U.S. Aims for One Flight an Hour From Kabul: Afghanistan Update

The Taliban on Tuesday said they will allow women to work in their government under certain conditions.

People struggle to cross the boundary wall of Hamid Karzai International Airport to flee the country after rumors that foreign countries are evacuating people even without visas, after the Taliban over run of Kabul, Afghanistan.
By Eltaf Najafizada, Philip Glamann and Muneeza Naqvi
August 17, 2021 | 11:02 AM

(Bloomberg) — The situation at Kabul airport appears calmer after the desperate scenes on Monday when hordes of Afghans attempted to crowd onto planes in the wake of the Taliban takeover of the capital.

Civilian and military flights have resumed with more than 700 people moved out over the past 24 hours, a White House official said.

The Taliban have sealed off the airport and are only letting through members of the international community, German defense officials said. The officials warned tensions could escalate as evacuation flights pick up.

Meanwhile, there are signs that talks may pick up speed in Qatar on the formation of a new government with the Taliban. The militant group said on Tuesday it will allow women to work in government roles under certain conditions, a shift on a topic that will help determine whether the U.S. and its allies officially recognize its authority in the country.


Key stories and developments:

Afghan currency falls to record as central banker roils markets

The Afghani extended declines to 86.0625 per dollar, a record low. Yet strategists say the currency may stem its losses if the Taliban and international governments work to maintain order.

“Major regional powers in the region like China, Iran and Pakistan have all showed a willingness to work with the new setup in Afghanistan and help maintain peace,” AKD Securities Ltd analysts Jehanzaib Zafar and Hamza Kamal said. -- Colleen Goko-Pretzer


Qatar foreign minister meets Taliban delegation

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met a Taliban delegation in capital Doha led by Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar on Tuesday and discussed “a peaceful transfer of power” in Afghanistan, state-run Qatar News Agency reported. They also discussed security and political developments as well as “the protection of civilians, and intensifying the necessary efforts to achieve national reconciliation and work on a comprehensive political settlement”. -- Abbas Al Lawati

Russia’s Lavrov says Taliban openness a ‘positive signal’

Russia views recent Taliban statements signaling openness and inclusion as a “positive signal,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tells forum in Kaliningrad.

“That the Taliban in Kabul are declaring and in practice showing their readiness to respect the views of others is a positive signal,” Lavrov said. -- Ilya Arkhipov

Taliban say women can work, shifting from stance before 9/11

Women are allowed to work “where they so choose” within the bounds of Shariah law, according to a Taliban official who asked not to be identified in accordance with the group’s rules for speaking to the media. Those jobs could be in government, the private sector, trade and elsewhere, he said.


Earlier, the Associated Press cited a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission saying women “should be in the government structure” according to Shariah law. “The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims,” the news organization quoted Enamullah Samangani as saying.

During its 1996-2001 rule, the Taliban had governed Afghanistan under an extremely conservative interpretation of Shariah laws. Women were banned from working outside their homes and attending schools or colleges; required to have a male escort if they went out in public; and were expected to wear a burqa -- a garment that covers the full face and body. Punishments for non-compliance included public stonings and executions. The Taliban’s rule ended following the U.S. invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Taiwan reassures on U.S. resolve after Afghan exit

Premier Su Tseng-chang defended the island’s ability to withstand any Chinese attack after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan raised questions about America’s commitment to defending its allies and partners in Asia.


“The bloody lesson to be drawn from Afghanistan is that if you are in chaos internally, people from outside can’t help you, even if they want to,” he said. “Only if you help yourself can others help you.”

Su was responding to arguments by Beijing-friendly opposition figures and Chinese state media that neither the U.S. nor President Tsai Ing-wen would fight in the event of a conflict. -- Samson Ellis

Raab says strategy now to ‘moderate’ impact of Taliban

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, facing domestic criticism for the chaotic scenes in Kabul, said the strategy to deal with the Taliban is to try to “moderate” its influence.

The international community must “use every lever that we’ve got at our disposal,” Raab told BBC Radio on Tuesday. The Taliban has “made a range of commitments and frankly I can’t tell you I trust them to follow through on them.” -- Kitty Donaldson


France turns focus to terrorism risk from Afghan chaos

French Defense Minister Florence Parly said safely evacuating the country’s citizens and Afghan staff is the government’s short-term priority, but the larger goal is preventing a Taliban-led Afghanistan from becoming a hub for terrorism.

“The fight against terrorism isn’t over,” Parly said in an interview with French radio RTL. “Everything must be done so that this tragedy doesn’t lead to rekindling such a sanctuary for terrorism.” -- Geraldine Amiel

Germany says NATO will have to deal with the fall of Kabul

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer says NATO will need to deal with the consequences of the fall of Kabul, including whether Germany takes on a greater role.


“There’s a lot that we’ll have to work through in NATO,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said in an interview on Tuesday with ARD television. “And we’ll be asked to what extent are we prepared to accept the consequences and whether we’d take steps that we’d have previously left to the Americans.”

Germany’s first evacuation plane only took seven people because of the risks posed by the chaotic situation at the Kabul airport. A second plane is awaiting clearance from U.S. forces, Kramp-Karrenbauer said. The country is also sending 600 soldiers to help secure the airport and create an air corridor to allow for further evacuations. -- Chris Reiter

European leaders single out the U.S. after Kabul falls

European leaders have sought to distance themselves from the dramatic scenes unfolding across the country. As members of NATO, the U.K., France and Germany took part in the U.S.-led coalition that toppled the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and maintained thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan for most of the last two decades.


They didn’t offer meaningful opposition to Donald Trump’s plan to end the U.S. presence in the country, nor to Biden’s promise to follow through with it.

Yet European leaders are now faced with the further unraveling of a key country in a volatile region that threatens to spark a humanitarian and refugee crisis. “It’s fair to say the U.S. decision to pull out has accelerated things,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. -- Samy Adghirni

Facebook is ‘proactively’ removing Taliban content

A Facebook Inc. executive said the social media giant is “proactively” removing content from its platforms that promotes the Taliban. The group is on the company’s list of dangerous organizations so any content promoting or representing it is banned, Adam Mosseri, head of Facebook’s photo-sharing app Instagram, said Monday in a Bloomberg Television interview.


“Now this situation is evolving rapidly, and with it I’m sure the risk will evolve as well,” he said. “We are going to have to modify what we do and how we do it to respond to those changing risks as they happen.” -- Philip Glamann

Afghan talks may move forward in Doha

A delegation led by former President Hamid Karzai, the chairman of the high council for national reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, and former prime minister and warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is expected to travel to Doha on Tuesday to hold talks with Taliban leaders, according to Atta Mohammad Sharifi, a member of the group’s newly created Coordination Council. The trio set up the task force to try to hold peace talks with the Taliban after U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani fled to an undisclosed location on Sunday.

They will discuss the formulation of a “future government and its format,” Hekmatyar said. “We want a government to be acceptable to everyone -- a proposal that has also been also accepted by the Taliban,” he told Afghan news channel Tolonews. -- Eltaf Najafizada


China urges more talks with Russia

Beijing and Moscow should boost their communication and coordination efforts so they can protect their rights in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in a phone call on Monday. Wang also called on a new government in Afghanistan to distance itself from forces involved in terrorism, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry. -- Philip Glamann

Collapse follows 20 years of U.S. missteps, watchdog says

The chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces was two decades in the making, a congressionally mandated watchdog agency concluded just days before the Afghan government’s collapse. The nearly $1 trillion in spending by the U.S. since late 2001 was hobbled by a shifting American strategy, Afghan corruption, unsustainable projects and a failure “to understand the Afghan context” after decades of war, according to the report by John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.