The Taliban has declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government, trying to calm nerves across a tense capital city that only the day before saw chaos at its airport as thousands mobbed the city’s international airport in a desperate attempt to flee.
Evacuation flights from Afghanistan resumed as a Western security official told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the Kabul airport’s tarmac and runway – which troops from the United States control – were now clear of crowds.
The official said military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan have started taking off.
At least seven people died in Monday’s chaos, including several people who clung to the sides of a jet as it took off.
In Washington, DC, US President Joe Biden said he stood “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and fired scorching criticism at the country’s former Western-backed leadership for failing to resist the Taliban.
“I stand squarely behind my decision,” he said in a televised address from the White House. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces.”
The Taliban have meanwhile declared the war in Afghanistan over and a senior leader said the group would wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.
China said it was ready for “friendly relations” with the Taliban, while Russia and Iran also made diplomatic overtures.
Here are the latest updates:
India ferries 120 officials from Afghanistan
A military flight carrying Indian officials has landed in the western state of Gujarat after taking off from Kabul’s main airport, reported Indian media.
India’s foreign ministry had said the country was evacuating its ambassador and other Indian staff from Kabul.
India’s public broadcaster reported that the plane carried more than 120 Indian officials. Another military aircraft brought home around 40 Indian diplomats and other staff on Monday, local media reported.
The Indian government also announced a new electronic visa that would fast-track applications from Afghans who wish to escape to India.
Berlin calls on NATO to learn lessons from Afghanistan
Germany’s defence minister urged NATO to learn lessons from its Afghanistan mission – slammed as a “debacle” by critics.
Speaking ahead of an emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told German broadcaster ZDF “there’s a lot that we have to work on within NATO”.
“The question for us will be to what extent are we willing to carry the consequences for this, and to what extent we are prepared to take measures that up to this point we have left to the Americans,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.
‘Our future unknown’: Afghan nationals in India wary of Taliban
Last week, Mohammad Nadir, 70, and his wife Jameela left Afghanistan and arrived in the Indian capital on a medical visa for treatment of age-related health complications.
Jameela, who struggles to walk due to the pain in her knees, says she is “a bit relieved because we were lucky that we left on time”.
The couple left Afghanistan as a resurgent Taliban was making a stunning advance as US-led foreign forces leave the war-torn country 20 years after invading it.
Read more here.
Taliban issues decree not to enter people’s houses
The head of the Taliban’s Military Commission, Mullah Yaqoob, has issued a voice statement declaring that no one is allowed to enter anyone’s house, especially in the city of Kabul.
The statement comes after unconfirmed reports that the group had entered the homes of people in the capital.
The group also issued a blanket amnesty and urged all government employees to return to work.
The Mayor of Kabul and the acting Minister of Public Health were both among those who returned to their jobs on Tuesday.
Reporting by Ali M Latifi from Kabul
Hamas chief congratulates Taliban on end of US ‘occupation’
The political chief of Palestinian resistance group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, has congratulated the Taliban on the end of the US “occupation” of Afghanistan.
This came in a phone call between Haniyeh and Taliban leader Abdul-Ghani Baradar on Monday.
Haniyeh said the end of the US occupation of Afghanistan “is a prelude to the demise of all occupation forces, foremost of which is the Israeli occupation of Palestine”, according to Hamas’ website.
First German plane evacuated only 7 people from Kabul
A first German military plane to land in Kabul since the Taliban takeover evacuated only seven people, the government said, due to chaos at the Afghan capital’s airport.
Germany wants to airlift thousands of German-Afghan dual nationals as well as rights activists, lawyers and people who worked with foreign forces.
Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the A400M transport plane undertook a “breakneck landing” on Monday evening, with its main aim to bring in German soldiers to secure the evacuation.
Taliban urges women to join government
The Taliban urged women to join its government as Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, made the first comments on governance from a federal level across the country after their blitz across the country.
“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims” Samangani said, using the militants’ term for Afghanistan. “They should be in government structure according to Shariah law.”
He added: “The structure of government is not fully clear, but based on experience, there should be a fully Islamic leadership and all sides should join.”
Pakistan’s FM calls for inclusive political settlement
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi about the “developing situation” in Afghanistan, the US State department said in a statement.
Commenting on the call, Pakistan’s foreign ministry stressed in a statement the importance of inclusive political settlement as the best way forward.
“The Foreign Minister [Qureshi] shared Pakistan’s perspective noting the significant change in the situation within a short span and the avoidance of violence,” read the Pakistani statement.
Pakistan “underlined that Pakistan would remain closely engaged with the US and other international partners in promoting efforts in support of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan”, and “stressed that continued US economic engagement with Afghanistan was of crucial importance as well”.
Foreign Minister Qureshi also briefed Secretary Blinken on Pakistani efforts to help with the evacuation of diplomats, media workers and international organisation staff from Kabul, the Pakistani statement said.
Reporting by Asad Hashim in Pakistan
Britain cautions against militants using Afghanistan to attack West
Britain cautioned the Taliban that Afghanistan must never be used to launch terror attacks but added that the West must try to positively influence the armed group.
Britain fears the Taliban’s return and the vacuum left by the West’s chaotic withdrawal will allow militants from al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) to gain a foothold in Afghanistan, just 20 years after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would try to see if it could moderate the new rulers of Afghanistan and even try to convince them to be “inclusive.
French evacuation plane lands in Abu Dhabi
The first French military plane carrying French evacuees from Afghanistan landed overnight in Abu Dhabi, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said, adding that France was working on running further flights out of Afghanistan.
Military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians resumed early on Tuesday after the runway at Kabul airport was cleared of thousands of people desperate to flee after the Taliban seized the capital.
US social media firms face new challenge in Afghanistan
The Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan poses a new challenge for big US tech companies on handling content created by a group considered “terrorists” by some world governments.
Social media giant Facebook confirmed that it designates the Taliban a terrorist group and bans it and content supporting it from its platforms.
Read more here.
Taliban announce ‘amnesty’ for govt officials
The Taliban declared a general amnesty for all government officials and urged them to return to work, two days after taking power following a lightning sweep through the country.
“A general amnesty has been declared for all… so you should start your routine life with full confidence,” said a statement from the Taliban.
Kabul airport situation stabilising: Britain’s Raab
The position at Kabul airport is stabilising, Britain’s foreign minister said.
“The position at the airport is stabilising,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News. “The stability at the airport is absolutely key.”
Bush expresses ‘deep sadness’ over situation
Former US President George Bush said he and former First Lady Laura Bush feel “deep sadness” over the events unfolding in Afghanistan.
“Laura and I have been watching the tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan with deep sadness.
“Our hearts are heavy for both the Afghan people who have suffered so much and for the Americans and NATO allies who have sacrificed so much,” the former president said in a statement.
Europe needs humanitarian corridors for Afghan refugees, says official
Europe has to create humanitarian corridors to receive refugees fleeing from Afghanistan, and also to avoid uncontrolled flows of illegal immigrants, the European Union’s Economy Commissioner said.
“I think that Europe will inevitably have to equip itself for humanitarian corridors and organised reception, also to avoid uncontrolled flows of illegal immigrants. Or, at least, the countries that are willing to do so, should,” Paolo Gentiloni told Italian daily il Messaggero.
The EU’s foreign ministers will hold a crisis meeting later on Tuesday to discuss the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban.
Bush calls for safe passage for Afghan refugees, without ‘bureaucratic delay’
George W Bush, the former US president, has called on his country to expedite the evacuation of Afghans who helped Washington’s war effort.
“The Afghans now at the greatest risk are the same ones who have been on the forefront of progress inside their nation,” he said in a statement.
“The United States government has the legal authority to cut the red tape for refugees during urgent humanitarian crises. And we have the responsibility and the resources to secure safe passage for them now, without bureaucratic delay. Our most stalwart allies, along with private NGOs, are ready to help.”
Taliban leader reported in Kabul for talks – report
The Associated Press news agency says senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Muttaqi is in the Afghan capital negotiating with Kabul’s political leadership, including former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who once headed the country’s negotiating council.
The agency cited an official familiar with the talks and who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Muttaqi was a higher education minister when the Taliban last ruled and he began making contacts with Afghan political leaders even before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani secretly slipped away from the Presidential Palace on the weekend.
The official says the talks under way in the Afghan capital are aimed at bringing other non-Taliban leaders into the government that Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has said will be an “inclusive Afghan government”.
Afghans familiar with the talks say some sessions have gone late into the night and have been under way since soon after Ghani’s departure.
Blinken speaks to European counterparts
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held separate discussions on Monday with his counterparts in the United Kingdom, the European Union, Turkey and NATO on the situation in Afghanistan and Washington’s efforts to bring back their citizens.
“The Secretary expressed his profound appreciation for the EU, NATO, Turkey, and the UK’s efforts in Afghanistan,” the State Department said.
Indian embassy officials leaving Kabul
Indian embassy officials in Kabul, including the ambassador, are vacating the Afghan capital, a spokesman for the foreign ministry in New Delhi said.
“In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately,” spokesman Arindam Bagchi said on Twitter.
In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our Ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately.
— Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) August 17, 2021
Military evacuation flights take off from Kabul
Military flights transporting diplomats and civilians out of Afghanistan started taking off on Tuesday morning, a Western security official at Kabul airport told the Reuters news agency.
The airport runway and tarmac, overrun on Monday by thousands of people desperate to flee from the Afghanistan capital, are now clear of crowds, the official said.
US forces, which are in charge at the airport, had halted the departing flights because of the chaos.
Malala Yousafzai urges world leaders to act
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai says she is deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan – particularly the safety of women and girls – and is calling on world leaders to take urgent action.
Yousafzai says Biden “has a lot to do” and must “take a bold step” to protect the Afghan people.
“This is actually an urgent humanitarian crisis right now that we need to provide our help and support,” 23-year-old Yousafzai told BBC Newsnight show, adding that she had been trying to reach out to several world leaders.
Yousafzai survived being shot in the head by a Pakistani Taliban gunman in 2012, after she was attacked for her campaign against its efforts to deny women education.
Analyst: ‘The movie that everyone predicted but very much fast-forwarded’
President Biden is being criticised for his handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan but analysts note that people in the US, while appalled by the scenes at Kabul airport, remain broadly supportive of their troops leaving the country.
Douglas Ollivant, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, says that while Biden bears ultimate responsibility, few analysts or intelligence officers had predicted the speed of the Taliban’s advance.
“Ultimately, he’s the American president and the buck stops with him, but I think when we look back while none of these events have surprised analysts – all of these events were predicted – I don’t think even the most pessimistic of analysts would have predicted it would happen quite this fast,” Ollivant told Al Jazeera.
“In essence, we have been seeing the movie that everyone predicted but very much fast-forwarded, and fast-forwarded in a way that made it impossible to make decisions quickly enough or react in a way that got the US ahead of events.”
UN chief urges countries to accept Afghan refugees
UN chief Antonio Guterres is urging all countries to accept Afghan refugees and refrain from deportations.
The world is watching events in the country “with a heavy heart”, he said on Twitter.
“Afghans have known generations of war & hardship. They deserve our full support.”
As the world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart, I urge all countries to be willing to receive Afghan refugees & refrain from deportations.
Afghans have known generations of war & hardship. They deserve our full support.
Now is the time for solidarity.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) August 16, 2021
Blinken speaks to counterparts in India, Pakistan
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been speaking to his counterparts in Pakistan and India on the situation in Afghanistan.
Blinken held calls with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, according to a State Department statement. It did not elaborate on what was discussed.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.
For key developments from yesterday, go here.