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In this Aug. 19, 2021 file photo, Taliban fighters display their flag on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan. When U.S. President Joe Biden took office early this year, Western allies were falling over themselves to welcome and praise him and hail a new era in trans-Atlantic cooperation. - Sputnik International

Live Updates: US State Secretary Says Strength of Taliban's Hold Over Afghanistan Remains Unclear

Following the Taliban* takeover of Kabul in mid-August, the situation in Afghanistan has dominated the international agenda, with the group recently announcing the composition of Afghanistan's temporary government.
The Taliban intensified its offensive against Afghan government forces a month ago and entered Kabul on August 15th. On August 31st, the US military left the Kabul airport, bringing an end to the nearly twenty-year American military presence in Afghanistan.
Following the mid-August takeover of Kabul, many countries have resorted to evacuating their citizens and diplomatic personnel from the country due to the precarious security situation, and some have pledged to take in their Afghan staff as well.
On September 6th, the Taliban stated that it had gained control of Panjshir, the last of 34 Afghan provinces not under their yoke. The next day, the Taliban announced the composition of the interim government of Afghanistan. It will be headed by Mohammad Hasan Akhund, who served as foreign minister during the first period of Taliban rule. Akhund has been under UN sanctions since 2001.
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*A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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21:16 GMT 13.09.2021
AfD Says Botched Kabul Evacuation Allowed Criminals to Germany, Blames Federal Gov't
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Sputnik) - Albert Breininger, a member of the German opposition party AfD, has criticized the federal government in an interview with Sputnik for allowing Afghans with criminal records to fly into Germany.
"This is a failure of the ministry of defense, the ministries of foreign and the internal affairs. They failed to conduct a pre-planned evacuation mission," Breininger said.
He claimed that during the evacuation absolutely no identity verification took place and, as a result, criminals who spoke a few words in German, including those who has been earlier deported to Afghanistan for serious crimes committed in Germany, ended up among refugees.

According to the politician, in the beginning of the evacuation mission in mid-August, there were only few hundreds of local employees with their families identified as those who can apply for travel documents and a refugee status.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer admitted on September 3 that at least 20 Afghans who made it to Germany were security risks, including a convicted sex offender. Seehofer said that vetting of Afghans at the Kabul airport was inadequate.

The German interior ministry estimates that military jets airlifted 4,587 people from Kabul to Germany during last month’s evacuation campaign, 3,849 of them Afghan passport holders. Only 634 were Afghan support staff and their families.

The list of Afghan local staff, activists and family members who are eligible for relocation to Germany has since been updated and numbers between 10,000 and 40,000.
20:52 GMT 13.09.2021
Hard to Predict How Strong Taliban Hold Over Afghanistan Is - Blinken
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - It is hard to predict how firm the Taliban’s control over Afghanistan will be moving forward, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a House hearing on Monday.
“It is very hard to predict with any certainty,” Blinken said in response to a question about how firm the Taliban’s hold on Afghanistan is. “For the Taliban to fully consolidate control, I think that remains an open question.”
Blinken said that there are diverse internal actors with different external actors supporting them, making the formation of an inclusive government critical to the country’s political stability.
Those groups that get left out of the political process will, at some point in time and in one way or another, assert their rights and needs, Blinken added.
20:51 GMT 13.09.2021
Over 150 Media Outlets Closed in Afghanistan After Taliban's Takeover - Reports
MOSCOW/KABUL (Sputnik) - At least 153 media outlets have ceased operating in 20 Afghan provinces in less than a month since the country's takeover by the Taliban (terrorist organization banned in Russia), Afghan TOLOnews broadcaster reported on Monday, citing organizations that support free media in Afghanistan.
According to the report, the media outlets no longer active in Afghanistan include radio stations, print media and television channels. The decision was motivated by the economic problems they were experiencing and the Taliban's restrictions. If these problems are not resolved, there will be more media outlets no longer willing to work in the country, the representatives of specialized organizations said.
"If the organizations supporting media do not pay attention to media outlets, soon we will witness the closing of the remaining outlets in the country," Hujatullah Mujadadi, the deputy head of the Afghanistan Federation of Journalists, said as cited by TOLOnews.
Among the media outlets that stopped working was Enikass Radio and TV broadcaster, which used to cover three Afghan provinces, due to financial difficulties after a number of companies stopped paying for advertising on the channel, a representative of the radio and TV channel told Sputnik.
After the Taliban took over Afghanistan, various attacks against the journalists have been reported, raising concerns around journalist safety in the country.
20:14 GMT 13.09.2021
US Pause on Flights for Afghan Refugees Extended After Five Measles Cases Emerge
A commercial airplane is seen at the Hamid Karzai International Airport a day after U.S troops withdrawal in Kabul, Afghanistan August 31, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.09.2021
US Extends Pause on Flights With Afghan Refugees After 5 Measles Cases – Pentagon
17:58 GMT 13.09.2021
Blinken Says Taliban Would Have Began Nationwide Assault if US Delayed Exit
The Taliban (banned in Russia as a terrorist group) would have started a nationwide assault in Afghanistan if President Joe Biden delayed the withdrawal of American forces beyond the August 31 deadline, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in prepared remarks for his House congressional testimony on Monday.

"Had he not followed through on his predecessor's commitment, attacks on our forces and those of our allies would have resumed and the Taliban’s nationwide assault on Afghanistan’s major cities would have commenced," Blinken said.
The original Doha agreement the Taliban struck with the Trump administration called for all US troops to leave Afghanistan by May. When the Biden administration came to office they froze the plan to conduct an assessment, which effectively delayed the exit by four months.
16:52 GMT 13.09.2021
UK's Raab Rules Out Giving Aid to Afghans Through Taliban
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday that his country would support Afghans through the UN and aid agencies to avoid giving money directly to the Taliban*.

"We will not give aid directly to the Taliban, and therefore it is going to be absolutely crucial that aid agencies are able to operate securely and freely in Afghanistan," he told a UN-led donor event.

Raab told the international aid conference that the United Kingdom welcomed the UN leadership in coordinating charitable work and called on the Taliban to give aid workers safe access.

He warned that should the Afghan economy and basic services collapse this would have a knock-on effect on the entire region.

To avert a humanitarian crisis, the UK will double aid to Afghanistan and the region to roughly $396 million this year. It will include $42 million for Iran's neighbors who Raab said would likely bear the brunt of the refugee exodus.
*Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia.
15:39 GMT 13.09.2021
Guterres Says Possibility of Economic Collapse in Afghanistan 'Serious'
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday that the possibility of an economic collapse in Afghanistan is very serious.

“It is serious,” Guterres stated in a press briefing when asked how serious the possibility was of a complete economic collapse following the Taliban (banned in Russia) takeover.

“The financial system at the present moments is extremely limited in its capacity which means that a number of basic economic functions cannot be delivered, and of course, for people, they had, as you know, the possibility to get limited amounts of cash but with enormous difficulties,” he said. “An economy doesn’t work without the blood and the blood of the economy is cash. I think it is important to avoid the collapse of the economy."
Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary-General
13:24 GMT 13.09.2021
Foreign Minister Le Drian: Several Dozen French Nationals Still in Afghanistan
Dozens of French citizens remain in Afghanistan two weeks after the end of the evacuation mission, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday.

About 200 of the country's nationals were taken out from the Kabul airport during the airlift operation in the second half of August. A Qatar Airways flight via Doha has taken 47 French passengers from Kabul earlier in the day.
"We appreciate Qatar's efforts in the evacuation of French citizens from Afghanistan. No more than a few dozen French citizens remain in Afghanistan after about 200 [French] people have already left this country," Le Drian told a press conference in Doha, where he arrived on Sunday on a working visit.

The Taliban (a terrorist group, banned in Russia) seized the Afghan capital in mid-August after a countrywide offensive, leading to the collapse of the previous government. The following unrest saw numerous foreigners and Afghan citizens, particularly those who used to work for the international forces, trying to leave the country in fear of the Islamic movement via the capital airport.

On Thursday, the Qatari authorities announced the completion of restoration works at the airport, which is now open for international and domestic flights. Qatar's national airline has already started sending one flight daily to Kabul that returns to Doha with passengers.
12:49 GMT 13.09.2021
Gold bars - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.09.2021
Taliban Reportedly Finds $6Mln, Gold Bars in Home of Self-Declared Afghan President Saleh
12:43 GMT 13.09.2021
UN Chief Announces Resumption of Humanitarian Flights From Islamabad to Afghanistan
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced on Monday the resumption of humanitarian flights from Islamabad to Kabul after they were suspended on the back of the Taliban takeover in mid-August.

"UN Humanitarian Air service established an air bridge from Islamabad into Kandahar, Mazar and Herat with operations running since the end of August. Yesterday, flights were resumed from Islamabad to Kabul, and now fully operational across the country," Guterres said at an international aid conference for Afghanistan in Geneva.
12:13 GMT 13.09.2021
Taliban: Resumption of International Flights From Kabul Requires ‘Little Bit’ of Work
A "little bit" of work needs to be done before international flights from the Kabul airport can be resumed, Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban (banned as a terrorist organisation in Russia) said on Monday.
"Domestic flights have been resumed but there is still a little bit of work for the international flights to be resumed. Everything was damaged, operational not functional because they have destroyed the radars and all other instruments that are needed for the proper functioning of the airport. Now, part of it has been restored," Shaheen said.

The spokesman added that the Taliban have not yet reached a decision on who will permanently run the technical work at the Kabul airport.

"That is something for the future. Whether we will have cooperation with other countries or not, Perhaps our people can handle these matters," Shaheen added.
11:35 GMT 13.09.2021
Foreign Journalists Arrive in Kabul on First Pakistani Commerical Flight
Foreign journalists arrived in Kabul on the first commercial flight run by state-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) after the withdrawal of US troops, CNN reported Monday, citing an airline representative.

The Al-Arabiya broadcaster announced earlier in the day that the first PIA commercial flight since the foreign troop withdrawal had landed in the Kabul airport.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan noted that the flight was an act of "goodwill", and was aimed at strengthening the country's humanitarian efforts, CNN said. However, Khan stressed that it was not an aid flight, according to news, and carried no more than ten people, including foreign journalists, on board. Employees of the World Bank reportedly took a return flight on the plane to Islamabad.

The first international commercial flight arrived in Kabul on 11 September from Doha.

As of Monday, apart from Pakistan, flights from Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan have landed in the Kabul airport, Afghan Civil Aviation Authority chief Mawlawi Abdul Hadi Hamdaniand said. He further encouraged Russia and Turkey to resume flights to the country as well.

Moscow is currently exploring the possibility of sending food and medicine to Afghanistan.
10:52 GMT 13.09.2021
Leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.09.2021
Taliban Spokesman Dismisses Reports That Militants are Sheltering al-Qaeda's Leader in Afghanistan
10:34 GMT 13.09.2021
Belgium Will Reportedly Allocate $2.3Mln in Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan
Belgium will allocate 2 million euros ($2.36 million) to the UN-led effort to raise humanitarian funding for Afghan people, the Belga news agency reported on Monday, citing Development Cooperation Minister Meryame Kitir.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened a high-level ministerial meeting on humanitarian aid to Afghanistan at the UN headquarters in Geneva earlier on Monday.

"In recent weeks we saw footage of people trying to flee from Afghanistan. But the majority of the population remains in the country in difficult conditions, and the situation is not improving. Afghanistan deserves solidarity," Kitir was quoted as saying.

Belgium's contribution will go to a special United Nations humanitarian fund, from where the funds will be further distributed through specialized UN agencies, such as the World Food Programme. Belgium's assistance will go towards strengthening the medical support and food security in Afghanistan, the minister said.

Earlier in the day, New Zealand pledged $3 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan through UNICEF and the UN Population Fund, bringing the country's total contribution to $6 million.
10:20 GMT 13.09.2021
EU Boosting Humanitarian Aid for Afghanistan, Region to Over 200Mln Euros
The European Union will increase its humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan and the broader region from 57 million euros ($67 million) to over 200 million euros, Balazs Ujvari, a European Commission spokesman for budget and crisis management, said on Monday.

"On our side, we have already made an announcement, which is quite significant: we have said that we are going to boost our humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan and the broader region from 57 million euros that we have announced earlier this year to over 200 million euros," Ujvari said at a briefing.
09:14 GMT 13.09.2021
No Place For Subjects Contradicting Sharia Law in University Curriculum, Talibs Say
Members of the Taliban Intelligence Special Forces guard the military airfield in Kabul - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.09.2021
Taliban to Remove Subjects Contradicting Sharia Law From University Curriculum
07:57 GMT 13.09.2021
Russia Could Send Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan in Form of Food, Medication in Near Future, Foreign Ministry Says
Russia is exploring the possibility of sending some food and medicine in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan in the near future, special presidential representative for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, said on Monday.

"This is under consideration indeed," Kabulov said, asked about plans to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan in the near future.

Moscow plans to deliver "food and medicine" to Kabul, the diplomat specified.
07:49 GMT 13.09.2021
Afghanistan Plans to Soon Receive Flights From Russia, Turkey, Civil Aviation Authority Chief Says
The Afghan government intends to soon receive planes from Russia and Turkey carrying humanitarian assistance, Afghan Civil Aviation Authority chief Mawlawi Abdul Hadi Hamdani said on Monday.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan International Airlines landed the first commercial flight after the US forces withdrawal from the Kabul airport.

"Flights from Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Pakistan have landed in the Kabul airport ... Russia and Turkey have also announced that they will resume flights to the Kabul airport in the coming days to provide assistance for the Afghan people," Hamdani said in a video address.

Russian Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said earlier on Monday that Moscow is exploring the possibility of sending food and medicine to Kabul.
07:28 GMT 13.09.2021
New Zealand Announces Further $3Mln in Humanitarian Assistance for Afghanistan
New Zealand has allocated an additional $3 million to provide humanitarian assistance to crisis-hit Afghanistan, the government said on Monday.

"New Zealand is providing a further $3 million in humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan," the government said in a statement, citing Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

The worsening humanitarian crisis in the Central Asian nation disproportionately affects women and girls, the statement read, noting that 80% of those displaced in Afghanistan since May are women and children, according to the UN estimates.

"With the dangers that women and girls are facing in Afghanistan today, it is more important than ever to support the organisations that are delivering much needed humanitarian assistance and protection," Mahuta was quoted as saying.

The new financial pledge came after New Zealand provided $3 million in late August to the Red Cross and the UN Refugee Agency addressing the situation in Afghanistan.

Later on Monday, Geneva will host a UN meeting on Afghanistan at the level of permanent representatives to address growing humanitarian needs in the Central Asian nation. The conference will advocate for a swift "scale-up in funding so the lifesaving humanitarian operation can continue," as well as call for "full and unimpeded humanitarian access."
07:02 GMT 13.09.2021
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Arrives in Kabul to Assess Humanitarian Needs
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi announced on Monday that he arrived in the Afghan capital of Kabul to assess Afghanistan's humanitarian needs.

"This morning I have landed in Kabul. During my visit I will assess the country’s acute humanitarian needs and the situation of 3.5 million displaced Afghans. I am grateful to all UN, NGO and other humanitarian workers who are working hard on the ground to meet those needs," Grandi wrote on Twitter.
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