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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1:07 p.m. ET, August 16, 2021

What Kabul's airport looked like from above as people rushed onto the runway

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

New satellite images from Maxar showed a crowd of people on the tarmac at Kabul International Airport earlier today.

"While one Turkish airliner prepares to takeoff from the airfield, security forces can be seen near one of the airport’s main runways attempting to prevent crowds of people from moving toward other aircraft and from blocking flight operations," Maxar said of the images. 

Satellite images near the airport shows significant crowds and a traffic jam.

Earlier today, video from on the ground at the airport showed people clinging to the fuselage of a US military aircraft as it taxied.

Here's a look at the satellite images from Maxar:

Crowds of people at a terminal at Kabul International Airport.
Crowds of people at a terminal at Kabul International Airport. (Maxar Technologies)

People walk along a runway at Kabul International Airport.
People walk along a runway at Kabul International Airport. (Maxar Technologies)

People crowd a tarmac.
People crowd a tarmac. (Maxar Technologies)

Crowds are seen near the entrance to Kabul International Airport.
Crowds are seen near the entrance to Kabul International Airport. (Maxar Technologies)

A traffic jam is seen near the airport.
A traffic jam is seen near the airport. (Maxar Technologies)
11:33 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Afghan ambassador says UN must call for an immediate end to violence

From CNN's Laura Ly

Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, Ghulam M. Isaczai speaks during a UN security council meeting on Afghanistan on August 16 at the United Nations in New York.
Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, Ghulam M. Isaczai speaks during a UN security council meeting on Afghanistan on August 16 at the United Nations in New York. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghan Ambassador to the United Nations Ghulam M. Isaczai said during Monday’s ongoing Security Council meeting that the UN must call for an end to violence in Afghanistan.

“There is no time for a blame game anymore. We have an opportunity to prevent further violence, prevent Afghanistan descending into civil war, and becoming a pariah state. Therefore the Security Council and the UN Secretary-General should use every means at its disposal to call for an immediate cessation of violence and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law,” Isaczai said.

The ambassador stressed on Monday that he was speaking on behalf of millions of people in Afghanistan “whose fate hangs in the balance, and are faced with an extremely uncertain future.”

“I am speaking for millions of Afghan girls and women who are about to lose their freedom to go to school, to work, and to participate in the political, economic, and social life of the country. I am speaking for thousands of human rights defenders, journalists, academics, civil servants, and former security personnel whose lives are at risk for defending human rights and democracy. I am speaking for thousands of internally displaced people who are desperately in need of shelter, food, and protection in Kabul and other places,” Isaczai said.

Isaczai added that the UN should also call upon the Taliban to abide by humanitarian laws, call on Afghanistan’s border counties to open their borders to displaced civilians and humanitarian goods, and call for a transitional and representational government.

He also called upon the United Nations to “stress that the council and the United Nations will not recognize any administration that achieves power through force or any government that is not inclusive and representative of diversity of the country,” Isaczai said.

11:35 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

UK opposition leader calls situation in Afghanistan "the unravelling of 20 years of progress" 

From CNN’s James Briggs

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer talks to police officers outside Wolverhampton Police Station during a visit to Wolverhampton on Monday.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer talks to police officers outside Wolverhampton Police Station during a visit to Wolverhampton on Monday. (Jacob King/PA Images/Getty Images)

The leader of the opposition in the UK, Keir Starmer, has said the situation in Afghanistan is “shocking, and it’s tragic.” 

Starmer told journalists on Monday the world is seeing "the unravelling of 20 years of progress, and of huge sacrifice."

The labour leader criticized the response of Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he needs to “to step up to the plate, show some leadership, and some urgency.” 

However, he acknowledged that the decision to leave the country “was not the government's decision alone.” 

Starmer said, “It's absolutely clear what the priorities have to be," focusing on the evacuation of EU nationals and eligible Afghans. 

He also stressed it is important to ensure there is a process in place “for the safety of those that are remaining there and the assertion of the human rights of everybody in Afghanistan," particularly for women and young girls. 

12:15 p.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Italian military flight carrying Afghan support and diplomatic staff lands in Rome

From CNN's Nicola Ruotolo 

An Italian military flight carrying about 70 embassy staff and former Afghan employees who worked with Italian army has now landed at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, the Italian Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Monday.

The joint statement said the Air Force KC767 flight which departed on Sunday sought to evacuate and reunite embassy and former Afghan collaborators safely with their families after the Taliban took control of the presidential palace in Kabul.

The Defence Ministry said the operation will continue to be in force for “humanitarian evacuation” from Afghanistan in the “shortest possible time,” through an airlift secured by the Italian Air Force, the statement said. 

The evacuation was directed by the Italian Joint Operations Command with support of the Italian Red Cross and was part of an international airlift after the Taliban took over the Afghan capital.

On Monday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi thanked the armed forces for safely returning citizens back to Italy.  

“Italy's commitment is to protect the Afghan citizens who have collaborated with our mission,” Draghi said in a statement. 

He added Italy is working with other European partners for a solution to the crisis in Afghanistan, ensuring to protect human rights.

11:13 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

White House says it has no calls with world leaders on Afghanistan to disclose 

From Kaitlan Collins and Jennifer Hansler

As chaos unfolds in Kabul, the White House says it has no calls between President Biden and his foreign counterparts regarding the collapse of government in Afghanistan to disclose. Although he participated in several virtual briefings with top staff Sunday, including his national security team, those aides say there are no calls with world leaders to summarize, as is common procedure at the White House. 

"I don’t have anything to read out," a National Security Council official told CNN when asked specifically if there were any calls with foreign leaders Sunday. 

While Biden apparently made no calls, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on the phone with his Australian, French, German and Norwegian counterparts about efforts to bring “citizens to safety and assist vulnerable Afghans," according to a State Department spokesperson. 

Coming up: President Biden is heading back to Washington and the White House said he will deliver remarks at 3:45 p.m. ET from the East Room.

1:08 p.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Biden will deliver remarks on Afghanistan from the White House this afternoon

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

President Biden will return to the White House this afternoon to address the nation about the crisis in Afghanistan, an official tells CNN.

Preparations are underway now at the White House for the planned speech, the official said. The White House confirmed Biden will deliver remarks at 3:45 p.m. ET from the East Room.

Biden is expected to remain in Washington and not return to Camp David today.

11:17 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Russia has established working contacts with the Taliban, Foreign Ministry says

From CNN’s Katharina Krebs

Russia is closely following the developments in Afghanistan, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday. 

The foreign ministry added the transfer of power to the Taliban occurred “as a result of the almost complete absence of resistance from the national armed forces trained by the United States and its allies.”

"According to the available information, the situation in Kabul and in Afghanistan as a whole is stabilizing," the statement read. "The Taliban started to restore public order, confirmed the guarantees of the safety of local residents and foreign diplomatic missions."

"We call on all Afghan parties to refrain from violence and to help resolve the situation peacefully," the statement added.

The foreign ministry said that the Russian Embassy in Kabul continues to function as usual and “working contacts have been established with representatives of the new authorities in order to ensure the security of the Russian mission abroad.”

10:54 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

UN official says he is concerned by "mounting" human rights violations against Afghan women and girls

From CNN's Laura Ly

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan on Monday by expressing his concern about reports of human rights violations, particularly against women and girls. 

“I call upon the Taliban and all parties to respect and protect international humanitarian law and the rights and freedoms of all persons. We are receiving chilling reports of severe restrictions on human rights throughout the country,” Guterres said.  

“I am particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who fear a return to the darkest days. It is essential that the hard-won rights of Afghan women and girls are protected,” he added.  

Guterres added the women and girls of Afghanistan are “looking to the international community for support — the same international community that assured them that opportunities would be expanded, education would be guaranteed, freedoms would spread and rights would be secured.”

10:51 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Russian envoy to Afghanistan criticizes US mission

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Russian President's special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov had a phone conversation Monday with his US counterpart, Zalmay Khalilzad, who is currently in Doha, Kabulov said, according to Russian state media.

Kabulov did not provide any details on the contents of the call. 

Speaking Monday on Russia 24 TV Channel after the call, Kabulov criticized the American mission in Afghanistan.

“We expected that the Afghan military forces, prepared by the Americans and NATO, will last at least some time and will control at least part of the country which will allow to hold negotiations on a coalition transit government. Apparently, we overestimated the talents of our American colleagues, and this army gave up without a fight,” Kabulov said. 

“When the Soviet Union left Afghanistan, the regime they supported held up for three years. The regime that the Americans had been creating for 20 years, did not even last until the Americans left completely,” he added.

“[The US experts] need to justify themselves first of all in front of their taxpayers explaining why this happened: 20 years, 1 trillion [dollars], almost 2,500 American lives, not counting the other allies. They need to justify that somehow and to show this failure as a success," he said.

Earlier Russia announced it will not be evacuating its embassy in Kabul. Explaining this decision, Kabulov said that for the last 7 years, the Russian diplomats have been analyzing thoughtfully and “working with all sides of the conflict in a civil war.”  

“As a result, the Russian diplomacy ensured quite comfortable conditions for itself regardless of the regime change in Kabul,” Kabulov said.

The capital of Afghanistan is safe now, according to the Russian official.

“Safety is a conditional concept, but at the moment it is safe [in Kabul]… The situation in Kabul itself is absolutely calm. And we shouldn’t mix this with the chaos created at the airport," he said.

According to the Russian special envoy, the “chaos and mess” at Kabul airport was created by the US decision to send in a few thousand soldiers to evacuate its staff.

“It has nothing to do with the situation inside Kabul,” he said.