August 30 Afghanistan-Taliban news

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Brad Lendon, Jessie Yeung and Sheena McKenzie, CNN

Updated 6:00 a.m. ET, August 31, 2021
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8:27 a.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Pakistan’s interior minister: Not a single person has been given refugee status since Kabul fell

From CNN’s Sophia Saifi and Nazar ul Islam

Pakistan has not “given refugee status to a single person since Kabul fell,” the country’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said at a news conference in the capital city of Islamabad. 

Rasheed said that Pakistan will not be covering the expenses of evacuees flying into its borders, and any special planes arriving at Islamabad International Airport for evacuation purposes are paying fees to Pakistan. 

According to Rasheed, 1,627 evacuees have been flown into Islamabad from Afghanistan and “some 500 to 600 people” are “waiting at the airport” in Islamabad where they will be flown out directly by their sponsors. In addition to this evacuees are being given “special 21 day transit visas” while they wait in Pakistan to be flown out by their sponsors. 

Rasheed stated that in the event of any security threat, “Pakistan’s army is on posted every inch of the Afghan-Pakistan border and ensuring that its doing its duty.” 

8:56 a.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Afghans fearful of Taliban bloodletting once international community leave

From CNN's Clarissa Ward in Pakistan

The US evacuation mission has massively slowed down in the last few days, as to be expected as the country nears the August 31 exit deadline.

Despite Taliban assurances that foreign nationals or anyone with the appropriate documentation will be allowed to leave after this date, that's not doing much to alleviate the concerns of many Afghans still in the country.

One family from Texas who are US passport holders were in a complete panic Monday morning that they would not be "one of the lucky ones" to escape before Tuesday's deadline.

The family lives in the US but had gone to Afghanistan to visit parents and just happened to get caught up in the Taliban takeover.

Over the last two weeks, they have repeatedly tried to reach airport gates but failed to get past Taliban checkpoints.

Many people are fearful of the purge or bloodletting, once the international community leaves Afghanistan.

9:10 a.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Humanitarian crisis 'just beginning,' says UN High Commissioner

From CNN's Nina Avramova

Displaced Afghan women and children from Kunduz take shelter at a mosque in Kabul on August 13.
Displaced Afghan women and children from Kunduz take shelter at a mosque in Kabul on August 13. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

While the massive evacuation efforts are “praiseworthy,” the majority of Afghans — some 39 million — will remain inside the country once the airlift ends, and need assistance, says Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees, in a statement published Monday. 

“Around 3.5 million people have already been displaced by violence within the country – more than half a million since the start of this year," said Grandi.
"Most have no regular channels through which to seek safety. And in the midst of a clear emergency, with millions in dire need of help, the humanitarian response inside Afghanistan is still desperately underfunded,” he added.

The UN High Commissioner said Afghanistan’s borders should be kept open for people seeking safety abroad. 

He also points out that neighboring Pakistan and Iran host more than 2 million registered Afghan refugees, almost 90% of the total. “As we continue advocating for open borders, more countries must share this humanitarian responsibility," said Grandi.

The Commissioner stresses that once the images of desperate crowds at Kabul’s airport seeking a way out, which “sparked an outpouring of compassion around the world,” fade there will still be “millions who need the international community to act.” 

8:24 a.m. ET, August 30, 2021

1,200 people evacuated from Kabul in last 24 hours as US mission winds down

From CNN's Betsy Klein

An US Air Force aircraft takes off from the airport in Kabul on August 30.
An US Air Force aircraft takes off from the airport in Kabul on August 30. Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

The efforts to evacuate people from Kabul are winding down as the August 31 deadline approaches, but continue despite grave dangers on the ground. 

Approximately 1,200 people were evacuated from the capital in the last 24 hours, almost entirely on US military flights, according to the White House.

It's down from a high point last week when 21,000 people were evacuated in a 24-hour period (last Monday into Tuesday).

It brings the total to approximately 116,700 people evacuated from Afghanistan since August 14, and 122,300 people since late July. 

President Joe Biden was briefed overnight on a rocket attack at the Kabul airport.

He was informed, per a statement from press secretary Jen Psaki, “that operations continue uninterrupted at HKIA (Hamid Karzai International Airport), and has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritize doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground.”

This post has been updated to include additional information.

8:13 a.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Taliban leadership calls for close working relationship with India

From CNN's Swati Gupta in New Delhi

The Taliban would like a “cultural, economic, trade and financial relationship” with India, a top official said in a speech posted online Saturday.

The deputy head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, said that “India is another great and close neighboring country in the region. India is an important country in the region for us and we want to have positive relationship with them as well.” 

Stanekzai added: “Our land and air corridor trade routes to India via Pakistan is very important. We want Pakistan to keep the trade route open for our businessmen and traders. We give great importance to political, economic, cultural and business relationship with India among all and we want to work with them closely in this area."

The Indian government has not made any official comments on a future relationship with Afghanistan, citing the rapidly evolving ground situation. 

When asked about recognizing the new leadership in Kabul, Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said at a news conference last week that the prime concern for now was people's security and safety.

"Currently, there is a lack of clarity or no clarity about any entity, forming a government in Kabul. So, I think we are jumping the gun here regarding recognition," he added.
8:23 a.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Female journalist flees Afghanistan following groundbreaking TV interview with Taliban

From CNN's Brian Stelter

Earlier this month, Beheshta Arghand made history in Afghanistan.

Arghand, a female anchor at TOLO, an Afghan news network, interviewed a senior Taliban representative on the air. The interview garnered headlines around the world.

Two days later, Arghand did it again, interviewing Malala Yousafzai, the activist who survived a Taliban assassination attempt, in what TOLO described as the first time Yousafzai had ever been interviewed on Afghan TV.

Arghand was blazing a trail, but her work has been put on hold. She decided to flee Afghanistan, citing the dangers that so many journalists and ordinary Afghans are facing.

Arghand corresponded with CNN Business via WhatsApp and recounted the experience of the past two weeks.

Ultimately, she said, "I left the country because, like millions of people, I fear the Taliban."

Read the full story here:

8:10 a.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Tensions sky-high and dangers great as US enters finals hours of 20-year war

From CNN's Clarissa Ward in Pakistan

Soldiers board an US Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul on August 30.
Soldiers board an US Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul on August 30. Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

For some on the ground in Afghanistan, the next hours can’t go soon enough. For others they’re desperate to slow down the clock.

As many as five rockets were fired at Kabul airport Monday, US officials said, with no casualties reported so far.

The rocket attack activated a counter-rocket -- or C-RAM -- defense system, essentially mitigating the force of the onslaught.

It appears the militants were able to use a civilian car as a kind of makeshift rocket launcher. Videos show the car completely incinerated.

It comes as the US carried out a defensive airstrike in Kabul on Sunday, targeting a suspected ISIS-K suicide bomber who posed an "imminent" threat to the airport, US Central Command said.

Nine members of one family -- including six children -- were killed in the drone strike targeting a vehicle in a residential neighborhood of Kabul, a relative of the dead told a local journalist working with CNN.

All of this gives a sense of just how tense the situation still is, as we enter the final hours of the US's 20-year war in Afghanistan.

8:24 a.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Around 15,000 evacuees awaiting travel at US base in Germany

From CNN's Atika Shubert in Ramstein, Germany

Evacuees from Afghanistan are seen at a temporary emergency shelter at the Ramstein Air Base on August 26, in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany.
Evacuees from Afghanistan are seen at a temporary emergency shelter at the Ramstein Air Base on August 26, in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Around 15,000 evacuees from Afghanistan are awaiting onwards travel at the Ramstein US Air Base in Germany, the base’s Public Affairs Office (PAO) said on Monday.

Ramstein is one of the largest US airbases outside America, and has been transformed into a temporary transit point for evacuees to the US.

As of 7.30 a.m local time (1.30 a.m. ET) Monday, approximately 100 US Air Force aircraft have arrived at the base. Within the next 12 hours, approximately 1,700 more evacuees are expected to arrive.

More than 8,000 evacuees have departed on approximately 38 flights from Ramstein Air Base to their resettlement locations, the majority of which are in the US.

Within the next 12 hours, more than 2,000 evacuees are expected to depart Ramstein Air Base, according to the PAO. 

8:24 a.m. ET, August 30, 2021

In Italy, evacuees and NGO workers see gains of last 20 years slip away

From CNN's Barbie Nadeau in Rome

In Italy, a recently arrived Afghan refugee tells CNN about what he's accomplished over the past 20 years and his heartache at leaving it all behind.

Dr Arif is a two-time refugee. He first fled Afghanistan in 1993 when he was 32-years-old, walking for weeks to reach safety in Pakistan before eventually moving to Italy.

Dr Arif.
Dr Arif. CNN

He returned in 2006 with the Italian Development Agency to rebuild his country, creating infrastructure like roads and training medical staff.

"It's not that we have lost everything. But the way we have abandoned them -- this is more difficult, more painful," said Dr. Arif.
"We have done many many things. But we should not have abandoned them in this way," he added.

Elsewhere in Italy, Arianna Brigante is chairwoman of the agency Nove Onlus, which has worked in Afghanistan for the last decade to empower women.

Arianna Brigante.
Arianna Brigante. CNN

The group set up a women's driving school in Kabul and provided a shuttle service so women and girls could get home from work and school safely.

"It was a hopeful generation and I've think we've lost that," Brigante told CNN.

She said the Afghan women who Nove Onlus were able to help evacuate were now without hope.

"They don't think there is a future in Afghanistan anymore," Brigante said.