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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11:47 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

26 people have arrived in the UAE from Afghanistan on an Australian Air Force flight

From CNN's Angus Watson and Chandler Thornton

An Australian evacuation flight retrieving people from Afghanistan arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, according to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

There were 26 people onboard the Royal Australian Air Force C-130 including Australian citizens, Afghan nationals with visas and one foreign official working in an international agency, Morrison added.

"I can confirm that security situation at the airport has improved and more broadly across Kabul and that is supported particularly by the presence of US and UK troops on the ground being able to take control of the airport. It still, though, remains an incredibly challenging environment in which to operate," the Prime Minister said.

This is the first of an undisclosed number of Australian evacuation flights.

On Monday, the Australian military said it will be deploying more than 250 personnel "to support urgent Australian Government efforts to evacuate Australian citizens and visa holders from Afghanistan."

CORRECTION: This post has been updated to reflect that the flight landed in the UAE.

10:53 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

A former translator said the Taliban killed his brother in 2014


Srosh, a former translator and interpreter for the US military in Afghanistan, came to the United States as refugee six years ago. His family remains in his country of birth, but Srosh still works in the United States.

Srosh said the Taliban shot his brother in the face in 2014, in a case of mistaken identity -- the terror group thought they had killed Srosh. The Taliban recently burned down his home.

Srosh shared his story with CNN's Don Lemon. Watch it here:

9:57 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Former translator for US forces in Afghanistan says, "I feel like we were abandoned"


Sam used to be an Afghan interpreter for the US military. He helped American troops because he thought it would help his home country and because he was promised protection.

Though Sam is now an American citizen and living in the United States, his family remains in Afghanistan. With the Taliban's takeover, he told CNN's Chris Cuomo he's worried about their safety.

"There is no way for me to evacuate my family immediately," Sam said. "I feel like we were abandoned."

Though the Taliban has promised "amnesty" to others after its takeover, details are unclear -- and Sam does not believe the terror group will keep its word.

Sam is not his real name. The man requested CNN use a pseudonym to protect his family, who face possible "retribution" now that the Taliban has taken control.

He said getting help has been a logistical nightmare.

"Whoever I am calling to get help for this matter, nobody answers. I keep sending emails to different people, nobody responds to me back. And I don't know what to do. I even reached out to my senator here, and they referred me to these links with lawyers and all that, but it's hard, and it takes years to get them out of the country. But right now, time is running out," he said.

Watch Sam's interview with Cuomo here:

9:57 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

Army chief of staff thanks soldiers for their service in Afghanistan

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville thanked soldiers for their service over the past two decades of war in Afghanistan, calling the sacrifices they’ve made a “lasting legacy of honor and commitment for all to remember.”

McConville tweeted the letter that he addressed to the force, as well as to family members, veterans, and Americans, Gen. McConville acknowledged how difficult the withdrawal from Afghanistan may be, asking soldiers to check on each other and Army veterans.

The letter is the first public statement from a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff following the fall of Kabul. 

8:42 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

The US military evacuated about 1,100 people on Tuesday from Afghanistan

From CNN's DJ Judd

The United States military evacuated evacuated approximately 1,100 US citizens, permanent residents and their families on 13 flights from Afghanistan on Tuesday, a White House official said.

Twelve of those flights were C-17 sorties and one was a C-130.

To date, more than 3,200 people have been evacuated and nearly 2,000 Afghan special immigrants have been relocated to the United States.

The White House expects those daily numbers to escalate.

8:38 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has clarified comments on evacuating all Americans from Afghanistan 

From CNN's DJ Jud

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan clarified remarks during today’s briefing on if the United States intended to keep troops in Afghanistan until all American citizens and Afghan allies were safely evacuated, writing, “When I was asked about whether we’re going to get all Americans out of Afghanistan I said ‘that’s what we intend to do’ and that’s exactly what we'll do."


Asked during the briefing if US troops would remain in country until the mission was complete, Sullivan told CBS News’ Weijia Jiang, “I'm not going to comment on hypotheticals. What I'm going to do is stay focused on the task at hand, which is getting as many people out as rapidly as possible. And we will take that day by day.” 

Pressed in a follow up exchange with another reporter if the US would commit to ensuring that any Americans on the ground in Afghanistan were safely evacuated, Sullivan told reporters at Tuesday’s briefing, “that's what we're doing right now. We have asked them all to come to the airport to get on flights and take them home. That's what we intend to do.”

8:31 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

US taking steps to keep cash away from the Taliban

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

The United States Treasury has taken steps to prevent cash reserves managed by the Federal Reserve and other US banks out of the hands of the Taliban, officials tell CNN — a sign of the government-wide effort underway after the Afghanistan government. 

As the Biden administration struggles to bring order to the chaos in Kabul, the move to effectively freeze assets is one example of something the US government can control. 

The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reported on the action earlier today.

CNN reported earlier this week that the abrupt collapse of the Afghanistan government on Sunday had raised questions from several veterans of previous administrations about assets of the Afghan Central Bank and whether any of the money could end up in the hands of the Taliban.

The “vast majority” of the Afghan Central Bank assets are not held in Afghanistan, a US official familiar with the matter told CNN. The assets in the US have been essentially blocked by reach of the Taliban.

Separately, a Biden administration official said Sunday that any assets the Afghan government has in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban.

8:33 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

US destroyed some Afghans' passports as they prepared to evacuate embassy in Kabul — but it's unclear why

From CNN's Nicole Gaouette, Kylie Atwood and Natasha Bertrand

The closed entrance gate of the US Embassy is pictured after the US evacuated its personnel in Kabul on August 15.
The closed entrance gate of the US Embassy is pictured after the US evacuated its personnel in Kabul on August 15. (Wakil Koshar/AFP/Getty Images)

American personnel destroyed the passports of some Afghans when they were getting rid of all sensitive materials at the US Embassy in Kabul in preparation for a full evacuation, according an update that Rep. Andy Kim’s office is sharing with people who request assistance with evacuations from Afghanistan. 

It is unclear why the passports were destroyed, but it is possible diplomats determined it would have been dangerous for the documents to fall into the hands of Taliban members, who could then target those Afghans.

Not having a passport creates major complications for Afghans who are desperately and urgently trying to get out of the country. 

“Visa and passport appointments at the Embassy have been canceled, and passports that were in the Embassy’s possession have been destroyed. Currently, it is not possible to provide any further visa services in Afghanistan,” the message from Kim's office says. “The Department of State advises all people waiting for processing to find shelter and wait for further instructions. They should not go to the airport until they are called to do so and should follow the instructions carefully.”

Rep. Tom Malinowski said that the US will have to come up with ways to verify the identity of Afghans whose passports were burned.

“We are going to have to take people without passports and vet them in other ways, like with their phone numbers for example. In many cases we know their contact information and their phone numbers and that is how we will have to identify them. Any Afghans braving the trip to the airport will not have wanted to go there with identifying documents, anyway,” Malinowski told CNN.

The US is not protecting the fully evacuated US Embassy in Kabul, but the compound is in a heavily fortified area, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price. 

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment about the destruction of the passports.

5:47 p.m. ET, August 17, 2021

US military flights evacuated more than 1,000 people from Afghanistan Tuesday, State Department says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler:

US military flights on Tuesday “evacuated approximately more than 1,000 people, including 330 U.S. citizens and permanent residents,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement Tuesday. 

This is an increase from the number provided by the administration earlier in the day.

Price said the US has “evacuated more than 3,000 people so far, including our personnel.” 

“Additionally, as we have said, we have relocated nearly 2,000 Afghan special immigrants to the United States,” he said