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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1:14 p.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Here are the countries that have evacuated their citizens and closed their embassies in Kabul so far

In this photo from the UK Ministry of Defence, British Nationals and Embassy Staff from Afghanistan arrive at RAF Brize Norton.
In this photo from the UK Ministry of Defence, British Nationals and Embassy Staff from Afghanistan arrive at RAF Brize Norton. (UK Ministry of Defence)

With the escalating crisis in Afghanistan, many countries have started evacuating their citizens and closing their embassies. Here's what we know so far:

Finland: The embassy in Kabul will be closed until further notice, and the country is evacuating its diplomatic staff from Afghanistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement published on its website on Monday. 

United Kingdom: The first flight from Kabul -- since it fell to the Taliban -- has arrived in the UK, the country’s Ministry of Defense tweeted on Monday. British nationals and embassy staff were on board.

Australia: About 250 Australian military personnel will be deployed to Afghanistan “later this week” to evacuate 130 nationals working in Afghanistan along with their families and visa holders. Two C-17A Globemaster airplanes and one KC-30A airplane be involved in the operation, according to a Monday statement from the Australian Defense Department.

Australia closed its Kabul embassy in May. In July, it said all Australian troops had left Afghanistan. 

France: French nationals and diplomats, "who are willing and able to get themselves to the Kabul airport," will be airlifted to a base in the United Arab Emirates by Monday evening, France’s defense minister Florence Parly said Monday.

South Korea: The embassy is temporarily closed and most of its staff were evacuated from Afghanistan to other nearby countries, the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Sunday.

South Korea's ambassador and a few embassy staff members are still in Afghanistan, as is one South Korean civilian, the ministry said. Seoul is coordinating with its allies, including the US, to evacuate one remaining civilian.

New Zealand: The country will begin evacuating its citizens as well as Afghan nationals, who worked alongside the New Zealand Defense Force, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday, adding that her government is aware of 53 New Zealanders in Afghanistan and 37 other individuals who worked alongside the NZDF.

Saudi Arabia: All members of its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan have been evacuated, and they have arrived home safely, according to Saudi state-run SPA news on Sunday.

Sweden: All embassy staff will be evacuated by no later than Monday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde said Sunday.

Meanwhile, China has evacuated the majority of its citizens in advance but continues to keep its embassy operational, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. The Chinese embassy has informed “different factions” in Afghanistan “to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens, Chinese institutions, and Chinese interests,” and has not received any reports on the casualties of Chinese citizens in the country, it said in a separate statement on Sunday.

1:14 p.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Witnesses report shots fired at Kabul airport as thousands try to leave the country

From CNN’s Anna Coren in Hong Kong

Witnesses CNN has spoken with at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul say they have heard many gunshots fired throughout the day.

It’s unclear if the shots were fired at people or just into the air to disperse crowds, or by whom, the witnesses said.

In addition to the perimeter set up by US forces inside the airport, there is a Taliban presence on the approaches to the airport, according to the witnesses.

There are thousands of Afghans with their families waiting in and around the airport, hoping to board flights out of the country, they added.

One of the witnesses CNN spoke with was hoping to get on a flight out of Afghanistan, fearing persecution at the hands of the Taliban when the Americans leave. At one point, the witness managed to get inside the airport, where they saw US soldiers telling Afghans to “stay back”. 

“The US need to take us with them. Once they’re gone, we will be left behind forever,” the witness said. 

The witness came back outside the airport to try and pick up their family, but were prevented from going in again by the Taliban.

1:14 p.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Desperation at Kabul airport as people try to flee

A plane leaves the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 15.
A plane leaves the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 15. (Kiana Hayeri/The New York Times/Redux)

With Afghanistan under the Taliban's control, countries are evacuating their citizens and issuing guidance.

Meanwhile, commercial flights out of Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport have been canceled, and footage filmed there showed scenes of chaos and desperation as people scrambled to get onto planes.

The US military have established a perimeter at the airport, guarding at least a portion of the sprawling complex. Several videos shared on social media shows razor wire has been laid to hold back to hundreds of people desperate to leave. American troops can be seen standing guard behind the razor wire. 

It’s unclear how much of the airport the US military is controlling.

The civilian side of the airport is closed, according to a notice to airmen.

At least three airlines — United, Emirates and FlyDubai — are either suspending flights or rerouting them to avoid Afghanistan's airspace.

5:01 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

China respects “will and choice” of Afghan people, hopes Taliban can “implement” what it promised

 From CNN’s Beijing bureau

China has said that it respects the “will and choice” of the Afghan people and hopes the Taliban can implement what it promised to “ensure the smooth transition of the situation in Afghanistan."

“The Afghan Taliban said yesterday that the war in Afghanistan has ended and they will negotiate the establishment of an open and inclusive Islamic government and take responsible actions to ensure the safety of Afghan citizens and foreign missions in Afghanistan,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing on Monday.

“China hopes that these statements can be implemented to ensure the smooth transition of the situation in Afghanistan, curb all kinds of terrorism and criminal acts, and enable the Afghan people to stay away from war and rebuild their beautiful homeland,” Hua said.

“The situation in Afghanistan has undergone major changes. We respect the will and choice of the Afghan people," he added.

Hua also confirmed that the Chinese embassy in Afghanistan is still in operation and that the embassy has evacuated the majority of Chinese citizens in the country in advance.

The Chinese embassy in Afghanistan said in a separate statement on Sunday that it has informed “different factions” in Afghanistan “to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens, Chinese institutions, and Chinese interests,” adding that the embassy has not received any reports on the casualties of Chinese citizens in the country.

Last month, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with senior leaders of the Taliban in northern Chinese city of Tianjin and said that he expected the Taliban to play an important role in the country’s “peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process,” according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

4:48 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

Tajikistan denies ousted Afghan President Ghani entered country

From CNN’s Zahra Ullah in Moscow 

Tajikistan has denied ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani entered its airspace or landed in the country.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan reports that the plane with Mr. Muhammad Ashraf Ghani did not enter the airspace of Tajikistan and did not land on the territory of the country. It should also be noted that the Tajik side did not receive a corresponding request from the Afghan side," a statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan said Monday.

Ghani fled the country on Sunday, with the Afghan Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah referring to him as “former President.”

4:39 a.m. ET, August 16, 2021

France to begin evacuating its first nationals from Afghan capital since Kabul fell 

From CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne in Paris

France will begin airlifting French nationals from Kabul to a base in the United Arab Emirates by Monday evening, France’s defence minister Florence Parly said Monday. 

“There are several dozen French citizens to be evacuated from Afghanistan, diplomatic personnel as well as nationals from NGOs,” Parly told France Info Monday. 

“We are doing everything to facilitate a return to France for all those who are willing and able to get themselves to Kabul airport,” she said. 

Parly said France plans to evacuate French citizens and “all those people who are under our protection.”  

Two French military planes will be used for the evacuation. The planes will be reinforced by French soldiers who are stationed in the UAE.

The French nationals will then be transported to the city by other military planes after arriving at the airbase.

President Emmanuel Macron is set address France on Afghanistan at 2 p.m. ET.

1:14 p.m. ET, August 16, 2021

US military seen guarding part of Kabul airport

From CNN’s Tim Lister and Vasco Cotovio

People in Afghanistan crowd at the airport as US soldiers stand guard in Kabul on August 16.
People in Afghanistan crowd at the airport as US soldiers stand guard in Kabul on August 16. (Shakib Rahmani/AFP/Getty Images)

US military have established a perimeter at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, guarding at least a portion of the sprawling complex. 

Several videos shared on social media shows razor wire has been laid to hold back to hundreds of people desperate to leave Kabul. American troops can be seen standing guard behind the razor wire. 

It’s unclear how much of the airport the US military is controlling. 

On Sunday, the US Department of State announced that US forces would take over air traffic control at Kabul airport, saying that troop presence at the airport would be increased to 6,000.

1:15 p.m. ET, August 16, 2021

All commercial flights out of Kabul's main airport have been canceled

A plane leaves the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, before the Taliban's takeover of the country's capital on August 15.
A plane leaves the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, before the Taliban's takeover of the country's capital on August 15. Kiana Hayeri/The New York Times/Redux

Commercial flights out of Hamid Karzai International Airport have been canceled, according to the Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority.

The civilian side of the airport is closed, according to a notice to airmen.

1:15 p.m. ET, August 16, 2021

US Embassy warns Americans not to travel to Kabul airport

The US Embassy in Afghanistan warned people against traveling to the Kabul airport unless they receive explicit instructions to do.

Large crowds of people have been seen at entrance to Hamid Karzai International Airport and also inside the airport on attempting to board aircraft in chaotic scenes late Sunday and Monday morning.

Six thousand US troops earmarked for security duty in Kabul have been tasked with securing the entire perimeter of the airport, a defense official said Sunday.

Footage from the airport showed chaotic scenes of crowds running in an apparent attempt to catch a flight. Another video showed people climbing up the gangplank, trying to board a large jet.

Hundreds of people continued to flood the tarmac at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday morning, with little control over crowds who can be seen approaching planes.