Afghanistan live updates: Scramble to complete evacuations by US deadline intensifies

Afghanistan live updates: Scramble to complete evacuations by US deadline intensifies

Europe and the rest of the world are taking stock of President Biden's insistence that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan must be completed by his self-imposed deadline of next Tuesday, August 31.

G7 and European leaders have pledged to help the country and its people following the Taliban's takeover, but without a Western military presence the challenge is immense.

Evacuations continue from Kabul airport, but many people desperate to leave are unlikely to be able to do so.

Read more main articles on the story here, and see below for our live updates.

15:07

London gives provisional green light for evacuation of 200 cats and dogs

The British defence minister Ben Wallace says he will allow the air evacuation from Kabul of cats and dogs taken into a shelter by a former naval officer who chartered a plane to evacuate Afghan personnel and animals.
While thousands of Afghans have desperately tried to flee the country since the Taliban came to power, fearing a return to their repressive methods, the subject has been the subject of debate for several days in the UK.
Paul Farthing, a former soldier who opened an animal shelter in Kabul, wants to get some 140 dogs and 60 cats along with the shelter's Afghan employees and their relatives.
Wallace said Farthing's staff had been cleared to come forward. "At that stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane," he tweeted.
But, he added, those deemed most at risk had priority and "no one has the right in this humanitarian crisis to jump the queue".
The day before, the minister said he would not give priority to animals over men, women and children.
14:44

French evacuations 'a race against time'

A French government spokesperson says France will continue its evacuation operation in Kabul “as long as possible” ahead of American Aug. 31 withdrawal date.

Gabriel Attal on Wednesday did not provide a date for the end of the French operation, saying only “we will likely need to anticipate a few hours, maybe a few days ahead” of the American forces’ departure from Kabul airport.

“We will continue as long as possible,” he said. “Due to extreme tension on the ground ... and the scheduled departure of American forces, these evacuations are a true race against time.”

Attal declined to elaborate on how many people are still waiting for evacuation by France in Kabul.

A 10th flight carrying evacuees landed in Paris on Wednesday, with 21 French and 220 Afghan nationals, including 130 children onboard, according to the French Office of Immigration and Integration.

In total, at least 1,720 Afghans and a hundred French people have been evacuated by France since the beginning of the operation last week.

French President Emmanuel Macron promised France would evacuate Afghans who worked for the country as well as activists and others under threat.

14:16

Bulgaria says granting 70 Afghans asylum

Bulgaria says it will grant asylum to some 70 Afghan citizens and their families.

The country’s caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev told reporters on Wednesday that the Afghan nationals have previously worked at the Bulgarian Embassy in Kabul or within the Bulgarian military missions in Afghanistan.

He did not elaborate about the timing and the route of the evacuation.

“Their evacuation from Afghanistan will be a challenge, but with the arrangements in place I hope that we will be successful," Yanev said.

Bulgaria, a member of the European Union and NATO, has already announced that it is going to shelter Afghans who worked for the Balkan country.

But it is hesitant to invite larger groups of refugees, saying that all temporary accommodation centers are already overcrowded with migrants from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

Bulgaria was used as a transit route for hundreds of thousands of migrants on their way to western Europe during the height of the migrant crisis. Since then, Bulgaria erected a razor-wire fence along most of its 269-kilometer (167-mile) border with Turkey and has pledged to deploy hundreds of army troops to support border police.

13:44

Over 300 more Afghan evacuees arrive in Paris

More than 300 Afghans evacuated from Kabul arrived on Wednesday morning in Paris on board two military flights from Abu Dhabi, an armed forces spokesperson said.
An Airbus A330 landed around 3:00 am at Roissy with "more than 240 people on board, mostly Afghans, as well as 22 French nationals and one Briton", Colonel Pascal Ianni told AFP.
An A400M then landed at 8:40 am with "a hundred people, again an overwhelming majority of Afghans, and five French," he said.
Two other flights are scheduled for Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning.
These are the 10th and 11th flights since the French airlift was set up between Kabul and Paris, via the Al-Dhafra base in the United Arab Emirates.
France has brought out more than 2,000 people since the fall of Kabul at the hands of the Taliban on August 15. They include French nationals, other nationalities and Afghans considered under threat.
Unlike other NATO countries, France has not had a military presence in Afghanistan since 2014 and so has already brought back 800 personnel who worked for the French army, plus their families, between 2014 and 2019.
Anticipating the departure of the United States from the country, France evacuated 623 people -- those who worked for the embassy and other French institutions, plus their families -- between May and July 2021.
12:53

Poland halts evacuations over safety concerns

Poland has halted its airlift evacuations from Kabul's international airport over safety concerns.


Marcin Przydacz, a Polish deputy foreign minister, said that a group taken from Kabul and now in Uzbekistan was the last evacuated by Poland.

Another plane is on its way to Warsaw. 


He said his nation made its decision after consulting with the US. and British officials.


“After a long analysis of reports on the security situation we cannot risk the lives of our diplomats and of our soldiers any longer," Przydacz said.
 

12:24

Hotel in Strasbourg requisitioned to host refugees

One hundred and fifty Afghan refugees will be welcomed to Strasbourg on Thursday, the prefect of Bas-Rhin announced on Wednesday.

"It has been agreed that we will welcome 150 Afghans to Strasbourg from tomorrow," Josiane Chevalier told a press conference.

She added that they would be staying for several weeks, and that a hotel in the city had been requisitioned for a month to house the refugees.

11:38

UNICEF Afghanistan: 10m children in desperate need

Ten million children in Afghanistan are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance since the Taliban swept to power this month, a UNICEF Afghanistan spokesperson said Wednesday.

The organisation said it expects the humanitarian situation in the country to worsen due to a severe drought, the onset of winter and the coronavirus pandemic.

"Afghanistan is a country in crisis, and those who are least responsible for it are paying the highest price," Sam Mort, UNICEF Afghanistan Chief of Communication, said during an interview with Sky News.

"Many of these children have seen atrocities that no child should ever see," she added.

Children in Afghanistan already survive on humanitarian assistance and around a million are expected to suffer from life-threatening malnutrition this year, according to UNICEF.

It says some 4.2 million children, including 2.2 million girls, are out of school.

Afghanistan was a poor country, reliant on international aid, even before the Taliban took over earlier this month.

While UNICEF was able to provide water and other assistance to some of the internally displaced population, a recent drought in the country meant food production could run out in the coming months, Sam Mort warned.

11:09

51 evacuees from Afghanistan arrive in Uganda at US request

Uganda's government said that 51 people evacuated from Afghanistan arrived Wednesday in the East African country at the request of the United States.

Authorities said in a statement that the group, transported to Uganda on a chartered flight, arrived early Wednesday. The statement said they included men, women and children. No further details were immediately given on the evacuees' identities.

Ugandan officials said last week that the country would shelter up to 2,000 people fleeing the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan. They said the Afghans would be brought to Uganda in small groups in a temporary arrangement before they are relocated elsewhere.

10:55

Lithuania evacuates 50 interpreters from Kabul

A plane carrying the first group of Afghan interpreters who had worked with Lithuanian forces in Afghanistan has touched down in the Baltic country.

The Defence Ministry said on Wednesday that a total of 50 people were flown from Kabul via the Polish capital Warsaw.

They are the first of 115 interpreters who worked with Lithuanian forces in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2013, and Lithuania plans to bring all of them out of the country. The second group is expected to land in Vilnius later in the day.

Meanwhile in Norway, two planes from Afghanistan with a total of 278 passengers landed in Oslo, Norwegian news agency NTB reported.

And two planes carrying evacuees from Afghanistan landed in Belgium on Wednesday. The planes touched down in Melsbroek, and families wearing masks stepped off the plane and were transferred to buses.

10:34

'Almost all' Britons out of Afghanistan -- foreign minister

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Wednesday "almost all" British nationals who want to leave Afghanistan had returned to the UK.

The UK along with many countries across the globe have been undertaking huge evacuation operations in Kabul after the Taliban took control of the city earlier this month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says ​​​​10,291 people have been evacuated since 13 August, more than 5,500 of them Afghans and their families.

https://twitter.com/BorisJohnson/status/1430436600039759874

The Taliban has reiterated that the evacuations and troop withdrawals must end by the US August 31 deadline.

A Taliban spokesman said on Tuesday that after that date, Afghans will no longer be allowed to leave the country.

The UN's human rights chief has said she has "credible reports" of serious abuses by the Islamist militants, including summary executions, the recruitment of child soldiers, and restrictions imposed on women and girls.

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