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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6:39 a.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Kabul airport disruption delaying vital health supplies, WHO spokesperson

From Nina Avramova in London

Chaos and disruption at the Kabul airport is "delaying urgently-needed essential health supplies," and impacting the already "fragile health system" of Afghanistan, World Health Organization spokesperson Tarik Jašarević said in a statement.

Afghanistan's health system has been facing shortages of essential medical supplies and equipment in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Jašarević pointed out, adding that the vaccination campaign has also been significantly affected due to the fighting.

On Monday, photos and videos showed desperate crowds on the tarmac of Kabul's international airport, seeking a way out of the country.

Crowding at health facilities and internally displaced people's camps will hamper infection prevention measures, increasing the risk of Covid-19 transmission and other disease outbreaks.

Afghanistan is also one of two polio-endemic countries in the world. Any delays and disruptions to the polio vaccine campaign "will directly jeopardize the health of Afghan children," warned Jašarević.

2:55 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

UK PM and German Chancellor agree on need for global cooperation on Afghanistan 

From CNN's Luke McGee in London 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed on the need for global cooperation on Afghanistan during a phone call on Tuesday morning.

“They agreed that global cooperation was crucial, both on the urgent need to evacuate foreign nationals and others from Afghanistan, and the longer-term importance of preventing a humanitarian crisis in the country and region," a Downing Street spokesperson said in a readout of the call.

Johnson also stressed that "any future Taliban government in Afghanistan" should agree to the shared international human rights standards held by the international community.

“The Prime Minister outlined his intention to convene G7 leaders for a virtual meeting to discuss this at the earliest opportunity,” the spokesperson added.

6:13 a.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Turkey continues dialogue with all parties "including Taliban," Turkish state news agency reports

From Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul

The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu says his country is maintaining dialogue with all parties in Afghanistan, including the Taliban.

"We continue our dialogue with all parties, including Taliban,” he said on Tuesday, in a joint press conference with Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi in Amman, Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported.

“We would like to say that we have welcomed the messages given by the Taliban so far. We will continue to support Afghanistan's economic development, stability, peace and tranquillity,” Çavuşoğlu added.

2:55 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Pakistani Taliban congratulates the Afghan Taliban, calling it a "victory for the whole Islamic world"

From Zahid Gishkori and CNN's Sophia Safi

The Pakistani Taliban, the TTP, has congratulated the Afghan Taliban on taking control of Afghanistan.

"It is a victory for the whole Islamic world," the official statement issued by the TTP and released to CNN, read.

In the statement, TTP spokesperson Mohammad Khorasani reiterated the group's "allegiance to the Afghan Taliban leadership," and pledged to "support and strengthen the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan."

The Pakistani Taliban’s main leadership has long operated out of Afghanistan and has been behind some of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

In a statement released by Pakistan’s national security committee on Monday night, a request was made that “Afghan soil is not used by any terrorist organization/group against any country.”

"We would not hesitate to sacrifice at any level as we consider it our religious responsibility," the statement said.

5:44 a.m. ET, August 17, 2021

UN Human Rights official urges Taliban to honor education and work promises to women and girls

From CNN's Sarah Dean in London

The Taliban must honor its promise to allow women to work and girls to go to school, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville urged in a statement Tuesday. 

"Such promises will need to be honored, and for the time being — again understandably, given past history — these declarations have been greeted with some skepticism," he said, adding that whether or not the promises are "honored or broken will be closely scrutinized."

"The fear instilled in a significant proportion of the population is profound, and – given past history – thoroughly understandable," Colville said.

The "desperate scenes" at Kabul airport on Monday, which saw crowds of people scrambling to get on evacuation flights, "underlined the gravity of the situation" after the Taliban seized all the major population centers in Afghanistan, Colville said.

He added:

"We call on the international community to extend all possible support to those who may be at imminent risk, and we call on the Taliban to demonstrate through their actions, not just their words, that the fears for the safety of so many people from so many different walks of life are addressed."
2:55 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Here's a look inside a US flight carrying Afghans out of Kabul

Evacuees crowd the interior of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, carrying some 640 Afghans to Qatar from Kabul, Afghanistan on August 15.
Evacuees crowd the interior of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, carrying some 640 Afghans to Qatar from Kabul, Afghanistan on August 15. (Defense One/Reuters)

As scores of Afghans are desperate to flee the country, a photo shows a massive military cargo plane carrying about 640 Afghan people from Kabul to Qatar Sunday.

The US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft has been operated by the United States and its allies for nearly three decades.

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.