Taliban fire at people waving the Afghan national flag

Ex-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in UAE, says in talks to return

August 20, 2021 - 0:16

The United Arab Emirates is hosting former Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled his country following the takeover by the Taliban.

  “The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation can confirm that the UAE has welcomed President Ashraf Ghani and his family into the country on humanitarian grounds,” a statement by the ministry read.

Ghani left Afghanistan on Sunday, August 15.

Ghani, who posted a video on Facebook from the UAE, said he left Afghanistan to prevent bloodshed and that he is in talks to return to his country.

“I am currently in the Emirates so that might have already stopped the bloodshed and chaos, and currently, I am in talks to return to Afghanistan,” he said.

Before becoming president in 2014, Ghani spent much of his life studying how to boost growth in poor nations.

A Fulbright Scholar with a doctorate from Columbia University, he taught at some of America’s elite academic institutions before stints at the World Bank and United Nations. Later he co-wrote Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World.

Taliban fighters have set up checkpoints around Afghanistan’s international airport, raising concerns the group may prevent citizens from fleeing the country after the U.S.-backed government collapsed.

Flag-waving protesters took to the streets of more Afghan cities on Thursday as popular opposition to the Taliban spread, and a witness said several people were killed when the militants fired on a crowd in Asadabad in the east.

"Our flag, our identity," a crowd of men and women waving black, red and green national flags shouted in the capital Kabul, a video clip posted on social media showed, on the day Afghanistan celebrates independence from British control in 1919.

A witness reported gunshots fired near the rally, but they appeared to be armed Taliban shooting in the air.

One woman walked with an Afghan flag wrapped around her shoulders, and those marching chanted "God is greatest". At some protests elsewhere, media has reported people tearing down the white flag of the Taliban.

A Taliban spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Some of the demonstrations are small, but, combined with the ongoing scramble by thousands of people to get to Kabul airport and flee the country, they underline the challenge the Taliban face to govern the country.

The group conquered Afghanistan in lightning speed as foreign troops withdrew, surprising even its leaders and leaving them to fill a power vacuum in many places.

Since seizing Kabul on Sunday, the Taliban have presented a more moderate face to the world, saying they want peace, will not take revenge against old enemies and will respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.

During their previous rule from 1996-2001, they severely restricted women's rights, staged public executions and blew up ancient Buddhist statues.

Russia: Anti-Taliban resistance ‘concentrated’ in Panjshir Valley

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that a Taliban resistance is forming in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley led by vice president Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, the son of a famed anti-Taliban fighter, Al Jazeera reported.

“The Taliban doesn’t control the whole territory of Afghanistan, there are reports of the situation in the Panjshir Valley where the resistance of Afghanistan’s vice president Mr. Saleh and Ahmad Massoud is concentrated,” Lavrov told reporters at a press conference in Moscow.

Taliban fighters kill at least two in Asadabad

At least two people have been killed after Taliban fighters opened fire at a crowd celebrating Independence Day in Asadabad, witnesses told Al Jazeera. At least eight people were wounded in the violence.

The Taliban fired on the crowd after someone stabbed a Taliban fighter with a knife, according to witnesses and videos on social media.

In Jalalabad, Taliban fighters fired at people waving the Afghan national flag, injuring a man and a teenage boy who were transported by rickshaw to nearby hospitals.

In Khost, Taliban fighters are enforcing a curfew to stop protests against them, while people have also come out in the streets of Kabul, defending the republic’s flag.

Infographic: Afghanistan’s flags over the years

The Taliban intends to replace the Afghan flag with their white banner bearing the Shahada: “La ilah ila Allah, Mohammad rasoul Allah” (There is no god but God and Muhammad is God’s messenger) after retaking the country on Sunday.

This is not the first time Afghanistan’s flag has changed.

Afghanistan’s situation makes West look weak: UK

What happened in Afghanistan after a 20-year war led by the U.S. means the West’s resolve is now seen as weak by adversaries like Russia, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace says.

“We have a world order now, where resolve is perceived by our adversaries as weak, the West’s resolve,” Wallace told BBC TV.

“That is something we should all worry about: if the West is seen not to have resolve, and it fractures, then our adversaries like Russia find that encouraging,” Wallace told LBC radio. 

Afghanistan events ‘a catastrophe and a nightmare’: Borrell

The EU’s foreign policy chief branded developments in Afghanistan “a catastrophe and a nightmare” and said there had been a failure of intelligence to anticipate the Taliban’s return to power there.

Josep Borrell told the European Parliament that the first group of 106 EU staff in Afghanistan had been airlifted from the country and arrived in Madrid, Spain.

He also said about 400 Afghans who worked with the EU, and their family members, had been evacuated to Europe but there were 300 more still trying to make it to Kabul airport.

Afghan resistance leader asks for help in anti-Taliban fight

Ahmad Massoud, leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, is urging people to join the fight against the Taliban in an op-ed in the Washington Post newspaper.

He says his fighters are “prepared to once again take on the Taliban” in Panjshir but that they “need more weapons, more ammunition and more supplies”.

“America and its democratic allies do not just have the fight against terrorism in common with Afghans. We now have a long history made up of shared ideals and struggles. There is still much that you can do to aid the cause of freedom. You are our only remaining hope.”

UN should step up its diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan: Brahimi

Veteran UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi told Al Jazeera the UN should step up its diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan.

“The UN should be there, definitely… It is time for diplomacy… you know, the Taliban are a strong player now on the ground. If they want to, they can tomorrow declare a government and… they’ll be all right – for one week, for two weeks, for a month, for a year,” Brahimi added.

“But if you don’t have a real inclusive government, then… the terrible saga of Afghanistan, for 40 years – 50 years actually – will resume or will continue.”

Taliban urge people to leave Kabul airport after 12 killed

According to Taliban and NATO officials, a total of 12 people have been killed in and around Kabul airport since the Taliban seized the city on Sunday, triggering a rush of fearful people trying to leave.

The deaths were caused either by gunshots or in stampedes, the Taliban official said, urging people still crowded at the airport gates to go home if they did not have the right paperwork to travel.

“We don’t want to hurt anyone at the airport,” said the Taliban official, who declined to be identified.

Kabul evacuees land in Germany as airlift gathers pace

Two planes have landed at Frankfurt Airport with about 500 evacuees from Kabul as the pace of German evacuations increases after a chaotic start. The two planes were chartered from Lufthansa and Uzbekistan Airways.

After landing, passengers spoke of chaos at Kabul airport. Mahmud Sadjadi said he saw dead people and heard shooting, describing the situation as “helplessness, hopelessness. Nothing but chaos.”

Another passenger, who did not want to be named, said: “The situation is difficult and not easy to get under control… But the people in Afghanistan need help. The world must help.”

 Italy working to hold extraordinary G20 summit

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi is organizing a Group of 20 summit on the situation in Afghanistan, according to two national newspapers.

Italy holds the rotating G20 presidency this year and the possible meeting is expected earlier than the scheduled summit in Rome in October, daily la Repubblica reported.

Afghan vice president ‘salutes’ anti-Taliban protesters

Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s first vice president, feels “respect, support and appreciation” for Afghans who protest against the Taliban.

“Salute those who carry the national flag and thus stand for dignity of the nation and the country,” he said in a tweet.

Taliban intensify search for Afghans who worked with U.S., NATO forces – NYT

A secret UN document claims the Taliban is intensifying a search for people it believes worked with U.S. and NATO forces, including among the crowds at Kabul’s airport, the New York Times newspaper reported.

The document – seen by NYT – from a UN threat assessment adviser said there were multiple reports the Taliban had a list of people it wanted to question and punish.

It also said the Taliban had been going door to door and “arresting and/or threatening to kill or arrest family members of target individuals unless they surrender themselves”.

UN moving some staff out of Afghanistan

The UN is relocating 100 employees from Afghanistan to Almaty, Kazakhstan, according to a spokesman.

“This is a temporary measure intended to enable the UN to keep delivering assistance to the people of Afghanistan with the minimum of disruption while, at the same time, reducing risk to UN personnel,” said Stephane Dujarric.

He did not specify whether the staff being relocated were international or Afghan workers or both.

Ex-Australian interpreter ‘shot in the leg by Taliban’ – report

A former interpreter for the Australian army has reportedly been shot in the leg by a Taliban fighter as he tried to get on a military evacuation flight out of Kabul, according to Australian broadcaster SBS.

The man said in a voice message that he had been waiting in line to reach the airport gate when a Taliban fighter shot him in the leg.

Photos obtained by SBS News show the man in hospital with a wounded leg.

UN warns of hunger in Afghanistan

Mary Ellen McGroarty, head of the UN food agency in Afghanistan, said a humanitarian crisis is unfolding as 14 million people face severe hunger after the Taliban takeover.

The WFP country director told reporters in a video briefing that the conflict, the nation’s second severe drought in three years, and the social and economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed an already dire situation into a “catastrophe”.

More than 40 percent of crops have been lost, she said, while hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by the Taliban advance.

CPJ calls on Taliban to stop attacking journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling on the Taliban to stop attacking journalists and searching their homes after being informed of at least four incidents since the group took power.

The CPJ says the media must be allowed to “operate freely and without fear of violence or reprisal”.

It said it had received reports of at least four journalists whose homes were searched since the Taliban takeover, and was investigating reports that at least two reporters in Jalalabad had been beaten by the Taliban.

IMF blocks Afghanistan access to reserves citing ‘lack of clarity’

The International Monetary Fund has suspended Afghanistan’s access to IMF resources, including about $440m in new monetary reserves.

The announcement follows pressure from the U.S. Treasury, which holds a controlling share in the fund, to ensure that Afghanistan’s share of a Special Drawing Rights (SDR) reserves allocation scheduled for Monday does not fall into the Taliban’s hands.

“There is currently a lack of clarity within the international community regarding recognition of a government in Afghanistan, as a consequence of which the country cannot access SDRs or other IMF resources,” an IMF spokesperson said in an emailed statement.