The latest on Afghanistan as US troop withdrawal deadline looms

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:08 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021
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11:38 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

About 5,000 people waiting to get on flights at Kabul airport, Pentagon says

From CNN's Michael Conte

The Pentagon announced that there are "a little bit above 5,000" people in the airport in Kabul waiting to get on flights.

This is a significant improvement of the speed of processing and evacuation flights.

According to Army Maj. Gen. William "Hank" Taylor, Joint Staff deputy director for regional operations, they are “going through the processing, continuing to be manifested and ready to fly.”

Taylor said that gates at the airport are still open as well.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that there are about five to 600 Afghan security forces that are helping with the evacuation and will themselves be evacuated by US forces if they want to leave.

11:19 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Pentagon: US military will destroy weapons and military equipment if necessary during withdrawal

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

The US military will destroy weapons and other military equipment if needed during the US withdrawal of troops and military equipment from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

“Obviously there’s a strong bias to be able to get our material out with our people, if there needs to be destruction or other disposition of equipment there at Hamid Karzai International Airport, then we’ll do that, and we’ll do it appropriately,” Kirby said.

1:17 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Taliban spokesperson says they won't allow Afghans to flee the country

From CNN's Sarah Dean and Sharif Paget 

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid looks on as he addresses the first press conference in Kabul on August 17.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid looks on as he addresses the first press conference in Kabul on August 17. (Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images)

The Taliban are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave the country, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said during a news conference when asked about the Aug. 31 deadline. 

"The Afghans leaving, we are not going to allow that, and we are not even happy about it," Mujahid said.

Mujahid said the Taliban will not accept an extension to the evacuation deadline, saying "my message to the Americans is to get out all the nationals before the 31st".

"I should remind you that staying beyond 31st August is going to be a unilateral decision by the Americans and against the agreement," Mujahid said.

"They should evacuate all their forces, all their contractors before that date,” he added.

Asked if it is true the Taliban are doing targeted searches on houses in provinces, Mujahid said: “I can confidently tell you, I can assure you that nobody is going to be prosecuted or investigated in any part of the country [like] in the past.

“I would like to assure all my countrymen and women no one is going to be prosecuted, nobody is going to be chased because there has been general amnesty. We have forgotten about everything, we are not going to take anybody accountable for the past. Because of peace and security and prosperity, we are not going to do that.”

11:08 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Pentagon says 1,000 Afghan evacuees landed in the US in the past day 

From CNN's Michael Conte

Refugees from Afghanistan wait to board a bus after arriving and being processed at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia on August 23.
Refugees from Afghanistan wait to board a bus after arriving and being processed at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia on August 23. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

The Pentagon announced that four flights with more than 1,000 passengers landed at Dulles International Airport near Washington, DC, in the past day.

“These passengers and their families will go to one of the four military installations designated as processing locations,” said Joint Staff deputy director for regional operations Army Maj. Gen. William "Hank" Taylor at a briefing with reporters.
11:09 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Here's who is attending the virtual G7 meeting on Afghanistan

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Biden addressed G7 leaders for seven minutes at the beginning of their meeting, the White House says.

Per pool, the President’s meeting with G7 leaders began at 9:37 a.m. ET.

Here's who is attending virtually:

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson, United Kingdom
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada
  • President Emmanuel Macron, France
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany
  • Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Italy
  • Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, Japan
  • President Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission
  • President Charles Michel, European Council
  • Secretary-General António Guterres, United Nations
  • Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, NATO

Here's who is attending at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House:

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
  • National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan
  • Daleep Singh, deputy national security advisor and deputy director of the National Economic Council
  • Amanda Sloat, senior director for Europe
  • Sumona Guha, senior director for South Asia
  • Andy Rabens, director for global engagement and multilateral diplomacy
11:03 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Pentagon: 2 babies were born shortly after landing at US air base in Germany

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed that in addition to a baby born on a C-17 Afghanistan evacuation aircraft, two other babies were born shortly after landing at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

"I'm told that moms and dads and babies are all fine and healthy and all is looking good there, and if we could get more information on this, I'll be able to provide it a little bit later," Kirby said. 

Kirby said he did not know if the babies born on the US air base were considered American citizens.

Yesterday, the commander of US Transportation Command, Gen. Steve Lyons, told reporters during a press briefing that at least three babies have been born during the evacuation operations from Afghanistan. The C-17 where the baby was born landed at Ramstein Air Base from Doha, Qatar.

The base has emerged as a key transit point for evacuees from Afghanistan.

11:06 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Pentagon: We believe "we have the capability" to meet the Aug. 31 evacuation deadline

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby with U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor, Joint Staff Operations, speaks about the situation in Afghanistan during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington on Monday, August 23.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby with U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor, Joint Staff Operations, speaks about the situation in Afghanistan during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington on Monday, August 23. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said today that "there has been no change to the timeline of the mission" in Afghanistan, which is to get people out of the country "completed by the end of the month." 

"We continue to make progress every day in getting Americans, as well as SIV applicants and vulnerable Afghans, out" of Afghanistan, Kirby said at a press briefing this morning.

He noted that "several thousand" Americans have been evacuated from the country. Kirby did not provide specifics on the number of evacuees but added that "several hundred just yesterday" were transported out of the country by the US military. "Every day we are moving Americans out of the country."

On the deadline to complete evacuations by Aug. 31, he said that the Pentagon "still believe...we have been able to increase the capacity in the flow, we believe that we have...we have the capability, the ability to get that done by the end of the month."

Some background: The US military has advised President Joe Biden that he must decide by today whether to extend the evacuation in Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31, according to a defense official directly familiar with the discussions, though Biden has yet to make a decision.

Military advisers have told the White House that the decision must be made by today in order to have enough time to withdraw the 5,800 troops currently on the ground, as well as their equipment and weapons.

10:46 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

More than 21,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan in the last 24 hours, official says

About 21,600 people have been evacuated out of Afghanistan in the last 24 hours, Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, vice director for logistics of the Joint Staff, said on Tuesday.

He called the effort a "tremendous display of teamwork and focus" and said it is the "best departure results since evacuation operations began."

Taylor said 63,900 people have been flown out of the country to date, 58,700 of them have left since Aug. 14. This includes American citizens, NATO and other partner personnel, Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and "vulnerable Afghans."

"I want to reiterate that we're able to achieve this level of increased departures because of US Military personnel and our partners' work around the clock to conduct this highly important mission, including airport security and flight operation," Taylor said.

He said the pace of evacuations continues to pick up in Kabul. As of yesterday in the last 24-hour period, one aircraft left about every 45 minutes, according to Taylor.

10:08 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

UN: More than 3.5 million people internally displaced in Afghanistan

From CNN’s James Briggs 

Internally displaced Afghan families, who fled from Kunduz, Takhar and Baghlan province due to battles between Taliban and Afghan security forces, sit in front of their temporary tents at Sara-e-Shamali in Kabul on August 11.
Internally displaced Afghan families, who fled from Kunduz, Takhar and Baghlan province due to battles between Taliban and Afghan security forces, sit in front of their temporary tents at Sara-e-Shamali in Kabul on August 11. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

An estimated 270,000 people in Afghanistan have been forced to leave their homes since January 2021, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday, bringing the total number of internally displaced people in the country to more than 3.5 million. 

“We can expect that significant numbers of people will seek refuge in neighbouring countries or outside the region,” UNHCR continued in a statement. 

“The United Nations is committed to stay and deliver aid to those in greatest need, to support efforts to restore peace and stability and to promote the rights and dignity of all Afghans,” the statement added. 

The organization further stressed that there is a “fundamental red line” with regards to the treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan, urging the Taliban to ensure “ongoing respect for the international human rights commitments made by the State,” along with providing public services, such as education, “without discrimination.”

UNHCR’s statement comes a day after UNICEF urged the Taliban to ensure the charity has “safe, timely and unfettered access to reach children in need” across Afghanistan, highlighting that an estimated 10 million children require “humanitarian assistance to survive.”

“An estimated 1 million children are projected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition over the course of this year and could die without treatment. An estimated 4.2 million children are out of school, including more than 2.2 million girls,” UNICEF said, adding that the UN has documented more than 2,000 grave violations of children’s rights since January.

In its statement, UNICEF said the organization will remain on the ground in Afghanistan “now and in the days to come” to provide “essential services,” including medical aid, food and water, along as working to ensure that “all girls in Afghanistan receive a quality education.”