The Latest from AP: The crisis in Afghanistan


The Associated Press



An Airbus A400M transport aircraft of the German Air Force takes off early this morning from the Wunstorf air base in the Hanover region Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. In view of the rapid advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr wants to begin evacuating German citizens and local Afghan forces from Kabul. (Moritz Frankenberg/dpa via AP)

An Airbus A400M transport aircraft of the German Air Force takes off early this morning from the Wunstorf air base in the Hanover region Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. In view of the rapid advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr wants to begin evacuating German citizens and local Afghan forces from Kabul. (Moritz Frankenberg/dpa via AP)


Taliban fighters stand guard on the back of vehicle with a machine gun in front of main gate leading to Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. The U.S. military has taken over Afghanistan's airspace as it struggles to manage a chaotic evacuation after the Taliban rolled into the capital. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)


Airbus A400M transport aircrafts of the German Air Force stand at the Wunstorf air base in the Hanover region early Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. In view of the rapid advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr plans to begin evacuating German citizens and local Afghan forces from Kabul on Monday, Aug. 16.(Moritz Frankenberg/dpa via AP)


UNITED NATIONS — Afghanistan’s U.N. ambassador says “there is no time for the blame game anymore.” He is urging the Security Council and secretary-general to use every means at their disposal to call for an immediate halt to violence and respect for human rights and to “prevent Afghanistan descending into a civil war and becoming a pariah state.”

Ghulam Isaczai told an emergency meeting of the U.N.’s most powerful body on Monday that he was “speaking on behalf of millions of people in Afghanistan, whose fate hangs in the balance and are faced with an extremely uncertain future,” including “millions of Afghan girls and women who are about to lose their freedom to go to school, to work and to participate in the political, economic and social life of the country.”

Isaczai, who was appointed by Ashraf Ghani’s government that was ousted by the Taliban on Sunday, expressed extreme concern that the Islamic militant group will not honor commitments and agreements it made during talks in Qatar’s capital Doha and other international meetings.

“We have seen gruesome images of Taliban’s mass executions of military personnel and target killing of civilians in Kandahar and other big cities,” he said. “Kabul residents are reporting the Taliban have already started house-to-house searches in some neighborhoods, registering names and looking for people in their target list. There are already reports of target killings and looting in the city. Kabul residents are living in absolute fear right now.”

He urged the Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to call on the Taliban to stop the violence, targeted killings and revenge attacks and respect their own previous general amnesty offer, and to “unequivocally state that it does not recognize the restoration of the Islamic Emirate.”

Isaczai said the U.N. should also urge the Taliban not to demolish works of art as they did in the 1990s and stress that anyone violating the human rights of Afghans and international humanitarian law “will be held accountable.”

The ambassador also called for the urgent establishment of “a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of those at risk of Taliban’s retributions and attacks” and for neighboring countries to open their borders to people trying to escape and for humanitarian goods entering the country.

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MORE ON THE CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN:

— Taliban take over Afghanistan: What we know and what’s next

— Chaos as thousands flee Afghanistan after Taliban takeover

— Concerns over US terror threats rising as Taliban hold grows

— Biden team surprised by rapid Taliban gains in Afghanistan

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

GENEVA — Some two-dozen human rights experts working with the United Nations say countries must not “stand on the sidelines” now that the Taliban — a U.N.-listed terror organization — have seized control of Afghanistan.

A sharply worded statement on Monday demanded action from the U.N. Security Council. The experts denounced the Taliban’s “relentless campaign” against civilians, aid workers and journalists that have included assassinations, illegal restrictions on the rights of women and girls, and “mass executions of civilians.”

“It is unacceptable for states to stand on the sidelines when a United Nations Security Council listed terrorist organization overruns the territory of Afghanistan and engages in acts that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the experts said in a joint statement that drew an unusually large number of signatures.

They cited unspecified reports from 16 provinces in Afghanistan that have shown women and girls have faced rights violations including the requirement to wear full-body burqas, forced marriage, ban on employment and limits to freedom of movement and health care. The experts alluded to similar restrictions when the Taliban last held power before being toppled by a U.S.-led coalition two decades ago.

The experts called on the Security Council – which was holding a special session on Afghanistan on Monday — to be “unequivocal in action.”

“The people of Afghanistan deserve better than to endure the silence and by-standing of the member states of the United Nations at this perilous moment,” they wrote. “We cannot stand idly by as the lives of the Afghan people are treated with contempt, derision, and weariness.”

The experts also demanded accountability for what they said were the deaths of 1,000 civilians who were killed “last month alone.”

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. military is sending another battalion of about 1,000 troops to help safeguard the Kabul airport as American forces killed two armed individuals there during a chaotic evacuation.

That’s according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, who briefed reporters on Monday.

The development is a sign of the ongoing turmoil and violence as thousands of Afghans rushed onto the tarmac of Kabul’s international airport following a swifter-than-expected Taliban takeover of the country.

The speed at which the Taliban seized power, two weeks before the U.S. is set to complete its troop withdrawal after a costly two-decade war, has stunned the Biden administration and many in Afghanistan and the international community.

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BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister has acknowledged that the German government — and also the international community — has misjudged the situation in Afghanistan and the speed with which the Taliban would take over the country.

Heiko Maas said on Monday that, “all of us, the government, the intelligence services, the international community, all of us misjudged the situation. Neither we nor our partners and experts did foresee the speed which with the Afghan security forces withdrew and capitulated.”

The foreign minister added that the images from Kabul “are very painful” and that the government is doing everything to evacuate as many people as possible.

Maas said that of the 2,500 embassy staffer who had been identified previously for evacuation, 1,900 had already been brought to Germany. In addition to the 600 still remaining on the ground, Maas added that Germany feels responsible to evacuate another 2,000 people — including human rights activist and their families.

He said one of the biggest problems right now was to get the people from their homes or safe houses to the airport to fly them out.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — A Hungarian official on Monday criticized the pullout of American-led forces from Afghanistan and said Hungary will not take in refugees fleeing the country after its takeover by the Taliban.

Levente Magyar, a state secretary with Hungary’s foreign ministry, told state news agency MTI that the government would not make Hungarians pay for the “flawed geopolitical decision” of the U.S. military withdrawal by accepting refugees “without any kind of restrictions.”

Hungary’s right-wing government is a staunch opponent of immigration, and in 2015 built a fence along its southern border in response to an influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

That fence would be used to deter a potential wave of refugees from Afghanistan, Magyar said, adding that the government is assessing how it can help those Afghans who have worked as interpreters or in other capacities for Hungarian troops.

On Sunday, more than 60 countries issued a joint statement calling for all Afghans wishing to depart Afghanistan to be allowed to do so. Of the 27 member states of the European Union, only Hungary and Bulgaria did not sign the statement.

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GENEVA — The head of the U.N. refugee agency says its recent interaction with the Taliban — Afghanistan’s new rulers — has been “relatively positive” and that humanitarian aid teams will stay in the country to help people in need after the Kabul government was toppled.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, said UNHCR discussions with the Taliban “may at times be difficult.”

In an interview at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Grandi said the agency would continue to press for respect of the rights of women and girls, who had faced strict rules and bans on school education, for example, when the Taliban previously ran the country — before a U.S.-led international coalition drove them from power in 2001.

Grandi noted that most of the displacement in recent weeks has been within Afghanistan, but appealed to other countries to keep their borders open and take in any refugees who could flee in the future. He said a half-million people have been internally displaced this year, the “vast majority” of which in the last few weeks alone.

He said that while UNHCR and partners have been previously in contact with Taliban leaders in rural areas before its forces swept into cities in recent weeks. Most of the recent interaction has been on issues like security and safety of the sites of UNHCR and partners

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief is calling for an immediate end to violence in Afghanistan and urging the international community to unite to ensure that the human rights of all people, especially women and girls, are respected.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to the U.N. Security Council at an emergency meeting on Monday “and the international community as a whole to stand together, work together and act together.”

He said he is “particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who fear a return to the darkest days” in the 1990s when the Taliban ruled and barred girls for getting an education and imposed draconian measures on women.

Guterres said “the world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead” and with the country’s future and the hopes and dreams of a generation of young Afghans in the balance, the coming days “will be pivotal.”

At this “grave hour,” the secretary-general urged all parties, especially the Taliban, “to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met.”

Guterres said the U.N continues to have staff and offices in areas now under Taliban control, and which so far have been respected. “Above all, we will stay and deliver in support of the Afghan people in their hour of need.”

“We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

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MOSCOW — The Russian embassy in Kabul alleged Monday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled from Kabul with four cars and a helicopter full of cash, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

The report quoted embassy spokesman Nikita Ishchenko as saying that “the collapse of the regime … is most eloquently characterized by how Ghani escaped from Afghanistan: four cars were filled with money, they tried to shove another part of the money into a helicopter, but not everything fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac.”

Ghani left Kabul on Sunday as the Taliban swept into the Afghan capital. Media reports suggested that the president went to the neighboring Tajikistan or Uzbekistan, but there was no official confirmation of his whereabouts.

Kremlin envoy on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov on Monday described Ghani’s flight from Kabul as “disgraceful,” adding that Ghani “deserves to be brought to justice and held accountable by the Afghan people.”

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban entered Afghanistan’s most popular TOLO-TV compound in the capital on Monday, looking for government-issued weapons,” said the station’s owner Saad Mohsini.

“They sent a bunch of people just to look at the security to check the weapons … They are collecting government-issued weapons and other assets, they let us keep our own weapons,” he said.

“They were polite.” Mohsini said, adding that the insurgents offered to keep a watch outside and even offered to provide security inside the compound. Mohsini said the station declined.

There was no mention of the many women who work for TOLO TV.

The TV staff were told to continue with their transmissions. “No mention of the women reporters, Mohsini said. “They just said keep your transmissions, normal programming going. ”

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MOSCOW — A plane carrying more than 100 Afghan servicemen landed in Tajikistan on Monday, the Tajik Foreign Ministry said.

Officials told Russia’s state news agency Tass that Tajikistan received an SOS signal and allowed a plane bound from Afghanistan to land in an airport in the Khatlon province, which borders with Afghanistan and Uzbekistan’s Surkhandarya region, where an Afghan warplane was shot down on Sunday.

More than 100 Afghan military disembarked from the plane, the Foreign Ministry said. It wasn’t immediately clear why the plane sent an SOS signal.

The announcement by the ministry came as thousands packed into the Kabul airport on Monday, rushing the tarmac and pushing onto planes in desperate attempts to flee the country after the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government the day before.

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BERLIN — The head of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party has refused to make any kind of commitment regarding the possible intake of Afghan refugees following the takeover of the country by the militant Taliban.

Armin Laschet, who is also running to succeed Merkel in national elections next month, said Monday that, “I don’t think we should send out the signal that Germany can accept all those who are currently in trouble.”

German news agency dpa reported that Laschet added the focus of support for Afghans must be on “giving humanitarian aid locally on the ground in time — different from 2015.”

In 2015, Germany took in more than 1 million migrants fleeing war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. The influx of migrants helped strengthen the anti-migrant, far-right party AfD.

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BRUSSELS — NATO envoys are set to meet Tuesday to discuss security developments in Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the strife-torn country over the weekend.

The 30-nation military organization said Monday that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who will chair Tuesday morning’s meeting of ambassadors, will hold a news conference after it, at 1300 GMT.

NATO took charge of international security operations in Afghanistan in 2003 – its first major mission outside Europe and North America – aiming to help stabilize the government, build up local security forces and remove a potential rear-base for terrorist groups.

The U.S.-led military alliance wound down combat operations in 2014 to focus on training Afghan security forces but the Afghan armed forces withered before the insurgent offensive.

The Taliban were emboldened by the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops and wind up the NATO training mission in Afghanistan. The mission numbered about 10,000 personnel a year ago. An official said Sunday that “there are no troops under NATO command in Afghanistan currently.” NATO also has a small diplomatic mission in Afghanistan. An official said Sunday that the military organization continues to “maintain our diplomatic presence in Kabul.”

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s political and military leadership on Monday called for a political settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan, a day after the Taliban swept into Kabul after the government collapsed there.

The appeals comes shortly after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, government officials and army chiefs met to review the latest situation in Afghanistan.

At the meeting of National Security Committee, Khan directed that all possible facilities be made available to repatriate Pakistanis, diplomats, journalists and staff of international organizations seeking to leave Afghanistan, according to a government statement.

It said Pakistan would continue to work with the international community and all Afghan stakeholders to facilitate an inclusive political settlement in the country.

The National Security Committee noted positively that major violence had been averted in Afghanistan, the statement said.

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LONDON — British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace held back tears as he conceded that Britain was unlikely to be able to evacuate all its Afghan allies from Kabul.

Speaking on Monday via webcam on LBC Radio, Wallace said it was a “really deep part of regret for me” that not all Afghans eligible to come to the U.K. will be able to do so during the current evacuation drive.

In addition to the 4,000 or so U.K. nationals in Afghanistan, Britain is processing claims of Afghan citizens, such as interpreters, who have helped in the 20 years since first arrived following the 9/11 attacks.

A visibly emotional Wallace, a former captain in the Scots Guard. said that Britain will in the future “have to do our best in third countries to process those people.”

Asked why he felt the situation “so personally,” Wallace said it was because he was a soldier and “because it’s sad and the West has done what it’s done, and we have to do our very best to get people out and stand by our obligations and 20 years of sacrifice is what it is.”

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WASHNGTON — A U.S. defense official says the head of Central Command has met face-to-face with senior Taliban leaders to urge their fighters not to interfere with the U.S. military’s evacuation operations at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.

The official said that in the meeting on Sunday in Doha, Qatar, Gen. Frank McKenzie won Taliban agreement to establish a “deconfliction mechanism” — an arrangement by which evacuation operations at the airport can continue without interference by the new rulers of the country.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive talks not yet announced publicly. The official said McKenzie urged the Taliban not to interfere with the evacuation and said the U.S. military would respond forcefully to defend the airport if necessary.

—Robert Burns in Washington;

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NEW DELHI —India’s Foreign Ministry has said the suspension of commercial operations at the Kabul airport has forced the Indian government to pause its repatriation efforts but the process would restart once the flights are resumed.

In a statement on Monday, the ministry said it is in touch with some Indian nationals in Afghanistan who wish to return to the country and that it has been issuing periodic advisories for their safety and security.

The ministry said it is in “constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities” and it will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan.

“There are also a number of Afghans who have been our partners in the promotion of our mutual developmental, educational and people to people endeavors. We will stand by them,” the statement said.

The ministry said the Indian government is monitoring the rapidly developing situation “on a constant basis at high levels” and that it will “ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals and our interests in Afghanistan.”

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s president on Monday ordered the “emergency involvement” of the Romanian Air Force to help evacuate Romanian citizens from Kabul airport, the president’s office said in a press release Monday.

“This decision was taken at the proposal of the Prime Minister of Romania … given the accelerated deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan,” the press release said.

Prime Minister Florin Citu said Monday that there are currently 35 Romanian citizens in Afghanistan and that an airplane needs to be sent to the country as soon as possible to repatriate them.

“We have two options,” Citu told the press Monday. “A NATO plane or a plane of ours going there. But we need to send a plane as soon as possible.”

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ROME — An Afghan-Italian doctor who was evacuated from Kabul had harsh words on the West’s decision to leave Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban after 20 years.

Dr. Arif Oryakhail told reporters at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport on Monday, “We left our colleagues to die.” He was among some 20 Afghans who were on an Italian military flight also carrying about 50 embassy staff, including Italy’s ambassador, and other Italian citizens.

“We left Kabul destroyed, abandoned,’’ Oryakhail said, his voice breaking. “The big fear is for our colleagues who worked with us. The Taliban are going from house to house looking for them.”

They include doctors and nurses at clinics that the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation set up around Afghanistan.

“They believed in us,’’ Oryakhail said. He called the West’s 20-year mission in Afghanistan “totally failed,” and of the country’s future he said: “You ask me about the future? Ask those who failed.”

Italian Premier Mario Draghi underlined in a statement on Monday that “Italy’s commitment is to protect the Afghan citizens who worked with us on our mission.”

The Italian plan called for an air bridge over the next three days, but the security situation at the airport is deteriorating. One Italian development agency expert who was evacuated, Pietro del Sette, said it might still be possible to get others out “if the military part of the airport manages to stay open.” He estimates some 300 Afghans who worked with Italian agencies and their family members are still in Afghanistan.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch defense minister says a Dutch military aircraft is en route to Afghanistan to evacuate embassy staff, their families and Afghan translators who worked with the Netherlands.

Ank Bijleveld says in a tweet on Monday that more flights are planned “in part due to the uncertain situation.”

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PRAGUE — A humanitarian organization that has been operating in Afghanistan since 2001 is facing uncertain times with the Taliban back in power.

The deteriorating security situation forced the Prague-based People in Need organization to evacuate their foreign employees and halt all their activities.

“We’re facing an uncertain future,” People in Need regional director told the Associated Press. The key is the safety of their local cooperators.

“In recent weeks and days, we’ve noticed information from the Taliban with increasing frequency, that they want the humanitarian organizations to keep operating in Afghanistan, and that our international employees are safe. But we haven’t heard, any such assurances about the safety of our local employees,” Kocian said “That will certainly be part of our talks with the Taliban.”

Coming after the United States and their allies ousted the Taliban from power, the People in Need was involved in hundreds projects, ranging from humanitarian aid to building schools and infrastructure, including water and sewage networks and many others.

It wants to continue but not at all costs. “We can see what needs to be done and we are determined to keep our operations in Afghanistan but only on condition that it will be safe for our workers,” Kocian said.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has been quoted as saying that Turkey is closely following the situation in Afghanistan and that measures have been taken to ensure the safety of Turkish troops in the country.

A ministry statement said Akar made the comments after chairing a high-level military meeting to discuss the situation in the country on Monday.

The commander of the Turkish forces in Afghanistan joined the teleconference meeting.

The statement said the minister “emphasized that the safety of (Turkish) personnel in Kabul is (the government’s) first priority and announced that all kinds of measures have been taken regarding this.”

It did not elaborate on the safety measures.

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BERLIN — Two German military transport planes that are on the way to Kabul to help with evacuations there, are currently stuck in Baku, Azerbaijan, where they initially stopped to get refueled.

Germany news agency dpa reported on Monday afternoon that the A400M planes could not continue their flight to Kabul as planned because they currently could not land there because of the chaos at the airport in the Afghan capital.

The news agency reports that one of the planes will try to continue its trip to Afghanistan later Monday to be near the airport when it opens again for evacuation planes.

All in all, the German Air Force has sent three planes to Afghanistan to help with the evacuation of embassy staff and local employees.

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LONDON — Families of British soldiers who died in Afghanistan have expressed dismay at the sudden fall of the country to the Taliban.

Graham Knight, the father of 25-year-old Ben Knight who was killed when his Nimrod aircraft exploded in Afghanistan in 2006, said the British government should have moved more quickly to get civilians out.

The 69-year-old said the Taliban made their intent “very clear that, as soon as we went out, they would move in.”

He said the evacuation process should have started about a week ago and voiced worry that “some hothead American, or British hothead, will decide that the Taliban isn’t behaving how they want, shoot at them and that will be it.”

Ian Sadler, whose 21-year-old son Jack died when his Land Rover struck a mine in Afghanistan in 2007, was surprised that the U.S. and its allies had so much confidence in the Afghan national army.

The 71-year-old said it was left “without any direction” after the sudden withdrawal of allied forces.

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MOSCOW — The Uzbek authorities said the Afghan military plane that crashed in Uzbekistan on Sunday with only two pilots on board was downed by the country’s air defense system.

Uzbekistan’s Defense Ministry told Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency that the country’s air defense system “averted an attempt by an Afghan military plane to illegally cross Uzbekistan’s air border.”

The incident took place in the Surkhandarya region in southeastern Uzbekistan on Sunday and was first reported by local media. Uzbekistan’s Defense Ministry initially said it was studying the reports of the crash, then confirmed the crash took place without offering any details, and only later on Monday revealed the plane was downed.

According to RIA Novosti, two pilots of the plane survived the crash and have been hospitalized in serious condition.

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Islamic militant group Hamas has congratulated the Taliban for their swift takeover of Afghanistan and the end to the United States’ 20-year presence in the country.

In a statement on Monday, Hamas welcomed “the defeat of the American occupation on all Afghan land” and praised what it said was the Taliban’s “courageous leadership on this victory, which was the culmination of its long struggle over the past 20 years.”

Hamas, a Palestinian group that opposes Israel’s existence, has governed the Gaza Strip since taking over the area in 2007, a year after it won a Palestinian election. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.

It wished the people of Afghanistan future success and said the ouster of the American troops proves “that the resistance of the peoples, foremost of which is our struggling Palestinian people, is due for victory.”

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VILNIUS, Lithuania — The Baltic country of Lithuania is trying to evacuate 30 Afghan interpreters who helped the country’s troops during peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, an official said Monday.

“The possibilities for transporting them are decreasing fast,” deputy minister Margiris Abukevicius told reporters. Lithuania estimates that when the family members are included, the figure is of 100 people.

The Baltic country depends on other nations, he said. “The only option is one of partners’ military transport as Lithuania currently has no troops or other personnel of Afghanistan soil” he added.

Vilnius chiefly had troops in the southern Ghor province. The Baltic country joined the multinational operation in Afghanistan in 2002

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BERLIN — Germany’s defense minister says the country’s military will airlift as many people as possible out of Afghanistan as long as it is possible.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters that three A400M military transport planes had left for Kabul on Monday.

The defense minister said: “For the army it’s clear: as long as possible — and this depends extremely on the support by the Americans — we will make as many rounds as we can out of Kabul.”

She added that in addition to German and local staff at the embassy in Afghanistan, Germany is also considering flying out people who had been supportive of the Germans. She said she could not give a concrete figure of how many people were affected.

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ROME — An Italian military flight carrying 70 embassy staff, Afghan employees and Italian nationals has landed at Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci Airport.

All were undergoing COVID tests before being allowed to leave the airport after the overnight flight from Kabul.

Francesca Mannocchi, an Italian journalist who was among those evacuated, said 20 were Afghan employees and their families, including women and children, who have been evacuated for their safety.

The airlifts come as thousands packed into the Kabul airport on Monday, rushing the tarmac and pushing onto planes in desperate attempts to flee the country after the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government. U.S. troops fired warning shots as they struggled to manage the chaotic evacuation.

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MILAN — The Italian right-wing is sharply critical of the West’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, citing the renewed threat of terrorism, while more centrist parties opened the door to self-criticism.

Far-right opposition leader Giorgia Meloni lashed out on Monday, saying the West’s handling of Afghanistan “could not have been worse,” and will “foment extremists, which will have serious repercussions for our security.”

She took specific aim at the United States, saying “Let’s give a welcome back to the cynical Obama-Clinton-Biden doctrine: ‘If you can’t win, create chaos’.”

Right-wing political leader Matteo Salvini criticized Western governments for “their cowardly flight,” from Afghanistan, and decried the abandonment of Afghan women and children “in the hands of Islamic cutthroats.” The leader of the League, which is part of the Draghi government, also said that the ascent of the Taliban would encourage “terrorism, violence, fear and illegal immigration.”

Italy had one of the largest contingents active in Afghanistan over the last two decades, deploying 50,000 servicemen and women to Herat and Kabul. Former Premier Matteo Renzi called the withdrawal from Afghanistan an error. And the head of the Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, said that the last two decades in Afghanistan “were full of bad choices, of which we unfortunately also took part. The West comes out in pieces. And we are only at the start of the count of disasters.”

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WASHINGTON — U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says the failure of the Afghan military is to blame for the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan.

Sullivan said Monday that President Joe Biden didn’t want the U.S. to enter a “third decade of conflict” in Afghanistan and believed it was time for the Afghan army to defend the country two decades after billions of dollars of investment and training by the U.S.

But Sullivan said, “we could not give them the will and ultimately they decided that they would not fight for Kabul.”

He added that the “worst-case scenario” for the U.S. would be to send thousands of troops to fight in a civil war when the Afghan army “wasn’t prepared to fight itself.”

Sullivan says Biden faced “bad choices” on the subject. The president ultimately opted to bring U.S. troops home and leave the Afghans to fight for themselves.

He says “it’s heartbreaking” to see what’s happening in Kabul but that Biden “stands by” his decision.

Sullivan spoke Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today.”

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DUBAI — Doctors Without Borders says its operations across Afghanistan have not been affected by the recent developments in Kabul.

While many foreigners have fled the country, the group — known by its French initials, MSF — continues to have some international staff on the ground. It also has more than 2,300 Afghan colleagues spread out across five Taliban-held provinces: Kandahar, Herat, Kunduz, Khost and Helmand.

Filipe Ribeiro, MSF’s country representative in Afghanistan, told The Associated Press that the group’s female medical practitioners in these provinces have resumed work and were already veiled or in the sky-blue burqas before the Taliban takeover, in line with local norms and customs.

“We do not face any impediments with regards to female staff coming to work,” he said, referring to MSF-run projects in those provinces.

As the Taliban pushed to takeover Helmand and Kunduz, MSF staff tended to large numbers of people wounded in the fighting, he said.

Speaking from his base in Kabul, Ribeiro said the capital’s streets were quiet and calm on Monday, despite scenes of chaos unfolding at the airport.

The group halted its main operation in Kabul after May 2020 following an attack on a maternity ward that was blamed on the Islamic State group.

Ribeiro said the focus remains on supporting Afghanistan’s welfare.

“We have to keep in mind the health system was already dysfunctional beforehand, and nowadays it’s important to keep supporting the Afghan population and to guarantee that the medical services will continue,” he said.

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BERLIN — Leading German opposition members have expressed criticism of what they perceive to be a slow and uncoordinated evacuation of German and local Afghan embassy personnel from Kabul and other parts of the country.

Annalena Baerbock, the Green Party’s candidate for chancellor in national elections next month, said Monday that “all those people and employees who have supported the NATO troops on the ground in recent years, whether as interpreters, engineers, freelance journalists, who have reported on the situation in Afghanistan, or women’s rights activists who have campaigned on the ground for girls to be able to go to school, must fear for their lives.”

She called for their quick evacuation and said that “it is more than overdue that the German government finally does everything to evacuate the people.”

Sevim Dagdelen, a senior lawmaker with the opposition leftist Die Linke party said in a statement Monday that “the government has completely failed when it comes to the crisis in Afghanistan and apparently, in a misjudgment of the real condition, not made any emergency plans for evacuations.”

Dagdelen added that: “It is a shame that after weeks of inactivity and blockades now thousands of helpers are being left behind in Taliban-controlled regions and must fear for their lives.”

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BRUSSELS — European Union foreign ministers will hold emergency talks Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan, after the president fled and the Taliban seized control of the capital, Kabul, over the weekend.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a tweet Monday that he decided to convene the extraordinary videoconference so the ministers can make “a first assessment” of developments.

Borrell says that “Afghanistan stands at a crossroad. Security and wellbeing of its citizens, as well as international security are at play.”

European nations have been caught by surprise at the speed of the takeover. They’ve been evacuating embassies and leaving the strife-torn country in recent days. The EU has small diplomatic mission in Kabul. It’s one of Afghanistan’s biggest aid donors.

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GENEVA — The U.N. humanitarian aid coordination agency says it and partners “are staying and delivering to people in need” despite a complex security situation in Afghanistan following a sweep by Taliban forces across the country.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid, or OCHA, says in a note: “The humanitarian community — both the U.N. and nongovernmental organizations — remains committed to helping people in the country.”

OCHA said thousands of internally displaced people who have been identified in recent weeks have received assistance including food, cash, health care, water, and sanitation support.

“While the security environment is highly complex, humanitarian agencies are staying and delivering to people in need,” OCHA said.

Even before the upheaval, some 18.4 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, OCHA said, and its $1.3 billion humanitarian response plan for the country is only 38% funded.

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BERLIN — The German government has called on the Taliban to show restraint, protect the lives of the Afghan people and make sure needed humanitarian aid can reach them.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said Monday that Germany “is concerned about the fates of individual Afghans as well as the development of the entire country.”

Steffen Seibert said Monday that “these are bitter developments, when looking at them against the background of the years-long missions of the western community of states.”

The government also said it is personally contacting all embassy staff, including local hires, whom they are trying to evacuate out of Kabul. A spokesman for the country’s foreign ministry warned people not to independently try to reach the airport because of the volatile and dynamic situation there.

Christofer Burger told reporters Monday that the embassy is calling and emailing everyone who is on evacuation lists and giving them personal instructions.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark – The staff with the Finnish Embassy in Kabul have fled to a neighboring country.

The Finland daily Helsingin Sanomat reported Monday that the country’s armed forces took part in the evacuation and according to the newspaper’s sources, the staff flew out on an American plane.

In Denmark, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that Danes “are working round the clock. We are in the process of evacuating,” adding the work was done “in extremely difficult conditions.”

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MOSCOW — Moscow will decide whether to recognize the new Taliban government based on its conduct, the Kremlin envoy on Afghanistan said in an interview Monday.

Zamir Kabulov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that “no one is going to rush” the decision. “Recognition or non-recognition will depend on the conduct of the new authorities,” Kabulov said.

Russia labeled the Taliban a terrorist organization in 2003, but has since hosted several rounds of talks in Afghanistan, most recently in March, that involved the group. Moscow, which fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989, has made a diplomatic comeback as a mediator, reaching out to feuding Afghan factions as it has jockeyed with the U.S. for influence in the country.

Kabulov said Monday the Taliban was “deservedly” declared a terrorist group in Russia two decades ago. “The Taliban have learned this lesson well. If they haven’t learned it in full, they will have to face great difficulties in relations not only with Russia, but with the entire global community,” Kabulov said.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger says his country will give asylum to 10 Afghan nationals who have intensively cooperated with European Union member states in recent years.

Heger says his country is providing a military plane to transport them to Slovakia together with several Slovak nationals who have asked for it.

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BEIJING — China says its embassy remains open in Kabul and expressed a willingness to support its reconstruction.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying did not answer explicitly when asked whether Beijing would recognize the Taliban as the new government but said that China would respect the choice of the Afghan people.

She noted the Taliban pledges to negotiate the establishment of an inclusive Islamic government and to ensure the safety of both Afghans and foreign missions. China, she added, hopes that would “ensure a smooth transition of the situation in Afghanistan.”

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LONDON — A leading British lawmaker from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is calling the mayhem at Kabul airport “Saigon 2.0,” comparing it to U.S. evacuation of South Vietnam’s capital in 1975.

Tobias Ellwood, a former defense minister and British Army captain. said the images of the mayhem Monday at Kabul airport echoed the evacuation of the South Vietnam capital after North Vietnamese troops entered the city.

The advance of the North Vietnamese prompted the U.S. to evacuate thousands of its nationals and troops as well as South Vietnamese civilians who had helped during the war. The most dramatic images involved the evacuation of people from the roof of the U.S. Embassy.

“If this is not Saigon 2.0, I don’t know what is,” Ellwood said. “Is this how we thought we’d depart Afghanistan? I repeat my call for a U.K. inquiry.”

U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision earlier this year to announce the timeline for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan led the other nations in the NATO coalition, including the U.K., to announce their own departures, two decades after they first arrived in Afghanistan.

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TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Monday called for national reconciliation in neighboring Afghanistan.

The official IRNA news agency quoted Raisi as saying Iran will support efforts to restore stability in Afghanistan as a first priority. He called Iran “a brother and neighboring nation” to Afghanistan. He also described the Americans’ rapid pullout as a “military failure” that should “turn to an opportunity for restoring life, security and stable peace.”

Iran shares nearly 600 miles of borders with Afghanistan and is home to about 800,000 registered Afghan refugees and more than two million undocumented Afghans. The influx began after Soviet forces entered Afghanistan in 1979.

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MOSCOW — Russia will evacuate some of its embassy staff in Kabul “in order not to create too big a presence,” the Kremlin envoy on Afghanistan said Monday.

Zamir Kabulov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that some of roughly 100 Russian embassy staff “will be placed on leave or evacuated in some other fashion just in order not to create too big a presence.” Kabulov said that the Russian ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov will meet a Taliban representative on Tuesday to discuss security for the diplomatic mission, adding that the outside perimeter of the embassy is already being guarded by the Taliban.

Kabulov also said that the Taliban’s swift takeover of the Afghan capital was “somewhat unexpected.” He said Russia was “too optimistic in our assessment of the quality of the armed forces trained by the Americans and NATO.”

Kabulov said of those forces, “They dropped everything at the first shot.”

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MOSCOW — The Uzbek Defense Ministry has confirmed that an Afghan military plane crashed in Uzbekistan on Sunday, but wouldn’t reveal the details of the accident.

Ministry’s spokesman Bakhrom Zulfikarov told Russia’s state news agency Tass on Monday that the plane crashed in the Surkhandarya region in southeastern Uzbekistan and that “the details of the accident are currently being studied, information about it will be revealed later.”

Uzbek media reported that the plane went down Sunday evening in the southeast of the country not far from the border with Afghanistan. At least one person was reported injured.

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australia is sending three transport and air-to-air refueling jets with 250 military personnel to repatriate more than 130 Australians and their families from Afghanistan, officials said on Monday.

Australia is also working to evacuate an undisclosed number of refugees, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

The support comes as the U.S. and other nations scramble to evacuate diplomats and Afghan employees and their families from Kabul. The Taliban a day earlier toppled the Western-backed government.

An Airbus A330 airliner modified for aerial refueling would support U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan later thisa week, Australia’s Defense Department said in a statement. Two C-17A Globemaster heavy transport aircraft would also be sent to the Middle East, the statement said.

Australia shut its Kabul embassy in May and withdrew the last of its troops from Afghanistan in June.

More than 39,000 Australian military personnel have served in Afghanistan since 2001, and 41 died there.

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An Airbus A400M transport aircraft of the German Air Force takes off early this morning from the Wunstorf air base in the Hanover region Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. In view of the rapid advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr wants to begin evacuating German citizens and local Afghan forces from Kabul. (Moritz Frankenberg/dpa via AP)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/08/web1_127097766-274ec86391ec423a9294107f0d703de6.jpgAn Airbus A400M transport aircraft of the German Air Force takes off early this morning from the Wunstorf air base in the Hanover region Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. In view of the rapid advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr wants to begin evacuating German citizens and local Afghan forces from Kabul. (Moritz Frankenberg/dpa via AP)

Taliban fighters stand guard on the back of vehicle with a machine gun in front of main gate leading to Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. The U.S. military has taken over Afghanistan’s airspace as it struggles to manage a chaotic evacuation after the Taliban rolled into the capital. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/08/web1_127097766-b2c35a20a9e4424e9d0d3366089eeb42.jpgTaliban fighters stand guard on the back of vehicle with a machine gun in front of main gate leading to Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. The U.S. military has taken over Afghanistan’s airspace as it struggles to manage a chaotic evacuation after the Taliban rolled into the capital. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Airbus A400M transport aircrafts of the German Air Force stand at the Wunstorf air base in the Hanover region early Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. In view of the rapid advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr plans to begin evacuating German citizens and local Afghan forces from Kabul on Monday, Aug. 16.(Moritz Frankenberg/dpa via AP)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/08/web1_127097766-c655d042eb8143b9b6d6cb11f36a7cf8.jpgAirbus A400M transport aircrafts of the German Air Force stand at the Wunstorf air base in the Hanover region early Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. In view of the rapid advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr plans to begin evacuating German citizens and local Afghan forces from Kabul on Monday, Aug. 16.(Moritz Frankenberg/dpa via AP)

The Associated Press