US aims to complete Afghan evacuations by Aug. 31 as allies push for extension

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A Taliban spokesman on Monday warned of "consequences" should the US and its allies seek to continue evacuations from Afghanistan beyond President Joe Biden’s August 31 deadline for withdrawing troops, as aid workers said they were unable to deliver medical supplies to Afghanistan due to restrictions at Kabul airport. Read our live updates below to see how all the day's events unfolded.

00:35 Paris time (GMT+2), August 24

Biden to decide by Tuesday night whether to extend Aug. 31 deadline

US President Joe Biden is expected to decide within 24 hours whether to extend the Aug. 31 Afghanistan withdrawal deadline in order to give the Pentagon time to prepare, an administration official said on Monday.

Biden was still mulling how to proceed but some of his advisers were arguing against extending the withdrawal deadline for security reasons, the official said. Biden could signal his intentions at a virtual meeting of G7 nations on Tuesday, the official said.

  • 21:15 Paris time (GMT+2)

US confident it can evacuate all Americans 'who want to get out' by Aug. 31

The US commitment to at-risk Afghans extends beyond President Biden's Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw from the country, a senior State Department official has said, adding that the promise of safe passage does not have "an expiration date".

"Our commitment to at-risk Afghans doesn't end on August 31," the official told reporters in a briefing, without elaborating how Washington could continue its efforts to help people leave the country if it withdraws completely from the country by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, Biden's National Security Advisor has dodged a question from reporters about whether Biden will extend the Aug. 31 deadline during a White House briefing, saying only that the US is in talks with Taliban leaders "on a daily basis".

On the subject of US nationals, Jake Sullivan said the administration is confident that, "we have time between now and the 31st to get out any American who wants to get out".

  • 18:50 Paris time (GMT+2)

'There are very few women out in the streets of Kabul'

Life is "picking up again" in Kabul but there are few women in the streets following the Taliban takeover of the city, says FRANCE 24's special correspondent Catherine Norris-Trent, reporting live from the Afghan capital.

"We've been to some areas where food markets, for example, were very busy. It was striking, though, that most of the customers, most of the people on the streets are men," Norris-Trent reports. "There are very few women around and we are told by the locals that it was a very different scene just last week."

Kabul residents are "desperately worried about running out of money because the banks have been closed ever since the Taliban rolled into town", she adds. On top of the security crisis, "there's something of an economic crisis brewing here too".

Heavily-armed Taliban fighters are "omnipresent" in the city, says the FRANCE 24 reporter: "When we drove through the city late last night we saw Taliban fighters using their rifle ends and sticks to beat people [...] and regularly firing into the air, trying to get the people off the streets around the international airport."

  • 16:15 Paris time (GMT+2)

French foreign minister calls for Aug. 31 deadline to be pushed back

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has added his voice to calls for Afghan evacuations to be extended beyond Washington's August 31 deadline.

"We are concerned about the deadline set by the United States on August 31. Additional time is needed to complete ongoing operations," Le Drian told reporters at the UAE's Al-Dhafra air base, where France has set up an air bridge for people evacuated from Kabul.

  • 16:00 Paris time (GMT+2)

37,000 people evacuated since Aug. 14

The United States has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 37,000 people since the Taliban takeover, according to a White House official. Since the end of July, some 42,000 people have been relocated, the official added.

On Sunday, President Joe Biden said the “hard and painful” airlift of Americans and tens of thousands of others from Afghanistan's capital was accelerating, but that he could not not rule out extending it beyond the Aug. 31 deadline he set before the Taliban's swift takeover.

In a sign of progress, the White House official on Monday said 28 US military flights had evacuated approximately 10,400 people from Kabul over the most recent 24-hour period. In addition, 61 coalition aircraft evacuated another 5,900.

  • 13:30 Paris time (GMT+2)

Taliban warn of ‘consequences’ if US extends evacuation beyond August 31

The Taliban warned on Monday there would be "consequences" if the United States and its allies extend the presence of troops in Afghanistan beyond next week, as chaos continued to overwhelm Kabul airport.

The rapid fall of the country to the hardliners, which culminated in the capture of Kabul on August 15, shocked Western nations just two weeks before an August 31 deadline for all troops to fully withdraw from Afghanistan.

Instead, thousands of soldiers have poured back in to manage the frantic airlifting of foreigners and Afghans – many who fear reprisals for working with Western nations – out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

"If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences," Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News on Monday.

Staying beyond the agreed deadline would be "extending occupation", he added.

  • 11:30 Paris time (GMT+2)

WHO seeking empty planes to fly 500 tonnes of medical supplies into Afghanistan

The World Health Organization said on Monday that 500 tonnes of medical supplies including surgical equipment and childhood pneumonia treatments due to be delivered to Afghanistan this week are stuck because of Kabul airport restrictions.

"They were ready and planned to be delivered to Afghanistan to arrive this week. But now that the airport is closed to commercial flights, we can no longer get them in," said spokesperson Inas Hamam in an emailed statement to Reuters.

She said the WHO was calling for empty planes to divert to its storage hub in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to collect the supplies on their way to pick up evacuees from the country.

The WHO is also looking at setting up a "humanitarian air bridge" to send in supplies, Hamam said.

Aid agencies say it is critical that medical and food supplies reach some 300,000 people displaced in Afghanistan over the past two months amid advances by the Islamist Taliban insurgents that culminated in the capture of Kabul on August 15.

Nearly 18.5 million people – half of Afghanistan's population – rely on aid and humanitarian needs are expected to grow due to drought.

The executive director of the UN children's agency UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, said Monday around 10 million children across Afghanistan need humanitarian assistance and that conditions are expected to deteriorate further.

  • 9:00 Paris time (GMT+2)

British PM Johnson to push Biden for Afghanistan deadline extension

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ask US President Joe Biden to extend the evacuation deadline from Afghanistan when Group of Seven leaders discuss the crisis on Tuesday, two UK ministers said.

Biden said Sunday he still hopes to finalize the dramatic evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan by August 31.

James Heappey, Britain's minister for the armed forces, and James Cleverly, a foreign office minister, said Britain was pushing for the deadline to be pushed beyond August 31 to increase the number of people it can help who want to flee the Taliban.

Heappey told Sky News around 4,000 people who were eligible to come to the United Kingdom were still in Afghanistan and the government wanted to evacuate thousands more if it could.

"The thing that I think we've all learnt over the last week or so is that the timelines around which we plan are not always completely in our own control," Cleverly told the BBC late on Sunday. "Now obviously the more time that we've got, the more people we can evacuate and that's what we're pushing for."

The Taliban seemed to be cooperating but Britain could not rely on that support lasting indefinitely, he said.

"So we are prioritising getting as many people out as quickly as possible. If we can buy more time that is great but I think that we shouldn't be relying on the fact that we will get more time to do this," Cleverly said.

Johnson will host a virtual meeting of leaders from the G7 group of advanced economies on Tuesday.

The British government is also seeking new sanctions against the Taliban.

  • 7:15 Paris time (GMT+2)

Germany says firefight involving Western forces breaks out at Kabul Airport

A firefight broke out between unidentified gunmen, Western security forces and Afghan guards at the North Gate of Kabul airport on Monday, Germany's armed forces said, as thousands of Afghans and foreigners thronged the airport, seeking to flee Taliban rule.

One Afghan guard was killed and three others were injured in the battle, which also involved US and German forces, the German military said on Twitter, without specifying whether the dead Afghan was one of the Taliban fighters deployed to guard the airport.

The airport has been a scene of chaos since the Taliban seized the Afghan capital on August 15 as US and international forces try to evacuate their citizens and vulnerable Afghans.

  • 3:45 Paris time (GMT+2)

Flurry of evacuation flights continues

In a statement late Sunday, a White House official said eight US military flights — seven C-17s and one C-130 — evacuated about 1,700 passengers from Hamid Karzai International Airport in a 12-hour period ending at 3pm EDT (1900 GMT). In addition, 39 coalition aircraft took off with approximately 3,400 passengers, the official said.

Since August 14, the US has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of about 30,300 people on military and coalition flights, the official said. Tens of thousands of people remain to join the airlift, which has been slowed by security issues and US bureaucracy hurdles.

On Saturday, 3,900 Americans were flown out of Kabul on 23 US military flights, US President Joe Biden said earlier Sunday.

“We see no reason why this tempo will not be kept up,” the president said. The US military says it has the capacity to fly 5,000 to 9,000 people out of Kabul per day.

  • 00:30 Paris time (GMT+2)

Biden hopes to end Afghan airlift on schedule

US President Joe Biden said Sunday he still hopes to finalize the dramatic evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan by August 31, as the Islamists blamed Washington for harrowing scenes of chaos and despair at the airport in Kabul.

One week after the hardline militant group made a stunning return to power, terrified Afghans kept trying to flee, skeptical of Taliban promises of a softer version of their brutal 1996-2001 rule.

Biden had previously set August 31 as the date to complete the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

But the United States and its allies have been unable to cope with huge numbers of people trying to get on evacuation flights, leaving Kabul airport in disarray and the European Union warning it may be "impossible" to get everyone out before the deadline.

Speaking in the White House, Biden said his "hope is we will not have to extend".

But he also said ‘discussions’ were under way among military officials about the possibility of an extension.

"We'll see what we can do," he added when asked by reporters what his reply was to foreign leaders asking for more time.

"We have a long way to go and a lot could still go wrong," Biden said, citing the threat of attacks by the Islamic State group in particular.

He acknowledged the searing scenes at the US-controlled Hamid Karzai International Airport, which have included babies and children being passed to soldiers over razor-wire fences and men clinging to the outside of departing planes.

But he said they were part of the cost of departure.

"There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss and heartbreaking images you see," he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

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