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

Uganda will temporarily host 2,000 refugees from Afghanistan following US request

From CNN's Bethlehem Feleke and Scott McLean

Uganda will temporarily host 2,000 refugees fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan after granting a request from the United States government, according to the Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Esther Anyakun Davina. 

The refugees, who will arrive in batches of 500 at a time, are expected to arrive as early as Tuesday, Davina told CNN. With help from the UN Refugee Agency and other government organizations, the hundreds of refugees will be documented and screened before being resettled elsewhere after three months.

Uganda is Africa's largest refugee host country, and fourth globally, with 1.4 million refugees, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

2:49 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Biden will speak again on Afghanistan "in coming days," national security adviser says

 From CNN's Kate Sullivan

US National Security advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily press briefing on the situation in Afghanistan at the White House in Washington, DC on August 17, 2021.
US National Security advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily press briefing on the situation in Afghanistan at the White House in Washington, DC on August 17, 2021. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden will speak again on the situation in Afghanistan in the coming days, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday. 

“Yes, you will hear from him in the coming days,” Sullivan told reporters at a White House briefing.

Biden briefly returned from Camp David on Monday to deliver remarks from the White House and said he stood “squarely behind my decision” to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. 

The President admitted the collapse of the Afghan government and the Taliban retaking control happened more quickly than the US government had anticipated, but insisted that ending America's 20-year war was the correct decision.

Biden returned to Camp David shortly after his speech on Monday.

2:23 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Biden administration will conduct "hot wash" review of Afghanistan withdrawal, adviser says 

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States government will conduct a “hot wash” review of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, suggesting that the administration may publicly disclose its findings. 

When a reporter at the White House press briefing asked what the administration would do differently, Sullivan said, “We will conduct an extensive hot wash, as we say. We will take a look at every aspect of this from top to bottom. But sitting here today, I’m spending every hour that I have focused how we execute the mission we have for us, which is getting all of these people out.” 

Asked by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins whether the administration would publicly disclose what went wrong in Afghanistan as part of the review, Sullivan said, “I didn’t describe that we were doing a ‘what went wrong’ review. What I said is we’ll do a hot wash. We’ll look at everything that happened in this entire operation from start to finish and the areas of improvement, where we can do better, where we can find holes or weaknesses and plug them as we go forward."

“And of course, we intend, after we've had the opportunity to run that analysis, to share that with people,” he added.

2:23 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

White House does not expect Taliban to "readily" hand over weapons that US provided to Afghanistan

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the Biden administration believes that a "fair amount" of the weapons that the US gave to Afghanistan are in the possession of the Taliban, and they don't expect they will be returned to the US.

"We don't have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone but certainly, a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban, and obviously, we don't have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport."
3:02 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Biden has not spoken to US allies since Kabul fell, national security adviser says

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden walks from the podium after speaking about Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Washington.
President Joe Biden walks from the podium after speaking about Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP

President Biden hasn't spoken with any of his foreign counterparts since Kabul fell to the Taliban, his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Tuesday. 

Sullivan said other members of the administration were making calls abroad instead because the discussions were more logistical.

"He's not spoken with any other world leaders," Sullivan said, responding to a question from CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

Other world leaders have spent the last several days on the telephone with allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have all conferred with each other.

Johnson, meanwhile, has proposed a virtual meeting of the G7.

But Biden has left the calls to foreign allies to those on his team.

"Myself, Secretary (of State Antony) Blinken, several other senior members of the team are engaged on a regular basis with foreign counterparts and we intend to do so in the coming days," Sullivan said. 

"Right now, the main issue is an operational issue," he added. "It's about how we coordinate with them to help them get their people out and we are operating through logistic channels and policy channels to make that happen."

Asked to explain further why Biden hadn't conferred with any of his foreign counterparts, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the current matters at hand fell below high-level talks. 

"Our focus right now has been on operational efforts, which includes coordination at a lower level than leaders and heads of state," she said. "And that is our focus on working with third countries to help get their citizens out or working with others on the ground to get vulnerable populations out."

She said Biden would likely place calls to foreign leaders soon.

"If there is a benefit in the president picking up the phone and calling a world leader he will do that and I expect he will do that in the coming days," she said.

2:28 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

White House says Taliban has committed to allowing "safe passage" for civilians to get to the Kabul airport

Fromm CNN's Jasmine Wright

Pool
Pool

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that the Taliban has committed to allowing a “safe passage” for civilians heading to the Kabul airport.

“We are in contact with the Taliban to ensure the safe passage of people to the airport,” Sullivan said in his opening remarks at the White House briefing. 

“The Taliban have informed us that they were prepared to provide the safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we intend to hold them to that commitment,” Sullivan said later, when asked for more specifics on the commitment, for both Americans and Afghans who worked with the US government overtime.

Sullivan added that the administration believes this commitment will last until at least Aug. 31 and are currently in talks with the Taliban about the future.

“We believe that this can go till the 31st. We are talking to them about what the exact timetable is for how this will all play out, and I don't want to negotiate in public. I’m on working out the best modality to get the most people out in the most efficient way,” Sullivan said.

Asked later about reports about Taliban-run checkpoints outside of the airport, beatings and whippings for some who try to pass through, Sullivan said they are aware of those reports and concerned but are “taking it up” with the Taliban directly.

"There have been instances where we have received reports of people being turned away or pushed back, or even beaten. We are taking that up in a channel with the Taliban to try to resolve those issues,” Sullivan said. “And we are concerned about whether that will continue to unfold in the coming days. As things stand right now, what we are finding is that we are getting people through the gate, we are getting them lined up, and we are getting them on planes, but this is an hour by hour issue, and it's something we're clear eyed about and very focused on holding the Taliban accountable to follow through on its commitment." 

Earlier, officials said the US military had evacuated “more than 700 people, including 150 American citizens,” on Monday.

2:16 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

White House: US will use "every measure of tool" to support Afghan women and girls

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

US National security adviser Jake Sullivan said that his "heart goes out to Afghan women and girls in the country today under the Taliban," but the decision to withdraw troops from the ground "wasn't a choice just between saving those women and girls and not saving those women and girls."

"The alternative choice had its own set of human costs and consequences," Sullivan said.

"Those human costs and consequences would have involved a substantial ramp up of the American participation in a civil war with more loss of life, more bloodshed, families here in the United States that would be asking a different form of the question you just asked," he told reporters.

"These are the choices a President has to make," he added.

Sullivan also noted that while US forces would not be present on the ground in Afghanistan, humanitarian efforts will continue in other capacities.

"It doesn't mean because we don't have forces in that country that we're not going to fight on behalf of women and girls and human rights and human dignity. We are. We do. In many other countries where we don't have active military participation and we'll do it in Afghanistan, too. And we will attempt to use every measure of tool and influence we have along with our international allies and partners to alleviate the burden that  those women and girls will face in the days ahead. We are absolutely resolutely committed to that," he said.
2:18 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Biden "has been deeply engaged" in monitoring Afghanistan from Camp David, national security adviser says

From CNN's DJ Judd

President Biden, who spent the weekend at Camp David, “worked throughout the entire weekend” monitoring the events unfolding in Afghanistan, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at Tuesday’s White House briefing.

“I was intimately familiar with his working habits over the course of the weekend, because I was on the phone with him constantly. Secretary Austin was on the phone with him, Chairman Milley, Secretary Blinken, the team in country,” Sulivan told reporters Tuesday when asked why Biden was not at the White House while the Afghan government collapsed.

Biden left for the presidential retreat Friday afternoon, where he spent the weekend. He returned to the White House briefly Monday afternoon, where he delivered remarks, before immediately returning to Camp David Monday night.

“So, he was monitoring developments, hour by hour, throughout that entire time, and has been making a series of decisions about troop deployments, giving us direction and guidance about how to take the shape of this mission and make sure that we're executing it, and at every turn, asking our military, who is leading this mission and executing this mission with bravery and valor, ‘What do you need? I will get you anything you need.’ He asked that question multiple times every single day,” adding Biden ”has been deeply engaged on this.”

Sullivan told reporters at the White House that Biden convened the principals Thursday to discuss “the deteriorating situation on the ground in Afghanistan,” giving the order to flow forces into the region Thursday morning, before, in the following days, “we determined that we would go from step one of that contingency plan, which was about 3,000 troops, to step two of that contingency plan which was about 6,000 troops.”

 

2:50 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Former president Ghani "is no longer a factor" in Afghanistan, national security adviser says

Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani makes brief remarks during a meeting with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on June 25.
Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani makes brief remarks during a meeting with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on June 25. Pete Marovich/Pool/Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani "is no longer a factor" when discussing the country.

During a White House briefing Tuesday he was asked by a reporter if President Biden felt he had a willing partner in Ghani.

Sullivan replied: "I won't characterize anything about president Ghani at this point who is no longer a factor in Afghanistan and I don't think there is much merit in me weighing in more deeply on him."