There's less than a week until the US's Afghanistan withdrawal deadline

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

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021
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2:24 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021

Tension continues outside of Kabul airport as many try to escape Afghanistan

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, Jennifer Z. Deaton, Jaide Timm-Garcia, and Hande Atay Alam 

Afghans make their way through a flooded street towards a nearby airport entrance to try their chance at evacuating out of the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, August 25.
Afghans make their way through a flooded street towards a nearby airport entrance to try their chance at evacuating out of the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, August 25. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

As tension continues to grow in Afghanistan, so too does the chaos outside of Kabul's international airport as time is running out for many to escape from the Taliban.

One video shared on social media shows a man who was purportedly beaten by the Taliban while he was trying to get to the airport. In the footage, the man can be seen with blood running down his face while talking to the camera saying partly in English, "They hit me bad" and that "this happened to me when I was crossing .... Airport." In the same footage, gunshots can be heard purportedly fired by the Taliban to intimidate people. 

Another social media video showed big crowds of people waiting outside the north wall at Kabul Airport, hoping to get into the airport and holding up their documents to the US military soldiers and Nato troops who were guarding the wall.

On Tuesday during a press conference, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said, “The road, which goes to the Airport, is blocked. Afghans cannot take that road to go to the airport, but foreign nationals are allowed to take that road to the airport.”

Some context: The Pentagon announced Wednesday that a total of 19,000 evacuees left Afghanistan in the last 24 hours, with 42 US Military aircraft carrying 11,200 and another 7,800 evacuated by coalition partners.

There are currently more than 10,000 people waiting at the airport to leave, but that the number could change as more people arrive at the airport and as flights depart, Joint Staff deputy director for regional operations Army Maj. Gen. William "Hank" Taylor said in a briefing with reporters.

1:54 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021

Evacuation of Turkish armed forces from Afghanistan begins

From CNN's Isil Sariyuce

The Turkish Armed Forces has begun to evacuate from Kabul airport and return to Turkey after “successfully fulfilling the task entrusted to them,” the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement regarding Turkish soldiers serving in Afghanistan. 

The ministry announced the decision came as a result of the assessment following “various meetings, current situation and conditions.”

“Chaos at Kabul's Hamid Karzai Airport was managed, security provided, other necessary activities carried out together with troops of other countries. In this process, 1129 civilian citizens were evacuated with our military aircraft,” statement said. 

Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin tweeted that “after fulfilling their duties in an excellent and honored way, Turkish soldiers in Afghanistan are returning home. Turkey will continue to work for the peace, security and prosperity of our Afghan brothers and sisters.”

3:37 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021

State Department: About 500 Americans contacted in past 24 hours and given instructions to depart 

From CNN's Jake Tapper

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there are about 1,500 people who may be Americans left in the country and added that when evacuation operations began, there was a population of as many as 6,000 American citizens in Afghanistan who wanted to leave.

Blinken said the US has “evacuated at least 4,500 American citizens and likely more” since Aug. 14, and more than 500 were evacuated in the last day alone.

“Over the past 24 hours we’ve been in direct contact with approximately 500 additional Americans and provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely,” he said.

Blinken noted that some may have left the country, some may not actually be Americans and some may choose to stay. Blinken said Americans are not required to register with the State Department, making precise counts difficult.

The State Department believes "the number of Americans actively seeking to leave Afghanistan is lower, likely significantly lower," but noted that they are "dynamic" calculations, Blinken added.

In a briefing to congressional staff earlier today, a Senate aide told CNN the State Department said that at least 4,100 American citizens are still actively seeking to get out of Afghanistan. The source said not all the Americans are located in and around Kabul.

President Biden said Tuesday he had asked Blinken to give the public “an update and a detailed report on exactly how many Americans are still in Afghanistan, how many we got out and what our projection is.”

Earlier today, the Pentagon announced that a total of 19,000 evacuees left Afghanistan in the last 24 hours, with 42 US military aircraft carrying 11,200 people and another 7,800 people evacuated by coalition partners.

The Pentagon said there are more than 10,000 people waiting at the airport to leave but that the number would change as more people arrive at the airport and as flights depart.

Update: This post has been updated to reflect the estimated number of American citizens who may be in Afghanistan as stated by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

CNN's Jennifer Hansler contributed reporting to this post. 

12:52 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021

German envoy says Taliban agree to let Afghans travel after Aug. 31

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

The Taliban have agreed to let Afghan nationals with legal documents travel after Aug. 31, German Ambassador to Afghanistan Markus Potzel tweeted Wednesday.

Potzel met with Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the Deputy Head of the Taliban’s political bureau, and his team "for a comprehensive discussion" in Doha on Tuesday, Potzel said.

They discussed an "urgent need" for a functioning airport in Kabul as a prerequisite for diplomatic and NGO presence in Afghanistan.

"Director Stanekzai assured me that Afghans with legal documents will continue to have the opportunity to travel on commercial flights after 31 August," Potzel said.

Some background: This comes one day after the Taliban said they were "not allowing the evacuation of Afghans anymore" and warned that the US must stick to next week's deadline to pull out.

Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid told a press conference Tuesday that while foreign nationals could continue traveling to the airport, the huge crowds of Afghans that have gathered there in recent days should return home and would not face reprisals from the country's new rulers.

"The road, which goes to the airport, is blocked. Afghans cannot take that road to go to the airport, but foreign nationals are allowed to take that road to the airport," Mujahid said.

"We are not allowing the evacuation of Afghans anymore and we are not happy with it either," he added.

12:07 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021

Afghan evacuees continue to arrive in New Jersey 

From CNN's Kiely Westhoff

Task Force McGuire-Dix Airmen prepare personal protective equipment to aid in the arrival of Afghans in support of the Department of State-led Operation Allies Refuge on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Aug. 21.
Task Force McGuire-Dix Airmen prepare personal protective equipment to aid in the arrival of Afghans in support of the Department of State-led Operation Allies Refuge on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Aug. 21. (Airman 1st Class Joseph Morales/U.S. Air Force)

Afghan evacuees are continuing to arrive at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, according to base media relations officials. 

Chief of Media Relations Derek VanHorn said in a statement that arrivals began overnight on Tuesday and are expected to continue through the coming days. 

VanHorn said the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is one of four military installations to temporarily house Afghan evacuees including bases in Wisconsin, Texas and Virginia.  

The military installations are providing evacuees with temporary lodging, basic needs, transportation and medical screening services in a secure environment. The Department of Defense is working to build capacity at the existing military installations and potentially other locations, according to VanHorn. 

11:39 a.m. ET, August 25, 2021

All Polish citizens who asked to leave Afghanistan have returned to Poland

From CNN's Robert Iddiols and Sharon Braithwaite

All Polish citizens who requested help to leave Afghanistan have arrived in Poland, the Polish ministry of foreign affairs said Wednesday. 

“As part of the evacuation operation from Afghanistan, 12 planes have so far departed, with more than 850 people on board,” the ministry announced via Twitter. 

Poland joined the international efforts to relocate personnel from partner nations and vulnerable Afghans. “The evacuation of Afghans and people of other nationalities is currently underway,” the ministry added. 

The ministry also posted three photos to Twitter depicting the various stages of transit for those making the journey, accompanied with the hashtag #SolidarityPL. 

12:05 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021

Blinken's speech today will focus on unprecedented effort to send Americans back to US, state official says

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens as U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the military’s ongoing evacuation efforts in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House on August 20 in Washington, DC. 
Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens as U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the military’s ongoing evacuation efforts in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House on August 20 in Washington, DC.  (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Tony Blinken will speak about the historically unprecedented effort to repatriate Americans from Afghanistan and focus on what the department has done to provide tailored assistance to the Americans as an effort to get them out of the country, according to a senior State Department official.

President Biden said yesterday that Blinken will also give specific numbers on how many Americans are still in the country and want to get out.  

“Tomorrow, I’ve asked Secretary Blinken to give you an update and a detailed report on exactly how many Americans are still in Afghanistan and how many we got out and what our projection is,” President Biden said yesterday. 

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said that 4,400 Americans had been evacuated but did not provide a total number of Americans that are still in need of evacuation, during the pentagon briefing on Wednesday morning. 

Blinken will also speak about the enduring US commitment to Afghans. But when the US leaves the airport it will be incredibly challenging for Afghans to get out of the country, as the Taliban have said they will not allow them to leave the country and it is unclear if the Kabul airport will remain open. 

The Biden administration is in touch with US allies about securing the Kabul airport and efforts to keep it up and running, the State Department official said. It is unclear if there will be any agreement to keep the airport open by the time the US military leaves. 

Kirby said that how the airport is managed when the US leaves will be the responsibility of the Taliban. He noted that the Turks still have a presence at the airport, but said he did not want to speak to their intention going forward.  

11:28 a.m. ET, August 25, 2021

Pentagon says US lawmakers' Afghanistan visit "took time away" from missions in Kabul

From CNN's Michael Conte

The Pentagon said that they were “unaware” of the decision by Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan, to visit Afghanistan and that their visit “took time away” from the missions US military forces were planning to conduct on the day of the visit.

“We are obviously not encouraging VIP visits to a very tense, dangerous and dynamic situation at that airport and inside Kabul generally,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, adding that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “would have appreciated the opportunity” to speak with them before the visit.

Kirby added that they needed military protection while they were there, but that he didn’t know if they were taking seats that would’ve otherwise gone to evacuees when they left Kabul.

“They got a chance to talk to commanders, as I understand,” said Kirby. “They got a chance to talk to troops.”

Moulton and Meijer have been criticized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top House Democrats for their unauthorized trip.

11:27 a.m. ET, August 25, 2021

Pentagon: No American troops and no known American citizens killed during evacuation in Kabul

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

There have been no American troops killed during the non-combatant evacuation in Kabul of Americans and at-risk Afghans, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during a briefing on Wednesday. Only one US troop service member has been injured during the evacuation effort, Kirby added.

No American citizens have been killed since the evacuation mission began on Aug. 14, Kirby said, but he also clarified the US military does not have “perfect visibility” into everything going on in Kabul.

“I know of no American citizens who have been killed on this, so I don’t know of any, now we don’t have perfect visibility into everything going on in Kabul, but we know of no American causalities,” Kirby said.