The latest on Afghanistan as the Taliban take charge

By Brad Lendon, Jessie Yeung, Kara Fox, Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 8:27 PM ET, Fri August 20, 2021
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8:15 a.m. ET, August 20, 2021

US military transports carried 3,000 people out of Kabul on Thursday, official says

People sit inside a US military aircraft to leave Afghanistan at the airport in Kabul on August 19.
People sit inside a US military aircraft to leave Afghanistan at the airport in Kabul on August 19. (Shakib Rahmani/AFP/Getty Images)

The US Air Force evacuated approximately 3,000 people from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday, according to a White House official.

Nearly 350 US citizens were among the evacuees, the official said, with the others being family members of US citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and their families and other vulnerable Afghans.

The 3,000 people were carried on 16 flights by Air Force C-17 transports.

Another 11 civilian charter flights departed the Kabul airport in the past 24 hours. The number of people on those flights was not disclosed.

1:06 a.m. ET, August 20, 2021

India expresses concern over terrorism in first comments since Taliban took control of Kabul

From Manveena Suri in Delhi

India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has expressed concerns over terrorism for the first time since the Taliban overthrew the US-backed government in Afghanistan.  

“The international community holds a collective view that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations must be condemned. There cannot be any exception or any justification for any act of terrorism, regardless of motivations behind such acts,” Jaishankar said in an address to the United Nations Security Council in New York on Thursday. 

“However, in spite of the progress we have made to tighten the legal, security, financing and other frameworks to combat terrorism, terrorists are constantly finding newer ways of motivating, resourcing and executing acts of terror,” he continued.

In comments appeared to be directed towards neighboring Pakistan, he pointed out that some countries “seek to undermine or subvert our collective resolve to fight terrorism," adding that it “cannot be allowed to pass.”

12:41 a.m. ET, August 20, 2021

UNESCO calls for protection of World Heritage Sites in Afghanistan

In a statement on Thursday, UNESCO urged authorities in Afghanistan to preserve the country's "cultural heritage in its diversity, in full respect of international law, and (take) all necessary precautions to spare and protect cultural heritage from damage and looting."

The France-based body, which bestows the ranking of "World Heritage Site" on historic or important places around the world, said it was closely monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and was "committed to exercising all possible efforts to safeguard the invaluable cultural heritage of Afghanistan."

"Any damage or loss of cultural heritage will only have adverse consequences on the prospects for lasting peace and humanitarian relief for the people of Afghanistan," said the statement.

There are a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country, including the Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam, and the archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley. Other important sites "that must be safeguarded" include the Old City of Herat and the National Museum in Kabul, said UNESCO.

11:26 p.m. ET, August 19, 2021

Internal State Department memo in July called for swift action ahead of Afghanistan collapse

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

A group of US diplomats wrote a classified cable to Secretary of State Antony Blinken in mid-July, warning that swift action needed to be taken because they believed the situation in Afghanistan could rapidly deteriorate and they feared a catastrophe.

They laid out how the department should act quickly to process and evacuate Afghans who had assisted the United States and get them out of the country quickly. 

The diplomats decided to send the dissent memo because they felt previous warnings and recommendations they had made were being ignored and labeled alarmist, two State Department officials told CNN.

The classified cable, signed by more than a dozen US diplomats, urged specific steps to be taken, including starting a biometric enrolment program for the Afghans applying for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) or refugee status ahead of the evacuation, so they wouldn't waste time before what they believed would be the imminent collapse of the Afghan government as the US withdrew.

The State Department responded to the cable within days of receiving it and followed through on some of the issues it raised, said a source familiar with the matter. But not all of the recommendations in the memo were quickly implemented, the diplomats said.

Read the full story here. 

11:31 p.m. ET, August 19, 2021

Here's how you can help Afghan refugees

From CNN's Amy Chillag

The refugee crisis in Afghanistan is growing as the Taliban take over the country.

Since the start of this year, 550,000 Afghans have been forced to flee their homes due to internal fighting, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Now, tens of thousands more are trying to leave the country as many Afghans, especially women and children, fear a resumption of Islamic fundamentalism under the Taliban.

Others, including interpreters who helped the US military fight the Taliban, fear retribution. Afghan journalists who have been covering the war are also at particularly high risk. You can help these refugees through nonprofits providing protection, shelter, water and health care both in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

CNN's Impact Your World has compiled a list of vetted organizations accepting donations. Click here to contribute.

12:40 a.m. ET, August 20, 2021

US military has flown 12,000 people out of Afghanistan since the end of July

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman 

People queue up to board a US military aircraft to leave Afghanistan at the military airport in Kabul on August 19.
People queue up to board a US military aircraft to leave Afghanistan at the military airport in Kabul on August 19. (Shakib Rahmani/AFP/Getty Images)

Since the Defense Department began supporting the State Department with movement of people out of Afghanistan at the end of July, approximately 12,000 people have been moved out of country, Gen. Hank Taylor, deputy director of the Joint Staff for Regional Operations said Thursday. 

That 12,000 number includes “American citizens, US Embassy personnel, individuals designated by the State Department as SIV applicants and other evacuees in coordination with the State Department,” Taylor said.

Included in that 12,000 number are 7,000 people that have been moved out of Afghanistan just since Aug. 14, Taylor said.  

The Defense Department is “ready to increase throughput and have scheduled aircraft departures accordingly,” Taylor said.

“We intend to maximize each plane’s capacity. We are prioritizing people above all else, and we are focused on doing this as safely as possible with absolute urgency,” he added.