Taliban largely seal off Kabul airport as airlift winds down

3 weeks ago 9
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban forces sealed disconnected Kabul’s airdrome Saturday to astir Afghans hoping for evacuation and astir NATO nations flew retired their troops aft 2 decades successful Afghanistan, winding down a frantic airlift that Western leaders acknowledged was inactive leaving galore of their citizens and section allies behind.

The United States, which says the round-the-clock flights person evacuated much than 100,000 radical since the Taliban claimed Kabul connected Aug. 15, was keeping up airlifts up of President Joe Biden’s Tuesday deadline for withdrawal.

Britain besides was carrying retired its last evacuation flights Saturday, though Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to “shift eden and earth” to get much of those astatine hazard from the Taliban to Britain by different means.

Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow, said successful a video from Kabul airdrome and posted connected Twitter that it was “time to adjacent this signifier of the cognition now.”

“But we haven’t forgotten the radical who inactive request to leave,” helium said. “We’ll proceed to bash everything we tin to assistance them. Nor person we forgotten the brave, decent radical of Afghanistan. They merit to unrecorded successful bid and security.”

Taliban forces were holding immoderate positions wrong the airport, acceptable to peacefully instrumentality power arsenic American forces alert out, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said. The Pentagon stressed Friday that the Taliban, who present tally Afghanistan, were not successful power of immoderate operations astatine the airport.

Outside the airport, Taliban leaders deployed other forces Saturday to forestall ample crowds from gathering aft a devastating termination onslaught 2 days earlier.

New layers of checkpoints sprang up connected roads starring to the airport, immoderate manned by uniformed Taliban fighters with Humvees and night-vision goggles captured from Afghan information forces. Areas wherever ample crowds had gathered implicit the past 2 weeks successful the hopes of fleeing the state were mostly empty.

A termination onslaught Thursday by an Islamic State radical affiliate killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. work members, and determination were concerns that the group, which is acold much extremist than the Taliban, could onslaught again. The U.S. subject said it killed an IS militant early Saturday successful a drone strike, aft U.S. President Joe Biden promised swift retaliation.

An Afghan who worked arsenic a translator for the U.S. subject said helium was with a radical of radical with support to permission who tried to scope the airdrome precocious Friday. After passing done 3 checkpoints they were stopped astatine a fourth. An statement ensued, and the Taliban said they had been told by the Americans to lone fto U.S. passport-holders through.

“I americium truthful hopeless for my future,” the antheral told The Associated Press aft returning to Kabul, speaking connected information of anonymity due to the fact that of information concerns. “If the evacuation is over, what volition hap to us?”

The Pentagon said Friday that Afghans with the due documents inactive were being allowed in.

On Saturday, the Taliban fired informing shots and deployed immoderate benignant of colored fume connected a roadworthy starring to the airport, sending dozens of radical scattering, according to a video circulating online that was accordant with AP reporting.

Afghans, meanwhile, faced economical crises arsenic galore Western governments withheld enactment from Taliban rule.

In Kabul, hundreds of protesters, including galore civilian servants, gathered extracurricular a slope portion countless much lined up astatine currency machines. They said they hadn’t been paid for 3 to six months and were incapable to retreat cash. ATM machines were inactive operating, but withdrawals were constricted to astir $200 each 24 hours.

Later Saturday, the cardinal slope ordered commercialized slope branches to unfastened and let customers to retreat $200 per week, calling it a impermanent measure.

The economical crisis, which predates the Taliban takeover, could springiness Western nations leverage arsenic they impulse Afghanistan’s caller rulers to signifier a moderate, inclusive authorities and let radical to permission aft Tuesday.

Afghanistan is heavy babelike connected planetary aid, which covered astir 75% of the toppled Western-backed government’s budget. The Taliban person said they privation bully relations with the planetary assemblage and person promised a much mean signifier of Islamic regularisation than erstwhile they past governed the country, but galore Afghans are profoundly skeptical.

The Taliban cannot access almost immoderate of the cardinal bank’s $9 cardinal successful reserves, astir of which is held by the New York Federal Reserve. The International Monetary Fund has besides suspended the transportation of immoderate $450 million. Without a regular proviso of U.S. dollars, the section currency is astatine hazard of collapse, which could nonstop the terms of basal goods soaring.

A U.N. bureau warned Saturday that a worsening drought threatens the livelihoods of much than 7 cardinal people. The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization said Afghans are besides suffering from the coronavirus pandemic and displacement from the caller fighting.

Earlier this month, the U.N. World Food Program estimated that astir 14 cardinal radical — astir 1 retired of each 3 Afghans — urgently needed nutrient assistance.

Biden has said helium volition adhere to a self-imposed Tuesday deadline for withdrawing each U.S. forces. The Taliban, who power astir the full state extracurricular of Kabul’s airport, person rejected immoderate extension.

Italy said its last evacuation formation had landed successful Rome but that it would enactment with the United Nations and countries bordering Afghanistan to proceed helping Afghans who had worked with its subject contingent to permission the country.

“Our imperative indispensable beryllium to not wantonness the Afghan people,” particularly women and children, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Saturday.

The Taliban person encouraged Afghans to stay, pledging amnesty adjacent to those who fought against them. They person said commercialized flights volition resume aft the U.S. withdrawal, but it’s unclear if airlines volition beryllium consenting to connection service.

The U.S. and its allies person said they volition proceed providing humanitarian assistance done the U.N. and different partners, but immoderate broader engagement — including improvement assistance — is apt to hinge connected whether the Taliban present connected their promises of much mean rule.

Taliban fighters bushed up a cameraman for the backstage broadcaster Tolo TV earlier this week successful Kabul. Saad Mohseni, the CEO of the radical that owns the channel, said the Taliban person been successful interaction with the station’s absorption astir the incident. He said the combatant has been identified, but it’s unclear if helium has faced immoderate disciplinary action. There was nary remark from the Taliban.

Faiez reported from Istanbul, Lawless reported from London and Knickmeyer reported from Oklahoma City. Associated Press writers Frances D’Emilio successful Rome, Joseph Krauss from Jerusalem and Kathy Gannon successful Islamabad contributed.

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