – that your service was meaningful, powerful, and important,” they said in a a joint letter to U.S. Marines.

They went on to outline U.S. missions that have kept America safe and protected the liberties of Afghan women and men.

“You never let them, down. You never, ever gave up. You lived with purpose, with intention,” they said.

In a similar vein, the Pentagon issued a press release Wednesday night listing mental health resources for service members and their families.

“You are not alone. Remember that what is happening now does not minimize or negate the experiences of all who served overseas,” the message from the Defense Department said. “Service is never for naught.”

Aug 19, 9:57 am
Protests consume Kabul, Taliban fighters respond with force

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Kabul on Thursday as Afghanistan’s annual Independence Day is met with new Taliban control of the country.

Taliban fighters cracked down on the crowds with batons and fired gunshots into the air as Afghan civilians, women included, flew the Afghanistan national flag in an apparent acts of defiance.

The U.S. military said Wednesday its focus will remain on maintaining the perimeter at the airport, as opposed to sending envoys into Kabul to pick up Americans and Afghan civilians who may have difficulty getting to the airport.

“I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a Pentagon briefing at which officials also said “nothing” could predict the collapse of the Afghanistan government in 11 days

As the race to evacuate as many as 11,000 Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans from the country continues, the State Department on Wednesday sent an email alert to Americans in Afghanistan directing them to go to the airport but adding the U.S. “cannot provide safe passage” there.

After sitting down with an exclusive one-on-one interview with George Stephanopoulos, Biden on Thursday has no public events on his schedule but is meeting with his national security team.

Since Saturday, the U.S. has evacuated nearly 6,000 people, according to the White House — so far, falling short of the Pentagon’s goal of evacuating 6,000 to 9,000 individuals a day.

Aug 19, 8:55 am
Biden doubles down on Afghanistan amid struggling evacuation effort

Amid intense backlash on the handling of the troop withdrawal and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the president argued that the commotion of the past few days was inevitable.

“The idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens,” Biden told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview.

Biden indicated an investigation of the intelligence surrounding the topic would take place, but stopped short of saying that the intelligence was wrong. Biden also denied reports that top military advisers warned against his withdrawal timeline.

Biden’s defense of his administration’s actions come as significant numbers of Americans and Afghan civilian personnel struggle to access the Kabul airport and escape the war-torn nation.

“We’re going to do everything we can to continue to try to deconflict and create passageways for them to get to the airfield. I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul,” Secretary of Defense General Lloyd Austin said to reporters Wednesday.

Much about the progress on evacuation efforts remains murky. In his interview with ABC News, Biden was certain that Americans in Afghanistan and American military members would be taken out of the country but seemed noncommittal on how many Afghan allies the U.S. would be able to rescue. Another unknown is if evacuations can realistically be completed before the Aug. 31 deadline. Biden offered a caveat that is unlikely to comfort those on the ground pleading to evacuate.

“It depends on where we are and whether we can get — ramp these numbers up to five to 7,000 a day coming out,” Biden said. “If that’s the case, they’ll all be out.”

Aug 18, 9:22 pm
US troops will stay until all Americans are out of Afghanistan, even if past Aug. 31 deadline: Biden

In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, President Joe Biden said the U.S. is committed to getting every American out of Afghanistan — even if it means potentially extending the mission beyond his Aug. 31 deadline for a total withdrawal.

“We’ve got like 10 to 15,000 Americans in the country right now. Right? And are you committed to making sure that the troops stay until every American who wants to be out is out?” Stephanopoulos asked Biden.

“Yes,” Biden replied.

The president cautioned that his focus is on completing the mission by Aug. 31, but when pressed by Stephanopoulos, conceded the mission could take longer.

Aug 18, 7:16 pm
Congressional leaders calling for briefings

Top Republican Leaders Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell are calling on the Biden administration for a “Gang of Eight” classified briefing on Afghanistan.

The so-called “Gang of Eight” includes the top House and Senate leaders, including the heads of the intel committees in both the House and Senate.

Separately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also requested three briefings on Afghanistan in the coming days, according to a source. They include a briefing by phone Friday for all members, a classified, in-person briefing Tuesday and a similar “Gang of Eight” briefing.

-ABC News’ Mariam Khan

Aug 18, 2:14 pm
State Department alerts Americans it ‘cannot ensure safe passage’ to airport

The State Department has directed American citizens to the airport in Kabul for departing evacuation flights — but with a stark warning.

“The United States government cannot ensure safe passage to the Hamid Karzai International Airport,” the agency said in an alert to American citizens still in Afghanistan.

“The security situation in Kabul continues to change quickly, including at the airport,” the agency added.

As many as 11,000 Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans are still desperately trying to leave the country, ABC News Senior Foreign Correspondent Ian Pannell has reported.

Aug 18, 1:44 pm
Biden, Harris briefed by top Pentagon officials

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed to reporters that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris received a briefing on Afghanistan at the White House on Wednesday.

The White House said the group, which also included Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie and CIA Director William Burns, discussed “efforts to accelerate evacuations” and “to facilitate safe passage to HKIA [Hamid Karzai International Airport].”

The readout from the White House also said the group discussed “monitoring for any potential terrorist threats in Afghanistan.”

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

Aug 18, 1:30 pm
Senior intel official: Afghan government ‘unraveled even more quickly than we anticipated’

A senior U.S. intelligence official acknowledged to ABC News that the “rapid collapse” of the Afghanistan government “unraveled even more quickly” than U.S. intelligence officials had anticipated.

“We consistently identified the risk of a rapid collapse of the Afghan government. We also grew more pessimistic about the government’s survival as the fighting season progressed. This was less an issue of Afghan military capabilities and more a reflection of Afghan leadership, cohesion and willpower,” the official told ABC News. “That said, the Afghan government unraveled even more quickly than we anticipated.”

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and his family fled Kabul on Sunday as the Taliban moved closer to the presidential palace and then claimed the formation of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

-ABC News’ Cindy Smith

Aug 18, 1:09 pm
Pentagon responds to distressing scenes outside airport in Kabul

Ahead of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley holding a briefing at 3 p.m., Pentagon press secretary John Kirby spoke to reporters on Wednesday about the distressing scenes outside the airport in Kabul.

He said U.S. military officials were aware of reports that Taliban fighters are not letting Afghans through to the airport and that’s one reason the top American commander in Kabul,  Adm. Peter Vasely, has reached out to his Taliban counterpart.

Asked what more can be done to ensure safe passage of Afghans to the airport, Kirby said only that the Pentagon is working “very hard” on the issue.

“I don’t have a specific next step for you,” he said. “We are in communication with the Taliban. We want to see this process go more smoothly.”

Kirby also confirmed incidents overnight in which some American troops providing security at the perimeter of the airport fired their weapons in the air as part of “crowd control measures.”

He said the U.S. goal to evacuate 5,000 to 9,000 individuals a day can be accomplished “when we’re at full throttle.”

Aug 18, 11:51 am
One Afghan family’s harrowing account of getting to Kabul’s airport

“Khan,” a computer scientist who worked with a U.S. contractor on the mission in Afghanistan and whose name is being withheld to protect his identity, boarded a U.S. military aircraft on Wednesday with his 3-year-old son and wife, who is 35 weeks pregnant, according to his lawyer.

It was their third attempt to reach the Kabul airport after they picked up their Special Immigrant Visas on Saturday, hours before the U.S. embassy shuttered.

The chaos on Sunday kept them away, and on Tuesday, there were too many Taliban fighters to get close to the gates. Khan spent several hours on Wednesday trying to reach multiple gates.

The north gate was mobbed, with U.S. troops firing warning shots into the air or deploying tear gas to disperse the crowds, according to his lawyer, who was on FaceTime with him.

There were hours when it seemed like Khan and his family wouldn’t be able to get through, forcing him to consider trying alone and leaving them behind, his lawyer told ABC News’ Conor Finnegan, but “ultimately, it was his persistence that got them in.”

Once inside the airport, the process was efficient, his lawyer said. Two of her clients and their families were on flights within 30 minutes of being processed and entering the airport.

But the chaos outside is horrific, and Afghans are receiving conflicting correspondence from the U.S. embassy — some being told to shelter in place, others given specific instructions on which gates to proceed to — but that situation changing rapidly too, his lawyer said.

Aug 18, 11:01 am
Taliban seen forcefully patrolling area near Kabul airport

Thousands were still outside the airport in Kabul as the U.S. continues its evacuation efforts Wednesday and the Taliban patrolled the surrounding streets, only allowing foreigners through and occasionally firing warning shots, ABC News Senior Foreign Correspondent Ian Pannell reported.

The Taliban on Tuesday promised an “amnesty” for those who worked with the U.S. government and said it would allow for their safe passage to the airport, but on the ground on Wednesday, members of the Taliban were seen whipping Afghan civilians.

As many as 11,000 Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans still are desperately trying to leave the country. The U.S. said late Tuesday it had evacuated 3,200 people from Afghanistan including all U.S. Embassy personnel except for a core group of diplomats. Officials have said they plan to launch one flight per hour to hopefully evacuate up to 9,000 people each day.

Still, the situation remains tense across Afghanistan, with the international community paying close attention to the Taliban’s every move.

Outside of Kabul, about 90 miles away in the eastern city of Jalalabad, anti-Taliban protesters were met with violence from fighters after replacing the Taliban flag in the city’s main square with the Afghan national flag, The Associated Press reported.

Aug 18, 9:58 am
Former Afghan president in United Arab Emirates on ‘humanitarian grounds’

The United Arab Emirates Foreign Ministry has confirmed in a statement that former Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani is in the United Arab Emirates, days after fleeing his home country.

Ghani and his family left Kabul on Sunday as the Taliban surged closer to the presidential palace. The Taliban ultimately overtook the building and has claimed the formation of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

Aug 18, 8:39 am
Few answers from Biden administration on Afghanistan despite pressure

Days removed from the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul and after a lengthy news conference with national security adviser Jake Sullivan, there is still little clarity on how conditions degraded so quickly in Afghanistan.

When ABC News Correspondent Stephanie Ramos asked Sullivan about reports that Biden administration officials were informed the Taliban could overwhelm the country, the national security adviser denied seeing it.

“I’m not actually familiar with the intelligence assessments you’re describing,” said Sullivan.

The administration plans to conduct an evaluation of the calamity once evacuations are completed.

“We’ll look at everything that happened, in this entire operation, from start to finish, and the areas of improvement where we can do better,” Sullivan told reporters Tuesday. “Where we can find holes or weaknesses and plug them as we go forward” that analysis will be shared.

Lawmakers are also putting pressure on the Biden administration for answers. Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee penned a letter to Biden demanding withdrawal plan details, plainly accusing the president of not having a concrete plan.

“For months, we have been asking you for a plan on your withdrawal from Afghanistan. You failed to provide us with one and based on the horrific events currently unfolding in Afghanistan, we are confident that we never received your plan because you never had one,” the letter reads. “The security and humanitarian crisis now unfolding in Afghanistan could have been avoided if you had done any planning.”

Aug 18, 7:52 am
Trauma injuries on the rise in Afghanistan, WHO warns

Months of violence in Afghanistan “have taken a heavy toll” on the country’s people and fragile health system, the World Health Organization warned Wednesday.

“As a result of the recent conflict, trauma injuries have increased, requiring scaled up emergency medical and surgical services,” Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, the WHO’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said in a statement.

In July, some 13,897 conflict-related trauma cases were received at 70 WHO-supported health facilities in Afghanistan, compared with 4,057 cases during the same time last year, according to the WHO.

In Kabul and other areas where people have fled to seek safety and shelter, field reports indicate rising cases of diarrhea, malnutrition, high blood pressure, COVID-19-like symptoms and reproductive health complications. The country’s hospitals were already facing shortages in essential supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic, Al-Mandhari said.

Attacks on health care infrastructure and staff also remain a major challenge. From January to July, 26 health facilities and 31 health care workers were affected, while 12 workers were killed, according to the WHO.

“Delays and disruptions to health care will increase the risk of disease outbreaks and prevent some of the most vulnerable groups from seeking life-saving health care,” Al-Mandhari said. “There is an immediate need to ensure continuity of health services across the country, with a focus on ensuring women have access to female health workers.”

“The people of Afghanistan need support and solidarity today more than ever,” he added. “The gains of the past 20 years cannot be turned back.”

Aug 18, 7:40 am
ABC to interview Biden Wednesday  

Biden will sit down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos one-on-one on Wednesday at the White House for the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The interview will air on ABC’s World News Tonight on Wednesday and Good Morning America on Thursday.

Aug 18, 6:23 am
Taliban delegation meets with former Afghan president in Doha

A high-level Taliban delegation has met with Afghanistan’s former president, Hamid Karzai, and the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, in Qatar’s capital and assured them of security, a Taliban source told ABC News on Wednesday.

The Taliban has said there is a general amnesty for all in Afghanistan, including former government officials, and that no one should flee the country.

Aug 18, 5:51 am
UK to take in 20,000 Afghan refugees over 5 years

The United Kingdom announced Tuesday a plan to welcome 20,000 Afghan refugees over five years.

The resettlement program will prioritize women, children and religious minorities.

“We have an enduring commitment to the Afghan people, and we will honour it,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter. “A new resettlement scheme will create a safe and legal route for those in most need to come and live safely in the UK.”

While addressing members of parliament on Wednesday morning, Johnson said his government has so far secured the safe return of 306 U.K. nationals and 2,052 Afghan citizens as part of the resettlement program, with a further 2,000 applications for Afghan nationals completed “and many more being processed.” An additional 800 British troops will be deployed to Afghanistan’s main international airport in Kabul to “support this evacuation operation,” according to Johnson.

“We are proud to bring these brave Afghans to our shores — and we continue to appeal for more to come forwards,” he said.

Aug 17, 11:55 pm
US Embassy destroyed some Afghans’ passports during evacuation

Last week when the U.S. Embassy in Kabul ordered staff to destroy sensitive material, including documents, passports were destroyed as well.

During the evacuation, embassy personnel destroyed the passports of Afghans that had been submitted for visa processing, according to a Democratic lawmaker’s office.

Rep. Andy Kim, D-NJ, has been compiling requests for assistance for Afghans on the ground, with his office funneling pleas for help through an email address. In the email’s response note, obtained by ABC News, it says, “Passports that were in the Embassy’s possession have been destroyed. Currently, it is not possible to provide further visa services in Afghanistan.”

A State Department spokesperson acknowledged that was true, but called it “standard operating procedure” during an evacuation and said it “will not prevent people who are otherwise eligible for evacuation from traveling.

Aug 17, 9:38 pm
House Armed Services Committee Republicans request Biden’s plan for Afghanistan

Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee sent a letter to Biden requesting information about his “plan” for Afghanistan.

“For months, we have been asking you for a plan on your withdrawal from Afghanistan. You failed to provide us with one and based on the horrific events currently unfolding in Afghanistan, we are confident that we never received your plan because you never had one,” the letter says.

“The security and humanitarian crisis now unfolding in Afghanistan could have been avoided if you had done any planning. Pretending this isn’t your problem will only make things worse. We remain gravely concerned the void left in Afghanistan will be rapidly filled by terror groups. The Taliban now control the country. Al Qaeda used Afghanistan to plot and execute the 9/11 attacks and other acts of terrorism,” the letter continues. “You cannot let this happen again.”

Notably, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. — a member of the committee — has also signed the letter.

Cheney appeared on ABC’s This Week Sunday and said that Biden “absolutely” bears responsibility for the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan, as does former President Donald Trump and his administration.

“What we’re watching right now in Afghanistan is what happens when America withdraws from the world,” Cheney told ABC This Week co-anchor Jonathan Karl. “So everybody who has been saying, ‘America needs to withdraw, America needs to retreat,’ we are getting a devastating, catastrophic real-time lesson in what that means.”

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