KABUL, AFGHANISTAN, AUGUST 16
The latest on Afghanistan:
BRUSSELS - European Union foreign ministers will hold emergency talks Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan, after the president fled and the Taliban seized control of the capital, Kabul, over the weekend.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a tweet Monday that he decided to convene the extraordinary videoconference so the ministers can make "a first assessment" of developments.
Borrell says that "Afghanistan stands at a crossroad. Security and wellbeing of its citizens, as well as international security are at play."
European nations have been caught by surprise at the speed of the takeover. They've been evacuating embassies and leaving the strife-torn country in recent days. The EU has small diplomatic mission in Kabul. It's one of Afghanistan's biggest aid donors.
GENEVA - The U.N. humanitarian aid coordination agency says it and partners "are staying and delivering to people in need" despite a complex security situation in Afghanistan following a sweep by Taliban forces across the country.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid, or OCHA, says in a note: "The humanitarian community - both the U.N. and nongovernmental organizations - remains committed to helping people in the country."
OCHA said thousands of internally displaced people who have been identified in recent weeks have received assistance including food, cash, health care, water, and sanitation support.
"While the security environment is highly complex, humanitarian agencies are staying and delivering to people in need," OCHA said.
Even before the upheaval, some 18.4 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, OCHA said, and its $1.3 billion humanitarian response plan for the country is only 38% funded.
BERLIN - The German government has called on the Taliban to show restraint, protect the lives of the Afghan people and make sure needed humanitarian aid can reach them.
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said Monday that Germany "is concerned about the fates of individual Afghans as well as the development of the entire country."
Steffen Seibert said Monday that "these are bitter developments, when looking at them against the background of the years-long missions of the western community of states."
The government also said it is personally contacting all embassy staff, including local hires, whom they are trying to evacuate out of Kabul. A spokesman for the country's foreign ministry warned people not to independently try to reach the airport because of the volatile and dynamic situation there.
Christofer Burger told reporters Monday that the embassy is calling and emailing everyone who is on evacuation lists and giving them personal instructions.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark - The staff with the Finnish Embassy in Kabul have fled to a neighboring country.
The Finland daily Helsingin Sanomat reported Monday that the country's armed forces took part in the evacuation and according to the newspaper's sources, the staff flew out on an American plane.
In Denmark, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that Danes "are working round the clock. We are in the process of evacuating," adding the work was done "in extremely difficult conditions."
MOSCOW -- Moscow will decide whether to recognize the new Taliban government based on its conduct, the Kremlin envoy on Afghanistan said in an interview Monday.
Zamir Kabulov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that "no one is going to rush" the decision. "Recognition or non-recognition will depend on the conduct of the new authorities," Kabulov said.
Russia labeled the Taliban a terrorist organization in 2003, but has since hosted several rounds of talks in Afghanistan, most recently in March, that involved the group. Moscow, which fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with Soviet troops' withdrawal in 1989, has made a diplomatic comeback as a mediator, reaching out to feuding Afghan factions as it has jockeyed with the US for influence in the country.
Kabulov said Monday the Taliban was "deservedly" declared a terrorist group in Russia two decades ago. "The Taliban have learned this lesson well. If they haven't learned it in full, they will have to face great difficulties in relations not only with Russia, but with the entire global community," Kabulov said.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - Slovakia's Prime Minister Eduard Heger says his country will give asylum to 10 Afghan nationals who have intensively cooperated with European Union member states in recent years.
Heger says his country is providing a military plane to transport them to Slovakia together with several Slovak nationals who have asked for it.
BEIJING - China says its embassy remains open in Kabul and expressed a willingness to support its reconstruction.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying did not answer explicitly when asked whether Beijing would recognize the Taliban as the new government but said that China would respect the choice of the Afghan people.
She noted the Taliban pledges to negotiate the establishment of an inclusive Islamic government and to ensure the safety of both Afghans and foreign missions. China, she added, hopes that would "ensure a smooth transition of the situation in Afghanistan."
LONDON -- A leading British lawmaker from Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party is calling the mayhem at Kabul airport "Saigon 2.0," comparing it to US evacuation of South Vietnam's capital in 1975.
Tobias Ellwood, a former defense minister and British Army captain. said the images of the mayhem Monday at Kabul airport echoed the evacuation of the South Vietnam capital after North Vietnamese troops entered the city.
The advance of the North Vietnamese prompted the US to evacuate thousands of its nationals and troops as well as South Vietnamese civilians who had helped during the war. The most dramatic images involved the evacuation of people from the roof of the US Embassy.
"If this is not Saigon 2.0, I don't know what is," Ellwood said. "Is this how we thought we'd depart Afghanistan? I repeat my call for a U.K. inquiry."
US President Joe Biden's decision earlier this year to announce the timeline for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan led the other nations in the NATO coalition, including the U.K., to announce their own departures, two decades after they first arrived in Afghanistan.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Monday called for national reconciliation in neighboring Afghanistan.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Raisi as saying Iran will support efforts to restore stability in Afghanistan as a first priority. He called Iran "a brother and neighboring nation" to Afghanistan. He also described the Americans' rapid pullout as a "military failure" that should "turn to an opportunity for restoring life, security and stable peace."
Iran shares nearly 600 miles of borders with Afghanistan and is home to about 800,000 registered Afghan refugees and more than two million undocumented Afghans. The influx began after Soviet forces entered Afghanistan in 1979.
MOSCOW - Russia will evacuate some of its embassy staff in Kabul "in order not to create too big a presence," the Kremlin envoy on Afghanistan said Monday.
Zamir Kabulov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that some of roughly 100 Russian embassy staff "will be placed on leave or evacuated in some other fashion just in order not to create too big a presence." Kabulov said that the Russian ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov will meet a Taliban representative on Tuesday to discuss security for the diplomatic mission, adding that the outside perimeter of the embassy is already being guarded by the Taliban.
Kabulov also said that the Taliban's swift takeover of the Afghan capital was "somewhat unexpected." He said Russia was "too optimistic in our assessment of the quality of the armed forces trained by the Americans and NATO."
Kabulov said of those forces, "They dropped everything at the first shot."
MOSCOW -- The Uzbek Defense Ministry has confirmed that an Afghan military plane crashed in Uzbekistan on Sunday, but wouldn't reveal the details of the accident.
Ministry's spokesman Bakhrom Zulfikarov told Russia's state news agency Tass on Monday that the plane crashed in the Surkhandarya region in southeastern Uzbekistan and that "the details of the accident are currently being studied, information about it will be revealed later."
Uzbek media reported that the plane went down Sunday evening in the southeast of the country not far from the border with Afghanistan. At least one person was reported injured.
CANBERRA, Australia - Australia is sending three transport and air-to-air refueling jets with 250 military personnel to repatriate more than 130 Australians and their families from Afghanistan, officials said on Monday.
Australia is also working to evacuate an undisclosed number of refugees, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.
The support comes as the US and other nations scramble to evacuate diplomats and Afghan employees and their families from Kabul. The Taliban a day earlier toppled the Western-backed government.
An Airbus A330 airliner modified for aerial refueling would support US-led operations in Afghanistan later this week, Australia's Defense Department said in a statement. Two C-17A Globemaster heavy transport aircraft would also be sent to the Middle East, the statement said.
Australia shut its Kabul embassy in May and withdrew the last of its troops from Afghanistan in June.
More than 39,000 Australian military personnel have served in Afghanistan since 2001, and 41 died there.
LISBON, Portugal - Portugal's defense minister says his country is prepared to take in 243 Afghans, and their families who worked with Portuguese forces stationed in the country.
Defense Minister João Gomes Cravinho said NATO is coordinating the evacuation of the Afghans because Portugal doesn't have the military capacity to do so.
He told public broadcaster RTP late Sunday he is not aware of any Portuguese citizens living in Afghanistan.
Portugal had a small detachment of fewer than 200 troops stationed at Kabul airport, as part of the NATO mission in the country. The last ones pulled out at the end of May.
STOCKHOLM - Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Monday that 19 embassy employees had been evacuated from Kabul to Doha, Qatar and they'll eventually flown to Sweden.
Earlier Monday, Norway and Denmark said that the bulk of the embassy staff were out of Afghanistan.
Norway Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said for the sake of the Norwegians it was done overnight.
Denmark's Defense Minister Trine Bramsen told Danish broadcaster DR that while most Danish diplomats had been evacuated, "there are still Danes," and others in the country still to be flown out.
Challenges include being able to land at Kabul's chaotic airport, he said. But there's a struggle, too, to get people to the airport, "a very difficult operation," Bramsen was quoted as saying.
LONDON -- British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace says the government is planning to fly out 1,500 more people from Afghanistan over the next two days.
The first flight carrying British nationals has landed in the U.K., he said Monday, as countries scrambled to evacuate their diplomats, Afghan employees and their families from the chaotic airport in Kabul.
Wallace expressed hope that the government will be able to evacuate around 1,000 people a day, including Afghan nationals who have helped British citizens.
He told the BBC that work is under way to "remove any bureaucratic barriers" to make sure people who pass screenings are able to be flown to the U.K.
He said the British government sent more than 600 troops over the weekend to Kabul to help secure the airport and "to effectively process, manage and escort people onto our flights to get them out of Afghanistan."
Wallace said one of the "biggest regrets" with the speed of the collapse of the Afghan government is that the timetable to remove Afghans and British people from the nation by Aug, 31 has had to be shortened.
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's state-run airline says it has halted all flights to Afghanistan's capital of Kabul because of the "uncertain security situation" there.
Spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said Monday that Pakistan International Airlines decided to protect passengers, the crew and the planes after consulting the Afghan civil aviation authorities.
He spoke as embassies scrambled to evacuate personnel and Afghan employees through the airport. On Sunday, Taliban militants ended two decades of Western-backed government after a blitz through Afghanistan.
Videos on social media showed chaos at Kabul International Airport overnight, with the crack of occasional gunfire and hundreds of panicked Afghans running across the tarmac. By morning, advisories sent by civil aviation authorities announced the "civilian side" of the airport had been "closed until further notice."
Early Monday morning, flight-tracking data showed no immediate commercial flights over the country.
MILAN - Italy's has evacuated 70 embassy staff and Afghan employees from the capital city of Kabul. The plane was scheduled to arrive in Rome on Monday. Video taken at Kabul's international airport and released by the Italian Defense Ministry shows people walking up a mobile staircase to board the plane in darkness.
The evacuation is part of Italy's Operation Aquila Omnia (Eagle Ready for Anything) to quickly evacuate Italian diplomatic staff, citizens and Afghan employees and family members.
Italy had one of the largest contingents in Afghanistan before the pullout.
Italian journalist Francesca Mannocchi, who was on the plane, said that it was carrying 20 Afghan embassy employees and their families, including women and children. Prior to the Taliban advance, 228 Afghanis and their families had been transferred to Italy.
Officials declined to give number of how many remained, but Italian media reported over the weekend that some 390 Afghan citizens and their family members were awaiting evacuation.
The first Czech evacuation flight has taken off from Kabul's international airport and landed in Prague.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis said 46 people were on board Monday's flight.
They included Czech nationals, the Afghan staffers at the Czech embassy and Afghan interpreters who helped the Czech armed forces during NATO missions together with their families.
Babis didn't immediately provide more details. It's not clear how many such flights will follow.
Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek tweeted that given the deteriorating situation at Kabul's airport, it was "a miracle" that the Czech flight managed to take off.
Local media reported that thousands of people were gathered at the Kabul airport to leave the country.
In an earlier joint statement, the US Pentagon and State Department said the American military would take over air-traffic control at the airport.