September 1 Afghanistan-Taliban news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 0353 GMT (1153 HKT) September 2, 2021
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5:14 a.m. ET, September 1, 2021

UK and Taliban representatives discuss possible further evacuations

From CNN's Luke McGee and Lauren Kent in London

As we learn of the secret arrangement between the US and Taliban to escort Americans to Kabul airport, we’re also finding out about ongoing talks between the militant group and UK officials. Representatives are holding discussions over securing safe passage out of Afghanistan for British and Afghan nationals still in the country.

A Downing Street spokesperson told CNN that a special representative for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was involved in talks with senior Taliban representatives in Doha on Tuesday.

“The Prime Minister’s Special Representative Simon Gass has travelled to Doha and is meeting with senior Taliban representatives to underline the importance of safe passage out of Afghanistan for British nationals, and those Afghans who have worked with us over the past twenty years," the Downing Street spokesperson said. 

For background: In 2019, Gass was appointed Chair of the UK's Joint Intelligence Committee, which provides ministers and senior government officials with intelligence assessments, primarily about security, defense and foreign affairs. Gass previously served as NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan.

Hours after the last US troops left Afghan soil, the Taliban said it wanted to maintain good diplomatic relations with the world.

In the UK later Wednesday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is due to face lawmakers over his handling of the country's withdrawal from Afghanistan.

5:21 a.m. ET, September 1, 2021

Japan is willing to work with the Taliban to provide humanitarian support to Afghanistan

From Chie Kobayashi and Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo

The Japanese government has said it is going to continue communicating with the Taliban and it is willing to cooperate with the group to help those who wish to leave Afghanistan.

“Long term and continuous humanitarian support will become necessary. As well as closely watching the situation in Afghanistan in the future, we’d like to work on humanitarian support by coordinating with related countries," Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said during a presser on Tuesday.

The country's mission to evacuate Japanese nationals and others from Afghanistan amid a worsening security situation has concluded, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi announced Tuesday.

A transport plane is seen at Iruma base in Saitama Prefecture, eastern Japan, on August 23, before flying to Afghanistan to evacuate Japanese nationals.
A transport plane is seen at Iruma base in Saitama Prefecture, eastern Japan, on August 23, before flying to Afghanistan to evacuate Japanese nationals. Kyodo News/Getty Images

However, the government says more than 500 Afghans hoping to leave are still in the country, according to broadcaster NHK. 

“The Japanese government will work with countries like the US to ensure the safety of other Japanese nationals, local staffers and those who helped Japan. If they wish to leave Afghanistan for legitimate reasons, we are willing to help them”, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said during a press conference on Wednesday.

The Japanese Embassy in Afghanistan is temporary closed and has been moved to Istanbul, Turkey.

5:08 a.m. ET, September 1, 2021

Catch up on the latest developments surrounding the US withdrawal in Afghanistan

Members of the Taliban take control of Hamid Karzai International Airport after the completion of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 31.
Members of the Taliban take control of Hamid Karzai International Airport after the completion of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 31. Wali Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

For the first time in nearly two decades, on Tuesday the sun rose over Afghanistan and there were no US troops on the ground.

Here's what happened yesterday:

Biden's address: President Biden on Tuesday vigorously defended the decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and end the war there, the longest in US history. Biden argued the US "no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission in Afghanistan" and that the US' withdrawal signaled "ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries."

As of Monday, more than 122,000 people had been airlifted from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul since July, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters. The total includes 5,400 Americans.

The US withdrawal was rocked by the Taliban's unexpectedly swift takeover of Afghanistan's capital, but Biden painted the withdrawal as an "extraordinary success."

A covert deal: The US military negotiated a secret arrangement with the Taliban that resulted in members of the Islamist group escorting Americans to the gates of Kabul airport as they sought to escape Afghanistan, according to two defense officials. One of the officials also revealed that US special operations forces set up a “secret gate” at the airport and established “call centers” to guide Americans through the evacuation process.

"It worked, it worked beautifully," one official said of the arrangement.

Americans still in Afghanistan: The President said the US government believes there are about 100 to 200 Americans remaining in Afghanistan, "with some intention to leave." Most of those that remained are dual citizens and longtime residents that had decided to remain in Afghanistan because of "family roots," Biden said.

Biden said the US is committed to getting those Americans who want to leave out and that Secretary of State Antony Blinken is leading diplomatic efforts to do so.

A murky future: What comes next for Afghanistan and the Taliban's efforts to govern the country remains unclear. The United Nations committed to staying in the country to stand "shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan people." UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that "a humanitarian catastrophe looms" as "almost half of the population of Afghanistan — 18 million people — need humanitarian assistance to survive."

12:25 a.m. ET, September 1, 2021

Analysis: Political threats left behind in Afghanistan could come back to haunt Biden

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

President Joe Biden may have ended the "forever war" but the dangerous loose ends he left behind in Afghanistan could still thwart his attempt to throw everything at his top priority domestic goals.

In a quintessential example of an approach that might be termed "Americans First," Biden will pivot from the country's longest war to rebuilding a nation under siege at home from a new Covid-19 assault and severe weather, as more than a million people wilt without power after Hurricane Ida. The President is also eager to get on with selling a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure and social spending proposal that would rebalance the economy toward workers but still faces a complicated path through Congress.

But the messy end to the Afghan conflict, the Americans left behind when the US airlift ended and the geopolitical and national security implications of an anarchic failed state teeming with radicals mean that moving on will be far more complicated than declaring the two-decades-long conflict over.

Biden attempted to draw a firm line under the chaos, recriminations and tragedy of the last two weeks on Tuesday, defiantly defending his handling of a final US withdrawal that exposed him to searing criticism, especially after the deaths of 13 US service personnel in desperate scenes outside Kabul's airport.

He attempted to shift the focus from the questionable decision-making of the pullout to the broader point that he had ended a war that his three predecessors could not, despite indications that the US project was always going to fail.

Read more:

11:58 p.m. ET, August 31, 2021

White House thanks interpreter in hiding who helped rescue Biden in 2008 

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday praised the Afghan interpreter in hiding who helped rescue then-Sen. Joe Biden during a 2008 rescue mission as she reaffirmed the US' commitment to helping Afghan allies.

"Our message to him is: Thank you for fighting by our side for the last 20 years. Thank you for the role you played in helping a number of my favorite people out of a snowstorm and for all the work you did. And our commitment is enduring, not just to American citizens but to our Afghan partners who have fought by our side," Psaki said.
"And our efforts and our focus right now is, as you've heard Gen. McKenzie say and others say over the last 24 hours, is to the diplomatic phase. We will get you out. We will honor your service. And we're committed to doing exactly that."

The interpreter, who is going only by his first name, Mohammed, told the Wall Street Journal that he is asking the President to "save me and my family" after US forces allowed him to enter Kabul's airport during their evacuation mission but restricted his wife and children.

Read more:

3:02 a.m. ET, September 1, 2021

The US Secretary of Defense thanked several foreign leaders on Tuesday

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin before a meeting at the Pentagon on August 31, in Arlington, Virginia.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin before a meeting at the Pentagon on August 31, in Arlington, Virginia. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with several foreign leaders by phone Tuesday to thank them for their help in the US military’s withdrawal of troops and evacuation of at-risk Afghans and other civilians from Afghanistan.

Austin spoke with:

  • Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa
  • Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense H.E. Sheikh Hamad Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah
  • Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
  • Norwegian Minister of Defense Frank Bakke-Jensen
  • United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Canadian Minister of National Defence Harjit S. Sajjan
  • German Federal Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer
11:03 p.m. ET, August 31, 2021

A family from San Diego is still stuck in Afghanistan

From CNN's Sarah Moon

One San Diego family is still stranded in Afghanistan as school officials are “exploring strategies to rescue and bring them home,” according to a statement from the Cajon Valley Union School District. The family has three students in the school district.

Four other families have been safely rescued and returned to their homes in El Cajon, according to the school district.

“We are grateful to Congressman [Darrell] Issa’s team and all those that have contributed to this mission thus far,” the district said in a statement.

More than 1,000 children who are either US citizens or the children of parents with Special Immigrants Visas are still trapped in Afghanistan, according to the school district.

9:01 p.m. ET, August 31, 2021

Biden's defiant defense of the withdrawal from Afghanistan: "I was not extending a forever exit"

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez and Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden on Tuesday offered a vigorous defense of his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, defending the chaotic withdrawal from Kabul a day after the last American military planes left the country, marking the conclusion of the US' longest war nearly 20 years after it began.

"My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over," Biden said at the White House, marking a symbolic moment he said was long overdue. "I'm the fourth president who has faced the issue of whether and when to end this war. When I was running for president, I made a commitment to the American people that I would end this war. Today I've honored that commitment."

Biden was defending a decision that has drawn scrutiny for its chaotic execution that undercut his promise to restore competence to government. His speech, delivered in an impassioned tone that revealed flashes of anger toward his critics, offered no apology for how the war ended.

Instead, Biden said the real choice in Afghanistan was "between leaving and escalating," framing his call to withdraw troops as the only option aside from surging more forces to the country. He suggested that the humbling end to the war, with the Taliban back in control after trillions of dollars and thousands of lives were spent ousting them, was the fault of decisions made long ago.

"I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit," he said, casting aside arguments that leaving some troops in the country was a feasible way to keep the Taliban at bay.

Eager to move on, Biden hopes his speech amounts to something of the last word after a two-and-a-half week scramble to leave the country. Questions linger over potentially hundreds of Americans who were not evacuated and many more Afghan allies who want to leave.

Read more:

11:58 p.m. ET, August 31, 2021

Biden vows to go after terrorism and warns ISIS-K: "We are not done with you yet"

From CNN's Allie Malloy

President Biden vowed to continue to go after terrorism around the globe, saying Tuesday the United States will “go after terror where it is today, not where it was two decades ago.” 

“To ISIS-K we are not done with you yet,” Biden said, vowing a “tough, unforgiving, targeted, precise strategy” for last Thursday’s attack that killed 13 US service members.

Biden also said the terror threat has metastasized from Afghanistan to around the globe, adding, “the threat from terrorism continues, but it’s changed. Our strategy needs to change too.” 

The President also acknowledged the new challenges around the globe include those presented by China and Russia saying there’s nothing the two nations “would rather have and want more in this competition than for the United States to be bogged down another decade in Afghanistan."