August 17, 2021, Afghanistan-Taliban news

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

Updated 0402 GMT (1202 HKT) August 18, 2021
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2:56 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

German military criticized for evacuating 7 people from Kabul

From CNN’s Claudia Otto in Berlin

The German military has come under criticism for only rescuing seven people from Kabul on its first evacuation flight from Afghanistan.

The seven passengers included five German nationals, one European national and one Afghan, according to a German Army spokesperson.

After hours of circling in the air due to a chaotic situation on the ground, the A400M could just land briefly, take some guests, and fly in direction of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the spokesperson explained.

The spokesperson also said that there were not any more people around to evacuate when they landed, given that they had arrived at night and that the US was already in control of Hamid Karzai International Airport.

The US fenced off the military side of the airport yesterday after thousands of Afghans gathered on the runway in a bid to leave the country, while the Taliban controls who can actually gain entry to the airport itself. The commercial side of the airport is currently not operational.

The plane unloaded the German troops traveling to assist with the evacuation effort in the coming days, and quickly departed, the spokesperson added.

The German Army is waiting in Tashkent for the next slot to send the next waiting plane to Kabul.

4:37 a.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Prince Harry urges veterans to "support one another" as Taliban take over Afghanistan

From CNN’s Eleanor Pickston in London

Prince Harry encouraged military veterans to “reach out to each other and offer support for one another” in the wake of the Taliban taking over Afghanistan. 

The Duke of Sussex served in the British Army for 10 years, including two tours in Afghanistan. He went on to found the Invictus Games Foundation in 2014, which supports veterans' recovery through sporting events. 

In a joint statement posted on the Invictus Games Twitter account, Prince Harry urged “everybody across the Invictus network – and the wider military community – to reach out to each other and offer support for one another.”

“What’s happening in Afghanistan resonates across the international Invictus community,” the statement from the Duke of Sussex, Dominic Reid, CEO of the Invictus Games Foundation and Lord Allen of Kensington, Chair of the Invictus Games Foundation read. 

“Many of the participating nations and competitors in the Invictus Games family are bound by a shared experience of serving in Afghanistan over the past two decades, and for several years, we have competed alongside Invictus Games Team Afghanistan.”

3:26 a.m. ET, August 17, 2021

A Taliban deputy leader told the group's fighters and commanders not to enter people's homes

Taliban fighters stand guard along a street near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on August 16.
Taliban fighters stand guard along a street near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on August 16. Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

The deputy leader of the Taliban and head of the group's military commission, Maulvi Mohammad Yaqub, ordered fighters and commanders not enter people’s homes or to seize their property and assets.

Those found to be disobeying the instructions would be considered guilty of an "act of revolt."  

“Respected Mujahideens, it is our message for all of you that no one is allowed to enter into the homes of people, especially in Kabul. Neither are you allowed to seize cars/vehicles from people,” the deputy leader said in an audio message distributed widely through Taliban channels.

3:22 a.m. ET, August 17, 2021

US Army veteran: "All of us want to find a way to get us out, but this isn't the way"

Former US Army Ranger Tom Amenta
Former US Army Ranger Tom Amenta CNN

Former US Army Ranger Tom Amenta, who served two tours in Afghanistan, says all veterans want to get out of Afghanistan, "but this isn't the way," and that America will end up returning to the country.

"All of us want to find a way to get us out, but this isn't the way. We are going to go back to Afghanistan at some point because, we haven't ... rooted out terrorism," Amenta said. "We have just given back to that country the group that harbored and kept Osama bin Laden safe."

Despite 20 years of US military presence in Afghanistan, the Taliban seem "20 years smarter, 20 years wiser and 20 years better prepared," and look fully disciplined, Amenta said.

"Now, they look the way we train people in how to fight," he told CNN.

Amenta disputes the argument that the Afghan army did not have the will to fight.

"Knowing how much they sacrificed — not getting paid properly because of government corruption, not being fed properly — and to somehow say that they lacked the will when 45,000 of them perished over the past six years? That's disingenuous at best, in my opinion. They fought very hard."

3:04 a.m. ET, August 17, 2021

The situation at the Kabul airport is "stabilizing," UK foreign secretary says

From CNN’s Nina Avramova in London

The situation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where crowds flooded the tarmac desperately seeking a route out of the country on Monday, is “stabilizing,” UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Tuesday morning.

“There’s been a surge of US and UK troops -- we’ve got 600 extra personnel there. It’s critically important, not just for the stability on the ground for Afghans, but critically, for our evacuation effort,” Raab told British broadcaster Sky News Tuesday.

The foreign secretary added that over the next 24 hours 350 British and Afghan nationals, who worked for the UK, are expected to be evacuated from Afghanistan.


“The situation is stabilizing but obviously we’re monitoring it very carefully,” said Raab.

2:57 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Two Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossings have been reopened

From CNN's Sophia Saifi in Islamabad, Pakistan

Afghan nationals queue up at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman, on August 17.
Afghan nationals queue up at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman, on August 17. (AFP/Getty Images)

Two border crossings between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been reopened, including a major transit point at Chaman, according to a senior official there.

The official, who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to speak for the government, said Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban agreed to keep the Chaman border open between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily.

The southern crossing located alongside the Afghan town of Spin Boldak was also reopened, but only those holding Pakistan or Afghanistan national identity cards were allowed to pass. It was previously closed for two weeks.

The official, who was part of the team that spoke to the Taliban, said the militant group has asked that Afghans be allowed visa-free entry into Pakistan on humanitarian grounds. 

2:56 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

French military aircraft lands in Kabul carrying special forces, picks ups French nationals for flight out

French soldiers stand guard near a military plane in Kabul, on August 17.
French soldiers stand guard near a military plane in Kabul, on August 17. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A French military aircraft carrying special forces troops landed at Kabul's Hamid Karzai airport Tuesday, according to the French Embassy in Kabul. 

The embassy said the Airbus A400M military transport then took off on an evacuation flight carrying French nationals.

"France is implementing the necessary means to ensure the protection of our compatriots. It will continue to stand with the Afghan people," the embassy said in a tweet Tuesday.

1:55 a.m. ET, August 17, 2021

The Taliban gave the UNHCR a stamped statement, reassuring it can continue its humanitarian work

The Taliban have given a stamped statement to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR,) which reassures that the organization can continue their humanitarian and relief efforts in the country, said Aurvasi Patel, the acting director of UNHCR's regional bureau for Asia and Pacific.

"We have not experienced before. This is the first time," Patel said Tuesday.

"If this actually materializes, then we can certainly stay and deliver and provide humanitarian assistance, which is critical for Afghans today," she told CNN.

As the crisis intensifies, Afghans remain "terrified" despite the Taliban's reassurances and statements, urging people to trust them.

"The Afghans are terrified by the history and the fact that the Taliban have a past record on what they have done to the citizens," Patel said.

"Right now, they have given assurances. But, there have been reports of some of their actions that go against their current narrative. So, I think it is important that the Taliban actually do what they say, and reassure the people — not only in word, but in practice — to help to the civilians to understand that they want to have a state of Afghanistan."

1:42 a.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Top US diplomat in Afghanistan denies reports that he's left the country

The top American diplomat in Afghanistan said he is still in the country and, along with his staff, helping US citizens and vulnerable Afghans.

"Our commitment to the Afghan people endures," said Ambassador Ross Wilson, the current US charge d'affaires in Kabul.

On Sunday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that embassy personnel had relocated to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul under the protection of the US military.