Afghanistan updates: ‘It was time to end this war,’ Biden says

Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, boards a C-17 cargo plane at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Maj. Gen. Donahue is the final American service member to depart Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2021. – U.S. Central Command

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — With the U.S. military and diplomatic withdrawal now complete after 20 years in Afghanistan, the Taliban has taken over the country, including the Kabul airport, the site of an often-desperate evacuation effort the past two weeks.

But even as the last American troops were flown out to meet President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline, other Americans who wanted to flee the country were left behind and the Biden administration is now focused on a “diplomatic mission” to help them leave.

When President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House on Aug. 18, he said he was committed to keeping the U.S. military in Afghanistan as long as needed. “If there are American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out,” he said.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern.

Aug 31, 4:18 pm
President claims US prepared to handle collapse of Afghan military, government

Biden said the decision to depart Afghanistan by Aug. 31 was predicated on the “assumption” that the Afghan government “would be able to hold on for a period of time beyond military drawdown.”

“The assumption was that more than 300,000 Afghan national security forces that we had trained over the past two decades and equipped would be a strong adversary in their civil wars with the Taliban,” Biden said. “That assumption, that the Afghan government would be able to hold on for a period of time beyond military drawdown, turned out not to be accurate.”

Aug 31, 3:51 pm
‘It was time to end this war’: Biden

In his address to the nation, the president said it was time to end the war.

“We succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago. Then we stayed for another decade. It was time to end this war,” he said. “This is a new world: Al-Qaida affiliates in Syria and ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates across Africa nation. The fundamental obligation of a president, in my opinion, is to defend and protect America. Not against threats of 2001 but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow.”

“That is the guiding principle behind my decisions about Afghanistan,” he added. “I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and sending billions of dollars.”

Aug 31, 3:51 pm
Biden says 90% of Americans who wanted to leave were able to leave

Biden touted efforts to get out Afghans who helped the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and said, “Now we believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan, with some intention to leave.”

“Most of those who remain are dual citizens, long-time residents who had earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan,” Biden said. “The bottom line, 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave. And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.”

Aug 31, 3:35 pm
Biden addresses nation following US withdrawal

In his first formal remarks since the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan, the president said, “The extraordinary success of this mission was due to the incredible skill, bravery and selfless courage of the United States military and our diplomats and intelligence professionals.”

“For weeks they risked their lives to get American citizens Afghans who helped us, citizens of our allies and partners and others onboard planes and out of the country,” he continued. “And they did it facing a crush of enormous crowds seeking to leave the country. And they did it knowing ISIS-K terrorists, sworn enemies of the Taliban were lurking in the midst of those crowds.”

Aug 31, 2:53 pm
McConnell blasts Biden for breaking promise, leaving Americans behind

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized President Biden, claiming he broke his “promise” to get every American who wanted to leave Afghanistan out of the country before the U.S. military left, saying Biden’s “reckless withdrawal has created a humanitarian disaster and emboldened the terrorists.”

“Two weeks ago, President Biden specifically promised he wouldn’t pull out before every American who wanted out had gotten out. By their own admission, the Biden Administration has now broken that promise,” McConnell said Tuesday at an event in Ashland, Kentucky.

In an exclusive interview on Aug. 18 with ABC’s George Stephanopolous, Biden said that “If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out.”

At the event, McConnell also warned of the continued threat from the Taliban, adding, “This fight will not end just because our politicians want it to go away.”

Aug 31, 2:19 pm
Scenes from Kabul the day after the US military withdrawal

Scenes around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Tuesday showed Taliban fighters appearing to wear Afghan National Army uniforms after the militant group took control of the airport following the U.S. military’s full withdrawal from the country — a far different picture from the days preceding.

Resources left behind in the wake of mass evacuations, including equipment stamped with American and Afghan national flags, littered the area where U.S. troops recently stood guard. Taliban fighters have apparently since seized some equipment distributed to the Afghan army by the U.S. before it collapsed.

As the 20-year war came to a close on Monday, the Pentagon said that the cost, in human lives, was 2,461 troops killed and more than 20,000 injured.

Since the evacuation mission began, 6,000 citizens and more than 123,000 people — Afghan “friends and allies” — were flown out of Afghanistan by the U.S. and partners, but 100 to 200 American citizens still wanting to leave remain, officials said, as well as thousands of Afghans who worked with the U.S. and fear reprisal from the Taliban.

Aug 31, 2:02 pm
House GOP promising investigation into Biden’s withdrawal decision

GOP Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said Republicans had sent letters to the Department of Defense, the Department of State and the intelligence community asking agencies to preserve documents relating to the Afghanistan withdrawal for what they said would be a future investigation.

“We want the Democrats to join us but we are going to do it with or without, exercising our constitutional authority of oversight to get to the bottom of how this got so wrong,” McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said at a news conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

The announcement comes after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday there would be “a day of reckoning” for Biden, promising an investigation into the withdrawal. Other GOP House members criticized Biden’s withdrawal, with Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., saying “this disaster is solely the responsibility” of Biden, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Aug 31, 11:57 am
Harris presides over Senate passage of bill assisting Americans fleeing Afghanistan

Vice President Kamala Harris gaveled in a pro forma session of the Senate on Tuesday morning, to enable the passage of a bill that will help with the repatriation of Americans coming from Afghanistan, according to a White House aide.

The bill provides emergency, temporary assistance for Americans returning from Afghanistan. It was passed without any objection at roughly 10:30 a.m. and will now head to the president’s desk since it originated in and already passed the House.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday there is still a “small number of Americans — under 200, and likely closer to 100 — who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.”

Aug 31, 10:18 am
Taliban spokesperson congratulates nation on ‘freedom,’ American defeat

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Taliban soldiers at a press conference hours after the last U.S. soldiers left the airport in Kabul that they had secured victory for the whole of the Afghan nation.

“Due to the sincerity, perseverance, and patience of our elders, we gained our freedom. I congratulate all of you and our nation on this freedom, and I hope that Afghanistan will never be occupied and that it will be free, prosperous, and the home of Afghans, and that there will be an Islamic government,” he said, according to a translation of his remarks from Reuters.

Mujahid said the Taliban wanted to sustain good relations with the rest of the world, that Afghanistan was not a country for occupying forces, and that Americans were defeated and could not achieve their goals.

“The nation has suffered a lot, and they have been repressed because of the occupation, have seen problems for 20 years, and can no longer tolerate misbehavior. Therefore, I call on all our militaries to treat the people well because the people have the right to peace, to unite, and we are the servants of the nation, not to dominate the people,” he said.

Aug 31, 10:04 am
Biden to defend Afghanistan withdrawal in speech to nation

President Biden is expected to defend his decision on Afghanistan when he speaks at 2:45 p.m. from the White House — a day after the last U.S. troops left in accordance with his self-imposed deadline but also while other Americans who wanted to leave were left behind to deal with an uncertain fate.

In an exclusive interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan offered more defense for the administration’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, perhaps foreshadowing Biden’s remarks this afternoon.

Though Stephanopoulos pressed him for details on the plan to evacuate the remaining Americans, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken said is “under 200,” Sullivan repeated they will use “every available diplomatic means with the economic leverage that we have,” but he did attempt to take credit for the successful evacuations — and even pinned some of the blame on the remaining Americans who weren’t able to make it out.

“We do believe that there is an important dimension of humanitarian assistance that should go directly to the people of Afghanistan.”

National Security Adviser @JakeSullivan46 speaks on working with the Taliban after Afghanistan withdrawal. https://t.co/rHYsSbwZj2 pic.twitter.com/ekVqb0Qs8c

— Good Morning America (@GMA) August 31, 2021

“We got out between 5,500 and 6,000 people — Americans from Afghanistan — we got out 97 or 98% of those on the ground and the small number who remain, we contacted repeatedly over the course of two weeks to come to the airport to come to a rally point. 5,500 or more did that,” Sullivan said.

In response to criticism from many Republicans lawmakers like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Sullivan contended that only the president, as commander in chief, knows what it is to make these hard decisions.

“Those criticizing are not the ones who have to sit in the Situation Room and make the hard calls about the threats that we face and the objectives we’re trying to obtain and President Biden made that hard call and it is a call he believes will ultimately serve the interests of our people, all of our citizens and our country,” he said.

He also insisted aid will not be given to the Taliban unless they adhere to international obligations.

“It will be about whether they follow through on their commitments, their commitments to safe passage for Americans and Afghan allies. Their commitment to not allow Afghanistan to be a base from which terrorists can attack the United States or any other country,” Sullivan said.

Aug 30, 9:19 pm
Taliban wield American-supplied equipment, uniforms after withdrawal

Moments after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan, Taliban fighters entered the Kabul airport, wielding American-supplied weapons, equipment and even uniforms.

Aug 30, 8:59 pm
Military releases image of last soldier out of Afghanistan

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, of the 82nd Airborne Division, was the last American service member to depart Afghanistan, according to Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command.

“On the last plane out was General Chris Donahue, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and my ground commander, and he was accompanied by our — our charge d’affaires, Ambassador Ross Wilson, so they came out together,” McKenzie said at the Pentagon briefing. “So the state and defense team came out on the last aircraft and were in fact the last people to step on the ground.”

Aug 30, 8:04 pm
US engaging Taliban, but not recognizing it

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. will continue to engage the Taliban going forward — engagement that will be “driven by one thing only — our vital national interest.”

“The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned,” he said. “The Taliban can do that by meeting commitments and obligations on freedom of travel; respecting the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities; upholding its commitments on counter-terrorism; not carrying out reprisal violence against those who choose to stay in Afghanistan; and forming an inclusive government that can meet the needs and reflect the aspirations of the Afghan people.”

But the Taliban have already violated many of those — denying freedom of travel to some, violating their commitments on counter-terrorism, carrying out reprisal violence and more.

Aug 30, 7:37 pm
Commitment to Afghans who worked with US ‘has no deadline’: Blinken

For Afghans who worked alongside the U.S. who wanted to leave but weren’t able to get out, the U.S. would continue to try to help them, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in remarks Monday evening.

“Our commitment to them has no deadline,” he said.

To that end, he thanked Qatar and Turkey for trying to make the Kabul airport operational soon, allowing safe passage to these people.

“This would enable a small number of daily charter flights, which is a key for anyone who wants to depart from Afghanistan moving forward,” Blinken said. “We’re also working to identify ways to support Americans, legal permanent residents and Afghans who have worked with us to depart via land routes.”

But he tempered expectations.

“We have no illusion that any of this will be easy,” Blinken said. “Or rapid. This will be an entirely different phase from the evacuation that just concluded. It will take time to work through a new set of challenges.”

Aug 30, 5:01 pm
Number of Americans left in Afghanistan in the ‘low 100s’

There are still Americans left in Afghanistan that the United States is trying to get out of the country, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said.

“I believe our Department of State is going to work very hard to allow any American citizens that are left, and we think the citizens that were not brought outnumber in the low — very low 100s,” McKenzie said. “I believe that we’re going to be able to get those people out.”

There were no evacuees left at the airport when the last U.S. flight left, he said.

McKenzie also said the U.S. would also “negotiate very hard, and very aggressively, to get our other Afghan partners out.”

Aug 30, 4:35 pm
All US troops have departed Afghanistan: Pentagon

All U.S. troops have departed Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense, concluding America’s military ground presence there and its longest war.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, made the announcement from the headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida, after being introduced in the Pentagon Briefing Room by press secretary John Kirby.

Acknowledging that the withdrawal has been completed, McKenzie said the last U.S. military plane has cleared Afghan airspace.

He said that the U.S. military’s 20-year mission in Afghanistan is over.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Afghanistan updates: Biden speaks to nation on military withdrawal

Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, boards a C-17 cargo plane at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Maj. Gen. Donahue is the final American service member to depart Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2021. – U.S. Central Command

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — With the U.S. military and diplomatic withdrawal now complete after 20 years in Afghanistan, the Taliban has taken over the country, including the Kabul airport, the site of an often-desperate evacuation effort the past two weeks.

But even as the last American troops were flown out to meet President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline, other Americans who wanted to flee the country were left behind and the Biden administration is now focused on a “diplomatic mission” to help them leave.

When President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House on Aug. 18, he said he was committed to keeping the U.S. military in Afghanistan as long as needed. “If there are American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out,” he said.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern.

Aug 31, 3:51 pm
‘It was time to end this war’: Biden

In his address to the nation, the president said it was time to end the war.

“We succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago. Then we stayed for another decade. It was time to end this war,” he said. “This is a new world: Al-Qaida affiliates in Syria and ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates across Africa nation. The fundamental obligation of a president, in my opinion, is to defend and protect America. Not against threats of 2001 but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow.”

“That is the guiding principle behind my decisions about Afghanistan,” he added. “I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and sending billions of dollars.”

Aug 31, 3:51 pm
Biden says 90% of Americans who wanted to leave were able to leave

Biden touted efforts to get out Afghans who helped the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and said, “Now we believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan, with some intention to leave.”

“Most of those who remain are dual citizens, long-time residents who had earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan,” Biden said. “The bottom line, 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave. And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.”

Aug 31, 3:35 pm
Biden addresses nation following US withdrawal

In his first formal remarks since the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan, the president said, “The extraordinary success of this mission was due to the incredible skill, bravery and selfless courage of the United States military and our diplomats and intelligence professionals.”

“For weeks they risked their lives to get American citizens Afghans who helped us, citizens of our allies and partners and others onboard planes and out of the country,” he continued. “And they did it facing a crush of enormous crowds seeking to leave the country. And they did it knowing ISIS-K terrorists, sworn enemies of the Taliban were lurking in the midst of those crowds.”

Aug 31, 2:53 pm
McConnell blasts Biden for breaking promise, leaving Americans behind

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized President Biden, claiming he broke his “promise” to get every American who wanted to leave Afghanistan out of the country before the U.S. military left, saying Biden’s “reckless withdrawal has created a humanitarian disaster and emboldened the terrorists.”

“Two weeks ago, President Biden specifically promised he wouldn’t pull out before every American who wanted out had gotten out. By their own admission, the Biden Administration has now broken that promise,” McConnell said Tuesday at an event in Ashland, Kentucky.

In an exclusive interview on Aug. 18 with ABC’s George Stephanopolous, Biden said that “If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out.”

At the event, McConnell also warned of the continued threat from the Taliban, adding, “This fight will not end just because our politicians want it to go away.”

Aug 31, 2:19 pm
Scenes from Kabul the day after the US military withdrawal

Scenes around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Tuesday showed Taliban fighters appearing to wear Afghan National Army uniforms after the militant group took control of the airport following the U.S. military’s full withdrawal from the country — a far different picture from the days preceding.

Resources left behind in the wake of mass evacuations, including equipment stamped with American and Afghan national flags, littered the area where U.S. troops recently stood guard. Taliban fighters have apparently since seized some equipment distributed to the Afghan army by the U.S. before it collapsed.

As the 20-year war came to a close on Monday, the Pentagon said that the cost, in human lives, was 2,461 troops killed and more than 20,000 injured.

Since the evacuation mission began, 6,000 citizens and more than 123,000 people — Afghan “friends and allies” — were flown out of Afghanistan by the U.S. and partners, but 100 to 200 American citizens still wanting to leave remain, officials said, as well as thousands of Afghans who worked with the U.S. and fear reprisal from the Taliban.

Aug 31, 2:02 pm
House GOP promising investigation into Biden’s withdrawal decision

GOP Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said Republicans had sent letters to the Department of Defense, the Department of State and the intelligence community asking agencies to preserve documents relating to the Afghanistan withdrawal for what they said would be a future investigation.

“We want the Democrats to join us but we are going to do it with or without, exercising our constitutional authority of oversight to get to the bottom of how this got so wrong,” McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said at a news conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

The announcement comes after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday there would be “a day of reckoning” for Biden, promising an investigation into the withdrawal. Other GOP House members criticized Biden’s withdrawal, with Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., saying “this disaster is solely the responsibility” of Biden, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Aug 31, 11:57 am
Harris presides over Senate passage of bill assisting Americans fleeing Afghanistan

Vice President Kamala Harris gaveled in a pro forma session of the Senate on Tuesday morning, to enable the passage of a bill that will help with the repatriation of Americans coming from Afghanistan, according to a White House aide.

The bill provides emergency, temporary assistance for Americans returning from Afghanistan. It was passed without any objection at roughly 10:30 a.m. and will now head to the president’s desk since it originated in and already passed the House.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday there is still a “small number of Americans — under 200, and likely closer to 100 — who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.”

Aug 31, 10:18 am
Taliban spokesperson congratulates nation on ‘freedom,’ American defeat

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Taliban soldiers at a press conference hours after the last U.S. soldiers left the airport in Kabul that they had secured victory for the whole of the Afghan nation.

“Due to the sincerity, perseverance, and patience of our elders, we gained our freedom. I congratulate all of you and our nation on this freedom, and I hope that Afghanistan will never be occupied and that it will be free, prosperous, and the home of Afghans, and that there will be an Islamic government,” he said, according to a translation of his remarks from Reuters.

Mujahid said the Taliban wanted to sustain good relations with the rest of the world, that Afghanistan was not a country for occupying forces, and that Americans were defeated and could not achieve their goals.

“The nation has suffered a lot, and they have been repressed because of the occupation, have seen problems for 20 years, and can no longer tolerate misbehavior. Therefore, I call on all our militaries to treat the people well because the people have the right to peace, to unite, and we are the servants of the nation, not to dominate the people,” he said.

Aug 31, 10:04 am
Biden to defend Afghanistan withdrawal in speech to nation

President Biden is expected to defend his decision on Afghanistan when he speaks at 2:45 p.m. from the White House — a day after the last U.S. troops left in accordance with his self-imposed deadline but also while other Americans who wanted to leave were left behind to deal with an uncertain fate.

In an exclusive interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan offered more defense for the administration’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, perhaps foreshadowing Biden’s remarks this afternoon.

Though Stephanopoulos pressed him for details on the plan to evacuate the remaining Americans, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken said is “under 200,” Sullivan repeated they will use “every available diplomatic means with the economic leverage that we have,” but he did attempt to take credit for the successful evacuations — and even pinned some of the blame on the remaining Americans who weren’t able to make it out.

“We do believe that there is an important dimension of humanitarian assistance that should go directly to the people of Afghanistan.”

National Security Adviser @JakeSullivan46 speaks on working with the Taliban after Afghanistan withdrawal. https://t.co/rHYsSbwZj2 pic.twitter.com/ekVqb0Qs8c

— Good Morning America (@GMA) August 31, 2021

“We got out between 5,500 and 6,000 people — Americans from Afghanistan — we got out 97 or 98% of those on the ground and the small number who remain, we contacted repeatedly over the course of two weeks to come to the airport to come to a rally point. 5,500 or more did that,” Sullivan said.

In response to criticism from many Republicans lawmakers like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Sullivan contended that only the president, as commander in chief, knows what it is to make these hard decisions.

“Those criticizing are not the ones who have to sit in the Situation Room and make the hard calls about the threats that we face and the objectives we’re trying to obtain and President Biden made that hard call and it is a call he believes will ultimately serve the interests of our people, all of our citizens and our country,” he said.

He also insisted aid will not be given to the Taliban unless they adhere to international obligations.

“It will be about whether they follow through on their commitments, their commitments to safe passage for Americans and Afghan allies. Their commitment to not allow Afghanistan to be a base from which terrorists can attack the United States or any other country,” Sullivan said.

Aug 30, 9:19 pm
Taliban wield American-supplied equipment, uniforms after withdrawal

Moments after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan, Taliban fighters entered the Kabul airport, wielding American-supplied weapons, equipment and even uniforms.

Aug 30, 8:59 pm
Military releases image of last soldier out of Afghanistan

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, of the 82nd Airborne Division, was the last American service member to depart Afghanistan, according to Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command.

“On the last plane out was General Chris Donahue, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and my ground commander, and he was accompanied by our — our charge d’affaires, Ambassador Ross Wilson, so they came out together,” McKenzie said at the Pentagon briefing. “So the state and defense team came out on the last aircraft and were in fact the last people to step on the ground.”

Aug 30, 8:04 pm
US engaging Taliban, but not recognizing it

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. will continue to engage the Taliban going forward — engagement that will be “driven by one thing only — our vital national interest.”

“The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned,” he said. “The Taliban can do that by meeting commitments and obligations on freedom of travel; respecting the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities; upholding its commitments on counter-terrorism; not carrying out reprisal violence against those who choose to stay in Afghanistan; and forming an inclusive government that can meet the needs and reflect the aspirations of the Afghan people.”

But the Taliban have already violated many of those — denying freedom of travel to some, violating their commitments on counter-terrorism, carrying out reprisal violence and more.

Aug 30, 7:37 pm
Commitment to Afghans who worked with US ‘has no deadline’: Blinken

For Afghans who worked alongside the U.S. who wanted to leave but weren’t able to get out, the U.S. would continue to try to help them, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in remarks Monday evening.

“Our commitment to them has no deadline,” he said.

To that end, he thanked Qatar and Turkey for trying to make the Kabul airport operational soon, allowing safe passage to these people.

“This would enable a small number of daily charter flights, which is a key for anyone who wants to depart from Afghanistan moving forward,” Blinken said. “We’re also working to identify ways to support Americans, legal permanent residents and Afghans who have worked with us to depart via land routes.”

But he tempered expectations.

“We have no illusion that any of this will be easy,” Blinken said. “Or rapid. This will be an entirely different phase from the evacuation that just concluded. It will take time to work through a new set of challenges.”

Aug 30, 5:01 pm
Number of Americans left in Afghanistan in the ‘low 100s’

There are still Americans left in Afghanistan that the United States is trying to get out of the country, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said.

“I believe our Department of State is going to work very hard to allow any American citizens that are left, and we think the citizens that were not brought outnumber in the low — very low 100s,” McKenzie said. “I believe that we’re going to be able to get those people out.”

There were no evacuees left at the airport when the last U.S. flight left, he said.

McKenzie also said the U.S. would also “negotiate very hard, and very aggressively, to get our other Afghan partners out.”

Aug 30, 4:35 pm
All US troops have departed Afghanistan: Pentagon

All U.S. troops have departed Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense, concluding America’s military ground presence there and its longest war.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, made the announcement from the headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida, after being introduced in the Pentagon Briefing Room by press secretary John Kirby.

Acknowledging that the withdrawal has been completed, McKenzie said the last U.S. military plane has cleared Afghan airspace.

He said that the U.S. military’s 20-year mission in Afghanistan is over.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Afghan migrants trapped for weeks in woods because of Poland and Belarus standoff

AndreyPopov/iStock

(NEW YORK) — A group of Afghans has been trapped for three weeks at the edge of a forest on the border between Poland and Belarus, caught in a no man’s land between Polish security forces who will not let them enter Poland and Belarusian troops who won’t let them turn back.

The situation of the 32 Afghans—short of food and some seriously ill, according to local activists—has attracted intense attention in Poland and internationally.

The standoff is a result of the surge in migrants arriving at the European Union’s borders that has been engineered by Belarus’ authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko as suspected retaliation against the bloc for its support for the pro-democracy movement that has called for him to step down.

European officials have accused Belarus’ authorities of flying in migrants and then funneling them to its western borders with the goal of orchestrating a migration crisis meant to pressure its European neighbors. So far this year, over 4,000 people—mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan—have illegally crossed from Belarus into neighboring Lithuania. That is 50 times more than all of 2020, according to officials. Poland, which is far larger than Lithuania, recorded over 3,000 illegal crossings since the start of August.

The governments of Lithuania and Poland have said they cannot absorb the influx and hurriedly deployed more security officers and put up a new border fence. The Polish government on Tuesday announced it was seeking a state of emergency for the border zone. The Belarusian security forces meanwhile have been filmed in full riot gear trying to force migrants back toward the border after they are turned back.

The 32 Afghans trapped at the border at Usnarz Górny have found themselves caught in the middle. Last week, Fundacja Ocalenie, a Polish charity that works with refugees, and an opposition member of parliament managed to pass them tents, food and clothing, but since then Polish border guards have blocked them from approaching the group, a spokeswoman for the charity said.

“It is terrible conditions,” said Marianna Warteska, the spokeswoman, told ABC News by phone from close to the border. “They are not receiving any kind of medical assistance—their health is deteriorating.”

She said the group was drinking unclean water from a nearby stream and surviving off bread delivered by the Belarusian guards every couple of days. The volunteers have been communicating with the Afghans via megaphone, she said, but Polish guards would often turn on their vehicle engines and sirens to try to drown them out.

Eight of the Afghans were suffering from kidney issues and five had diarrhea, according to Warteska. She said one 26-year-old man lost consciousness for 20 minutes on Thursday but the border guards refused to call an ambulance. She warned another woman in her fifties has been unable to leave her tent for several days.

A spokeswoman for Poland’s border service on Tuesday declined to comment to ABC News.

Warteska said all 32 Afghans had expressed a desire to seek international protection in Poland and had legal representation from her organization. There was no reason, she said, why the Polish authorities could not take the group for standard processing that would then assess whether they should be granted asylum or returned to their home countries. The decision to keep them in limbo was political posturing, she said.

“It’s really cruel. And it has basically no purpose,” she said. “Because you know it’s 32 people—they are able to process them. It’s not like it is 3 million standing here. We are not asking just for a free pass. We just want the Polish authorities and border guards to behave according to the law. Because right now what they are doing is illegal.”

Poland’s government on Tuesday announced it was seeking approval from the country’s president for a state of emergency to be imposed along part of the border for 30 days in response to migrant arrivals.

“The situation on the border with Belarus is a crisis, it’s very tense because Lukashenko’s regime is transporting people mainly from Iraq to the territory of Belarus and is then shoving these people on to the territory of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to destabilize our countries,” Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said.

The move, which would cover 183 towns 3 kilometers from the border, also requires approval from parliament. It has already attracted criticism from opposition parties and rights groups, which have said the state of emergency is less about stopping migrants than making it harder for activists and the media to be present at the border.

Jan Grabiec, a spokesperson for Civic Platform, the largest opposition party, said the state of emergency was not aimed at halting migrants and “it will only stop the Polish media from showing the chaos and helplessness of the government.”

Lithuania has also declared a state of emergency over the border situation and has appealed to the E.U. to impose new sanctions on Belarus. Both Poland and Lithuania strongly backed the Belarusian opposition during the protests against Lukashenko last year, offering asylum to some of its key leaders.

The European Court of Human Rights last week said Poland’s government must provide food, clothing, medical care and possibly temporary shelter to the Afghans. The court has not yet ruled whether Poland is obliged to let the migrants enter its territory.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Prince Harry, Meghan and royal family making ‘very little progress’ at reconciliation, author claims

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

(LONDON) — More than one year after stepping down from their royal roles and moving to America, Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are “thriving,” according to Omid Scobie, co-author of Finding Freedom, a book about the Sussexes’ life together.

The couple, however, has not managed to heal the well-publicized rift between Harry and his family, particularly his father, Prince Charles, and brother, Prince William, according to Scobie.

“When we speak to sources close to the couple and also sources close to the royal family, there is this feeling that very little progress is being made,” Scobie told Good Morning America. “However, some feelings have subsided because time has done its things, so the door is very much open for those conversations to happen at some point.”

The last time Harry and William were seen together publicly was in July, when Harry traveled to the U.K. for the unveiling of a statue of their late mom, Princess Diana, on what would have been her 60th birthday.

The reportedly estranged brothers lost their mom 24 years ago Tuesday after a car crash in the Pont D’Alma Bridge in Paris. William and Harry were 15 and 12, respectively, at the time.

Describing what will need to happen for the family relationships to be repaired, Scobie added, “I think one thing was clear from both sides is that everyone feels that some accountability and ownership in each other’s roles in all of this has to be taken for people to move forward. Whether that happens, we shall see.”

Scobie, an ABC News contributor, and his co-author, Carolyn Durand, a former ABC News producer, have released a new paperback version of their book, Finding Freedom, which takes a close look at how life has changed for Harry and Meghan since they left royal life and moved to California.

“Who can forget Meghan saying, ‘It’s not enough to survive, you have to thrive,’ and I think this is that time where they’re thriving and they want to show the world how they’re doing it,” said Scobie, who describes Harry and Meghan as “very much in control” of their lives today.

“It’s not that they want to disappear or not be seen,” Scobie added, reflecting on Harry and Meghan’s desire for privacy. “It’s simply that they want to choose what they keep private and what they share with the world.”

Prince Harry and Meghan famously spilled the details of their exit from royal life last spring in a blockbuster interview with Oprah Winfrey.

The Sussexes — who spoke candidly in the interview about mental health struggles, family tensions and alleged racism they faced — were “desperate to get their story out there,” according to Scobie.

“It was the one thing they weren’t allowed to do, you know, that never complain, never explain mentality, or the mantra of the royal family, applied to them as well,” said Scobie. “So any time that they wanted to speak up, whether it’s to correct the story in the tabloids or to simply put their feelings and thoughts out there, the answer was always no.”

Once Harry and Meghan were on their own, “it was very much the time being now for them to actually speak up and try and speak to some of those moments that many of us perhaps didn’t understand over the last couple of years,” explained Scobie.

“There was this feeling that the couple had walked away from the monarchy because they just wanted more. They wanted to earn money in a different way,” he said. “But actually what we heard was a story that helped us understand why they were so unhappy within that space as well, not only dealing with racism, but having their mental health suppressed or ignored by certain quarters of the institution.”

“Those are things that are untenable for anyone, but we just didn’t know at the time it was happening [that’s what] was going on behind palace walls,” Scobie added.

In Finding Freedom, the authors say it was the courtiers who were fiercely protective of the royal institution and who mishandled Meghan and Harry, who is sixth in line to the throne.

“Those that work for the institution of the monarchy have one job, and that is to sort of uphold the values of the crown and maintain the image of the crown,” said Scobie. “The focus is always going to be on the crown, and Harry and Meghan found themselves victim to that many times over because, ultimately, they are not the crown.”

Harry and Meghan, already parents to a son, Archie, welcomed their second child, a daughter named Lilibet “Lili” Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, in June.

The family of four lives near Santa Barbara, California, where Harry and Meghan have continued to grow their production company and charitable organization, Archewell.

“One thing that was said to me very early on when the couple met was this is a couple that want to change the world in whatever way they can, they just need to figure out how,” said Scobie. “And I think what we’re seeing right now is them having figured it out.”

“The Sussexes are clearly in a new chapter. I feel like we’ve told as much as this story as we can, and they’re clearly in control of their narrative,” he added. “Now I think that when and if we hear more of their journey towards healing these family relations and the issues that they’ve faced, it’s going to be from them themselves.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Afghanistan updates: Biden to defend US military withdrawal

Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, boards a C-17 cargo plane at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Maj. Gen. Donahue is the final American service member to depart Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2021. – U.S. Central Command

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government collapsed and the Taliban seized control. Now with the U.S. military withdrawal complete, America’s 20-year campaign ends as it began: under Taliban rule.

Officials said the terror group ISIS-K carried out what the Pentagon called a “complex attack” outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 13 American service members and wounding 20, among scores of Afghan casualties.

When President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan, he warned of the threat of attacks on the ground and said he did not see a way to withdraw from Afghanistan without “chaos ensuing.”

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern.

Aug 31, 11:57 am
Harris presides over Senate passage of bill assisting Americans fleeing Afghanistan

Vice President Kamala Harris gaveled in a pro forma session of the Senate on Tuesday morning, to enable the passage of a bill that will help with the repatriation of Americans coming from Afghanistan, according to a White House aide.

The bill provides emergency, temporary assistance for Americans returning from Afghanistan. It was passed without any objection at roughly 10:30 a.m. and will now head to the president’s desk since it originated in and already passed the House.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday there is still a “small number of Americans — under 200, and likely closer to 100 — who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.”

Aug 31, 10:18 am
Taliban spokesperson congratulates nation on ‘freedom,’ American defeat

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Taliban soldiers at a press conference hours after the last U.S. soldiers left the airport in Kabul that they had secured victory for the whole of the Afghan nation.

“Due to the sincerity, perseverance, and patience of our elders, we gained our freedom. I congratulate all of you and our nation on this freedom, and I hope that Afghanistan will never be occupied and that it will be free, prosperous, and the home of Afghans, and that there will be an Islamic government,” he said, according to a translation of his remarks from Reuters.

Mujahid said the Taliban wanted to sustain good relations with the rest of the world, that Afghanistan was not a country for occupying forces, and that Americans were defeated and could not achieve their goals.

“The nation has suffered a lot, and they have been repressed because of the occupation, have seen problems for 20 years, and can no longer tolerate misbehavior. Therefore, I call on all our militaries to treat the people well because the people have the right to peace, to unite, and we are the servants of the nation, not to dominate the people,” he said.

Aug 31, 10:04 am
Biden to defend Afghanistan withdrawal in speech to nation

President Biden is expected to defend his decision on Afghanistan when he speaks at 2:45 p.m. from the White House — a day after the last U.S. troops left in accordance with his self-imposed deadline but also while other Americans who wanted to leave were left behind to deal with an uncertain fate.

In an exclusive interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan offered more defense for the administration’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, perhaps foreshadowing Biden’s remarks this afternoon.

Though Stephanopoulos pressed him for details on the plan to evacuate the remaining Americans, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken said is “under 200,” Sullivan repeated they will use “every available diplomatic means with the economic leverage that we have,” but he did attempt to take credit for the successful evacuations — and even pinned some of the blame on the remaining Americans who weren’t able to make it out.

“We got out between 5,500 and 6,000 people — Americans from Afghanistan — we got out 97 or 98% of those on the ground and the small number who remain, we contacted repeatedly over the course of two weeks to come to the airport to come to a rally point. 5,500 or more did that,” Sullivan said.

In response to criticism from many Republicans lawmakers like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Sullivan contended that only the president, as commander in chief, knows what it is to make these hard decisions.

“Those criticizing are not the ones who have to sit in the Situation Room and make the hard calls about the threats that we face and the objectives we’re trying to obtain and President Biden made that hard call and it is a call he believes will ultimately serve the interests of our people, all of our citizens and our country,” he said.

He also insisted aid will not be given to the Taliban unless they adhere to international obligations.

“It will be about whether they follow through on their commitments, their commitments to safe passage for Americans and Afghan allies. Their commitment to not allow Afghanistan to be a base from which terrorists can attack the United States or any other country,” Sullivan said.

Aug 30, 9:19 pm
Taliban wield American-supplied equipment, uniforms after withdrawal

Moments after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan, Taliban fighters entered the Kabul airport, wielding American-supplied weapons, equipment and even uniforms.

Aug 30, 8:59 pm
Military releases image of last soldier out of Afghanistan

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, of the 82nd Airborne Division, was the last American service member to depart Afghanistan, according to Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command.

“On the last plane out was General Chris Donahue, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and my ground commander, and he was accompanied by our — our charge d’affaires, Ambassador Ross Wilson, so they came out together,” McKenzie said at the Pentagon briefing. “So the state and defense team came out on the last aircraft and were in fact the last people to step on the ground.”

Aug 30, 8:04 pm
US engaging Taliban, but not recognizing it

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. will continue to engage the Taliban going forward — engagement that will be “driven by one thing only — our vital national interest.”

“The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned,” he said. “The Taliban can do that by meeting commitments and obligations on freedom of travel; respecting the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities; upholding its commitments on counter-terrorism; not carrying out reprisal violence against those who choose to stay in Afghanistan; and forming an inclusive government that can meet the needs and reflect the aspirations of the Afghan people.”

But the Taliban have already violated many of those — denying freedom of travel to some, violating their commitments on counter-terrorism, carrying out reprisal violence and more.

Aug 30, 7:37 pm
Commitment to Afghans who worked with US ‘has no deadline’: Blinken

For Afghans who worked alongside the U.S. who wanted to leave but weren’t able to get out, the U.S. would continue to try to help them, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in remarks Monday evening.

“Our commitment to them has no deadline,” he said.

To that end, he thanked Qatar and Turkey for trying to make the Kabul airport operational soon, allowing safe passage to these people.

“This would enable a small number of daily charter flights, which is a key for anyone who wants to depart from Afghanistan moving forward,” Blinken said. “We’re also working to identify ways to support Americans, legal permanent residents and Afghans who have worked with us to depart via land routes.”

But he tempered expectations.

“We have no illusion that any of this will be easy,” Blinken said. “Or rapid. This will be an entirely different phase from the evacuation that just concluded. It will take time to work through a new set of challenges.”

Aug 30, 5:01 pm
Number of Americans left in Afghanistan in the ‘low 100s’

There are still Americans left in Afghanistan that the United States is trying to get out of the country, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said.

“I believe our Department of State is going to work very hard to allow any American citizens that are left, and we think the citizens that were not brought outnumber in the low — very low 100s,” McKenzie said. “I believe that we’re going to be able to get those people out.”

There were no evacuees left at the airport when the last U.S. flight left, he said.

McKenzie also said the U.S. would also “negotiate very hard, and very aggressively, to get our other Afghan partners out.”

Aug 30, 4:35 pm
All US troops have departed Afghanistan: Pentagon

All U.S. troops have departed Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense, concluding America’s military ground presence there and its longest war.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, made the announcement from the headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida, after being introduced in the Pentagon Briefing Room by press secretary John Kirby.

Acknowledging that the withdrawal has been completed, McKenzie said the last U.S. military plane has cleared Afghan airspace.

He said that the U.S. military’s 20-year mission in Afghanistan is over.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Afghanistan updates: All US troops have departed, Pentagon says

Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, boards a C-17 cargo plane at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Maj. Gen. Donahue is the final American service member to depart Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2021. – U.S. Central Command

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government collapsed and the Taliban seized control. Now with the U.S. military withdrawal complete, America’s 20-year campaign ends as it began: under Taliban rule.

Officials said the terror group ISIS-K carried out what the Pentagon called a “complex attack” outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 13 American service members and wounding 20, among scores of Afghan casualties.

When President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan, he warned of the threat of attacks on the ground and said he did not see a way to withdraw from Afghanistan without “chaos ensuing.”

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern.

Aug 30, 9:19 pm
Taliban wield American-supplied equipment, uniforms after withdrawal

Moments after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan, Taliban fighters entered the Kabul airport, wielding American-supplied weapons, equipment and even uniforms.

Aug 30, 8:59 pm
Military releases image of last soldier out of Afghanistan

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, of the 82nd Airborne Division, was the last American service member to depart Afghanistan, according to Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command.

“On the last plane out was General Chris Donahue, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and my ground commander, and he was accompanied by our — our charge d’affaires, Ambassador Ross Wilson, so they came out together,” McKenzie said at the Pentagon briefing. “So the state and defense team came out on the last aircraft and were in fact the last people to step on the ground.”

Aug 30, 8:04 pm
US engaging Taliban, but not recognizing it

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. will continue to engage the Taliban going forward — engagement that will be “driven by one thing only — our vital national interest.”

“The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned,” he said. “The Taliban can do that by meeting commitments and obligations on freedom of travel; respecting the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities; upholding its commitments on counter-terrorism; not carrying out reprisal violence against those who choose to stay in Afghanistan; and forming an inclusive government that can meet the needs and reflect the aspirations of the Afghan people.”

But the Taliban have already violated many of those — denying freedom of travel to some, violating their commitments on counter-terrorism, carrying out reprisal violence and more.

Aug 30, 7:37 pm
Commitment to Afghans who worked with US ‘has no deadline’: Blinken

For Afghans who worked alongside the U.S. who wanted to leave but weren’t able to get out, the U.S. would continue to try to help them, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in remarks Monday evening.

“Our commitment to them has no deadline,” he said.

To that end, he thanked Qatar and Turkey for trying to make the Kabul airport operational soon, allowing safe passage to these people.

“This would enable a small number of daily charter flights, which is a key for anyone who wants to depart from Afghanistan moving forward,” Blinken said. “We’re also working to identify ways to support Americans, legal permanent residents and Afghans who have worked with us to depart via land routes.”

But he tempered expectations.

“We have no illusion that any of this will be easy,” Blinken said. “Or rapid. This will be an entirely different phase from the evacuation that just concluded. It will take time to work through a new set of challenges.”

Aug 30, 5:01 pm
Number of Americans left in Afghanistan in the ‘low 100s’

There are still Americans left in Afghanistan that the United States is trying to get out of the country, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said.

“I believe our Department of State is going to work very hard to allow any American citizens that are left, and we think the citizens that were not brought outnumber in the low — very low 100s,” McKenzie said. “I believe that we’re going to be able to get those people out.”

There were no evacuees left at the airport when the last U.S. flight left, he said.

McKenzie also said the U.S. would also “negotiate very hard, and very aggressively, to get our other Afghan partners out.”

Aug 30, 4:35 pm
All US troops have departed Afghanistan: Pentagon

All U.S. troops have departed Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense, concluding America’s military ground presence there and its longest war.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, made the announcement from the headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida, after being introduced in the Pentagon Briefing Room by press secretary John Kirby.

Acknowledging that the withdrawal has been completed, McKenzie said the last U.S. military plane has cleared Afghan airspace.

He said that the U.S. military’s 20-year mission in Afghanistan is over.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Afghanistan updates: ‘Still time’ for American evacuations in final hours: Pentagon

Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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

Officials said the terror group ISIS-K carried out what the Pentagon called a “complex attack” outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 13 American service members and wounding 20, among scores of Afghan casualties.

When President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House last week, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan, he warned of the threat of attacks on the ground.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Aug 30, 12:20 pm
Final hours of US troop withdrawal ‘particularly dangerous time’

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said “the threat remains high, and it remains real” outside Karzai International Airport airport in Kabul as the U.S. military faces its final hours ahead of President Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline for a full military withdrawal. He said threats were “active and in many cases still specific.”

“Non-combat evacuation operations are dangerous, period,” Kirby said. “The end of them, particularly one in that, in an environment that we can’t consider, clearly cannot consider permissive, are particularly dangerous.”

“We are in a particularly dangerous time now,” he added. “Not that it hasn’t always been dangerous, but it is particularly dangerous now.”

Kirby repeatedly declined to provide specific details about the withdrawal’s final hours but did say the military had the ability to evacuate people “until the very end.”

He said “yes” he was sure all troops would be out by the deadline but declined to say exactly what time the deadline would be — whether it was Kabul time, or otherwise.

He also wouldn’t say whether the U.S. planned to leave behind the U.S. military’s anti-projectile C-RAM defense system.

“Commanders are in-flowing and out-flowing those requirements needed to complete the mission,” he said.

Aug 30, 10:31 am
ISIS-K claims rocket strike on Kabul airport: SITE

ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for the attack that targeted Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul with six Katyusha rockets on Sunday, according to a communique issued by ISIS-K on Monday and translated by SITE Intelligence Group.

ISIS-K claimed the rocket landed with “direct hits.”

The message comes just before nightfall in Kabul and one day before Biden’s Aug. 31 military withdrawal deadline from Afghanistan. 

A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News late Sunday that it appeared that as many as five rockets were fired toward the airport in Kabul. There were no signs of casualties at the time, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement early Monday stressing that U.S. operations would continue uninterrupted.

ISIS-K also claimed responsibility for last week’s suicide bomber attack outside the airport which left 13 U.S. service members and 169 Afghans dead.

Over the weekend, the U.S. struck two ISIS-K targets in Afghanistan, including a person believed to be planning future attacks. An Afghan health official reported that in one of those strikes, six Afghan civilians were also killed, including four children.

Aug 30, 7:59 am
US, allies evacuate 1,250 people from Kabul in past 24 hours

The United States has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of some 116,700 people from Kabul since Aug. 14, when the Taliban closed in on Afghanistan’s capital, according to a White House official.

In a 24-hour period from Sunday to Monday, 26 U.S. military flights carried approximately 1,200 evacuees out of Kabul. Another 50 people were evacuated via two coalition aircraft. During the previous 24-hour period, about 2,900 people were evacuated.

Since the end of July, approximately 122,300 people have been relocated from Kabul via U.S. military and coalition flights, the White House official said.

Aug 30, 7:23 am
Americans are not being turned away at Kabul airport, ambassador says

The evacuation effort in Kabul remains a “high-risk operation,” according to Ross Wilson, the acting U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. But he denied that Americans are being turned away by U.S. forces or embassy personnel at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“This is a high-risk operation,” Wilson wrote on Twitter early Monday. “Claims that American citizens have been turned away or denied access to HKIA by Embassy staff or US Forces are false.”

Several Republican lawmakers and other critics have accused the Biden administration of refusing to admit U.S. citizens at the airport in Kabul and leaving them behind.

The U.S. Department of State said Sunday that 250 Americans were still seeking to get out of Afghanistan. They have been given specific instructions on when or how to enter Hamid Karzai International Airport, although that journey is still fraught and dangerous. All airport gates are closed and the security threat there remains high.

Aug 30, 1:16 am
US anti-missile system fired to intercept rockets at Kabul airport

There are no signs of casualties Sunday night after five rockets were fired toward Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The official said the U.S. military’s anti-projectile C-RAM fired to intercept the incoming rockets, though it is not yet clear how many it took out, if any.

The airport remains operational and flights are continuing, the official added.

Aug 30, 1:16 am
Multiple rockets fired in attack on Kabul airport

As many as five rockets were fired toward Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul Sunday evening, a U.S. official confirms to ABC News.

ABC News is still trying to assess whether there were any casualties inside the airport, whether the airport’s defensive counter rocket, artillery, and mortar system was used, and if there were any U.S. counter strikes against suspected launch positions.

Aug 29, 8:55 pm
Former acting FEMA administrator to lead Afghan refugee resettlement

Bob Fenton, the former acting Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, is set to lead the efforts to resettle Afghans who are coming to the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security said Sunday.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas chose Fenton after President Joe Biden tasked the agency to lead the federal coordinating efforts.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement the resettling group will report directly to Mayorkas and will include a plethora of services from immigration processing to COVID-19 testing.

“The Department of Homeland Security is prepared to serve as the lead federal agency coordinating efforts across the federal government to welcome vulnerable Afghans to our Nation in a way that is consistent with our laws and our values,” Mayorkas said in a statement.

The “Unified Coordination Group” will work with Homeland Security’s partners in state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

US family trapped in Afghanistan successfully escapes with just days to go before deadline

Armend Nimani/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — The State Department announced Friday that it had made contact with 500 U.S. citizens who still needed to be evacuated from Afghanistan. Among them was the wife and children of Hewad, a U.S. citizen living in California.

“I’m worried. I’m worried about my family who are stranded in Kabul, Afghanistan, for the past two weeks,” Hewad, who asked ABC News to use only his first name, recently told ABC News. “We have been trying everything possible to get them out but there is no way.”

Hewad’s wife had taken their two young children to Afghanistan last month to visit a sick family member. When the Taliban reclaimed power earlier this month, they quickly became trapped, Hewad said.

“They are in danger. The whole family is in danger,” said Hewad. “Everyone [is] a citizen… I am afraid for their life. I may lose them or they may die.”

Hewad’s wife, who asked not to be named, went into hiding while he and attorney Richard Sterger worked from the U.S. to organize the family’s documents so that they could be evacuated safely.

ABC News and Hewad were able to speak to his wife on Thursday after the terrorist attack around the perimeter of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul that killed 13 U.S. servicemen. The death toll of Afghan civilians is reported to be up to 170 and nearly 200 wounded according to an official at the ministry of public health who spoke on condition of anonymity with ABC News.

During the call, she told him the family had planned to go to the airport that day but ultimately decided not to

“We’re thankful that we didn’t go because they’re hurt,” she said.. “That’s why we decided to stay hidden.”

Amid the chaos, President Joe Biden said Monday during a press conference that he would not extend the Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw all U.S. troops. Hewad said that he and his wife were losing hope.

“We were hoping to get out, but now I don’t think we would be able to do that,” said Hewad’s wife.

Hours later, her outlook changed. On Friday, ABC News learned that the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan had been able to reach Hewad’s family and that they were given an evacuation plan. She and the children were able to get on a flight to safety.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Afghanistan updates: Multiple rockets fired in attack on Kabul airport

Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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

Officials said the terror group ISIS-K carried out what the Pentagon called a “complex attack” outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 13 American service members and wounding 20, among scores of Afghan casualties.

When President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House last week, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan, he warned of the threat of attacks on the ground.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Aug 30, 7:23 am
Americans are not being turned away at Kabul airport, ambassador says

The evacuation effort in Kabul remains a “high-risk operation,” according to Ross Wilson, the acting U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. But he denied that Americans are being turned away by U.S. forces or embassy personnel at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“This is a high-risk operation,” Wilson wrote on Twitter early Monday. “Claims that American citizens have been turned away or denied access to HKIA by Embassy staff or US Forces are false.”

Several Republican lawmakers and other critics have accused the Biden administration of refusing to admit U.S. citizens at the airport in Kabul and leaving them behind.

The U.S. Department of State said Sunday that 250 Americans were still seeking to get out of Afghanistan. They have been given specific instructions on when or how to enter Hamid Karzai International Airport, although that journey is still fraught and dangerous. All airport gates are closed and the security threat there remains high.

Aug 30, 1:16 am
US anti-missile system fired to intercept rockets at Kabul airport

There are no signs of casualties Sunday night after five rockets were fired toward Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The official said the U.S. military’s anti-projectile C-RAM fired to intercept the incoming rockets, though it is not yet clear how many it took out, if any.

The airport remains operational and flights are continuing, the official added.

Aug 30, 1:16 am
Multiple rockets fired in attack on Kabul airport

As many as five rockets were fired toward Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul Sunday evening, a U.S. official confirms to ABC News.

ABC News is still trying to assess whether there were any casualties inside the airport, whether the airport’s defensive counter rocket, artillery, and mortar system was used, and if there were any U.S. counter strikes against suspected launch positions.

Aug 29, 8:55 pm
Former acting FEMA administrator to lead Afghan refugee resettlement

Bob Fenton, the former acting Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, is set to lead the efforts to resettle Afghans who are coming to the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security said Sunday.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas chose Fenton after President Joe Biden tasked the agency to lead the federal coordinating efforts.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement the resettling group will report directly to Mayorkas and will include a plethora of services from immigration processing to COVID-19 testing.

“The Department of Homeland Security is prepared to serve as the lead federal agency coordinating efforts across the federal government to welcome vulnerable Afghans to our Nation in a way that is consistent with our laws and our values,” Mayorkas said in a statement.

The “Unified Coordination Group” will work with Homeland Security’s partners in state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

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Living in Afghan war zone, fleeing the country takes toll on mental health

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(New York) — Bombings, death, and uncertainty — life in Afghanistan has become a nightmare for many Afghans looking to escape the country they call home.

Waheed Arian, a doctor and ex-refugee from Afghanistan, was born into war in 1983. He told ABC News that he didn’t know what “normal” life was as a child — and says he became numb to the daily rockets and bombs during the Soviet-Afghan war.

When he returned to Afghanistan, the civil war broke out in the early 1990s, bringing back harsh memories of his childhood.

“I became detached from reality,” said Arian, who now lives in the U.K. “I lost my appetite. I couldn’t sleep well and, on reflection, they were the signs of depression.”

The recent unrest back in Afghanistan has left many refugees and immigrants like Arian across the globe shaken, as they relive trauma from past violence in the country and experience renewed terror in the present.

Nightmares, stress and sweats continue to plague Arian, as he perpetually awaits news that his family is safe back home.

An explosion near Kabul Airport on Thursday left at least 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members dead. Terrorist group ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the bombing, which injured hundreds more.

However, since the Taliban seized the Afghan capital of Kabul on Aug. 14, tens of thousands of people have fled the country. U.S. troops and other Americans in the country are continuing to withdraw as the Aug. 31 deadline appears.

Living in a war zone can have severe, long-term impact on civilians’ mental health, experts say.

“Everyone [in Afghanistan] is exposed to chronic fear and chronic vulnerability and deprivation,” said Kenneth Miller, psychologist and researcher at the advocacy organization War Child Holland. “It keeps people in a state of high alert perpetually. That wears down our bodies, our minds, and it leaves us vulnerable to getting sick and developing anxiety disorders and depression.”

Mashal Rahmati, a Hazara-Afghan immigrant in the U.S., said her family and friends back home live in constant fear. Rahmati said they can’t sleep — worried about rumors of random home searches and memories of past attacks on Hazara people.

The Hazara ethnic minority group has been a target of Islamic State attacks in the past, and there’s growing international concern for the small population’s survival as the Taliban takes control of the nation.

At least 1,200 Hazaras have been killed and 2,300 have been injured since 2015, according to Kabul-based Human Rights and Eradication of Violence organization.

“It’s incredibly re-traumatizing to the degree that I don’t think anyone really quite could understand,” Rahmati said. “For a lot of Afghans, this is the apocalypse. Our world has ended. Every single Afghan family knows someone killed by the Taliban.”

One in three asylum seekers and refugees experience high rates of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, according to research in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems.

Arian said that as a young adult, amid the civil war, he was given sedatives to treat his mental health issues, but said he had to stop taking them: “I couldn’t be sleepy — I had to be on my feet. I had to be alert.”

There are more than 26 million refugees across the globe — according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, an advocacy group for refugees — more than 2 million of which are from Afghanistan.

According to UNHCR, the Taliban’s takeover has caused up to 515,000 new refugees to flee, citing the Taliban’s history of brutal punishments, oppressive treatment of women and potential for retaliation against U.S and Afghan government allies.

Afghans comprise the largest refugee population in Asia and the second-largest refugee population in the world, UNHCR reports.

Left untreated, these mental health conditions can have many long-term effects, according to Miller, like the deterioration of one’s physical health, violence against others, inability to work, focus or eat, and more.

But the issue of mental health isn’t over once refugees have been settled, researchers say.

Refugees and immigrants have to abandon their belongings, their livelihoods, and their home countries. As thousands are scrambling to leave the country, many refugees and immigrants say they wish they did not have to leave.

“The people that live in Afghanistan love their country — they want to see Afghanistan prosper,” Rahmati said. “For the past 40 years, they’ve dedicated their blood, sweat and tears into building the country with international support … but right now it’s life or death for them.”

Resettlement efforts are just as important in mitigating mental health issues, Pieter Ventevogel, senior mental health and psychosocial support officer at UNCHR, told ABC News.

Refugees are often faced with stressors like “prolonged detention, insecure immigration status,” unemployment, poor housing, language barriers and isolation, the American Psychiatric Association reports, which can worsen or cause mental health issues.

Refugee camps aren’t always safe either — as a refugee in Pakistan, Arian was living in a tent with his family — where illnesses spread quickly and he fell ill with tuberculosis.

Compounded with xenophobia and Islamophobia, refugees face many barriers to success.

Refugee children, in particular, are at a high risk of developing “psychological disturbances,” experiencing constant instability and danger from a war zone to their new country, according to research from the University of Oxford.

Ventevogel said its up to resettlement services and agencies to make sure refugees have culturally competent and accessible health services. Mental health care and mental illness is stigmatized in some cultures, he said, and these services have to account for hesitation or resistance.

“It is much easier for an Afghan woman to go somewhere to talk and have tea with another woman rather than to be referred to mental health specialists in a hospital,” Ventevogel said. “Providing counseling in logical places of access, ideally with people who understand their culture and background and know the language.”

Ventevogel said refugees aren’t always set up with jobs, secure housing or language learning services — but these kinds of services can help them build stability in their new life, in their new country.

“The most important things are to give people the chance to develop their life as much as possible in the way they would like, a feeling of autonomy,” Ventevogel said.

Rahmati adds that international crisis lines, with multiple languages available, is also a lacking yet important resource.

For now, Afghans around the world are left awaiting solutions to the ongoing chaos.

“We feel like the world is silent,” Rahmati said. “These are not just anonymous crowds, these are our family members.”

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