September 2 Afghanistan-Taliban news

By By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Tara John, Joshua Berlinger and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 7:22 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021
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3:58 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

State Department: "Very few" unaccompanied Afghan children arriving to US

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul on August 27 in Dulles, Virginia.
Refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul on August 27 in Dulles, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said “there are very few Afghan children currently arriving to the United States who are not accompanied by an adult known to them.”

“As soon as a minor child is identified as being without any trusted adult, we immediately begin working to reunite these identified minors with their families and with their loved ones,” Price said at a news briefing.

CNN reported earlier this week that at least 34 Afghan children who were evacuated arrived to the United States without parents, according to an administration official, although some have already been reunited with family in the country.

“Once they arrive to the continental United States, normal protocols for unaccompanied children apply. And in those cases CBP (US Customs and Border Protection) or another federal agency refers them to the Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS (the US Department of Health and Human Services) and HHS then works to find extended family or other appropriate sponsors to care for the child using established sponsor assessment procedures,” he said.

“Unaccompanied minors not immediately unified with an appropriate caregiver, are placed in culturally and age appropriate facilities. ORR – the Office of Refugee Resettlement – has identified sites that have Dari and Pashto speakers and that are culturally appropriate in addition to the standing resources we have for all unaccompanied minors," he said.

“Overseas, unaccompanied minors are referred to international organizations to assess their best interests and promote family reunification when that’s possible,” Price said. UNICEF is among those organizations.

Price declined to give a specific definition for who counts as “an adult known to” a minor. 

Read more about the Afghans coming to the US here.

3:27 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

White House says officials have concerns about charter flights coming to US from Afghanistan

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki talks to reporters during the daily news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 2.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki talks to reporters during the daily news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 2. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The White House admits that charter flights leaving Afghanistan and coming to the US are cause for “some concern” due to lack of reliable information coming out of the country, and that the number of Americans who still want to leave Afghanistan is “closer to 100” than 200.

“We are in close touch from the State Department, from our diplomatic officials, with all of these individuals working in close coordination with them to determine how they can leave the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN. 

While she pushed back on reports that the US may be stopping charter flights leaving Afghanistan, she added that the US doesn’t have “reliable means” to know who is on charter flights or who is organizing them, and that causes officials “some concern.”

“These charter flights are landing on US military bases, and we have to be very careful,” Psaki said. “We have concern about flights… where we don't have that level of information and understanding about the manifests what the protocols… that are underway.”

“There's also a question there are active there continue to be active ISIS-K threats,” the press secretary continued, “and there's also question of where these flights go where they land. We know ISIS-K has a keen interest in attacks against aviation targets, and our personnel on the ground in our Air Force in our military bases and these are among the risks that we take into account.” 

Psaki also gave an updated breakdown of evacuees who actually made it to the US between Aug. 17 and Aug. 31, saying that in total, 31,107 people have arrived.

 

12:57 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

Wisconsin governor asks for clothing and supplies for Afghan evacuees

From CNN’s Hannah Sarisohn 

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is seen at the state Capitol on December 14, 2020, in Madison, Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is seen at the state Capitol on December 14, 2020, in Madison, Wisconsin. (Morry Gash/Pool/Getty Images)

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced a series of initiatives aimed at supporting Afghan evacuees the state is housing at Fort McCoy, an army installation in central Wisconsin. 

Evers is encouraging individuals, businesses and other groups to provide donations as he said many Afghans were unable to bring personal items with them. Clean, new clothing and footwear are among items that are of the highest priority and needed at this time, Evers said in a release from his office. 

The governor is coordinating the efforts through the Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, according to the release.

“Wisconsinites have a proud tradition of rolling up our sleeves to help our neighbors when times are tough, and since learning folks leaving Afghanistan would be coming through Wisconsin, Wisconsinites have been asking what they can do to help,” Evers said in the release. “I want to thank the organizations and partners who are stepping up to offer their support and for helping to ensure Wisconsinites know how they can best help and donate to these efforts as they’re able.”

Catholic Charities of La Crosse and the American Red Cross are also supporting refugee relief efforts, the release said.

12:26 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

Netherlands may help reopen Kabul airport, foreign minister says

From CNN’s Mick Krever in Doha

Taliban fighters stand guard next to an Afghan Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul on August 31, following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Taliban fighters stand guard next to an Afghan Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul on August 31, following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

The Netherlands is looking into whether it can help Qatar and Turkey reopen the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag told Dutch national broadcaster NOS in Ankara.

“We are looking into whether as the Netherlands, we can supply resources and possibly also people,” Kaag said. “We want to do everything we can to support the countries that are committed to making the safety and thus accessibility of the airport possible again.”

She said the Netherlands’ priority was to help Dutch citizens, residents and Afghans “that we want to bring to the Netherlands.”

“That depends on how far Qatar and Turkey get in their agreements with the Taliban. And how they assess the safety situation at and near the airport. How to make that safe. And we are investigating whether we can play a role in that.” 

Kaag has visited Qatar, Pakistan and Turkey in the past two days.

12:20 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

Western Union restarts money transfer services to Afghanistan

From CNN’s Sarah Dean, Anna Stewart and Rob Picheta 

People line up in front of a bank in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 31.
People line up in front of a bank in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 31. (Kabir/Xinhua/Getty Images)

Western Union is restarting money transfer services to Afghanistan, the company said in a statement posted on Twitter on Thursday.

“Starting September 2, 2021, Western Union is pleased to announced that it is resuming its money transfer services to Afghanistan, enabling our customers from 200 countries and territories to once again send money to their loved ones in the country,” the statement said.

“We understand the urgent needs of our customers and we are committed to supporting them during this time,” it added.

The company said it will offer a $0 transfer fee for all money transfers into Afghanistan for two weeks, effective 3 to 17 September. Sending money from Afghanistan to another country remains suspended, Western Union said. 

The Taliban's takeover has already pushed the country to the brink of economic collapse. Banks are open but it can take hours, even a whole day, to reach the front of the line outside them. A weekly withdrawal limit of 20,000 afghanis, around $200, has also been imposed. 

Former Afghanistan central bank Governor Abdul Fitrat told CNN the banking system faces collapse. “There is a huge banking crisis in the country. If that run continues like this, the banking system will not survive for a while. For long, it may be only a matter of three, four weeks, or maybe a couple of months for the banking sector to collapse,” Fitrat said.

"No one has money," one current employee of Afghanistan's central bank told CNN last week. The employee, speaking anonymously due to fears for their safety, said many families don't have enough money for their daily spending and some paychecks have been halted.

Around 75% of the previous government’s budget came from overseas according, according to the World Bank. 

8:11 a.m. ET, September 2, 2021

Deadly stampede at border crossing as thousands try to flee Afghanistan

From CNN's Jonny Hallam in Atlanta, Sophia Saifi in Islamabad, and Asim Khan in Quetta

A screen grab taken from video on social media shows a crush of people in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border on Sept. 1.
A screen grab taken from video on social media shows a crush of people in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border on Sept. 1. From Ismail Saadar/Social Media

At least one person has died following a stampede at an Afghanistan-Pakistan border crossing Wednesday, according to witnesses who spoke to CNN.

Safi Ullah, a 64-year-old man from Afghanistan, died in the incident, his son Shahid Ullah confirmed to CNN.

"Me and my father were trying to cross the border with the rest of our family, I lost my father in the stampede, later we found him dead," Ullah said.

In a distressing video showing the desperation at the Spin Boldak-Chaman land border crossing on the day of the stampede, hundreds of people determined to flee Afghanistan are shown converging on the border, wanting to enter Pakistan.

People at the front barriers find they have nowhere to go, but a large throng of hundreds of people at the back of the crowd continues to push forward, trapping and crushing them against the border crossing building.

"Never have I ever seen such huge gathering at Spin Boldak," Abul Karim, a resident of the town, told CNN. "There was no space left, as thousands and thousands were moving towards the border gate."

Although Pakistan has said it will not accept any more Afghan refugees, the Spin Boldak-Chaman land border crossing between the countries has remained open.

Only Afghans who are traveling to Pakistan for medical treatment or have proof of residence in Pakistan, as well as holders of an Afghan identity document called a Tazkira, proving they live in Kandahar, are permitted to cross into Chaman, Pakistan.

Despite this, thousands of Afghans have attempted to cross over in recent days following the Taliban's takeover of the country.

At least 5,000 Afghan nationals were denied entry into Pakistan at the Spin Boldak crossing on Wednesday alone, an official from Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency, who works at the crossing, told CNN on Thursday.

"Numbers might be higher" than that, he said.

The Taliban are "aware of the ongoing situation" at the border, spokesman Bilal Karimi said, adding that they are working to reduce the number of people trying to leave Afghanistan.

"We are taking measures, talking to locals, to ensure that issues at the border on the side of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are addressed," Karimi told CNN.

"We are optimistic that in (a) couple of days, formation of the government will be announced, which will help overcome issues including border crossings," he said. "The flow of people will surely decrease in coming days."

12:31 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

The Taliban have declared victory. Now they must reckon with a country freefalling into chaos

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Taliban officials declare victory over the United States from the tarmac of Kabul airport on August 31, hours after the withdrawal of the last American troops.
Taliban officials declare victory over the United States from the tarmac of Kabul airport on August 31, hours after the withdrawal of the last American troops. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

The last American military flight left the airport and disappeared into the Kabul sky on Monday -- and minutes later, the Taliban flooded the streets around the city's last exit point, filling the night with celebratory gunfire.

It was a decisive and humbling final chapter to the United States' longest war, a two-decade effort that unraveled spectacularly in the space of a few weeks.

Standing on the runway on Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid framed the militant group's dramatic takeover of Afghanistan as a nationalist success, telling a small crowd: "This victory belongs to us all."

But for thousands of Afghans, the final Western flights took with them a last chance to leave the country. Many now fear their new realities; in particular, women, religious minorities, LGBTQ people, journalists and others face brutal treatment under the group's radical interpretation of Sharia Law.

And for the Taliban's leaders, a rapid transition to national governance beckons. The group has virtually no experience of leading a country, and showed little familiarity with geopolitics during its five-year reign two decades ago. Their sincerity and capability now has repercussions for 38 million Afghans, many of whom will be displaced or thrust into economic crisis.

Afghanistan is a very different country to the one the Taliban ruled between 1996 and 2001. Most Afghans don't even remember that era -- more than 60% of the country is aged under 25. It is urbanizing, diverse, and better connected to the world, all of which place it in stark contrast to the war-torn nation the Taliban conquered 25 years ago.

What the Taliban now do with that country is arguably the world's most pressing geopolitical question.

"This is one of the most dramatic changes in government in the modern era," Benjamin Petrini, a research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), told CNN.

The West is "pulling out not only ourselves but all the human resources that have worked with us for 20 years," he said. "Those will be replaced with what? That's a question mark."

Read the full story here:

6:21 a.m. ET, September 2, 2021

Qatar Foreign Minister hopeful for "good news" on Kabul airport reopening

From CNN’s Sam Kiley and Mick Krever in Doha

Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani speaks during a press conference in Doha, Qatar, on September 2.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani speaks during a press conference in Doha, Qatar, on September 2. Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty

Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs remains hopeful that there will be “some good news” on the re-opening of Kabul airport over the coming days, he said Thursday, adding that the Qatari government is engaging with both the Taliban and foreign partners to ensure the airport is operational “as soon as possible.” 

"We are still in the evaluation process, there is no clear indication of when it is going to be fully operational yet," Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said during a press conference in Doha, Qatar. 

We are working very hard and also engaging with the Taliban to identify what the gaps and the risks are for having the airport back up and running. We remain hopeful that we will be able to operate it as soon as possible,” he added. 

Responding to a question from CNN, Al-Thani noted that Qatar is also working with the Turkish government to assess whether Turkey may be able to provide technical assistance to support the re-opening of the airport.  

“Hopefully in the next few days we will hear some good news,” Al-Thani added, stressing that the Taliban must first demonstrate their commitment to ensuring “safe passage and freedom of movement” for the people of Afghanistan.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is in Doha to speak with Qatari officials about the situation in Afghanistan, with the prospect of Kabul airport re-opening "and safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghans across land borders top of the agenda," according to a press release by the Foreign Office.

Speaking alongside Al-Thani, Raab told reporters the UK would not "be recognizing the Taliban anytime in the foreseeable future."

However, he believes there is scope for "engagement and dialogue" with the Taliban over the assurances they have made.

So far, Raab said, the UK had secured safe passage out of Afghanistan for more than 17,000 "British nationals, Afghan workers, other special cases since April. But I do think we feel [a] responsibility to make sure that the remaining British nationals and Afghan workers can come to the UK."

12:04 a.m. ET, September 2, 2021

Analysis: America's withdrawal from Afghanistan held an unflattering mirror to its often ugly politics

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

Like the pandemic, America's final withdrawal from Afghanistan held an unflattering mirror to its often ugly politics. It also revealed characteristics of Joe Biden's leadership that the President had previously shielded from the public.

While saying the buck stopped with him, the President frequently shifted it elsewhere. His attack on the vanishing Afghan army ignored years of sacrifices of thousands of soldiers and his own withdrawal of military support. Biden ran for office on competence, empathy and as a foreign policy expert who would always level with voters. That image is now badly tarnished. The deaths of several children in an Afghan family caught in a US airstrike aimed at an ISIS-K vehicle bomb meanwhile betrayed the risks of Biden's new "over the horizon" terror war.

A few Republicans advanced necessary, tempered criticism of the events in Kabul. But the crisis also exposed the hypocrisy and craven loyalty to ex-President Donald Trump that is their party's major operating principle.

While savaging Biden, few Republicans acknowledged that Trump's capitulation to the Taliban in a withdrawal deal set the stage for the disaster. Only hours after the deaths of 13 US service members and more than 170 Afghans in a suicide bomb attack, Republicans demanded Biden's resignation and impeachment. These were the same lawmakers who appeased and are still enabling Trump's assault on American democracy, and who claimed that impeaching him for gross abuses of power was pure politics. There are just not many serious people left in the GOP these days.

Partisan media on the right churned out its usual torrent of falsehoods. But some liberal journalists, in their zeal to defend Biden, also let partisanship blind them to the truth of the failures of the evacuation.

The crisis did also highlight brighter sides of America. Once roused, the military in coordination with allies conducted a stunning airlift that rescued more than 122,000 people. The troops who died did so while offering foreign strangers a chance at a new life.

Covid-19 has pried open the ideological divides cleaving US society, and the Afghan drama showed how impossible it now is to have a reasonable argument about a key national security issue in Washington. Biden's inauguration plea for national unity seems more elusive than ever.

Editor's Note: This post was excerpted from the September 1 edition of CNN's Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.