Armed Taliban fighters surround Kabul airport and take control of ALL access points leaving US and UK troops to negotiate who gets in – as desperate ex-Marine commando blasts British Army after his wife go missing in the scrum
- Hundreds of Afghanis fleeing the Taliban are forced to line up behind barbed wire at Kabul Airport today
- They waited to board flights out of the country under the guns of Afghan guards and US Apache helicopters
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to convene a meeting of G7 world leaders at the ‘earliest opportunity’
- 12 military flights take off from Kabul today, including three UK planes as MoD tries to get out 7,000 people
- President Joe Biden has been slammed for the chaotic retreat which his critics said had ‘humiliated’ the US
- WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT
At a glance: What is the situation in Afghanistan and how many people are being evacuated?
The Taliban have seized power in Afghanistan two weeks before the US was set to complete its troop withdrawal after a costly 20-year war. Here is the latest:
- The Taliban, who ran Afghanistan in the late 1990s, have again taken control after the Western-backed government that has run it for 20 years collapsed
- The Taliban’s deputy leader and co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kandahar Tuesday after 20 years of exile, landing in the insurgent group’s former capital just days after they took control of the country.
- Thousands of people are racing to Kabul Airport which is one of the last routes out of the country amid fears the Taliban could carry out revenge attacks
- Tens of thousands of people need evacuating – including some 22,000 on US special immigrant visas, 6,000-7,000 British nationals and Afghan allies, and 10,000 refugees that Germany has said it will accept
- Some people are so desperate that they clung to the side of a military jet as it took off and then plunged to their deaths yesterday – at least seven died
- At least 12 military flights took off from Kabul today
- Britain has carried out three MoD military flights so far today amid hopes they can get 6,000-7,000 people out in total
- RAF planes are taking people to other stable parts of the Middle East where they can get charter flights back to the UK
- Eleven aircraft of five different types are believed to be shuttling in and out of Kabul – the RAF Voyager Tanker (Airbus A330 MRTT), Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Airbus A400M Atlas
- 900 British armed forces are in Afghanistan to bring UK nationals home and secure safety of some Afghans
- 370 UK embassy staff and British nationals were flown out by the MoD on Sunday and yesterday, while 289 Afghan nationals were taken out last week
- A further 350 British and Afghans will be taken out of the country in the next 24 hours, UK Government says
- The US may issue up 80,000 special immigrant visas to those who helped with its combat operations
- 7,500 troops currently guarding the airport – including 6,000 Americans and smaller numbers of British, Turkish and Australians – will also need to leave
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for G7 leaders to hold a virtual meeting ‘in the coming days’
- Defence Minister Ben Wallace says the Taliban takeover is a ‘failure of the international community’
- Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says UK must work with ‘challenging’ partners on dealing with Taliban
- US President Joe Biden called the situation ‘gut-wrenching’ but rejected blame for what’s happening
- The Taliban now say they want to form an ‘inclusive, Islamic government’ with other factions – and are holding negotiations with senior politicians
- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has already fled the country after the Taliban reached Kabul on Sunday
The scramble to airlift tens of thousands of foreign nationals and Afghan allies from Kabul entered a frantic new stage today – with UK military chiefs admitting they can only continue as long as the Taliban allows it.
As desperate locals who helped the West’s forces over the past 20 years try to flee reprisals, the regime now has control of all access points to the airport.
Underlining the abject humiliation of the West, the Taliban’s political chief Mullah Baradar today arrived in Kandahar province as the group confirmed their grip on power.
Although the atmosphere is far less chaotic inside the perimeter than the extraordinary scenes yesterday – when several people plummeted to their deaths after clinging to departing planes and another was crushed to death in landing gear – witnesses on the ground revealed that there is still carnage outside.
Streams of people, some clutching immigration documents, have been queuing under the guns of Afghan security guards as Apache helicopters buzzed through the air. Former Royal Marine commando Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing, who runs an animal sanctuary in Kabul, warned that they were being told to come to the airport but left at the mercy of crowds and Taliban forces who have it under siege.
The clearly distraught veteran, who said he had been separated from his wife, said British military needed to go outside the perimeter and ‘rescue some of the people they have been sent to get’. ‘People are going to die,’ he insisted.
At least 12 military flights took off from Kabul Airport today, including three UK planes as the Ministry of Defence aims to ferry up to 7,000 Britons and Afghan allies out of the country. Most are heading to other stable parts of the Middle East, where the passengers catch charter flights back to Britain. A British student who took a holiday to Afghanistan before being trapped by the Taliban takeover today shared a video from inside a military plane as he landed in Dubai after being evacuated to safety.
Some 370 UK embassy staff and British nationals were flown out by the RAF on Sunday and yesterday, adding to the 289 Afghan nationals transported last week.
A further 350 Britons and Afghans should be taken out of the country in the next 24 hours – but the pace will need to be stepped up dramatically if those at highest risk are to get to safety.
In the longer term, the UK could give refuge to tens of thousands of Afghans in total after the Taliban takeover as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab vowed the UK Government’s response to the collapse will be ‘big-hearted’.
It comes after pandemonium yesterday as thousands of desperate people rushed the runway and clung to the wheels of departing US jets – with one horrifying video appearing to show how one man was crushed to death in the landing gear of a C-17 transport plane.
The footage, which emerged today, shows what appears to be a man’s legs protruding from the side of the jet and failing against the side of the aircraft. A US official later confirmed that human remain were found in the landing gear of a jet, which made an emergency landing after declaring a mid-air state of emergency.
There are at least 56,000 people who need evacuating from Afghanistan – including some 22,000 flying on US special immigrant visas, 4,000 British nationals, 10,000 refugees that Germany has said it will accept, and 20,000 bound for Canada. In reality, that number is likely to be far higher once diplomatic staff from dozens of countries which had relations with Afghanistan’s former government are taken into account.
The US said it may issue up 80,000 special immigrant visas to those who helped with combat operations and are likely to face revenge attacks from the Taliban, while 7,500 troops currently guarding the airport – including 6,000 Americans and smaller numbers of British, Turkish and Australians – will also need to leave.
At least 6,000 people have already managed to flee the country on evacuation flights that began on Sunday, with a dozen departing today – most of them flying to neighbouring Middle Eastern countries before continuing their journeys west. Spain, France and India confirmed their diplomatic staff were evacuated today.
Russia and Indonesia said their embassies will be partially evacuated, with the EU mission has said staff including its ambassador Andreas Von Brandt is still in the country and will need to leave.
Boris Johnson hopes to convene a meeting of G7 world leaders at the ‘earliest opportunity’ as he looks to co-ordinate the international response, as Mr Raab said the UK would have to work with ‘challenging’ partners on how to deal with the Taliban.
During the Taliban’s rule in 1996 to 2001, women could not work and punishments such as public stoning, whipping and hanging were administered.
The Taliban have said there will be no retribution against opponents and promised to respect the rights of women, minorities and foreigners, but many Afghans are sceptical and fear old enemies and activists will be rounded up.
In a day of fast-moving developments:
- Joe Biden was condemned for the ‘humiliating’ retreat after Afghan forces capitulated with barely a fight;
- EU foreign ministers met in Brussels for emergency talks amid fears over a new European refugee crisis;
- Mr Johnson is pushing for a virtual G7 meeting to be arranged, raising the idea with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a call today and doing the same during talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday;
- Dominic Raab promised that Britain will take ‘tens of thousands’ of Afghans on a longer-term resettlement scheme while increasing foreign aid;
- Turkey said it welcomed ‘positive messages’ from the Taliban and diplomats will hold talks with the Islamists;
- The Duke and Duchess of Sussex issued a statement on the crisis, saying it had left them ‘speechless’
Taliban co-founder arrives in Afghanistan from Qatar after 20 years in exile
The Taliban’s deputy leader and co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kandahar Tuesday after 20 years of exile, landing in the insurgent group’s former capital just days after they took control of the country.
A Taliban spokesman said on Twitter that Baradar and a high level delegation ‘reached their beloved country in the afternoon’ from Qatar.
His arrival came as the Taliban held a press conference in which the group said they ‘want to live peacefully’ after taking control of Afghanistan in a lighting conquest in little over a week, leading to human rights concerns in the country.
‘There is a huge difference between us and the Taliban of 20 years ago, this has been an evolutionary process for us,’ the Taliban’s spokesperson claimed on Tuesday.
‘We are going to decide what kind of laws will be presented to the nation. This will be the responsibility of the government with the participation of all people.’
Baradar, reported to have been one of Mullah Omar’s most trusted commanders, was captured in 2010 by security forces in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi and released in 2018.
Just nine months ago, Baradar posed for pictures with Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to sign a peace deal in Doha which today lies in tatters.
On Sunday, his forces seized Kabul and he is now tipped to become Afghanistan’s next leader in a reversal of fortune which humiliates Washington.
While Haibatullah Akhundzada is the Taliban’s overall leader, Baradar is head of its political office and one of the most recognisable faces of the chiefs who have been involved in peace talks in Qatar.
The 53-year-old was deputy leader under ex-chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, whose support for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden led to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11.
The Taliban’s former chief Mullah Mohammed Omar founded of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 1996 with Baradar. Omar’s death was announced in 2015 – two years after he succumbed to TB.
Mullah Omar bestowed the title ‘brother’ upon Baradar as a sign of affection.
Royal Navy Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key, who is organising the RAF evacuation from Permanent Joint HQ in Northwood, told Sky News that people wanting to be evacuated would have to rely on the Taliban letting them through.
‘Much of that journey is for them to undertake,’ he said.
‘It is quite obvious that the Taliban now are the prevalent security providers across Afghanistan – that’s a fact – so therefore it is much up to them and these individuals, as we call them forward, to make their own way to the vicinity of the airport.
‘We then bring them into the airport and process them, bring them into the airport and bring them back into a place of repatriation.’
Sir Ben told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme the Taliban seemed ‘acquiescent’ about allowing people to reach the airport, saying: ‘It is a statement of fact that they are now controlling all of the access points around the airport, so at a tactical level, around the gates, we are having to have a pragmatic engagement with the local Taliban commanders.
‘And thus far – and recognise, please, that we are only a day and a half into this kind of new situation – they have seemed acquiescent and understanding of what we are trying to achieve.
‘We don’t take it for granted, and the local commanders continue to engage with them at the gate accesses to achieve what we want to achieve.’
Sir Ben said the numbers they were being asked to evacuate was between 6,000 and 7,000.
But he added: ‘Those numbers are changing all the time as we understand the scale of the ask – people are coming forward making themselves known through the FCDO consular services or into us under the Arap programme.
‘How long have we got to do it? We don’t really know, so every day we are working as hard as we can to bring as many forward into this pipeline as we possibly can.
‘Clearly there is a dynamic political situation running across the city.
‘We make no assumptions about that other than we really can’t afford to pause and wait.’
Footage showed racks of what appeared to be American and Soviet-made weaponry dumped alongside helmets, body armour and magazines full of ammunition in an arrivals area of the airport.
And Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s deputy president, posted a defiant message from the Panjshir Valley – one of the few areas not conquered by the Taliban – where he is holed up with other anti-Taliban warlords.
And in a signal that Mr Johnson wants to draw together a broad coalition, Downing Street confirmed the UK wants the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) – which, as well as Britain, includes the US, China, France and Russia – to meet this week.
The gathering would extend even further than the G7 alliance of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US, with the Prime Minister keen for leading economies to act together on choosing how to broach relations with a Taliban-led state in Afghanistan.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said Mr Johnson and Mrs Merkel agreed that ‘global co-operation was crucial’.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed the UK would have to work with ‘challenging’ partners on its approach to dealing with the Taliban following their capture of Kabul.
UK relations with Moscow have been strained in recent years, particularly since the Salisbury Novichok attack in 2018, while Beijing and London have been at loggerheads over China’s growing technological influence amid security and spying fears.
Mr Raab, who admitted that the speed of Afghanistan’s fall took the Government by surprise, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘We’ll need a contact group I believe, of not just like-minded Western countries, but countries with direct influence even if we find it challenging dealing with them.
‘The permanent members of the Security Council, including China and Russia, will need to be, I think, part of the solution, so it’s not going to be easy.’
Mr Raab said he thought the international community must ‘test’ the Taliban’s resolve to hold to promises previously made in their Doha agreement with the US, including ensuring terrorists do not take hold again in Afghanistan and leading a more ‘inclusive’ government.
‘Now the Taliban have never kept a promise so far, but I think given that they have those set of undertakings, we must test it and make sure that there’s a cost if they don’t live up to those responsibilities,’ he added.
‘It is going to be exceptionally challenging, but that is already what we’re looking to do and to try and galvanise some international action with that in mind.’
No 10 said the Prime Minister plans to use a G7 meeting to focus on ensuring Afghanistan does not once again become a source of international terrorist threats, as it did in the 1990s when it harboured al Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.
But politicians and defence experts warned that terrorists will be free to operate under the new administration in Kabul.
Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Jamie Stone said jailed terrorists were ‘now freely roaming the streets of Afghanistan’ after the Taliban’s victory and predicted that backers of so-called Islamic State and al Qaida ‘will begin plotting their revenge on countries such as Britain’.
Mr Stone is calling on ministers to publish the national security assessment it conducted before pulling British troops out of the central Asian country, pushing for a vote when Parliament is recalled on Wednesday if they refuse.
Emily Winterbotham, a specialist in terrorism at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, said it was ‘pointless’ to demand that Afghanistan should be free of international terrorists.
‘Let’s not forget that al Qaida never really left the country whilst Isis already has a foothold,’ she said. ‘The focus right now needs to be on refugees and humanitarian assistance.’
British student, 21, who went on holiday to Kabul shares video aboard evacuation flight and thanks UK military as he lands ‘safely’ in Dubai with hundreds fleeing new Taliban rule
A British student who took a holiday to Afghanistan before being trapped by the Taliban takeover today shared a video from inside a military plane as he landed in Dubai after being evacuated to safety.
The footage showed Miles Routledge, 21, sitting among hundreds of other people fleeing the militant group as the packed aircraft touched down in the United Arab Emirates.
The banking intern, who was wearing a flak jacket, wrote in a Facebook caption: ‘I’ve landed in Dubai thanks to the brilliant people at the British Army. All safe!’ Thousands of refugees including brave British Army translators have been desperately trying to find space on the few flights leaving Afghanistan to avoid being killed by Taliban fighters.
Mr Routledge, from Birmingham, had earlier posted a series of photos on message board 4chan and streaming site Twitch of his apparent trip around the war-torn country. The Loughborough physics student announced yesterday that he had eventually secured an evacuation flight.
Mr Routledge wrote on Facebook: ‘Got Evacuated at 4ish (it’s 2am now) with 100 or so other civilians, couldn’t message as there were cars emitting signals that would set off bombs, it blocked my airpods from connecting so I think it blocked all wifi/data.
‘The Taliban let us go through the airport and we met many of them, very long transition period but everyone was smiling and waving at one another, some took selfies with them. I slept on a dirt/gravel road and woke up as cars went by. We’re in a new safe house and we’re all hydrated, happy and ready for a few hours of sleep.’
The warnings come as Downing Street said Mr Johnson is planning to unveil a ‘bespoke’ resettlement scheme to allow fleeing Afghans to set up home in the UK shortly.
The Telegraph reported the concept could be similar to that used to take in Syrian refugees in 2015, which saw women with children, people with serious medical conditions and survivors of torture prioritised.
Mr Raab – who has faced criticism after reportedly being spotted on a beach in Crete on the day Kabul was seized by insurgents – said he was unable to confirm how many refugees would be coming to the UK from Afghanistan, but added it was ‘right’ to consider a bespoke process for Afghan nationals.
Around 900 armed forces are in Afghanistan helping to bring UK nationals home and secure the safety of selected Afghans.
Royal Navy Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key, in an interview with Sky News, said British armed forces ‘can’t afford to pause’ as they work with US troops to help get about 6,000 people out of Afghanistan via Kabul.
Sir Ben also told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme the Taliban seemed ‘acquiescent’ about allowing people to reach the city’s airport but stressed that Britain could not take that position for granted as repatriation efforts gather pace.
An Indian airforce plane evacuated over 170 people from Kabul on Tuesday, including India’s ambassador to Afghanistan, a government official said, as diplomats and civilians scrambled to get out of the country after the Taliban seized the capital.
The flight landed in the western Indian city of Jamnagar for refuelling on the way to Delhi, Jamnagar collector Sourabh Pardhi told Reuters.
Speaking to reporters, Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon said that nearly 200 personnel of the Indian mission in Afghanistan had been evacuated within three days, alongside Indian civilians working in the country.
‘You cannot imagine how great it is to be back home,’ Tandon said. ‘We are back home safely, securely, without any accidents or harm to any of our people.’
Tandon described the situation in Afghanistan as ‘fluid’, adding that a small number of Indian nationals remained in the country who authorities were attempting to bring back.
Politicians in both the UK and US have urged their government to be ‘generous’ with granting asylum to Afghans who helped in the war effort, but there are fears that thousands will be left behind amid the chaos.
The success of the operation now depends upon troops being able to keep the runway open, and on officials being able to locate all those who have been promised a ticket home and get them to the airport.
Some 6,000 American troops have now encircled the airport, using barbed wire and armoured vehicles to keep people off the runway, but so has the Taliban – which now controls 90 per cent of the country.
While Taliban diplomats have promised that the evacuation will be allowed to go ahead unhindered, it remains unclear if they will be willing to let their countrymen leave, having urged people at the airport to return home and promised an amnesty for government workers who go back to their jobs.
Early on Tuesday, French soldiers were pictured standing guard alongside a military plane evacuating diplomatic staff and their Afghan colleagues.
People were pictured forming orderly queues to board the aircraft, in stark contrast to the panicked and desperate scenes just hours earlier
Despite the airport runway being secured, witnesses reported gunshots coming from the area overnight. Streets elsewhere in Kabul appeared calm.
U.S. forces took charge of the airport, their only way to fly out of the country, on Sunday, as the militants were winding up a dramatic week of advances across the country with their takeover of the capital without a fight.
Flights were suspended flights for much of Monday, when at least five people were killed, witnesses said, although it was unclear whether they had been shot or crushed in a stampede.
Media reported two people fell to their deaths from the underside of a U.S. military aircraft after it took off, crashing to their deaths on roofs of homes near the airport. More video showed three bodies being retrieved from the streets.
Macron pledges ‘robust’ EU response to stop Afghan migrants
Emmanuel Macron has vowed a ‘robust, coordinated and united’ European response to stop Afghan migrants heading to the West and warned that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is on course to become a ‘sanctuary’ for terrorists and people-smugglers unless action is taken.
In a television broadcast from his holiday home in the South of France, the French President said the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan after the 20-year Western intervention had far-reaching consequences for other countries – and would need to work together to manage the change.
‘This is key for international security and peace,’ Mr Macron said on Monday night. ‘We will do everything for Russia, the United States and Europe to co-operate efficiently as our interests are the same’.
Mr Macron also urged the United Nations Security Council – of which France is a permanent member – to produce a ‘reasonable and unified’ response to the crisis engulfing Afghanistan and the wider region.
The French President said the European Union would now be trying to regulate the vastly increased refugee flow from Afghanistan, which has a population of almost 40,000. He said France would be cracking down on ‘illegal people smuggling rings’, along with Germany and other EU countries.
Mr Macron said: ‘We must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows that would endanger the migrants and risk encouraging trafficking of all kinds.’
He said some 800 Afghans including translators and cooks who worked for France had already been evacuated to his country And the President added that France was ready to help activists, artists and journalists who risk being targeted because of their work.
‘We will help them as it is the honour of France to be side-by-side with those who share our values,’ he said.
A U.S. official told Reuters U.S. troops had killed two gunmen who had appeared to have fired into the crowd at the airport.
Despite the scenes of panic and confusion in Kabul, U.S. President Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces after 20 years of war – the nation’s longest – that he described as costing more than $1 trillion.
But a video on Monday of hundreds of desperate Afghans trying to clamber onto a U.S. military plane as it was about to take-off could haunt the United States, just as a photograph in 1975 of people scrambling to get on a helicopter on the roof of a building in Saigon became emblematic of the humiliating withdrawal from Vietnam.
Biden insisted he had to decide between asking U.S. forces to fight endlessly in what he called Afghanistan’s civil war or follow through on an agreement to withdraw negotiated by his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump.
‘I stand squarely behind my decision,’ Biden said. ‘After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there.’
Facing a barrage of criticism, from even his own diplomats, he blamed the Taliban’s takeover on Afghan political leaders who fled and its army’s unwillingness to fight.
The Taliban captured Afghanistan’s biggest cities in days rather than the months predicted by U.S. intelligence, in many cases after demoralised government forces surrendered despite years of training and equipping by the United States and others.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the hasty pullout of U.S. troops had a ‘serious negative impact, ‘ China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported, adding that Wang pledged to work with Washington to promote stability.
Blinken also spoke on Monday with counterparts in Pakistan, Russia, Britain, the European Union, Turkey and NATO about ensuring regional stability, the State Department said.
U.S. Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson dismissed in a Twitter message what he called false reports that he had left the country, saying he and staff remained and were helping thousands of U.S. citizens and Afghans.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the country on Sunday as the Islamist militants entered Kabul, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed.
The U.N. Security Council called for talks to create a new government in Afghanistan after Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of ‘chilling’ curbs on human rights and violations against women and girls.
China’s state media mocks US Afghanistan withdrawal
A representative of Chinese state media mocked the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying the Taliban takeover was smoother than the presidential transition earlier this year.
Hu Xijin, an editor of the state-produced Global Times, sent out a tweet Sunday night.
‘Chinese netizens joked that the power transition in Afghanistan is even more smooth than presidential transition in the US,’ Hu wrote.
Hu was referencing content users posted to Weibo, which is the Chinese version of Twitter.
Business Insider translated some of the posts.
‘What a joke. In Kabul today, the new government takeover was even more stable than when the US changed presidents,’ Weibo user Chen Zhen wrote.
Hu also tweeted that Taiwan’s democratic government should look to Afghanistan as an example and rejoin mainland China, a communist nation, because it wouldn’t have the help of the United States.
‘After the fall of the Kabul regime, the Taiwan authorities must be trembling. Don’t look forward to the US to protect them,’ Hu wrote. ‘Taipei officials need to quietly mail-order a Five-Star Red Flag from the Chinese mainland. It will be useful one day when they surrender to the PLA.’
Hu also touted the Chinese policy of ‘non-interference’ in a Monday tweet.
‘Chinese Embassy in Afghanistan is operating normally,’ he wrote. ‘The principle of non-interference in domestic affairs enables China to maintain the confidence that it need not close its embassy in Kabul which still functions normally in this special, chaotic time.’
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said she was ‘deeply concerned’ and called for world leaders to take urgent action. She urged Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to open their country to refugees.
Former Afghan faction commander and prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said he would travel to Doha on Tuesday to meet a Taliban delegation, accompanied by former President Hamid Karzai and former foreign minister and peace envoy Abdullah Abdullah, Al Jazeera TV reported.
Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices. During their 1996-2001 rule, women could not work and punishments such as public stoning, whipping and hanging were administered.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Dunya News that the group would improve the security of Kabul and ‘respect the rights of women and minorities as per Afghan norms and Islamic values’.
Shaheen added the new regime would ensure representation of all ethnicities and that the Taliban were keen to work with the international community to rebuild the country.
Shaheen said on Twitter that the group’s fighters were under strict orders not to harm anyone.
‘Life, property and honour of no one shall be harmed but must be protected by the mujahideen,’ he said.
Meanwhile, America’s hasty withdrawal was proving a PR coup for China which accused Washington of ‘leaving an awful mess’ behind the backs of its retreating soldiers.
Beijing has signalled its readiness to cooperate with the Taliban after the United States’ withdrawal, which spurred a rapid advance by the Islamist hardliners across the country that saw them capture the capital Kabul on Sunday.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Tuesday said Washington had left ‘an awful mess of unrest, division and broken families’ in Afghanistan.
‘America’s strength and role is destruction, not construction,’ Hua said at a regular press briefing.
China shares a rugged 76-kilometre (47-mile) border with Afghanistan.
Beijing has long-feared the neighbour could become a staging point for minority Uyghur separatists in the sensitive border region of Xinjiang.
But a top-level Taliban delegation met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin last month, promising that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militants.
In exchange, China offered economic support and investment for Afghanistan’s reconstruction.
Hua on Monday said China was ready to continue ‘friendly and cooperative’ relations with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
She urged the new Afghan regime on Tuesday to ‘make a clean break with international forces’ and ‘prevent Afghanistan from becoming a gathering place for terrorists and extremists again’.
Incredible photo shows 640 Afghans crammed on a US C-17 cargo jet designed to carry 150 amid desperate fight to get out of Kabul
The first photos have emerged of crammed US cargo jets with hundreds of terrified Afghan refugees on board after they ran onto the aircraft before military personnel could close ramps on them on Sunday in their escape of the Taliban.
The US has so far flown at least two C-17 cargo jets out of Kabul and more flights are expected throughout Monday night and later this week despite chaos on the ground on Monday which involved eight people dying and flights being halted.
On Sunday, one of the first flights out was the US Air Force C-17 numbered RCH 871, which flew from Kabul to Qatar.
As it was preparing to take off on Sunday, hundreds of terrified Afghan nationals ran onto the plane, up the ramp, and settled on board.
A photo obtained by Defense One shows them all lined up, sitting on the floor of the plane that is fitted to carry 150 soldiers comfortably, but can take 171,000lbs of cargo.
Initially, audio from on board to an air traffic controller suggested there were 800 on board but Defense One says the true number was 640.
The refugees – including many women and young children – ran onto the plane’s half-open ramp before take-off and ‘the crew made the decision to go’, taking them with them, an unnamed defense official said.
‘Approximately 640 Afghan civilians disembarked the aircraft when it arrived at its destination,’ the official said.
Despite eight people dying at the airport on Monday and amid criticism the fall of the city is reminiscent of the fall of Saigon, President Biden defended his decision to withdraw US troops suddenly, saying he would no longer sacrifice American lives in an Afghan civil war.
He has been widely condemned for how he has withdrawn the US’s support after 20 years of helping Afghan forces stabilize the region.
Biden briefly interrupted his vacation from Camp David on Monday to give a short address to the nation about the ongoing catastrophe in Kabul.
‘We gave them every chance but we couldn’t provide them with the will to fight,’ he said.
He has been universally condemned for his response, with some of the fawning American media that idolized him a week ago, calling his decision to ‘wash his hands’ of the situation ‘one of the most shameful’ policy decisions in modern history.
Major General Hank Taylor said at a press conference on Monday afternoon that US forced are ‘actively monitoring’ the situation.
‘We have approximately 2,500 troops who have moved into Kabul. By the end of the day, we expect nearly 3,000 to 3,500 troops on the ground,’ he said.
‘Biden ALONE is responsible’: US media blast President for his ‘blame-shifting’ after ‘wilful abandonment’ of Afghanistan where ZERO US soldiers have died in last 18 months… but some left-wing press are back on side
- US newspapers blast US President Joe Biden today for his ‘blame shifting’ over deepening Afghanistan crisis
- He criticised Afghan leaders and military for refusing to fight while defending his decision to withdraw troops
- Wall Street Journal editorial said that Mr Biden ‘refused to accept responsibility for the botched withdrawal’
- Washington Post editorial said he could have listened to the ‘many seasoned hands’ giving him alternatives
- Editorial in the New York Post said ‘he alone is responsible’ for Taliban takeover which is an ‘utter catastrophe’
- But other papers including New York Times defend Mr Biden saying ‘calamity cannot be laid alone’ at his feet
The US media blasted Joe Biden today for his ‘blame shifting’ over the Afghanistan crisis after the President criticised Afghan leaders and military for refusing to fight while defending his decision to withdraw troops.
The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial that Mr Biden ‘refused to accept responsibility for the botched withdrawal while blaming others’ and the ‘one group he conspicuously did not blame was the Taliban’.
A Washington Post editorial said he could have listened to the ‘many seasoned hands’ giving him alternatives to withdrawal, adding that him blaming others was ‘unseemly’ given that 2,448 US service members died in 20 years.
An editorial in the New York Post pointed out that no US soldiers have died in Afghanistan in 18 months, and ‘he alone is responsible’ for the Taliban takeover which is an ‘utter catastrophe, for Afghans and for world security’.
Meanwhile an opinion piece in the Left-leaning CNN by a retired soldier said Afghanistan’s collapse was ‘wilful abandonment’ and that the withdrawal of US forces ‘left the tribes of Afghanistan little choice but capitulation’.
However, other US media defended Mr Biden today, including the New York Times which said the ‘calamity cannot be laid alone at President Biden’s feet’ and that his decision to pull out all US troops took ‘courage and wisdom’.
An opinion piece in USA Today said the President ‘bears some of the blame for the catastrophic collapse’ but ‘there is plenty to go around’, adding that Mr Biden was ‘dealt his losing hand by Bush, Obama and Trump’.
In The Atlantic an opinion article said ‘no critic of Biden’s or Trump’s withdrawal decisions has offered a coherent alternative plan beyond indefinite American occupation’, adding that the withdrawal was ‘not a strategic failure’.
And a Los Angeles Times opinion piece said Mr Biden made the ‘tough and correct choice to withdraw and end a losing effort in search of an unattainable goal’ and that he was ‘right to stand by his decision’ to end the mission.
It comes after Mr Biden’s blunt address to the US nation last night, in which he said he ‘stood squarely’ behind the withdrawal despite the Taliban retaking the country in a matter of days following the collapse of Afghan forces.
There are at least 40,000 people who need evacuating from Afghanistan, including some 30,000 Americans and 4,000 Britons. America is hoping to fly out some 5,000 people per day and the UK 1,200 – though both managed just a few hundred yesterday, meaning the operation is likely to drag on for weeks, if not months.
How the US media reacted to Joe Biden’s ‘blame shifting’
Wall Street Journal editorial
‘Mr Biden refused to accept responsibility for the botched withdrawal while blaming others. He blamed Donald Trump’s peace deal with the Taliban and falsely claimed again that he was trapped. He blamed his three predecessors for not getting out of Afghanistan. He blamed the Afghans for not fighting hard enough, their leaders for fleeing, and even Afghans who helped us for not leaving sooner. The one group he conspicuously did not blame was the Taliban, who once harbored Osama bin Laden and may protect his terrorist successor.’
Washington Post editorial
‘In short, the president could have listened to the many seasoned hands — inside and outside his own administration — who advised him that there were alternatives to precipitous, unconditional withdrawal. Mr. Biden instead set an arbitrary deadline – August 31 – for a full US pullout. Yes, the Afghan military’s demoralization and failure to fight came as a rude disappointment, as the president emphasized, but it’s fair to ask why, if he was sure the cause was lost, their quick surrender came as such a surprise to him.’
New York Post editorial
‘Biden claims whatever horrors are taking place there now could’ve happened any time we pulled out, whether years from now or years ago, and America simply couldn’t continue to spend blood and treasure on an endless war. The choice, he asserted, was between ramping up and fighting the Taliban all over again or withdrawing with all the chaos and misery that entails. Wrong.’
CNN opinion piece by Retired Lt Col Jason Amerinel
‘As I communicated with the terrified families of former allies trying to flee the country this week, I felt the sickening resignation one has when visiting a loved one in hospice. But Afghanistan’s collapse was not pre-ordained. It was willful abandonment.’
Fox News opinion piece by Rebecca Grant
‘There’s been a horrifying narrative that the chaos in Kabul proves Biden was right to leave. Don’t buy it. The real chaos escalated just days ago. The time to secure the airport and plan evacuations was before the Taliban showed up on their motorbikes. Biden’s departure for Camp David, the August timing of the drawdown, the failure to support Afghan forces with airstrikes after last week or to secure the airport: it all reeks.’
New York Times editorial
‘The responsibility lies with both parties. President George W. Bush launched the war, only to shift focus to Iraq before any stability had been achieved. President Barack Obama was seeking to withdraw American troops but surged their levels instead. President Donald Trump signed a peace deal with the Taliban in 2020 for a complete withdrawal by last May.’
USA Today opinion piece by James S. Robbins –
‘The fundamental problem was mission creep. As President Biden rightly pointed out, the United States achieved its original strategic objectives quickly, disrupting al Qaida and punishing the Taliban for giving global terrorism a safe haven. But we then took on a nation-building mission which was not suited to the complex, decentralized, tribally based politics of Afghanistan.’
Los Angeles Times opinion piece by Charles A Kupchan
‘Biden is right to stand by his decision to end the military mission in Afghanistan, because doing so is consistent with the will of the electorate. Most Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, have lost patience with the ‘forever wars’ in the Middle East. The illiberal populism that led to Donald Trump’s election (and near reelection) emerged in part as a response to perceived American overreach in the broader Middle East.’
The Atlantic opinion piece by David A. Graham
‘The American departure may be a moral catastrophe, then, but it is not a strategic failure. The occupation failed years ago. As I wrote in 2019, America’s leaders—Democrat and Republican; civilian and military; elected, appointed, and career civil servant—all knew for years that the U.S. was losing in Afghanistan, and they continued to say we were winning. While the endgame of the American exit was clearly botched, no critic of Biden’s or Trump’s withdrawal decisions has offered a coherent alternative plan beyond indefinite American occupation.’
As the US media reacted to Mr Biden’s statement on the crisis, a Wall Street Journal editorial today said that the President ‘refused to accept responsibility for the botched withdrawal while blaming others’.
The piece added: ‘He blamed Donald Trump’s peace deal with the Taliban and falsely claimed again that he was trapped. He blamed his three predecessors for not getting out of Afghanistan.
‘He blamed the Afghans for not fighting hard enough, their leaders for fleeing, and even Afghans who helped us for not leaving sooner. The one group he conspicuously did not blame was the Taliban, who once harbored Osama bin Laden and may protect his terrorist successor.’
The editorial also said: ‘Instead of taking responsibility, Mr Biden played to the sentiment of Americans who are tired of foreign military missions. It’s a powerful point to speak of sending a child to risk his life in a foreign country, and no doubt it will resonate with many Americans.’
Meanwhile in the Washington Post‘s editorial today, the newspaper said Mr Biden ‘could have listened to the many seasoned hands – inside and outside his own administration – who advised him that there were alternatives to precipitous, unconditional withdrawal’.
It added that the ‘blame-shifting is especially unseemly given that some 66,000 Afghan fighters have given their lives in this war during the past 20 years, alongside 2,448 US service members’.
The newspaper continued: ‘Mr Biden said he stands by his decision, and takes responsibility. Well and good: He must now turn his attention to limiting the damage — starting with the obligation the United States owes to those Afghans who trusted America’s commitment to their country and staked their personal futures on it.’
The New York Post was scathing of the president, saying: ‘The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan over the past few weeks was an utter catastrophe, for Afghans and for world security — and he alone is responsible.’
It added in its editorial that Americans do back a withdrawal, after 20 years of maintaining soldiers in Afghanistan, but said there was ‘no urgent crisis demanding an immediate, haphazard pullout that leaves Afghans at the mercy of monsters — and America less safe’.
It also pointed out that ‘the cost in US lives and money wasn’t terribly high in recent years’, saying ‘not a single American soldier has died in Afghanistan in the past 18 months’.
Over on CNN, an opinion piece by Retired Lieutenant Colonel Jason Amerine, who served in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, said that he ‘felt the sickening resignation one has when visiting a loved one in hospice’, but added that Afghanistan’s collapse ‘was not pre-ordained – it was willful abandonment’.
He also wrote: ‘The arguments we’re hearing from officials about the inevitability of this collapse seem self-serving. The notion of inevitability removes blame or accountability.’
And on Fox News, an opinion piece by Rebecca Grant said: ‘There’s been a horrifying narrative that the chaos in Kabul proves Biden was right to leave. Don’t buy it.
‘The real chaos escalated just days ago. The time to secure the airport and plan evacuations was before the Taliban showed up on their motorbikes. Biden’s departure for Camp David, the August timing of the drawdown, the failure to support Afghan forces with airstrikes after last week or to secure the airport: it all reeks.’
However, the commentary in today’s American media was not one way – with other outlets either defending Mr Biden or pointing out that they felt others were responsible for the chaos in Afghanistan.
Among these were the New York Times which said in an editorial: ‘This calamity cannot be laid alone at President Biden’s feet, but it is incumbent on the current administration to make right what has gone wrong with the withdrawal plans.
‘The US military is, if nothing else, a logistical superpower, and it should move heaven and earth and anything in between to rescue those people who have risked everything for a better future.’
The editorial also explained how the newspaper felt previous presidents were also responsible for the situation, saying: ‘President George W. Bush launched the war, only to shift focus to Iraq before any stability had been achieved. President Barack Obama was seeking to withdraw American troops but surged their levels instead. President Donald Trump signed a peace deal with the Taliban in 2020 for a complete withdrawal by last May.’
It added that Mr Biden’s decision to remove all US troops was one which ‘took courage and wisdom’, adding: ‘The president knew full well what his critics would make of it – what they are already making of it.’
Meanwhile in USA Today, an opinion from James S. Robbins defended him, saying: ‘President Biden bears some of the blame for the catastrophic collapse of the security situation in Afghanistan, but there is plenty to go around.’
It added: ‘Biden was dealt his losing hand by Bush, Obama and Trump. This defeat was not two weeks in the making but two decades. The fundamental problem was mission creep. As President Biden rightly pointed out, the United States achieved its original strategic objectives quickly, disrupting al Qaida and punishing the Taliban for giving global terrorism a safe haven.
‘But we then took on a nation-building mission which was not suited to the complex, decentralized, tribally based politics of Afghanistan. The United States could create stability, for a price, but could not transform a country shaped by centuries of ingrained traditions. Nor should we have tried.’
And a Los Angeles Times opinion piece by Charles A Kupchan said that Mr Biden ‘made the tough and correct choice to withdraw and end a losing effort in search of an unattainable goal’.
It added: ‘Biden is right to stand by his decision to end the military mission in Afghanistan, because doing so is consistent with the will of the electorate. Most Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, have lost patience with the ‘forever wars’ in the Middle East.
‘The illiberal populism that led to Donald Trump’s election (and near reelection) emerged in part as a response to perceived American overreach in the broader Middle East. Against a backdrop of decades of economic discontent among U.S. workers, recently exacerbated by the devastation of the pandemic, voters want their tax dollars to go to Kansas, not Kandahar.’
And in The Atlantic, an opinion piece by David A. Graham said: ‘The American departure may be a moral catastrophe, then, but it is not a strategic failure. The occupation failed years ago. As I wrote in 2019, America’s leaders—Democrat and Republican; civilian and military; elected, appointed, and career civil servant—all knew for years that the U.S. was losing in Afghanistan, and they continued to say we were winning.
‘While the endgame of the American exit was clearly botched, no critic of Biden’s or Trump’s withdrawal decisions has offered a coherent alternative plan beyond indefinite American occupation.’
It came as interpreters who had helped UK forces pleaded for British troops to help them escape Kabul. As Taliban fighters tightened their grip on the Afghan capital, many translators were forced to take refuge in basements to escape the bloodthirsty militants
Meanwhile, there were scenes of utter chaos at Kabul airport where panic at the Taliban’s takeover triggered thousands of desperate Afghans to rush on to the runway in a bid to board a plane to escape.
Speaking for the first time after a wave of criticism from around the world, Mr Biden admitted the Taliban’s march to power had happened ‘more quickly than we anticipated’.
But he blamed Afghanistan’s political leaders who ‘gave up and fled the country’ and the Afghan army which ‘collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight’. Mr Biden said it was ‘gut churning’ to see the chaos in Afghanistan, especially for US soldiers who fought in the country.
But he said it was ‘wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own forces would not’, and said he had would deliver on ending America’s ‘longest war’.
‘I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way there was never a good time to withdraw US forces.’
And while he blamed both the Trump administration and Afghanistan’s leaders, he admitted ‘the buck stops with me’. He also threatened to respond with devastating force if the remaining US troops in the country were attacked in any way.
Cabinet Ministers in Britain were said to have watched Mr Biden’s speech last night in ‘genuine disbelief’, according to Politico. It quoted multiple government officials saying the Ministers were stunned by ‘his refusal to acknowledge any mistakes’ and what they described as his ‘callous tone in attacking the Afghans’.
One Cabinet insider suggested to Politico that the events had shown ‘Biden is a lot more like Trump than he’d want to admit, and we’re a lot more like the Europeans than we’d like to admit.’
Writing for Politico, Matthew Karnitschnig wrote: ‘Until Sunday, Europe thought Joe Biden was an expert on foreign policy. Now, the American president’s decision to allow Afghanistan to collapse into the arms of the Taliban has European officials worried he has unwittingly accelerated what his predecessor Donald Trump started: the degradation of the Western alliance and everything it is supposed to stand for in the world.
‘Across Europe, officials have reacted with a mix of disbelief and a sense of betrayal. Even those who cheered Biden’s election and believed he could ease the recent tensions in the transatlantic relationship said they regarded the withdrawal from Afghanistan as nothing short of a mistake of historic magnitude.’
On the same website, Politico’s John Harris and Ryan Heath wrote that ‘the fall of Afghanistan has painful implications for President Joe Biden’, adding: ‘It is hard to imagine events that could more vividly underscore the gap between American aims and ability to achieve its aims than the breathtakingly rapid fall of Kabul after two decades of U.S. military combat and diplomatic toil.’
Footage at Kabul Airport yesterday showed Afghans trying to jump aboard the fuselage of a US C-17 transport plane in a bid to cling to its side.
Several stowaways were later seen falling from underneath the plane as it took off. At least seven people were said to have died at the airport amid a scramble by US soldiers to reclaim control.
Last night, it emerged that Britain is sending an additional 300 Special Forces troops and officials to Kabul in a frantic bid to help secure the airport and rescue the remaining British citizens and eligible Afghans.
There are thought to be almost 1,000 UK passport holders still in Kabul, including the British ambassador, as well as hundreds more Afghan special forces and others who may be eligible for evacuation.