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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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.

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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.

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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."


9:05 p.m. ET, August 31, 2021

Taliban members escorted Americans to gates at Kabul airport in secret arrangement with US

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The US military negotiated a secret arrangement with the Taliban that resulted in members of the militant group escorting clusters of Americans to the gates of the Kabul airport as they sought to escape Afghanistan, two defense officials told CNN.

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.

The officials said Americans were notified to gather at pre-set "muster points" close to the airport where the Taliban would check their credentials and take them a short distance to a gate manned by American forces who were standing by to let them inside amid huge crowds of Afghans seeking to flee.

The US troops were able to see the Americans approach with their Taliban escorts as they progressed through the crowds, presumably ready to intervene in case anything happened.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the arrangements, which have not been disclosed until now because the US was concerned about Taliban reaction to any publicity, as well as the threat of attacks from ISIS-K if its operatives had realized Americans were being escorted in groups, the officials said.

The ISIS offshoot, a sworn enemy of the Taliban, claimed responsibility for a suicide attack at a gate to the Kabul airport last week that killed 13 American service members and more than 170 Afghans.

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