August 16, 2021, Afghanistan-Taliban news

By Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner, Michael Hayes, Melissa Macaya, Aditi Sangal, Brad Lendon, Joshua Berlinger and Kara Fox, CNN

Updated 12:05 a.m. ET, August 17, 2021
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1:11 p.m. ET, August 16, 2021

US forces killed 2 armed men at Kabul airport after they fired on troops

From CNN's Barbara Starr

US forces at the Kabul airport shot and killed two armed men Monday after they fired on US forces, according to a US defense official.

The official would only say the men were armed and the US has not verified they were Taliban members. The US for now believes it was an isolated incident.

Additionally, the military has a report that one US troop has been injured by a gunshot in another incident at the airport, but the circumstances have not been confirmed, the official said.

10:04 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

An Afghan Air Force aircraft crashed in Uzbekistan on Sunday

From CNN’s Katharina Krebs and Zahra Ullah

An Afghan Air Force aircraft crashed in the Surxondaryo region of Uzbekistan on Sunday, while trying to cross the border, ​an official from the Ministry of Defense of Uzbekistan told CNN on Monday. ​ 

"Yesterday the air defense forces suppressed an attempt to violate the state border,” a representative from the press-service of the Ministry of Defense of Uzbekistan said. ​

It was not immediately clear what the intent of those on board the aircraft was. 

The official would not clarify when pressed further if suppressed meant shot down. 

“Now representatives of the armed forces and security forces are conducting an investigation into this fact. After its completion, the media and the public will be provided with detailed information," said press-service of the Ministry of Defense of Uzbekistan. 

Russian state media RIA Novosti is reporting two pilots survived and are in serious condition in a hospital in Termez, according to an employee of the Termez branch of the Republican Scientific Center for Emergency Medical Aid. MOD of Uzbekistan wouldn’t give other details to CNN and said more information would be available after an investigation is completed.

9:53 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

EU to hold emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss Afghanistan

From CNN’s Nada Bashir and Nina Avramova

European Union foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the seizure of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said Monday. 

“Following latest developments in Afghanistan, and after intense contacts with partners in the past days and hours, I decided to convene an extraordinary VTC [video conference] of EU Foreign Ministers tomorrow afternoon for a first assessment,” Borrell tweeted. 

“Afghanistan stands at a crossroad. Security and wellbeing of its citizens, as well as international security are at play,” he added. 

European Parliament President David Sassoli also called for a “united EU response” to the situation unfolding in Afghanistan, adding that asylum “must be granted” to all those in danger of persecution.  

“The country needs a lasting and inclusive political solution that protects the rights of women and allows Afghans to live in safety and with dignity,” Sassoli tweeted. 

In an earlier joint statement shared by the EU External Action Service (EEAS), members of the international community stated their readiness to assist the Afghan people, affirming their right to “safety, security and dignity.” 

We support, are working to secure, and call on all parties to respect and facilitate, the safe and orderly departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country,” the joint statement read. 

“Those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan bear responsibility - and accountability - for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order,” the statement added. 

9:54 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Blinken won't say Biden administration bears any blame for hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan

From CNN's Kylie Atwood and Morgan Rimmer

President Joe Biden meets virtually with his national security team for a briefing on Afghanistan at Camp David on Sunday, August 15.
President Joe Biden meets virtually with his national security team for a briefing on Afghanistan at Camp David on Sunday, August 15. (The White House/AP)

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday the American people can expect to hear from President Biden “soon” but would not say if that would be today. 

Biden, who remains at Camp David on his August vacation, is “deeply engaged” on the situation and in contact with his national security team regarding the mission of getting Americans and Afghans evacuated, according to Sullivan. 

Secretary of State Tony Blinken on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday refused to say Biden bears some burden for the hasty US exit from the country as the Taliban swiftly took control of the capital city Kabul yesterday. 

Blinken argued that Biden took prudent steps to have the resources in place to get out US diplomats. 

“What the President has done is make sure that we were able to adjust to anything happening on the ground, and the fact that we – that he sent additional forces in, we had those forces at the ready, fully prepared to go in the event that this moved in a direction where we needed forces in place to ensure that our personnel, was safe and secure, to ensure also that we could do everything possible to bring out of Afghanistan. Those Afghans most of the risks, that's exactly what we're doing,” Blinken said Sunday.

When pressed by Jake Tapper as to why the US did not remove the US diplomats and Afghans who worked with the US first, before drawing down troops, Blinken said that the situation with the troops on the ground was not sustainable because deal with the Taliban which was struck under former President Trump that all US troops would leave by May 1. The Biden administration has repeatedly pointed to that deal as a major factor which fueled the US troop withdrawal from the country. 

“That status quo was not sustainable,” Blinken said. “Like it or not, there was an agreement that the forces would come out on May 1st. Had they – he we not have we not begun that process, which is what the president did, and the Taliban saw, then we would have been back on board with the Taliban, and we would have been back at war with 10s of 1000s of troops having to go in because the 2500 troops we had there, and the airpower would not have sufficed to deal with the situation, especially as we see, alas the hollowness of – the Afghan security forces.” 

Blinken argued that keeping US troops in Afghanistan is “simply not in the national interest.”

Blinken also would not point to anything that the Biden administration should have done anything differently in their approach to withdrawing from Afghanistan.


9:32 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Dept. of Defense aims to relocate 30,000 Afghan SIV applicants into the US

From CNN's Brianna Keilar

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirms to CNN that the Department of Defense is aiming to relocate up to 30,000 Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants into the US, a reversal of President Biden's previous assertion that "the law doesn't allow that to happen."

The State Department will identify the individuals for transport, according to Kirby, and the Defense Department will facilitate their transportation to and housing at Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

Kirby said DoD is aiming to get several thousand people transported immediately and tens of thousands more to follow, though how the US government will achieve that is unclear. 

White House Deputy National Security Adviser told CNN Monday morning there is no plan for US forces to provide safe passage for Americans, locally employed Afghan staff of the US embassy and other Afghan visa applicants from within the city of Kabul to the airport. 

Finer said the US has made clear to the Taliban “in no uncertain terms” not to interfere with Afghans who are attempting to get to the Kabul airport for potential evacuation, however those Afghans should wait until they are told it is time for their evacuation before going to the airport. 

“We are asking people in an orderly way, when their flight is called. And again this is not going to be just a free for all. It can't be for security reasons work that way. When people's flights are timed, we are asking them to show up at the airport to be present to get on those flights. Not just whoever happens to come to the airport,” Finer said.

“Right now we have our hands full at the airport. I know of no ability to help secure safe passage to airport” at this time, a senior Pentagon official told CNN.

Reversing a Biden administration plan to prioritize Americans trying to leave Kabul, Kirby said the plan is to now evacuate "a mix" of Afghans and Americans.

9:33 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Iran reduces diplomatic staff in Afghanistan and shuts 3 consulates

From CNN’s Adam Pourahmadi

Iran has shut three of its consulates in Afghanistan and reduced the number of personnel at its embassy in Kabul amid the deteriorating security situation in the country, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said according to a statement.

Iran closed its missions in Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat and Kandahar, the statement said.

“At the moment, only the security guards and a few local colleagues are present at these three missions,” Khatibzadeh said.

“Iran has also drawn down staff members at its embassy in Kabul, and a number of our colleagues have returned, leaving only enough personnel to handle the embassy’s essential activities,” he added.


1:11 p.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Taliban are nearing "full control" of Kabul, spokesperson says

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio

Taliban fighters are seen on the back of a vehicle in Kabul on August 16.
Taliban fighters are seen on the back of a vehicle in Kabul on August 16. (EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the group is nearing “full control” of the Afghan capital of Kabul. 

“The situation in Kabul city is coming under full control,” he tweeted on Monday. 

According to Mujahid, the Taliban have also arrested most of the people who were involved in violence in the capital after its takeover of the city. 

He also reiterated the Taliban promise that the group would not go from door to door in search of former government officials. 

“No one is allowed to go to the houses of the former officials, ask for their vehicles or threaten them,” he wrote. “Those people would be prevented from doing these with all seriousness and will seriously be pursued.”

9:12 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Former Afghan policy official: The stage was set 10 years ago for these scenes to unfold

As the Taliban takes over Afghanistan, footage of chaotic scenes at the Kabul airport is surfacing, showing helpless and desperate people trying to flee, clinging on to US military planes.

Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, who directed the Afghan strategy for former Presidents Bush and Obama, says he is "stunned" to see these scenes unfold, but this was bound to happen.

"This is obviously not what anybody wanted, but frankly the stage was set for the tragic and desperate events ... 10 years ago, when we brought bin Laden to justice and decimated al Qaeda," he told CNN.

Since then, Afghanistan has "made too little progress" and these scenes were unavoidable, Lute added.

"This has been the accumulation of a lack of progress over at least a decade, and perhaps, arguably longer than a decade," he said Monday. "We can't rewind the clock. And in a way, this is simply culminating because of too little progress. And while the Taliban made progress, the government did not. We built security forces that, in the end, could not withstand the pressure from the Taliban. I'm afraid that we built a house built on sand."

President Joe Biden had been watching this situation closely over the years and "decided that it is time for Afghanistan to be decided by Afghans," Lute said.

"The President decided that we would leave, but the scenes we see today suggest that we believed intelligence estimates ... and we didn't plan against the worst case estimates," he said.

With where things stand today, "there's no going back," Lute explained.

"There is no Afghan army. There are no Afghan police. There is no Afghan government. The Taliban are in charge. So, we're in no position to reverse what we see today. The best we can do is to cope with the circumstances at the airport. Obviously, prioritize the evacuation of Americans, but then right behind them, the Afghans who have served alongside of us."

8:48 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Situation in Afghanistan of "great concern" to Germany

From CNN’s Claudia Otto in Berlin and Nina Avramova in London

The situation in Afghanistan is “of great concern” to Germany, government spokesperson Steffen Seibert told reporters on Monday.

“We are concerned about the fate of individual Afghans, but we are also concerned about the situation as a whole. These are bitter developments when you see them in terms of the deployment of the Western community,” Seibert said. 

Seibert outlined the "clear" task ahead for the German government: to safely evacuate German embassy employees and other nationals, and "to bring the Afghan employees seeking protection" as much as possible, alongside people with whom Germany has worked closely with there.

According to a spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry, the situation at the airport in Kabul is “very chaotic," adding that “there is no flight movement possible, because there are a large number of desperate people on the tarmac.”

One German military plane flew to Kabul on Monday morning to assist with evacuations, with two more planes to follow, the spokesperson told journalists.

Forty staff members from the German Embassy were flown out from Kabul to Doha on Sunday evening.

Germany has now urged its citizens in Kabul to wait to be individually contacted by the embassy instead of heading to the airport, as it can be “risky” and “people shouldn’t expect to be able to enter the airport until they are on a flight list.”

German airline Lufthansa said it is coordinating with the Federal Foreign Office to evaluate how it can support the government in the evacuations of German nationals and local workers from Afghanistan.