August 31 Afghanistan-Taliban news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, September 1, 2021
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11:26 a.m. ET, August 31, 2021

Congress approves bill to provide assistance to Americans returning from Afghanistan

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ali Zaslav

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The Senate on Tuesday quickly approved a bill that would provide temporary assistance to American citizens who have returned from Afghanistan.

The bill would set aside up to $10 million for the next two years to provide temporary payments to affected people.

The bill has already been approved by the House, so it now heads to President Biden’s desk for his signature.

Vice President Kamala Harris came to the Senate to preside over the bill’s passage on Tuesday. The legislation was approved by unanimous consent during the Senate’s August recess. The Senate came into session for a quick pro-forma session where no other business was conducted.

Harris did not answer questions on her way in or way out of the US Capitol on Tuesday when CNN asked about the Americans left behind in Afghanistan. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that State Department believes there is “a small number of Americans, under 200 and likely closer to 100, who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.”

Blinken said the State Department would help Americans leave no matter when they decide that they wish to depart. CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said earlier Monday that no American citizens were evacuated on the last five flights out of Afghanistan.

10:49 a.m. ET, August 31, 2021

Canada to welcome up to 5,000 Afghan refugees evacuated by the US

From CNN's Paula Newton 

Canada has reached an agreement with the US to welcome up to 5,000 Afghan refugees whose evacuations were facilitated by the United States, according to a statement from the government.

The two countries, Canada and US, reached an agreement to “closely cooperate on the safe passage and departure” of Canadian and Afghan nationals and their families, the statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said. 

“These refugees will be accepted as part of Canada’s recently announced program for some 20,000 refugees, which include persecuted Afghan minorities, women human rights advocates, LGBTI individuals, and journalists,” the statement said.

Canada evacuated roughly 3,700 people from Afghanistan, “the majority of whom are refugees who supported Canada’s mission, and will soon begin new lives in this country,” the statement said. 

Of the incoming refugees, Canada says they “must meet all eligibility and admissibility requirements,” adding they “will come to Canada via countries where they have been temporarily located after fleeing Afghanistan.”

10:11 a.m. ET, August 31, 2021

WHO: Current situation in Afghanistan will worsen food insecurity

Prior to recent developments, half of the children in Afghanistan were expected to be severely malnourished in 2021, and the current situation will further worsen access to food, according to a World Health Organization situation report on Monday.

About 12.2 million people were projected to experience food insecurity before the Taliban takeover, according to WHO. Afghanistan’s food insecurity and malnutrition crisis has been intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic, food price hikes and the loss of more than 40% of the country’s crops due to this year’s drought, the report states.

Nine of the country’s 13 provinces, that were highly affected by the drought, “far exceed the WHO emergency threshold of Global Acute Malnutrition (15%,) with some districts reporting figures as high as 35%,” according to the report.

10:18 a.m. ET, August 31, 2021

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan is taking a toll on vets who fought there. Here are some ways to help.

From CNN's Ben Burnstein

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan can be particularly disheartening to Americans who fought there. Across 20 years of combat, almost 800,000 troops deployed to the war zone – many of them more than once.

Images of the American withdrawal and questions about the war's legacy now aggravate long-held frustrations that have been contributing to veterans' already high suicide rate.

CNN has compiled several organizations offering help to veterans troubled by events in Afghanistan.

For immediate assistance:

  • Veterans Crisis Line has people ready to listen and help. Call them at 1-800-273-8255, then select 1. You can click here to access a counselor through text or chat.
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides advice and guidance for veterans facing anger, traumatic brain injury or PTSD.
  • Blue Star Families offers advice for veterans' families dealing with the strains and struggles of military service.

Read about organizations offering more long-term help here.

9:18 a.m. ET, August 31, 2021

US senators call on VA secretary to connect veterans with mental health services as war ends

From CNN's Ryan Nobles 

US Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough speaks during a press briefing on March 4, 2021 at the White House.
US Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough speaks during a press briefing on March 4, 2021 at the White House. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

A bipartisan group of 34 US senators wrote a letter to Veteran Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough urging him to help veterans struggling with mental health issues following the end of the 20-year Afghanistan war.

The letter called on McDonough to "quickly develop a comprehensive outreach plan to connect Afghanistan and Global War on Terrorism veterans to VA benefits and services,” including “clinical mental health services and community-based support systems.”

“This has been an incredibly challenging time for the veteran community and VA must ensure that there is a sustained, comprehensive plan to reach veterans and connect them with potentially life-saving resources," the statement continued.

Politico was first to report on the initiative. 

9:08 a.m. ET, August 31, 2021

Taliban meet with Indian Ambassador to Qatar to discuss cross-border terrorism concerns

From CNN’s Vedika Sud and Swati Gupta

The Indian ambassador to Qatar met the deputy head of the Taliban’s political office, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, Tuesday to discuss cross-border terrorism concerns. 

According to a news release issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, ambassador Deepak Mittal raised concerns that, “Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner.”

Over the weekend, the Taliban had issued a statement asking for a “cultural, economic, trade and financial relationship” with India.

“India is another great and close neighboring country in the region. India is an important country in the region for us and we want to have positive relationship with them as well,” Stanekzai said in a speech posted online.

India has not addressed the issue of recognizing the Taliban leadership in Kabul yet and has asked for time and clarity before it makes a decision. 

“Discussions focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan. The travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit to India also came up,” said the news release.

9:06 a.m. ET, August 31, 2021

Pentagon: Gear left behind in Afghanistan was demilitarized and made unfit to use

Following the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, images from the airport in Kabul showed members of the Taliban making their way through an abandoned hanger strewn with equipment, including helicopters, that the US left behind.

However, the equipment was demilitarized and made unusable before troops left, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

"They can inspect all they want. They can look at them, they can walk around, but they can't fly them. They can't operate them. We made sure to demilitarize, to make unusable, all the gear that is at the airport — all the aircraft, all the ground vehicles. The only thing that we left operable are a couple of fire trucks and forklifts so that the airport itself can remain more operational going forward," Kirby told CNN.

Since the departure of the last US troops from Afghanistan, the Pentagon is relieved about safely evacuating 123,000 people out of the country, but concerned about those who were left behind, he added.

"Although we don't think the numbers are large, we are obviously concerned about our friends, allies and fellow American citizens that are still there," he said, adding that the US government will remain mindful of its commitment to those citizens that remain behind.

"Though the military mission has ended, the United States commitment to them has not," he said.

In the meantime, the threat in Afghanistan "remains high."

"Obviously, we are concerned about the potential for Taliban retribution going forward," he said Tuesday. "We certainly are mindful of the threat ISIS-K continues to pose inside Afghanistan."

However, Kirby does not foresee the need for military involvements to get the remaining citizens and allies out.


10:12 a.m. ET, August 31, 2021

What it's like to drive around Kabul on the first day without US troops on ground in 20 years

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

Remnants of US and international military presence are still visible in the center of Kabul on the first full day after the troops withdrew from Afghanistan.

In recent days, some of the T-walls have been removed. They are high concrete blast barriers that protected government offices and elite compounds but also created major traffic snarls.

But the fortified US embassy near Massoud Circle – a traffic roundabout that connects to the main airport road – is still behind high walls.

Taliban fighters are now manning the checkpoints around the entrance to the large diplomatic compound. 

Signs that might have offended the Taliban have already been taken down after the collapse of the government.

But some large posters of Ahmad Shah Massoud – the legendary Tajik guerrilla fighter who fought against the Soviets – remain. His son, Ahmad Massoud, has vowed to continue the fight against the Taliban in the Panjshir Valley. 

Interestingly, some posters of former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also remain. Ghani fled Afghanistan as the Taliban marched on the capital just a few weeks ago.


8:13 a.m. ET, August 31, 2021

Fighting resumes around Afghanistan's Panjshir valley, a pocket of Taliban resistance

From CNN's Nilly Kohzad, Saleem Mehsud and Nathan Hodge

Afghan resistance movement forces take part in a military training in Panjshir province on August 30.
Afghan resistance movement forces take part in a military training in Panjshir province on August 30. Sahel Arman/AFP/Getty Images

Fighting has restarted around the Panjshir valley, the last major pocket of resistance against Taliban rule in Afghanistan, according to both National Resistance Front and Taliban commanders.

Communication with the mountainous region has been sporadic, but a commander fighting against the Taliban told CNN that forces fighting the militant group had managed to repel a Taliban assault. 

"In the Khawak Pass area that connects to Panjshir, heavy fighting is going on," the commander said. "We didn’t have internet until just now. The resistance forces are in Puli Hisar and clashes continue. The Taliban have hundreds of casualties.”

CNN was not immediately able to verify claims of casualties or gauge the scale of the fighting. In a video message on Monday, Maulvi Abdul Khaliq Fateh, a Taliban commander on the front line, dismissed earlier reports of fighting, saying they hoped for a negotiated solution. Later in the day, a Taliban source confirmed a resumption in fighting. 

“There was a gentlemen's agreement that no side would attack but they tried to attack and enter Panjshir yesterday from the south and north," said Ali Nazary, spokesperson for the anti-Taliban National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF). "Fortunately, the NRF's forces repelled the attacks and set a few of their armored vehicles on fire. The Taliban forces that came from Gulbahar retreated to Charikar city.”

The main Taliban spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.