🚨 | NEW: Keir Starmer has written to Boris Johnson on Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/X3bPr7AeIa— Politics For All (@PoliticsForAlI) August 22, 2021
KABUL (Sputnik) - Taliban fighters (movement banned in Russia as terrorist) have regained control over three districts in the Afghan province of Baghlan after recapturing them from the resistance forces, a local journalist told Sputnik on Sunday.
On Friday, the defense minister of the former Afghan government, Bismillah Mohammadi, said that resistance forces had retaken three districts in Baghlan, including Banu, Deh-e Salah and Puli Hisar, from the Taliban. Earlier on Sunday, sources told Sputnik that the Taliban took over the Banu district in northeastern Baghlan province.
"The three areas captured by the resistance forces have been retaken by the Taliban. And no place in Baghlan is now under the control of the resistance forces," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States will provide a prompt and "forceful" response to the Taliban (designated terrorist by the UN and Russia) in case the radical group hinders evacuations of Americans from the Kabul airport, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC News.
"If in the end Americans are blocked from getting to the airport, blocked from leaving the country or our operations are disrupted or our evacuations are in some way interfered with, we have explained to them [the Taliban] that there will be a swift and forceful response," Sullivan warned.
The US, the official noted, is unaware of the precise number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan.
"We know that it's roughly a few thousands," Sullivan said.
He explained that many Americans did not register upon their arrival in Afghanistan, therefore it is complicated now to figure out how many US nationals are still in the Central Asian country.
At the moment, Washington is working on giving directives on the relatively safe ways of getting to the airport to those nationals who are still in Afghanistan, according to Sullivan.
Mohammed Naeem, a spokesman for Taliban's political office, has claimed that al-Qaeda* "does not exist" in Afghanistan and "we have no relationship with them".
The claim comes days after President Joe Biden insisted that the US had reached its goal of getting rid of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The Pentagon, however, appeared to contradict his statement, saying "we know that al-Qaeda is a presence, as well as ISIS* [Daesh] in Afghanistan".
*Al-Qaeda and Daesh, also known as ISIS/IS/Islamic State are terrorist groups banned in Russia and many other countries.
As Afghan resistance leader Ahmad Massoud refused to surrender areas under his control to the Taliban, the insurgent group said on Sunday that "hundreds" of its fighters were heading to the Panjshir Valley.
"Hundreds of Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate are heading towards the state of Panjshir to control it, after local state officials refused to hand it over peacefully".
Massoud said, "We want to make the Taliban realise that the only way forward is through negotiation. We do not want a war to break out".
At the same time, he emphasised that his supporters were ready to fight if Taliban forces tried to invade Panjshir.
"We are defending the whole country in one province", he said.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada has ordered the release of 350 inmates from a prison in the capital of Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand, spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi said on Sunday.
"According to a decree of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Emirate [Taliban's name for Afghanistan] Hibatullah Akhundzada ... 350 inmates were released and sent home today from the Lashkar Gah prison", Ahmadi tweeted.
On Saturday, the Shamshad News broadcaster reported that the Taliban released 340 "political prisoners" in the Farah province in western Afghanistan and another 40 inmates were released in the central Uruzgan province.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan on the threat of ISIS attacking the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan: "The threat is real. It is acute. It is persistent. And it is something that we are focused on with every tool in our arsenal." https://t.co/6Lc1ams8tN #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/GKFhpEtSyg— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 22, 2021
According to Adam Kinzinger, the Trump administration "set this up to fail but always, of course, Joe Biden could have easily turned this around. ... Both parties have failed the American people".
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UN chief Antonio Guterres held a telephone conversation on Sunday to discuss Afghanistan.
"The Prime Minister spoke to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres again today about the situation in Afghanistan. He stressed that the UN must be central to both the humanitarian response to the situation in Afghanistan and international negotiations over the future of the country, and pledged the UK’s support in that effort", Johnson's office said in a statement.
Guterres, in turn, provided Johnson with the latest information on Afghanistan and the challenges faced by staff of the humanitarian mission.
The call ended with Johnson and Guterres agreeing that the international community should guarantee that the rights of women, girls and ethnic minorities in the country are protected and promising to continue close contacts in the upcoming days, including through the UN Security Council.
VIENNA (Sputnik) - Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz opposes taking in more Afghan refugees and suggests focusing on helping Afghans who remain in their home country.
"I am definitely against receiving more people now, and it will not happen under my chancellorship", Kurz told the broadcaster Puls 24 on 22 August.
Ahmad Massoud, Afghan resistance leader and son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was one of the main leaders of Afghanistan's anti-Soviet resistance in the 1980s, has said he will not surrender areas under his control to the Taliban, al-Arabiya cited him as saying.
He called on the formation of a comprehensive government to rule the country with the participation of the insurgent group, warning that war will be "unavoidable" if the Taliban refuse dialogue.
Earlier, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy said on Twitter that Massoud had told him that "surrender is not part of my vocabulary".
I just spoke to Ahmad #Massoud on the phone. He told me: “I am the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud; surrender is not part of my vocabulary.” This is the start. The #Resistance has just begun. #Afghanistan #Panjshir #Kabul #LionOfPanjshir @ahmadmassoud01 pic.twitter.com/Xlj8mKKr1v— Bernard-Henri Lévy (@BHL) August 21, 2021
Boris Johnson noted it is vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis, and support the Afghan people.
I will convene G7 leaders on Tuesday for urgent talks on the situation in Afghanistan. It is vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) August 22, 2021
The Biden administration has activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet in order to transport people evacuated from Afghanistan, a Pentagon spokesman has announced. The aircraft will not fly into the Afghan capital of Kabul, but will ferry the evacuees from US bases.
The Biden administration activated 18 planes, including from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines, and United Airlines.
ROME (Sputnik) - An Italian Air Force plane brought another 211 Afghan nationals out of Kabul to Rome on Sunday morning, the channel RaiNews24 reported.
In total, eight Italian aircraft are taking part in the effort to evacuate Italian citizens and Afghans who worked for Italian missions in Afghanistan as well as their families. The operation is being led by the Italian Defence Ministry.
On 21 August, the ministry said that around 1,000 Afghans had been brought to Italy in the past five days. In total, over 1,500 people have been evacuated to the country since June.
"America, with all its power and facilities... has failed to bring order to the airport. There is peace and calm all over the country, but there is chaos only at Kabul Airport", said Amir Khan Mutaqi, a Taliban official on 22 August.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Australian government has rejected the visa applications of more than 100 Afghans who helped guard the Australian Embassy in Kabul, ABC News reported on Sunday, citing the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
"Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs has considered your application. Unfortunately, you are not eligible for certification under the visa policy [the At Risk Afghan Employees Visa Scheme]", the rejection letter read.
It added that the government would, however, allocate 3,000 of its annual 13,750 humanitarian spots for Afghan nationals under Australia's Refugee and Humanitarian Programme.
The media outlet suggests that the contractors were denied visas because they were not full time staffers of the embassy.
"Particular priority will be given to persecuted minorities, women and children, and those who have links to Australia", the letter read.
Evacuation flight of @IAF_MCC with 168 passengers incl 24 #afghansikhs landing at Hindon base at 10 Am . US agrees 2 flights daily to India to evacuate 1000 indians including 260 afghan sikhs. Efforts by @MEAIndia @DrSJaishankar @M_Lekhi @wpoindia @sunfoundationIn #rehablitation pic.twitter.com/Y97T7sNBhs— @vikramsahney (@vikramsahney) August 22, 2021