The latest on Afghanistan

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

Updated 8:05 p.m. ET, August 23, 2021
11 Posts
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11:27 a.m. ET, August 23, 2021

16,000 people have been evacuated out of Kabul within the last 24 hours, US general says

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor speaks during a news briefing at the Pentagon on August 16, in Arlington, Virginia.
Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor speaks during a news briefing at the Pentagon on August 16, in Arlington, Virginia. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, deputy director of the Joint Regional Operations, said that around 16,000 people have been evacuated out of Kabul over the last 24 hours using both military and commercial charter flights.

"As of this morning, within the last 24 hours, 25 US military C-17s, three US military C-130s, and then a combination of 61 charter commercial and other military flights departed Kabul. The total passenger count for those flights was approximately 16,000. Of that number, the US military transported just under 11,000 personnel," Taylor said during a Pentagon news briefing.

Taylor also said that five flights with approximately 1,300 passengers landed at Dulles International Airport near Washington, DC, in the past day.

US military installations at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Fort Lee, Virginia, Joint Base McGuire-Dix, Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Fort Bliss, Texas are taking Afghans as they come into the US for further processing.

Taylor said the focus of the mission remains to ensure a "a steady flow of evacuees out of Kabul to the intermediate staging bases and safe havens at our insulations" that continue to "rapidly build out capacity as needed to ensure reception and providing humanitarian assistance."

Evacuees are being sent to temporary safe haven locations across Europe and the Middle East that include US installations in Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Italy, Spain and Germany, " Taylor said.

"We deeply appreciate the support from these countries. This is truly a testament to the importance of our alliances and our partnerships," Taylor said.

CNN's Michael Conte contributed reporting to this post. 

11:13 a.m. ET, August 23, 2021

Member of Afghan forces killed after "brief exchange of gunfire" outside Kabul airport

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

One member of the Afghan security forces was killed and several Afghans were wounded after a hostile actor fired on Afghan security forces monitoring the north gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport on Sunday.

After the hostile actor fired, Afghan security forces responded with a “brief exchange of gunfire,” a release from US Central Command said.

“No US or coalition forces were hurt” during the exchange, the release said. The wounded are being treated at a hospital on the airfield and are in “stable condition,” the release said.

The incident “appeared to begin when an unknown hostile actor fired upon Afghan security forces involved in monitoring the gate.” After the hostile actor fired, “the Afghans returned fire, and in keeping with their right of self-defense, so too did U.S. and coalition troops,” US Central Command Navy Capt. William Urban, US CENTCOM spokesperson, said in the statement. 

“Our condolences go out to the teammates and loved ones of the fallen Afghan soldier,” the release added.

Asked about the incident at the Pentagon briefing, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said "we cannot rule out out who the hostile actor was in this shooting incident last night."

"Our focus was on making sure that we could maintain security at the airport. It was maintained. Sadly it resulted in the life of one Afghan soldier and wounded several others," he said.  

11:43 a.m. ET, August 23, 2021

Four military instillations and Dulles International receiving Afghans as they come into the US

Evacuees from Kabul, Afghanistan board a bus after arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, on Saturday, August 21.
Evacuees from Kabul, Afghanistan board a bus after arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, on Saturday, August 21. Jose Luis Magana/AP

Maj. General Hank Taylor, the vice director for logistics of the Joint Staff, said four military sites and Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, DC, are receiving Afghans as they come into the United States.

These include Ft. McCoy in Wisconsin, Ft. Lee in Virginia, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey and Ft. Bliss in Texas, Taylor said on Monday.

He said right now there are about 1,200 people at these installations and capacity will continue to be built out to "ensure they are prepared to receive more flights that will come in the next few days," Taylor said.

"This is absolutely a worldwide effort, which hits several countries, multiple commands and thousands of service members across the joint force," he said.

10:41 a.m. ET, August 23, 2021

Around 4,000 locally employed embassy staff at Kabul airport gates are SIV candidates, source says

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh

People wait outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 23.
People wait outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 23. Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The number of locally employed embassy staff trying to get to Kabul airport who are cleared or eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIVs) could be as high as around 4,000 people, a source close to the situation on the ground told CNN on Monday. 

The source said that this number includes their family members and added that from the 4,000 number very few people were thought to have been able to get to the airport.

CNN has previously reported that US forces stopped allowing applicants who hold a SIV to enter Kabul airport and are prioritizing US citizens and residents, while they work through a backlog of evacuees.

The source added that there were no further plans to continue the operation past the August 31 deadline.

10:41 a.m. ET, August 23, 2021

US prioritizing evacuating Americans and legal permanent residents out of Kabul

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, Sam Kiley and Sheena McKenzie

In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, an air crew assists evacuees aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 21.
In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, an air crew assists evacuees aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 21. Taylor Crul/U.S. Air Force/Getty Images

Afghans who have applied for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) to the US were told to stay away from Kabul's airport on Monday, as American officials ramped up evacuation flights. The Taliban said all US forces needed to leave Afghanistan by Aug. 31. 

Western countries are now in a frantic race to complete what US President Joe Biden last week called "one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history," amid harrowing scenes at the airport of tens of thousands of people trying to flee Taliban rule.

Amid the scramble to evacuate, many Afghans have essentially been pushed to the back of the queue. 

"We are currently prioritizing American citizens and legal permanent residents for entry," John Johnson, Public Affairs Officer for the US Embassy in Kabul, told CNN Monday. "Due to a deteriorating security environment we are asking all others not to come to the airport at this time – the gates remain closed."

A source close to the situation at the airport told CNN that while current policy is to only let US and NATO citizens into the airport, they hoped to soon move to permitting applicants for the US' Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program – an avenue for Afghans who worked for US forces and agencies to get out of the country – along with the US embassy's local Afghan staff.

On the deadline: "August 31 is the deadline announced by them. The US must adhere to removing troops from Afghanistan by this date. Otherwise, it will be a clear violation," Taliban Spokesman Sohail Shaheen told CNN on Monday. He said that if there was a delay, "our leadership will take proper and necessary decisions."

After that date, Shaheen said those who wanted to leave "can do so through usual way of using commercial flights and having proper documents like passports and visas."

10:38 a.m. ET, August 23, 2021

Around 13,000 evacuees, most of them Afghans, remain at Kabul airport, source says 

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, Sam Kiley and Sheena McKenzie

The number of people in the Kabul airport awaiting evacuation swelled to around 20,000 over the weekend but had been reduced to around 13,000 on Monday, a source familiar with the situation told CNN.

Most of them are Afghans, the source said, adding that the number of US citizens at the airport was now in the low hundreds.

The airport was increasingly chaotic in terms of who was allowed in, with special forces — Afghan and American — looking out for their former Afghan colleagues. "It's quickly becoming the Wild West," said the source. "[Special] operators are pulling people through gates left and right."

 Even with the new flight restrictions, thousands of Afghans, mostly military-age men with "no documentation," remained on the airport grounds, the source said. They had arrived on the second day during the "everyone gets in" lapse in filtering entrants.

The source said there were "no plans to kick people off the airport," potentially leaving thousands in limbo.

One reason for the chaos was the decision to issue electronic visas, without names or document numbers, to SIV applicants. The visas were then copied as screenshots and sent by Afghans to thousands of other Afghans who were not eligible for access to the airport, a source told CNN at the weekend.

Read more about where evacuations stand in Kabul here.

10:02 a.m. ET, August 23, 2021

Taliban appoints acting governor of Afghanistan Central Bank

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam 

The Taliban has appointed Haji Mohammad Edrees as the acting governor of Da Afghanistan Bank (Afghanistan's Central Bank) Monday, according to a tweet from Taliban spokesman Zabidullah Mujahid. 

"For better management of government departments and banking issues and in order to address the problems of the people, Islamic Emirate leadership appointed honorable Haji Mohammad Edrees as the acting head of the De Afghanistan Bank," Mujahid wrote in his tweet.

2:37 p.m. ET, August 23, 2021

Kabul airport gates remain closed to Special Immigrant Visa applicants, US embassy confirms

From CNN's Mick Krever in Kabul

People gather near a gate of Kabul airport on August 22.
People gather near a gate of Kabul airport on August 22. Rahmatullah Alizadah/Xinhua/Getty Images

After CNN reported Monday that US forces had stopped allowing applicants for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) to enter Kabul airport, a public affairs officer for the US Embassy in Kabul, John Johnson, said "we are currently prioritizing" American citizens and legal permanent residents for entry.

"Due to a deteriorating security environment we are asking all others not to come to the airport at this time — the gates remain closed," he said.

A source told CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh on Monday that the current policy is to only let US and NATO citizens into the airport base, but that they hoped soon to move to permitting SIVs and also the US Embassy’s local Afghan staff.

The US' Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program is an avenue for Afghans who worked for US forces and agencies to get out of the country.

9:34 a.m. ET, August 23, 2021

Jordan approves transit of 2,500 Afghan nationals heading to the US

From CNN’s Jomana Karadsheh

Jordan has agreed to allow the transit of 2,500 Afghan nationals making their way to the United States, for “humanitarian reasons” and to “address the crisis in Afghanistan,” the Jordanian foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The evacuated Afghan nationals will transit in Jordan, and the arrangements have been agreed on with the US, the Jordanian foreign ministry spokesperson, Ambassador Daifallah Alfayez said, according to the statement.

“The decision was made for humanitarian reasons and to contribute in helping the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan,” the statement said.