August 19, 2021, Afghanistan-Taliban news

By Kara Fox, Aditi Sangal, Jessie Yeung, Steve George, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 0454 GMT (1254 HKT) August 20, 2021
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5:07 a.m. ET, August 19, 2021

12 people killed in and around Kabul airport

From CNN’s Sarah Dean in London

A total of 12 people have been killed in and around Hamid Karzai International Airport since the Taliban took control of the capital on Sunday, Reuters reported Thursday, citing NATO sources and Taliban officials.

Reuters reports, citing an unnamed Taliban official, that the deaths were caused either by stampedes of people trying to get into the airport in the hope of boarding an evacuation flight or by gun shots in the area. 

CNN has been unable to independently verify the reports. 

Desperate scenes have been unfolding at Kabul's airport since the Taliban took over the city on Sunday.

On Monday, hundreds rushed the runway, with video showing Afghans clinging to the fuselage of a US military aircraft as it taxied.  Video of people running with the plane went viral, as did video appearing to show Afghan civilians falling from the side of the plane in mid-air after desperately trying to hold on. The US Air Force Office of Special Investigations is opening an investigation into human remains found in the wheel well of a C-17 that took off from the airport, the Air Force said in a Tuesday statement.

The situation continues to deteriorate at the airport and around its perimeter, which is under Taliban control. On Wednesday night, loud detonations -- perhaps caused by stun or flash grenades -- and what appeared to be tear gas, were recorded on video. Dozens of people could be seen scrambling beside the walls at the entrance to the airport, with distressing images of mothers handing over their babies to British soldiers across barbed wire also being recorded.

9:06 a.m. ET, August 19, 2021

Germany has evacuated more than 900 people from Afghanistan

From CNN’s Claudia Otto in Berlin

Evacuees from Kabul sit inside a military aircraft in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on August 17, before reaching their final destination in Germany. 
Evacuees from Kabul sit inside a military aircraft in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on August 17, before reaching their final destination in Germany.  (Marc Tessensohn/Bundeswehr/Getty Images)

Germany has evacuated a further 211 people from Afghanistan, bringing the total number the country has taken to more than 900, the Defense Ministry said Thursday. 

“During the night we were able to evacuate another 211 people to be protected from Afghanistan. Another Bundeswehr plane brought German citizens, local forces and other people at risk from Kabul to Tashkent -- bringing the number of evacuees to more than 900,” a tweet from the ministry said. 

Two planes from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, also landed in Frankfurt, Germany, early on Thursday morning with hundreds of people on board who had previously been brought to safety from Afghanistan, the ministry said.

“In total, the two Lufthansa and Uzbekistan Airways planes carried around 500 people,” it added.

The Defense Ministry said that people from 17 nations were on board the flights, but did not specify how many Afghans had been evacuated.

Germany has been operating a shuttle service between Tashkent in Uzbekistan and Kabul several times a day as part of its evacuation efforts.

The Bundeswehr is planning another four flights to Kabul Thursday, the ministry said.

3:06 a.m. ET, August 19, 2021

Afghan refugee in the US: "I cannot sleep every night that I'm thinking about my family"

Tamana, 30, had lived in Afghanistan her entire life -- until last Friday, when she flew to Washington, DC, after receiving a special immigrant visa.

When she touched down, "I said that I am dreaming, it is not possible that I am in the US," she told CNN. "

She had applied for the visa four years ago, worried that she might be in danger for her work with USAID, the US government foreign aid agency. It's a relief to be out of the country -- but her father, three brothers and two sisters are still in Afghanistan, and she prays they won't be targeted because of her.

"I cannot sleep every night that I'm thinking about my family," she said "What should I do?"

She is now looking for a job and a permanent place to live. She knows she may not see her family again for a long time -- but "I don't have any choice," she said.

She and other Afghan refugees are now being supported by non-profit and charity efforts, with boxes of donations arriving by the hundreds to help the expected influx of refugees and displaced people in the days to come. 

2:19 a.m. ET, August 19, 2021

Female educator in Kabul: "We are dead bodies, but we are moving"

From CNN's Esha Mitra

The 29-year-old woman was getting ready to attend a seminar at a school in Kabul on Sunday when she received a phone call with the news: The Taliban had entered the capital.

"I was just crying and I told my husband that now, what will happen?" said the woman, who works in the education sector and asked not to be identified for her safety. "I took my phone and I kept calling my sisters and my relatives ... we just contacted many people (asking) how to go, how to leave the country."

In the end, she decided to go to her parents' house for safety. On the taxi ride over, she watched the city descend into chaos outside the window, with terrified people everywhere "trying to find a safe place for themselves."

"I just saw these Taliban, (they were) like wild animals in the streets with their dirty long hair," she said. "They were just staring everywhere, and they were holding guns on their shoulders."

Before the Taliban's takeover, she was able to travel alone, hold a job and have an independent source of income. "But now I feel like I am in a jail," she said. "I can't do anything, and I am scared (of) when the Taliban will come to my home and when they will shoot me."

The Taliban have assured the Afghan and international communities that they will allow women to continue studying in schools under a new "Afghan inclusive Islamic government."

But, the 29-year-old said, after the Taliban's bloody and oppressive former regime, "I cannot trust a person who killed many innocent people. How can we trust them?"

Even though they had watched the Taliban launch its nationwide offensive with fear and trepidation, nobody expected the nation to fall so quickly and completely -- or for the Afghan President to flee and leave his people to fend for themselves, she said. What's left is a sense of surreality and despair.

"We just (feel) like we are dead bodies, but we are moving," she said.
9:06 a.m. ET, August 19, 2021

NGO founder says he's not leaving until his team and their animals are safely out of Afghanistan

From CNN's Gabriel Kinder

The Taliban's takeover of Kabul means that Nowzad -- a non-profit that has spent nearly 15 years reuniting stray dogs with the soldiers who rescued them -- no longer has a future in Afghanistan.

The organization's founder, Pen Farthing, now has a new mission: finding safe homes for his staff and close to 200 animals in their care.

Since its founding in 2007, Nowzad has cared for more than 1,600 rescued animals and reunited them with soldiers. Now, Farthing is fighting to get all 25 of Nowzad's staffers and their immediate families out of Afghanistan and onto a repatriation flight to the United Kingdom.

Farthing has a relocation plan for 98 of their dogs and 88 cats. It's called Operation Ark, and they plan to rent a cargo plane to fly the animals out of Afghanistan. He is not currently disclosing their destination, but once there, they are partnered with another animal welfare group to take charge of them. He's working to raise $200,000 through Nowzad's donation page to cover the costs.

Nowzad only has days left, Farthing estimated, before they need to abandon their location in Kabul. Their facilities include a dog shelter, animal clinic, and Afghanistan's first donkey sanctuary.

"I'm hoping that when all of this is over, we can still carry on and continue," he said. "Afghans will still need support. So, please, please ... whether it's looking after people in need, whether it's animals in need, then please look out and check on all the organizations that hopefully will still be here in Afghanistan because they will need your support."

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9:05 a.m. ET, August 19, 2021

Costa Rica ready to offer humanitarian shelter to 48 Afghan women 

From CNN Español's Gerardo Lemos  

The government of Costa Rica said on Wednesday it was willing to provide humanitarian shelter to 48 Afghan women who had been working for the United Nations in Afghanistan. 

Costa Rica's offer follows a request made by the United Nations Population Fund.

The Costa Rican government said in a statement it is currently in talks with the UN to settle the humanitarian offer. 

9:05 a.m. ET, August 19, 2021

Pakistan Airlines has helped evacuate 1,100 people from Afghanistan 

From CNN's Sophia Saifi in Islamabad

Pakistan International Airlines has helped evacuate 1,100 people from Afghanistan so far, according to Pakistan's Information Ministry.

"In two days we evacuated nearly 1,100 people from Kabul after which the airport was run over by the crowd and all airport set up got dismantled," the ministry said in a statement. 

The evacuated people are of several nationalities. Numerous countries and international agencies, including the US, Philippines, Canada, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands, requested help with evacuating their citizens, said the airline.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul said that hundreds of visas have been issued to foreign media, Afghans, and other nationals in the country, according to government-run news agency Associated Press of Pakistan.

1:27 a.m. ET, August 19, 2021

Afghans are protesting despite danger because "they don't want to lose the freedoms" of past 20 years

Protests reportedly broke out in the cities of Jalalabad and Khost on Wednesday, with hundreds of people taking to the streets in an outpouring of anger over the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

The protests are all the more striking because "these crowds, these people, they know how powerful the Taliban are, they are terrified of them," said Atia Abawi, journalist and former CNN foreign correspondent in Kabul. "But at the same time, they don't want to lose the freedoms that they have gained in the last 20 years."

Videos that emerged on social media purportedly showing the demonstrations also show women protesting, with signs calling for their continued rights under Taliban rule. CNN has not independently verified these videos. 

"A lot of Afghans I've spoken to, particularly politicians who have tried to fight for women's rights, they have told me that this is their moment -- this is their moment to go out," said Abawi. "But at the same time, they are also scared to."

Anger at Biden: Abawi added that many Afghans she has spoken to share a sense of betrayal, and anger at US President Joe Biden.

"The term betrayal has been used over and over again," she said. They are upset with Biden "not just for cutting and running -- but because he is pointing the finger only at the Afghans."

In an interview with ABC News that aired on Wednesday, Biden doubled down on his previous rhetoric, denying that the US pullout was a failure and instead pointing to "the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained."

But, Abawi, said, "It's not just the Afghans. There were a lot of mistakes made by the international community, in particular the US administration. And yes, we could point to finger at past administrations ... but the buck to stop with President Biden."

1:21 a.m. ET, August 19, 2021

Biden's presidency is under scrutiny as never before over Afghan chaos

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

President Joe Biden is struggling against an intensifying examination of his judgment, competence and even his empathy over the chaotic US exit from Afghanistan. And each attempt the administration makes to quell a furor that's tarnishing America's image only provokes more questions about its failures of planning and execution.

A defiant Biden on Wednesday rejected criticism of his leadership, as he battled the most significant self-inflicted drama of a term that he won by promising proficient government and to level with voters.

"I don't think it was a failure," the President said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, referring to a US pullout that sparked scenes of desperate Afghans clinging to, and falling to their deaths from, US evacuation planes.

The President had repeatedly pledged the withdrawal from the country's longest war would be orderly, deliberate and safe and that there were no circumstances that Afghanistan would suddenly fall to the Taliban.

But in the ABC News interview he changed tack, saying there was no way the US could have left without "chaos ensuing" and that such scenes were always baked into the decision to get all troops out this year.

Biden is failing to adequately explain why he so badly failed to predict the swift collapse of the Afghan state. And his credibility has been sullied because his confident downplaying of the risks of the withdrawal has been repeatedly confounded by events. Seven months into his term, Biden no longer gets credit simply for not being Donald Trump.

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