Live Updates

August 31 Afghanistan-Taliban news

See Biden's message to remaining Americans in Afghanistan
01:19

What we're covering

  • Afghanistan began its first day in nearly two decades without US troops on the ground as America’s longest war came to an end.
  • Taliban leaders declared victory over the United States from the tarmac of Kabul’s airport overnight and videos showed them inspecting US military hardware left behind.
  • US officials acknowledged they were not able to get everyone out and vowed that diplomatic efforts to evacuate those remaining would continue.

Our live coverage of Afghanistan has moved here.

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The US Secretary of Defense thanked several foreign leaders on Tuesday

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin waits for the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Pentagon on August 31 in Arlington. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with several foreign leaders by phone Tuesday to thank them for their help in the US military’s withdrawal of troops and evacuation of at-risk Afghans and other civilians from Afghanistan.

Austin spoke with:

  • Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa
  • Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense H.E. Sheikh Hamad Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah
  • Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
  • Norwegian Minister of Defense Frank Bakke-Jensen
  • United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Canadian Minister of National Defence Harjit S. Sajjan
  • German Federal Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer

Some Republicans spread a false claim about the Taliban executing a man from a helicopter

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas rides an elevator at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC on August 7.

Numerous Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, promoted a false claim on Monday and Tuesday that the Taliban had just executed a man by hanging him from a helicopter.

Cruz and Crenshaw, among other conservatives, shared a video that had been tweeted by a self-described “comedian” who goes by the Twitter handle @Holbornlolz. The video, which was somewhat blurry, showed a man dangling from a rope attached to a helicopter. The “comedian” inaccurately captioned the video: “Taliban hanging someone from a helicopter in Kandahar.”

Facts FirstNobody was executed on the Kandahar helicopter flight depicted in the viral videos. Other footage shows that the man dangling from the helicopter was wearing a harness around his body, not a noose around his neck, and that he was moving freely – even appearing to wave.

CNN could not immediately confirm what exactly the man in the harness was doing. But Bilal Sarwary, an Afghan journalist who fled the country in the evacuation of late Augusttweeted on Tuesday: “Afghan pilot flying this is someone I have known over the years. He was trained in the US and UAE, he confirmed to me that he flew the Blackhawk helicopter. Taliban fighter seen here was trying to install Taliban flag from air but it didn’t work in the end.”

Read more:

ted cruz

Fact check: Prominent Republicans spread false claim about Taliban executing a man from a helicopter

A family from San Diego is still stuck in Afghanistan

One San Diego family is still stranded in Afghanistan as school officials are “exploring strategies to rescue and bring them home,” according to a statement from the Cajon Valley Union School District. The family has three students in the school district.

Four other families have been safely rescued and returned to their homes in El Cajon, according to the school district.

“We are grateful to Congressman [Darrell] Issa’s team and all those that have contributed to this mission thus far,” the district said in a statement.

More than 1,000 children who are either US citizens or the children of parents with Special Immigrants Visas are still trapped in Afghanistan, according to the school district.

Joint Chiefs chair tells troops who served in Afghanistan: "Your service mattered"

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley participates in a meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Dr. Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah at the Pentagon on August 19, in Arlington, Virginia.

The top US general spoke directly to troops who have served in Afghanistan, saying “to each of you, your service mattered,” as he mourned the service members who were killed in the 20-year mission, including the 13 troops killed in last Thursday’s bombing.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramon Colon-Lopez told service members in a letter written to the military Tuesday that “you can hold your head high that we prevented an attack on the United States homeland.”

Earlier Tuesday, President Biden remarked that 800,000 Americans have served in Afghanistan during two decades of fighting. During that time, 2,641 US troops lost their lives, while 20,744 were injured in combat.

One day after the withdrawal of the last US forces from Afghanistan, Milley wrote, “11 Marines, a Soldier, and a Navy Corpsman paid the ultimate price to save over 124,000 people and gave them an opportunity to live in freedom.”

“Your actions honor the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters in arms who lost their lives or were wounded in Afghanistan. Over the last two decades and the last 2 weeks, you embodied our American values of equality, liberty, and human dignity for all.”

White House: Biden believes families of 13 service members have "right to convey whatever they would like"

Asked about critical comments from some families of the 13 service members who died in Kabul last Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden’s message to all of the families is that he is “grateful to their sons and daughters, the sacrifice they made to the country.”

Psaki added that Biden would not “speak to” the private conversations between the families, but added that those families “of course have the right to convey whatever they would like.”

“He knows firsthand what it’s like to lose a child and the fact that no one can tell you anything, or say anything, or there’s no words that are going to fill that hole that is left by that,” Psaki said.

Psaki said that Biden was “deeply impacted” by the family members and that he talks about them “frequently in meetings.”

“That is not going to change their suffering but I wanted to convey that still,” Psaki added.

At least one of the family members of the 13 service members has criticized Biden publicly.        

Biden: Afghanistan withdrawal marks end of an era of US military effort to "remake other countries"

President Joe Biden.

President Biden said the end of the war in Afghanistan marks the end of an era for the United States’ military efforts “to remake other countries.” 

“This decision about Afghanistan isn’t just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” the President said during a speech at the White House Tuesday marking the end of US military operations in Afghanistan.

“We saw a mission of counterterrorism in Afghanistan, getting the terrorists and stopping attacks, morph into a counterinsurgency, nation-building, trying to create a democratic, cohesive, and united Afghanistan, something that has never been done over many centuries of Afghanistan’s history. Moving on from that mindset and those kind of large-scale troop deployments will make us stronger and more effective and safer at home,” he added.

The President also said he refuses to send another generation of young men and women “to fight a war that should have ended long ago.”

“It was time to be honest with the American people again. We no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission in Afghanistan,” Biden said.

Biden: I refuse to continue a war that no longer serves the vital national interest of Americans

President Joe Biden.

President Biden defended his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan during remarks from the White House, stating that he refused to start another “decade of warfare.”

“My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over. I am the fourth president that must face the issue of whether to end this war. When I was running for president, I made a commitment to the American people that I would end this war. Today, I’ve honored that commitment. It was time to be honest with the American people again. We no longer had a clear purpose in an open ended mission in Afghanistan. After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, I refuse to send another generation of America’s sons and daughters to fight a war that should’ve ended long ago,” he said.

Biden continued to address the estimated $2 trillion cost of the war and how the money spent may have hindered American national interests over the years.

Biden also addressed the human cost that Americans suffered during the 20 years spent in Afghanistan.

“And most of all, after 800,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan … After 20,744 American servicemen and women injured, and the loss of 2,461 American personnel, including 13 lives lost just this week, I refuse to open another decade of warfare in Afghanistan,” Biden said.

“We’ve been a nation too long at war. If you’re 20 years old today, you’ve never known an America at peace. So when I hear that we could have, should’ve continued this so-called low-grade effort in Afghanistan, at low risk to our service members, at low cost, I don’t think enough people understand how much we have asked of the 1% of this country who put that uniform on, willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation,” the President said.

Biden vows to go after terrorism and warns ISIS-K: "We are not done with you yet"

President Joe Biden.

President Biden vowed to continue to go after terrorism around the globe, saying Tuesday the United States will “go after terror where it is today, not where it was two decades ago.” 

“To ISIS-K we are not done with you yet,” Biden said, vowing a “tough, unforgiving, targeted, precise strategy” for last Thursday’s attack that killed 13 US service members.

Biden also said that the terror threat has metastasized from Afghanistan to around the globe, adding, “the threat from terrorism continues, but it’s changed. Our strategy needs to change too.” 

The President also acknowledged the new challenges around the globe include those presented by China and Russia saying there’s nothing the two nations “would rather have and want more in this competition than for the United States to be bogged down another decade in Afghanistan.”

 Watch:

01:35

Biden on 13 fallen US service members: "We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay" 

President Joe Biden.

In remarks following the end of the United States’ war in Afghanistan, President Biden referenced the American lives lost during the conflict’s final days.

“Twenty service members were wounded in the service of this mission. Thirteen heroes gave their lives,” said Biden, speaking live from the White House.

Noting that the success of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan “was due to the incredible skill, bravery, and selfless courage” of the US military and diplomats, Biden promised that the 13 fallen service members who perished as part of the operation would not be forgotten.

Knowing that ISIS-K terrorists were “lurking” amid the crowds at the airport in Kabul, Biden said American service members performed their duty despite a dangerous and ultimately deadly environment.

“Risking their lives, not for professional gains but to serve others,” Biden said of America’s military, noting that the work of evacuating Americans and Afghan partners was not “a mission of war” but rather “a mission of mercy.”

“Our operation ‘Allied Rescue’ ended up getting more than 5,500 Americans out,” Biden stated, adding that “we got thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters and others who supported the United States out as well.”

Watch:

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Biden praises military evacuation of Kabul, calling it an "extraordinary success"

President Biden, in his first address since the end of the Afghanistan war, praised the “extraordinary success” of the military evacuation, calling it “not a mission of war, but in a mission of mercy.”

“The extraordinary success of this mission was due to the incredible skill, bravery and selfless courage of the United States military and our diplomats and intelligence professionals,” Biden said.

Biden also spoke at length about the evacuation efforts, saying 90% of Americans who wanted to leave were able to evacuate Afghanistan, adding that about 5,500 American citizens were evacuated.

“For those remaining Americans, there is no deadline,” Biden said, adding that the United States is “committed to get them out if they want to come out.”

Biden said the administration reached out to Americans to evacuate “19 times” over the last several weeks.

Biden touted the evacuation effort, pointing to the 120,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan saying, “no nation has ever done anything like it in all of history.”

Biden: "I was not going to extend a forever war. And I was not extending a forever exit."

President Joe Biden.

President Biden offered no misgivings over his decision to end America’s longest war in forceful remarks from the White House.

“I was not going to extend a forever war. And I was not extending a forever exit,” Biden said, defending a decision that has drawn scrutiny for its execution.

Biden said the real decision in Afghanistan was “between leaving and escalating,” framing his choice to withdraw troops as the only option aside from surging more forces to the country.

“The fact is, everything has changed,” Biden said, citing the deal with the Taliban signed by his predecessor.

Biden said he takes “responsibility” for his decision to withdraw, but said he “respectfully disagrees” with those who say he should have begun mass evacuations earlier, claiming there would have been a “rush to the airport.”

“For those asking for a third decade of war, I ask, what is the vital national interest? In my view we only have one: to make sure Afghanistan can never again be used to launch an attack on our homeland,” Biden said.

Biden explains "guiding principle" behind Afghanistan decision

President Biden told the American public that he no longer believed “the safety and security of America” was enhanced by having troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

“The fundamental obligation of a president, in my opinion, is to defend and protect America. Not against threats of 2001 but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow. That is the guiding principle behind my decisions about Afghanistan,” he said in an address to mark the completion of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan,

“I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan,” Biden continued.

“When I was running for president, I made a commitment to the American people that I would end this war. Today I’ve honored that commitment,” the President said.

Biden on Taliban's pledge to allow departures: ​"We don't take them by their word alone, but by their actions"

President Joe Biden.

President Biden told the American public that although the US has withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan, it will work to ensure the Taliban meet their commitments, including providing safe passage for those who want to leave the country.

Biden referenced a resolution passed by the UN Security Council yesterday for creating a “safe passage” zone for people seeking to leave from Kabul’s airport.

“It sends a clear message of what the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably, freedom of travel, freedom to leave,” Biden said.

“Together, we’re joined by over 100 countries that are determined to make sure the Taliban upholds those commitments. It will include ongoing efforts in Afghanistan to reopen the airport as well as overland routes, allowing for continued departure for those that want to leave, and deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

Biden said the Taliban has made public commitments “broadcast on television and radio across Afghanistan” on safe passage for anyone wanting to leave including those who worked alongside Americans. 

“We don’t take them by their word alone, but by their actions. And we have leverage to make sure those commitments are met,” Biden said.

Biden on Americans still in Afghanistan: We remain committed to get them out, there is no deadline

President Joe Biden.

President Biden said the US will continue diplomatic efforts to evacuate the remaining Americans still in Afghanistan.

The President said the US government believes there are about 100 to 200 Americans remaining in Afghanistan, “with some intention to leave.” Most of those that remained are dual citizens and longtime residents that had decided to remain in Afghanistan because of “family roots,” Biden said.

Biden said that the US is committed to getting those Americans who want to leave out and that Secretary of State Antony Blinken is leading the diplomatic efforts to do so.

“Secretary of State Blinken, is leading the continued diplomatic efforts to ensure safe passage for any American, Afghan partner or foreign national, who wants to leave Afghanistan,” Biden said.

“In fact, just yesterday, the United Nation security Council passed a resolution that sent a clear message about what the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward. Notably, freedom of travel, freedom to leave,” the President continued.

Biden said that the remaining Americans mostly consist of dual citizens and long-time residents who have their “family roots in Afghanistan.” The President also praised efforts by US military for getting “90% of Americans who wanted to leave” Afghanistan out.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misquoted President Biden. He said the US government believes there are about 100 to 200 Americans remaining in Afghanistan, “with some intention to leave.”

Biden: I "respectfully disagree" with those who say evacuations should have started earlier

President Joe Biden.

President Biden says he disagrees with those who criticize the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan as disorderly and who say evacuations should have started earlier.

“I take responsibility for the decision,” Biden said of the plan to end the mission. “Now some say, ‘We should have started mass evacuations sooner,’ and ‘Couldn’t this have, have been done in a more orderly manner?’ I respectfully disagree,” he said.

Biden said that there “still would have been a rush to the airport” no matter when the US began withdrawals.

“Imagine if we begun evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war. There still would have been a rush to the airport, a break down in confidence and control of the government and still would have been very difficult and dangerous mission,” Biden said.

The President continued: “The bottom line is there is no evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kinds of complexities, challenges, threats we faced. None.”

Biden says US began reaching out to Americans in Afghanistan in March

President Biden.

In an address to the nation marking the end of 20 years of war in Afghanistan, President Biden defended his administration’s withdrawal and praised the country’s evacuation effort.

“Since March, we reached out 19 times to Americans in Afghanistan, with multiple warnings and offers to help them leave Afghanistan, all the way back as far as March,” Biden said. 

“After we started the evacuation 17 days ago, we did initial outreach and analysis and identified around 5,000 Americans who decided earlier to stay in Afghanistan but now wanted to leave,” he continued.

Biden said the operation ended up getting more than 5,500 Americans out of Afghanistan as well as “thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters.” However, he acknowledged that some 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan but said many of them are dual residents who decided to stay.

“The bottom line, 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave. For those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out,” the President said.

Biden: Last night the US ended its 20 years of war in Afghanistan

President Biden.

President Biden addressed the nation on the US ending 20 years of war in Afghanistan from the White House.

“Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan. The longest war in American history. We completed one of the biggest air lifts in history with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety. That number is more than double what most experts thought were possible. No nation, no nation has ever done anything like it in all of history. Only the United States had the capacity and the will and ability to do it. We did it today. The extraordinary success of this mission was due to the incredible skill, bravery and selfless courage the United States military and our diplomats and intelligence professionals,” Biden said.

NOW: Biden speaks following US withdrawal from Afghanistan and end of America's longest war 

President Biden.

President Biden is delivering remarks from the White House on the end of the war in Afghanistan, a day after the last American military planes left the country, concluding the nation’s longest war nearly 20 years after it began.

According to White House press secretary Jenn Psaki, Biden “will lay out his decision to end the war in Afghanistan after 20 years, including the tough decisions he made over the last seven months since he took office to bring the war to a close. He will make clear that as President, he will approach our foreign policy through the prism of what is in our national interests, including how best to continue to keep the American people safe.”

The President, who faces a political reckoning for the US’s handling of the withdrawal, said in a Monday statement that “it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned.” 

He’s also argued that he thought chaos in the country was inevitable when US troops departed.

Read more about Biden’s remarks here. 

"A humanitarian catastrophe looms" in Afghanistan, UN secretary general says

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres speaks at the UN Headquarters in New York on August 13.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed “grave concern” at what he said was the “deepening humanitarian and economic crisis” in Afghanistan as the country entered what he called “a new phase.”

“A humanitarian catastrophe looms” in Afghanistan, he said Tuesday.

“Today, almost half of the population of Afghanistan – 18 million people – need humanitarian assistance to survive,” Guterres continued.

“Next week, we will release details of the most immediate humanitarian needs and funding requirements over the next four months in a Flash Appeal for Afghanistan,” he said, adding that he urges member states to “dig deep” for the people of Afghanistan.

“I urge them to provide timely, flexible and comprehensive funding,” Guterres said.

Biden expected to lay out decision to end war in Afghanistan in upcoming speech

White House press secretary Jen Psaki offers a broad preview of what to expect ahead of President Joe Biden’s 2:45 p.m. ET speech on the end of the war in Afghanistan. 

“In his remarks this afternoon, the President will express his thanks to the commanders and service members who executed a dangerous mission in Kabul and airlifted more than 124,000 people to safety; he will also offer thanks to the veterans and volunteers who supported this effort,” Psaki said in a statement. 

She continued, “He will lay out his decision to end the war in Afghanistan after 20 years, including the tough decisions he made over the last seven months since he took office to bring the war to a close. He will make clear that as President, he will approach our foreign policy through the prism of what is in our national interests, including how best to continue to keep the American people safe.”

Taliban members escorted Americans to gates at Kabul airport in secret arrangement with US 

The US military negotiated a secret arrangement with the Taliban that resulted in Taliban members escorting groups of Americans to the gates of the Kabul airport as they sought to escape Afghanistan, according to two defense officials.

One of the officials also revealed that US special operations forces set up a “secret gate” at the airport and established “call centers” to guide Americans through the evacuation process.

The officials said Americans were notified to gather at pre-set “muster points” close to the airport where the Taliban would gather up the Americans, check their credentials and take them a short distance to a gate manned by American forces who were standing by to let them inside amid huge crowds of Afghans seeking to flee.

The US troops were able to see the Americans approach with their Taliban escorts in most cases in an attempt to ensure their safety.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the arrangements which have not been disclosed until now because the US was concerned about Taliban reaction to any publicity as well as the threat of attacks from ISIS-K if its’ operatives had realized Americans were being escorted in groups, the officials said.

Throughout the evacuation Biden administration officials stressed that the Taliban was cooperating and senior officials stated they had committed to provide “safe passage” for Americans.

The Taliban escort missions happened “several times a day,” according to one of the officials. One of the key muster points was a Ministry of Interior building just outside on of the airport’s gates where nearby US forces were readily able to observe the Americans approach. Americans were notified by various messages about where to gather. 

As of Monday when the US completed its withdrawal, more than 122,000 people in total had been airlifted from Hamid Karzai International Airport since July and more than 6,000 Americans civilians evacuated. However, 13 Americans service members and more than 170 Afghans were killed in a suicide blast at the airport last week.

It is not clear if the Taliban who were checking credentials during these efforts turned away any of the Americans. There have been numerous reports that some Americans with passports and US green card holders were turned away from Taliban checkpoints close to the airport.                   

In another separate secret arrangement not disclosed until the operation was over, troops from the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and other special operations units were also on the ground helping Americans escape by contacting them through ‘call centers”, one of the officials said. Special operations forces had set up its own ‘secret gate’ at the airport and was at times in direct communication with Americans telling them exactly where to walk to find the gate and be able to get inside the airport.   

Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, first publicly revealed the involvement of special operations forces at a Monday news conference, saying those forces helped evacuate more than 1,000 American citizens and more than 2,000 Afghans “via phone calls, vectors, and escorting.” 

Special operation forces “reached out to help bring in more than 1,064 American citizens and 2,017 Special Immigrant Visas or Afghans at risk, and 127 third-country nationals all via phone calls, vectors, and escorting,” he said. But in public comments McKenzie did not specify the involvement of JSOC, which includes forces that carry out the most dangerous counterterrorism missions such as the Army’s Delta Force and Navy SEALS.

"All efforts" being made to evacuate French nationals and local staff still in Afghanistan, official says

“All efforts” are being made to evacuate remaining French nationals and locally recruited French military staff from Afghanistan, French Ministry of Armed Forces spokesperson Hervé Grandjean said during a news conference on Tuesday. 

A few dozen French nationals remain in the country, Grandjean said, “either these people did not wish to leave Afghanistan, or they wished to do so in the last days of the operation and were not able to be evacuated in time.”

“All efforts are made for those who remain and who would want to leave Afghanistan to benefit from an orderly and safe evacuation procedure, and this is at the heart of the negotiations we are holding within the UN,” Grandjean continued. 

The situation of locally recruited staff has also become a focal point, with NGOs accusing the French armed forces of abandoning former employees.

“Our colleagues are abandoned by the French army, I ask the French government to find a solution to save their lives,” President of the Association of Afghan Interpreters and Auxiliaries of the French Army Adel Abdul Raziq told France Info on August 16. 

Pressed on the issue on Tuesday, Grandjean argued that the French army “had not waited until the fall of Kabul” to worry about the fate of former employees and that efforts were still ongoing to evacuate eligible people.

Between 2012 and 2019, more than 220 former army employees were repatriated to France along with their families, which made up about 800 people, Grandjean said.

Since the Taliban takeover and fall of Kabul mid-August, more than thirty of them have been evacuated with their families, so around 110 people, Grandjean said.

“A few dozen remain, the maximum will be done to allow them to benefit from France’s protection in the coming days or weeks,” the spokesperson added.

France’s military was involved in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014 and recently returned to help with the evacuation efforts. 

UNHCR Pakistan says it hasn’t seen any "large scale movement" at border with Afghanistan

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Pakistan has not “seen any large scale movement at the border” with Afghanistan according to spokesperson Qaiser Khan Afridi on Tuesday.

“As normal routine 20,000 used to come back and forth from Chaman border crossing, there has been an increase at Chaman because of Torkham border officials being more strict at the moment, so the normal movement of people toward the Torkham border crossing has moved to Chaman,” Afridi said. 

He added that the Pakistani government’s “stance has not changed” and that so far UNHCR “hasn’t seen any large scale movement into Pakistan of people seeking asylum.”

Afridi said they are monitoring the situation at the Afghan border in terms of any political developments and expect to have more clarity in a week.

Germany estimates up to 40,000 local staff for development organizations are still in Afghanistan

There are an estimated 10,000 to 40,000 local staff who work for development organizations and have a right to be evacuated to Germany still in Afghanistan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a news conference Tuesday.

Merkel explained that after NATO troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, Germany did not stop its development work. She stressed that to date UN organizations want to remain in Afghanistan — and want to do so in the future. 

There are branches of organizations such as the World Food Program, who work from the German side there, UNHCR, UNICEF and people who have worked in a development capacity who have a right to be transferred to Germany if they feel at risk. “Many of those — the majority — are not yet in Germany, because we didn’t stop the development work,” Merkel said.

“Our central focus at the moment are local staff, and those are not 300, but probably more likely 10-40,000,” Merkel told journalists. She added it is to be seen how many of them want to leave the country, “this is also highly dependent on the sort of circumstances that the Taliban create in the country.” 

“No one takes the decision to leave their home lightly,” Merkel said.