August 29 Afghanistan-Taliban news

By Fernando Alfonso III and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 10:58 PM ET, Mon August 30, 2021
11 Posts
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12:10 p.m. ET, August 29, 2021

US and other countries say Taliban has promised safe travel out of Afghanistan

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

A US Air Force plane takes off from the military airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 27, 2021.
A US Air Force plane takes off from the military airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 27, 2021. AFP/Getty Images

The US State Department, along with governments from numerous other countries across the globe, released a statement Sunday saying they will hold the Taliban to their promises that they will allow people to leave the country after Aug. 31. 

“We are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan. We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country,” the statement said in part. 

“We will continue issuing travel documentation to designated Afghans, and we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries. We note the public statements of the Taliban confirming this understanding,” the statement continued. 

Some context: National security adviser Jake Sullivan discussed this in an appearance on CNN Sunday, saying the administration is committed to a "safe passage" of Americans and Afghans who helped the US government after the withdrawal deadline from Afghanistan

"August 31st is not a cliff. After August 31st, we believe that we have substantial leverage to hold the Taliban to its commitments to allow safe passage for American citizens, legal permanent residents and the Afghan allies who have travel documentation to come to the United States," Sullivan told CNN. "We will use that leverage to the maximum extent and we will work with the rest of the international community to make sure the Taliban does not falter on these commitments."

11:26 a.m. ET, August 29, 2021

There are about 250 Americans still in Afghanistan, State Department says

About 250 Americans who are attempting to leave Afghanistan remain in the country, according to new figures from a State Department spokesperson.

Approximately 50 evacuations have taken place in the last day, bringing the total number of American citizens evacuated to 5,500.

“Our team on the ground continues to coordinate assistance around the clock for this group, while taking the current security situation into account,” the State Department spokesperson said in a statement.

Some context: The State Department has been in regular contact with around 280 people who have self-identified as Americans but are either undecided about leaving the country or do not plan to evacuate.

The State Department also continues to reach out to people who have previously self-identified themselves to the US, but have since lost contact with officials.

10:49 a.m. ET, August 29, 2021

Biden and first lady currently meeting with the families of those killed in Afghanistan

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

President Biden and the first lady are currently meeting with the families of the American service members killed in Afghanistan at the Center for Families of the Fallen at Dover Air Force Base, according to the press pool traveling with the President.

12:16 p.m. ET, August 29, 2021

US carried out a drone strike inside Kabul on Sunday, according to a defense official

From CNN's Oren Lieberman

Smoke rises after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 29, 2021.
Smoke rises after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 29, 2021. Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The US carried out a defensive airstrike in Kabul Sunday targeting a suspected ISIS-K car bomb that was targeting the airport, according to a US defense official.

The official said a significant secondary explosion indicated a substantial amount of explosive material.

A drone carried out the attack. The initial indication is that there were no civilian casualties, the official said.

On Sunday, US CENTCOM confirmed the strike in Kabul.

“US military forces conducted a self-defense unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International airport," said Capt. Bill Urban, CENTCOM spokesperson.

Capt. Urban continued: "We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material. We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time. We remain vigilant for potential future threats.”

10:28 p.m. ET, August 29, 2021

Senator Romney blames Trump and Biden for evacuation chaos

From CNN's Aaron Pellish

Sen. Mitt Romney speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 21, 2021.
Sen. Mitt Romney speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 21, 2021. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

GOP Sen. Mitt Romney said the possibility of Americans and Afghan allies being left behind in Afghanistan would be a “moral stain,” and blamed both the Trump and Biden administrations for the chaotic exit from Afghanistan.

“This is the result of very ineffective decisions, terrible decisions made by the prior administration and by the current administration,” Romney told CNN on Sunday. 

“This did not have to happen. It was preventable,” Romney continued.

Some more context: In an interview on ABC, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there are roughly 300 American citizens still in Afghanistan looking to leave the country. 

Romney warned the American withdrawal from Afghanistan increases the likelihood of a Taliban-sponsored attack on Americans, and claimed the likelihood is higher today than when the US first entered Afghanistan 20 years ago 

“We went to Afghanistan because we got attacked on 9/11 and lost thousands of American lives. Now, America is in more danger. The decision to pull our military of Afghanistan puts us in greater danger,” Romney said. 

Romney said he welcomed the Afghan evacuees arriving in the US, and distanced himself from Republicans who have criticized the relocation of Afghan allies to the US on the basis of restricting immigration.

“I believe in their heart of hearts that they recognize that we have a moral responsibility, and in keeping with our national character, we welcome people into our country who seek asylum, and those particularly who have fought alongside our troops,” Romney said.

When asked about Utah native Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, a Utah native, who was killed in an attack at Kabul airport on Thursday, Romney called him “an American hero” and praised the sacrifices of all 13 service members who died in the attack.

“It’s an extraordinary sacrifice they make and is very much in keeping with our extraordinary national heritage,” Romney said. 

 

9:41 a.m. ET, August 29, 2021

Secretary of state says US will not have a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after Aug. 31

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that the US will not have a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after Aug. 31, telling ABC on Sunday that the administration will remain engaged diplomatically in the region but that re-opening the embassy in Kabul will depend on the Taliban’s behavior “in the weeks and months ahead.” 

In the same interview, Blinken said that the administration is still actively working to evacuate about 300 American citizens from Afghanistan who have indicated to the US that they want to leave the country. 

When asked about the US drone strike that killed two ISIS operatives on Friday, following an ISIS suicide bombing that killed scores of Afghans and 13 US service members, Blinken said that more details will be released in the coming days about the targets. 

“The ISIS targets taken out involved two individuals who are significant planners and facilitators for ISIS,” Blinken said, adding that the administration will release more information about “what they did and what they are responsible for” in the days ahead. 

Blinken also reaffirmed President Biden’s comments on Saturday about there being a “very high risk” of another attack against US forces in Kabul. 

“There is a high likelihood of additional attacks between now and the 31st,” Blinken said. “This is the most dangerous time in an already extraordinarily dangerous mission.”

When asked why additional force protection measures were not taken sooner, given the steady stream of intelligence all week about a potential ISIS attack, Blinken said that part of the mission inevitably involved “direct contact” between service members and those seeking to enter the airport, as part of the screening process by troops guarding the airfield. He said the administration will be looking at whether anything could have been done better to prevent the terrorist attack that killed scores of Afghans and 13 US service members.

10:12 a.m. ET, August 29, 2021

Explosion in Kabul neighborhood near airport

From CNN's Karen Smith

Smoke rises after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 29, 2021.
Smoke rises after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 29, 2021. Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

An explosion occurred in a neighborhood in Kabul close to the airport on Sunday afternoon local time, eyewitnesses say. The cause is unknown. It is not clear yet if there are any casualties.

Images and video from the area show dark smoke billowing from a house or compound in a mainly residential area.

10:29 p.m. ET, August 29, 2021

Evacuations out of Afghanistan continue to slow

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

US Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit process evacuees as they go through the Evacuation Control Center during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 28, 2021.
US Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit process evacuees as they go through the Evacuation Control Center during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 28, 2021. Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/US Marine Corps

Evacuations from Afghanistan continue to decrease as the US drawdown from the country continues ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline for removing all US personnel from Afghanistan.

The White House announced Sunday morning that approximately 2,900 people were evacuated from Kabul from 3 a.m. ET Saturday to 3 a.m. ET Sunday. Those evacuations were carried out by 32 U.S. military flights which carried approximately 2,200 evacuees and nine coalition flights, which carried 700 people.

Approximately 6,800 people were evacuated from Kabul over the same stretch of time from Friday into Saturday.

Some context: Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed Saturday that US troops have begun retrograde withdrawal from the airport in Kabul, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said that the slowing evacuation numbers would coincide with the retrograde process.

“What it will also mean, as they move to this retrograde phase, is that there will be a reduction of numbers over the next couple of days,” Psaki said at Friday’s White House briefing.

8:43 a.m. ET, August 29, 2021

President Biden will attend dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base

From CNN's Arlette Saenz and Jason Hoffman

US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on August, 29, 2021.
US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on August, 29, 2021. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden will attend the dignified transfer of those American service members killed in last Thursday’s attack in Afghanistan, the White House announced Sunday.

Biden will take Air Force One to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to attend the dignified transfer. 

The President and the first lady will meet with the families of fallen American service members, according to the White House. They will then attend the dignified transfer at 12 p.m.

According to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, “the dignified transfer is not a ceremony; rather, it is a solemn movement of the transfer case by a carry team composed of military personnel from the fallen member's respective service.”