(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s president fled the country over the weekend and the Taliban seized control of the presidential palace, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.
As the crisis intensifies, with images from Kabul showing Afghans storming the airport tarmac and climbing onto military planes after the U.S. assumed control of the airport, President Joe Biden briefly left Camp David to address the nation from the White House on Monday.
The Pentagon said that 6,000 U.S. troops were being sent to the country’s capital as the military races to evacuate people from an increasingly chaotic Kabul. Despite criticism, the Biden administration is sticking by its decision to withdraw troops from the country by Aug. 31, ending America’s longest war.
Here are some key developments. All times Eastern:
Aug 18, 6:23 am
Taliban delegation meets with former Afghan president in Doha
A high-level Taliban delegation has met with Afghanistan’s former president, Hamid Karzai, and the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, in Qatar’s capital and assured them of security, a Taliban source told ABC News on Wednesday.
The Taliban has said there is a general amnesty for all in Afghanistan, including former government officials, and that no one should flee the country.
Aug 18, 5:51 am
UK to take in 20,000 Afghan refugees over 5 years
The United Kingdom announced Tuesday a plan to welcome 20,000 Afghan refugees over five years.
The resettlement program will prioritize women, children and religious minorities.
“We have an enduring commitment to the Afghan people, and we will honour it,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter. “A new resettlement scheme will create a safe and legal route for those in most need to come and live safely in the UK.”
While addressing members of parliament on Wednesday morning, Johnson said his government has so far secured the safe return of 306 U.K. nationals and 2,052 Afghan citizens as part of the resettlement program, with a further 2,000 applications for Afghan nationals completed “and many more being processed.” An additional 800 British troops will be deployed to Afghanistan’s main international airport in Kabul to “support this evacuation operation,” according to Johnson.
“We are proud to bring these brave Afghans to our shores — and we continue to appeal for more to come forwards,” he said.
Aug 17, 11:55 pm
US Embassy destroyed some Afghans’ passports during evacuation
Last week when the U.S. Embassy in Kabul ordered staff to destroy sensitive material, including documents, passports were destroyed as well.
During the evacuation, embassy personnel destroyed the passports of Afghans that had been submitted for visa processing, according to a Democratic lawmaker’s office.
Rep. Andy Kim, D-NJ, has been compiling requests for assistance for Afghans on the ground, with his office funneling pleas for help through an email address. In the email’s response note, obtained by ABC News, it says, “Passports that were in the Embassy’s possession have been destroyed. Currently, it is not possible to provide further visa services in Afghanistan.”
A State Department spokesperson acknowledged that was true, but called it “standard operating procedure” during an evacuation and said it “will not prevent people who are otherwise eligible for evacuation from traveling.
Aug 17, 9:38 pm
House Armed Services Committee Republicans request Biden’s plan for Afghanistan
Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee sent a letter to Biden requesting information about his “plan” for Afghanistan.
“For months, we have been asking you for a plan on your withdrawal from Afghanistan. You failed to provide us with one and based on the horrific events currently unfolding in Afghanistan, we are confident that we never received your plan because you never had one,” the letter says.
“The security and humanitarian crisis now unfolding in Afghanistan could have been avoided if you had done any planning. Pretending this isn’t your problem will only make things worse. We remain gravely concerned the void left in Afghanistan will be rapidly filled by terror groups. The Taliban now control the country. Al Qaeda used Afghanistan to plot and execute the 9/11 attacks and other acts of terrorism,” the letter continues. “You cannot let this happen again.”
Notably, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. — a member of the committee — has also signed the letter.
Cheney appeared on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday and said that Biden “absolutely” bears responsibility for the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan, as does former President Donald Trump and his administration.
“What we’re watching right now in Afghanistan is what happens when America withdraws from the world,” Cheney told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl. “So everybody who has been saying, ‘America needs to withdraw, America needs to retreat,’ we are getting a devastating, catastrophic real-time lesson in what that means.”
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