Britain working to keep airport open after troops withdraw on 31 August; UK evacuation flights from Kabul may have to stop this week; Joe Biden refuses to budge on evacuation deadline despite pressure from world leaders in G7 call
Russia and China agree to step up efforts to combat terrorism in Afghanistan
Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping agreed in a phone call today to increase their efforts to tackle terrorism and drug trafficking in Afghanistan.
The two leaders also said it was important to stop instability spilling into neighbouring countries, according to the Kremlin.
G7 leaders yesterday discussed the situation in Afghanistan and what could be done to prevent a humanitarian crisis, but experts have said they could also need the cooperation of Russia and China to make a real impact.
In pictures: Afghan refugees arrive in Virginia
Families who fled Taliban rule in Afghanistan have been photographed arriving at the Dulles Expo Centre in Chantilly, Virginia, after being airlifted to safety by the US.
Images capture men, women and children outside the processing centre near Dulles International Airport.
People protest the arrival of Afghan refugees in the Netherlands
We've seen demonstrations take place across the globe in solidarity with those in Afghanistan, who are now under Taliban rule.
But local reports from near Utrecht, the Netherlands, captured a very different scene on Tuesday night.
It was reported that around 250 people gathered to protest the arrival of Afghan refugees at an army camp in Harskamp, where up to 800 people fleeing the Taliban will be accommodated.
The emergency shelter began receiving refugees yesterday, and is one of four camps erected by the Netherlands.
It was said the protests started peacefully but later got out of hand when a pile of car tyres were set alight.
In pictures: Desperate Afghans still trying to get into Kabul airport to board evacuation flights
These pictures were dropped by Reuters earlier today and show the numbers of desperate people still trying to flee as time runs out on the international evacuation effort.
Germany will continue to help Afghans after withdrawal deadline
We reported earlier claims that Angela Merkel told lawmakers the German evacuation mission will continue "for as long as it is responsible to do so" (see 10.51am post).
It has now been confirmed that Germany will try to help Afghans who worked with its soldiers even after the 31 August withdrawal deadline.
In an address to the German parliament, Ms Merkel said: "The end of the air bridge in a few days must not mean the end of efforts to protect Afghan helpers and help those Afghans who have been left in a bigger emergency with the takeover of the Taliban.
"That's why we are working intensively at all levels to find how we can protect those who helped us, including through the civilian operation of the airport in Kabul."
19,000 people evacuated in 24 hours - White House
The US and coalition forces airlifted around 19,000 people from Afghanistan on Tuesday.
This brings the total number airlifted out of Kabul since 14 August to 82,300.
It comes as a race to evacuate thousands speeds up ahead of the US withdrawal deadline of 31 August.
Poland stops airlift over safety fears
Poland has stopped evacuations from Kabul airport over safety concerns in Afghanistan.
Marcin Przydacz, a 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," Mr Przydacz said.
COVID vaccine drive drops by 80% in Afghanistan
The number of people getting COVID vaccines fell by 80% in the first week after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, according to Unicef.
The agency has warned that nearly two million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine delivered to Afghanistan will expire in November.
Figures from the World Health Organisation show only 1.2 million doses of a COVID vaccine have been given in Afghanistan up to 20 August.
A Unicef spokesperson said: "The drop is understandable, as in situations of chaos, conflict and emergency, people will prioritise their safety and security first."
Banks open in Kabul for the first time in 10 days
Banks in the Afghan capital have opened for the first time since the Taliban seized control on 15 August, according to reports.
Photographs from Kabul show dozens of people lining up outside a bank, flanked by Taliban fighters holding sticks.
Those in the Afghan capital have reported desperation in recent days as ATMs were emptied, bank accounts were frozen and food prices began to soar.
Kabul Bank has now started serving customers in a glimpse of normality for those in the capital, but it is not issuing large sums of cash due to an ongoing shortage in the city.
The situation in Kabul is 'as bad as it gets'
Speaking from the ground in Kabul, chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay described the bleak situation for desperate Afghans waiting in a sewage canal outside the airport's gates.
He said: "There is a real sense now that people are coming to expect that this whole airlift is coming to an end.
"They're really, really desperate. They're in a sewage canal. They're trying to show their paperwork, trying to show that they should perhaps be looked at. It's really desperate."
Pointing to one holding area, he added: "That is really the pretty much hopeless column we're told, but I can see lots of passports from lots of different countries.
"The fact is that when the withdrawal happens it is always going to be difficult because the soldiers can't keep working up until the last minute.
"They have to start withdrawing in the days leading up to their departure."
Ramsay added that Taliban fighters now appear to be stopping people from arriving at the airport.
British soldiers fear Afghans could overrun Kabul airport
The scene at Kabul airport has been increasingly chaotic following the fall of Afghanistan, as tens of thousands of people attempt to flee life under Taliban rule.
But there are now fears of a further scramble as the US withdrawal deadline of 31 August looms.
A soldier on the ground in Kabul told The Daily Telegraph there are fears civilians "might try and get in any way they can and potentially put us all at risk".
He added: "Unfortunately the quantity of civilians arriving is something we cannot control, with the majority of them not being eligible to be evacuated."
He added: "I and many others have seen a few mentally disturbing scenes. I think there will be more of that."
10,291 people evacuated from Afghanistan under Operation Pitting
The UK has airlifted 10,291 people to safety since 13 August, the MoD said today.
Some 1,833 of these left Kabul in the last 24 hours.
The MoD added that more military flights are planned for Wednesday as the rush to evacuate continues.
Germany will continue evacuations 'for as long as possible' – reports
Angela Merkel said evacuations from Afghanistan will continue for "as long as it is responsible to so", according to sources quoted by the Reuters news agency.
However, she reportedly told conservative lawmakers that this is only possible with the assistance of the US.
It comes after German broadcaster ARD reported that airlifts may stop as early as Wednesday.
More than half of displaced Afghans are children – UN
Almost 60% of Afghans who fled their homes this year are children, according to figures released by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The data provided a snapshot of population movements in Afghanistan between January and July 2021.
In total, almost 550,000 Afghans have been displaced as the Taliban rapidly advanced on Afghanistan.
The latest global evacuation efforts from Kabul airport
We've been bringing you updates today as world leaders rush to evacuate thousands of nationals and at-risk Afghans following the Taliban takeover.
The situation picked up pace on Tuesday when Joe Biden refused to extend the withdrawal deadline of 31 August – and the Taliban insisted all UK and US military must leave.
In the latest movements today:
- First group of Afghan interpreters who worked with Lithuania in Afghanistan leave Kabul
- Two planes carrying 278 evacuees arrive in Oslo, Norway
- 51 people from Afghanistan arrive in Uganda at request of US. They are expected to shelter up to 2,000 people fleeing Taliban rule
- Australia says it has helped evacuate 955 people in five flights from Kabul
- Around 380 people evacuated from Afghanistan will arrive in South Korea on Thursday
Analysis: Afghanistan has deteriorated under Taliban control
Afghanistan was already struggling as a country even when it was doing well, writes Sky News correspondent Sally Lockwood.
The majority of people there live below the poverty line.
Since the Taliban took control of the country things have got much worse.
Basic things you would expect in a functioning country aren't happening.
The banking system is on the verge of collapse, ATMs are empty, bank accounts frozen, people can't pay their staff, they can't buy food.
The majority of foreign aid money is being withheld and the cost of food is going up.
The head of the World Food Programme met Sky News in Doha and said this on the plight of Afghan people: "They'll either starve or leave. If you want a repeat of Syria x 2 then ignore Afghanistan."
World Food Programme staff are still working in the country but David Beasley warns they could run out of money to feed Afghanistan as soon as next month.
"You could have unprecedented famine in Afghanistan. Unprecedented. If we don’t receive the funds. If there's not an economic recovery plan sooner than later. We already know out of 40 million people, 14 million of them are marching towards starvation."
Analysis: Fury over the response to Afghanistan is 'bigger than Raab's holiday'
By Tamara Cohen, political correspondent
The foreign secretary's defence today of his ill-timed beach holiday as Kabul fell has been to say it had no effect on the running of the evacuation and that he was kept fully informed.
The airlift, he says, is now running at "full capacity" and the RAF will use every remaining hour – although how many hours are left is uncertain - to ferry thousands more people out.
Meanwhile, as our brave troops finish their job, he and the prime minister are rallying the West to form a united front to engage with the Taliban.
Not everyone is convinced. Mr Raab, who may appear before MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee for an emergency session next week, faces ongoing scrutiny about the government's grip on Afghanistan after all the lives and taxpayers' money expended there.
Senior Conservatives question the "bandwidth" in the Foreign Office over the past year; our own intelligence; and whether UK challenged key aspects of the US evacuation plan - for example, on the decision to close Bagram air base.
"It’s bigger than Dominic Raab's holiday, it's how the machine operated, but his absence was a symptom of it," one told me.
The angry debate in parliament last week showed deep misgivings across the political spectrum about what role the government sees "global Britain" playing internationally, which will be harder to brush aside.
Russia will evacuate 500 from Afghanistan in first airlift
Russia is preparing to carry out its first evacuation since the Taliban seized control of Kabul.
More than 500 people from Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine will be airlifted from Afghanistan.
Russia's defence ministry said the four military planes were sent to Kabul upon the orders of Vladimir Putin.
UK has 48 hours to get people out of Afghanistan – reports
The British military must complete its evacuation mission within 48 hours, the former chief of defence staff told The Daily Telegraph.
Lord David Richards said that if the UK is to meet an 31 August withdrawal deadline, he is "pretty sure" British troops would need to wrap up rescue efforts within two days.
He said the UK will likely have to leave by the end of the month because "sadly in many respects" the US is "running the show".
Joe Biden yesterday confirmed the US will not extend this withdrawal deadline, with the Taliban also insisting foreign forces must leave Afghanistan by Tuesday.
In pictures: The latest Afghan evacuees arrive in Belgium
At least 70,700 people have fled Afghanistan since evacuation efforts began on 14 August, with thousands still gathered outside Kabul airport.
The latest photographs capture arrivals at Melsbroek military airport in Belgium.
The World Bank halts support to Afghanistan
The World Bank – which provides financial assistance to low income countries – has confirmed it will stop providing support to Afghanistan.
This will create greater difficulties for the Afghan economy as food prices continue to surge following the fall of Kabul.
Marcela Sanchez Bender, for the World Bank, told CNN that it is "deeply concerned" about the future of Afghanistan under Taliban rule.
She said: "We have paused disbursements in our operations in Afghanistan and we are closely monitoring and assessing the situation in line with our internal policies and procedures."
The World Bank has committed more than $5.3bn for development projects in Afghanistan.
NATO accused of 'committing miserable war crimes' in Afghanistan
Shkula Zadran, UN Afghan Youth Representative for 2020, has criticised NATO for allegedly committing "miserable war crimes" in Afghanistan.
Speaking to Sky News, she alleged the military alliance has abandoned those in Afghanistan who are now living under Taliban rule.
Ms Zadran added: "Each and everybody involved in the past two decades of war in Afghanistan is responsible.
"NATO have come to Afghanistan with a mission of anti-terrorism... but in the last two decades they have committed miserable war crimes and now at this point of time they have left Afghans to a very uncertain destiny.
"They did not fulfil their responsibilities and promises to Afghans."
Trust with the Taliban is at 'rock bottom' - Raab
We spoke earlier to Dominic Raab as evacuations from Afghanistan continue to a 31 August deadline.
Now doing the media rounds, the foreign secretary said trust with the Taliban has hit "rock bottom" despite the militant group "living up to some of the things that they have said".
He was asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme how much trust he can have in the Taliban when its promises in Doha were about achieving a broad-based government but it ended up essentially bringing about a coup.
Mr Raab said: "I agree - I think trust is at rock bottom. On the other hand, we have got to deal with the reality we face.
"They have, so far, in relation to the airport, behaved constructively and engaged constructively more or less."
French evacuation efforts could end on Thursday
It is "very probable" that French efforts to evacuate nationals from Afghanistan will end on Thursday, minister Clement Beaune told C News TV.
He added that a new agreement concerning migration is urgently needed between the UK and EU.
Evacuations from Kabul airport are continuing at pace on Wednesday after Joe Biden said he would not extend the US withdrawal date of 31 August to allow operations to continue.
UN says it will remain in Afghanistan
António Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, promised to stay in Afghanistan to work "with and for" people who are now under Taliban rule.
Taking to Twitter, he said: "The @UN has been working for and with the people of Afghanistan for decades.
"We remain in the country and will continue to remain and do everything we can, both for the safety of staff, and to deliver for the Afghan people who have suffered so much."
The government was 'totally unprepared' for Taliban takeover - Labour
Speaking to Sky News, Labour's John Healey said Downing Street was "unprepared for the withdrawal of US troops" despite knowing it was coming for 18 months.
He added: "There's been no evidence they tried to influence the US withdrawal plan before yesterday and no evidence they tried to set up the arrangements necessary on aid and refugees."
Mr Healey explained that the withdrawal is clearly happening on the "Taliban's timeline".
He went on to insist that the 1,800 Afghans left in Kabul who aided British troops should not be abandoned by the UK government.
"We need to make sure that when we give up the airport, we are not giving up on those people," he said.
The shadow defence secretary also called for a "plan through the United Nations" to help in the evacuation of refugees.
He added that the UK will need to work with Russia and China to ensure Afghanistan doesn't become a "safe haven" for terrorists.
First US troops leave Afghanistan - Pentagon
Several hundred of the 6,000 US troops controlling Kabul airport left Afghanistan on Tuesday, the Pentagon says.
This marks the beginning of the US withdrawal after Joe Biden yesterday said he would not extend the deadline of 31 August.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the staff who left Kabul were a mix of "headquarters staff, maintenance and other enabling functions that were scheduled to leave".
He added: "Their departure represents prudent and efficient force management. It will have no impact on the mission at hand."
UK is 'ever vigilant' about security risks posed by Taliban - Raab
Mr Raab said the UK government is "engaging with the Taliban", but refused to confirm whether our spy chiefs have met with militant leaders.
He added: "I think we're obviously concerned about the way the prisons were emptied by the Taliban so of course that means that we're ever vigilant about this risk but one of the clear things we're saying to the Taliban is first of all to continue the safe passage out."
Mr Raab said that the UK would like to see Kabul airport become functional post the 31 August withdrawal.
Asked about the possibility of sanctions, Mr Raab said: "The Taliban are saying they do not want the economy and social fabric of Afghanistan to collapse.
"That gives us leverage into those key asks – safe passage out and never to allow Afghanistan to be used for terrorism."
He added that if the UN and NGOs are unable to operate in Afghanistan, "we're not going to give aid to the Taliban".
Almost all single-nationality Britons have left Afghanistan - Raab
Speaking about the ongoing efforts to evacuate thousands from Kabul, Mr Raab said that most "mono-nationals" who hold documentation and wish to leave Afghanistan are now back in the UK.
He added that 2,500 have left since April, and 2,000 people in general have been evacuated by the UK in 24 hours.
Mr Raab said: "What remains are complex cases, large family units where one or other may be documented or may be clearly national but it is not clear whether the rest of them are."
Asked when he believes the UK will have left Afghanistan, Mr Raab refused to give a timeline but said: "The system is operating at full speed… and we will use every remaining hour and day to get everyone we can back."
He did not deny we will need to leave before the US withdrawal date of 31 August, saying we will "take back" the time we need to evacuate our military from remaining hours.
Raab blasts claims he was 'lounging around on the beach' as Afghanistan fell as 'complete nonsense'
There have been furious calls for Dominic Raab to resign after it was reported there were delays in the response to the Taliban takeover because he was on holiday in Crete.
However, speaking to Sky News, Mr Raab furiously rebutted allegations he was "lounging around" as the situation unfolded.
He said: "I agreed to come back on Sunday, but some of the reporting put to me is not true.
"I was engaged in meetings. The stuff about me lounging around on the beach all day is just nonsense. The stuff about me paddle boarding is nonsense.
"The sea was actually closed.
"I was focused on the COBRA meeting... and as a result of the actions of the government, 9,000 people were secured back to the UK."
Mr Raab added that "with the benefit of hindsight" he would have returned earlier from his holiday.
He said: "With the benefit of hindsight I would have been back earlier but we were all surprised by the scale and the pace of the collapse of the situation in Kabul and as I said I was still doing all the things you would need me to do to focus on what really mattered."
There hasn't been an airlift of this scale in 'living memory' and 9,000 people have been evacuated - Raab
Speaking to Sky News, Dominic Raab refused to comment on the content of calls and meetings made ahead of the fall of Kabul on 15 August.
He said that the focus has always been on two things - "securing the airport so the evacuation and flights could come in and out and boosting our team on the ground."
Mr Raab added: "We now have 19 Foreign Office officials and many Home Office officials so we can process not only UK nationals but the Afghans who worked for us.
"If you look from that date forward over 9,000 people have been given safe passage to the UK.
"I don’t think there's been an airlift on that scale or that level of complexity in living memory."
Sky News will be speaking to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at 7.05am.
He is expected to discuss the ongoing evacuation efforts in Kabul - and Joe Biden's decision not to extend the deadline for withdrawal.
Follow here for updates.
MoD will seek to facilitate charter flight for animal charity in Kabul - Wallace
We've been reporting this week as former Royal Marine Pen Farthing has attempted to evacuate 68 staff and 200 animals from the Nowzad shelter ahead of the 31 August deadline.
His supporters had chartered an Airbus A330 - funded by donations - to fly to Kabul to rescue the group's workers and animals.
But defence secretary Ben Wallace said on Tuesday this was still not a "magic wand", and the aircraft would merely "block the airfield" and "sit there empty" while thousands attempt to flee Kabul.
However, late on Tuesday Mr Wallace said if Mr Farthing arrived at the airport with his staff and animals, officials would seek to facilitate their departure aboard the chartered aircraft.
He added: "Now that Pen Farthing's staff have been cleared to come forward under LOTR I have authorised MOD to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at (Kabul airport).
"At that stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane."
US has evacuated 70,700 people from Afghanistan
Keeping with US news this morning, and Joe Biden says American forces have helped to evacuate 70,700 people since 14 August.
He said late on Tuesday: "This is a testament to the efforts of our brave service women and men, to our diplomats on the ground in Kabul, and to the Allies still standing with us.
"We're going to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our closest partners to meet the current challenges we face in Afghanistan — just as we have for the past 20 years.
"We are acting in consultation and cooperation with our closest friends and fellow democracies."
There are 'increasing risks' for US troops in Kabul – Biden
Joe Biden yesterday defied calls by Boris Johnson and other G7 leaders to delay his August 31 exit date from Afghanistan.
Following an emergency meeting chaired by the prime minister on Tuesday, Mr Biden said the US was "on pace" to meet the deadline for evacuations.
He insisted there were "increasing risks" for his troops and their allies staying in Afghanistan beyond the end of the month.
Mr Johnson had hoped to persuade Mr Biden to keep his forces on the ground past the end of August to allow the evacuation effort more time.
However, the Taliban had already warned that evacuations "will not be allowed" after 31 August, while it earlier said it would not accept foreign troops remaining in Afghanistan past the end of the month.
Britain working to keep airport open after troops withdraw on 31 August
Britain is actively working to keep an airport open in Afghanistan after the final withdrawal of troops, Sky News understands.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said after Tuesday's G7 summit that the number one priority for the West in the coming months was to ensure safe passage for people who want to leave Afghanistan after 31 August when Western forces withdraw.
More specifics about this effort were revealed when the foreign secretary briefed MPs.
Dominic Raab told MPs that the government wants to see a functioning airport after the troops' departure, appearing to suggest commercial flights might be able take people out of the country in future.
"If we want to do this in a more managed way and really take the steep angle off the cliff edge, what we really could do with is the Taliban being able to run a functional airport in Kabul," he said.
UK evacuation flights from Kabul may have to stop this week
The UK's evacuation flights from Afghanistan may have to stop by the end of the week after Boris Johnson failed to secure an extension to a US deadline for all Western forces to leave.
The Guardian newspaper reported that the last Royal Air Force aircraft carrying Afghans to safety from Kabul airport could even be in the next "24 to 36 hours".
But defence sources described the timeline as speculative and said it was not "set in stone".
Still, a team of more than 1,000 British troops and diplomats running Britain's evacuation mission on the ground will need a period of time to pack up their equipment and depart ahead of the final US exit date of 31 August - next Tuesday.
It means that evacuation flights for Afghan civilians desperate to flee the country after the Taliban takeover will have to stop at least a number of days before then.
- Joe Biden refuses to budge on evacuation deadline despite pressure from world leaders in G7 call - as first US troops leave (8.00 post)
- Britain working to keep airport open in Afghanistan after troops withdraw on 31 August
- UK evacuation flights from Kabul may have to stop this week
- World Bank withdraws financial support for Afghanistan (9.11 post)
- Dominic Raab says reports he was paddle boarding while Kabul fell are 'nonsense'
- Read more: Hope is all they have left - no good options left for refugees waiting in sewage-filled canal outside Kabul airport | Podcast: Geopolitical shifts following Taliban takeover | Who are they and what do they want - everything you need to know about the Taliban
- Live updates by Faith Ridler
Sourece: Sky News