Biden says troops will stay in Afghanistan for as long as it takes to evacuate all US civilians
US President Joe Biden will deliver an address to the nation for the second time this week on Friday, as the evacuation of Americans and allies from Afghanistan appears to be slowing, and concerns that Afghan refugees are being forgotten after Kabul was taken by the Taliban on Sunday, rise.
Mr Biden, who said this week “chaos” was unavoidable with his country’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, is expected to address concerns about the evacuation of Americans, allies, and Afghan refugees, amid reports that the effort is falling behind.
Senator Lindsey Graham has threatened the president with impeachment if one American or Afghan ally is left behind in Kabul.
It remains unclear exactly how many people are awaiting airlifts from the country before an agreed deadline of 31 August, after Afghanistan fell into the hands of the Taliban last weekend.
The US military has evacuated 9,000 people since 14 August, and 14,000 since late July. On Thursday, 3,000 left on 16 flights. While there is the capacity to move 5,000 to 9,000 a day, there are severe bottlenecks getting people through Taliban checkpoints to the airport.
As tens of thousands remain in Afghanistan, the Biden administration was forced into a reversal on fees of $2,000 (£1,469) per evacuee on Thursday, amid reports those fleeing the Taliban were being forced to reimburse the US.
Biden to address the nation on Afghanistan evacuationEvacuees will not face $2,000 fee following State Department reversal Tens of thousands remain amid reports of not full flights from KabulShow latest update
US government searching for new destinations for Kabul evacuation flights
With Qatar at capacity, the US government is looking for new destinations for evacuations flights out of Kabul — including in Europe.
Oliver O’Connell20 August 2021 17:22
10,000 processed at Kabul Airport but nowhere to fly them
Clarissa Ward of CNN reports from Kabul:
“Soldiers by the runway at Kabul airport tell me that there are 10,000 people here processed and ready to go… but nowhere to fly them to because Qatar is refusing to accept more Afghans because they’ve reached capacity. ‘It’s abysmal… someone needs to step up.’”
Oliver O’Connell20 August 2021 17:17
Former Pence aide takes dig at Biden administration’s Nato relationships
Alyssa Farah, the former spokesperson for former Vice President Mike Pence, took a dig at the Biden administration’s apparent lack of communication with the US’s Nato allies.
“We left our allies flat-footed, having to emergency evac their personnel. Disgraceful,” she tweeted.
Adding: “But hey, ‘diplomacy is back’.”
Oliver O’Connell20 August 2021 17:10
Biden cancels travel, will remain at White House tonight
Per the White House pool report:
President Biden will not be travelling to Wilmington as he had been scheduled to do so, per a White House official. He will instead remain at the White House tonight.
Oliver O’Connell20 August 2021 17:04
200 million Americans have now had at least one dose of the Covid vaccine
The US hit a milestone in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic on Friday — 200 million Americans have now had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
According to White House Covid-19 Data Director Cyrus Shahpar, 1.01 million doses were administered yesterday including 534,000 newly vaccinated people.
Oliver O’Connell20 August 2021 16:52
US military evacuation flight set record for airplane load
The US military flight crew that helped hundreds of Afghan civilians escape from Kabul set a record for the load carried by a C-17 Globemaster III Air Force aircraft.
An image from inside the plane went viral, with Air Mobility Command initially estimating that 640 Afghans were included on the 15 August flight.
But the major command of the US Air Force revised that figure on Friday to say that the C-17 plane actually carried 823 people, setting a record for that type of aircraft.
Oliver O’Connell20 August 2021 16:51
Nato foreign ministers call on Taliban to ‘respect and facilitate’ evacuations
Nato foreign ministers have released a joint statement on Afghanistan, calling on “those in positions of authority” to help facilitate the evacuation of civilians from Kabul’s international airport.
“Our immediate task is now to meet our commitments to continue the safe evacuation of our citizens, partner country nationals, and at-risk Afghans, in particular those who have assisted our efforts. We call on those in positions of authority in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate their safe and orderly departure, including through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. As long as evacuation operations continue, we will maintain our close operational coordination through Allied military means at Hamid Karzai International Airport.”
Oliver O’Connell20 August 2021 16:39
Harris to depart on tour of southeast Asia on Friday evening
Vice President Kamala Harris will depart Washington, DC on a tour of southeast Asia on Friday night.
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has given new urgency to the trip, with the vice president attempting to reassure allies of American resolve following the chaotic end of a two-decade war.
The tour includes stops in Singapore and Vietnam and will provide a forum for Harris to assert herself more directly in foreign affairs.
She will have opportunities to affirm what she and President Joe Biden view as core American values, including human rights. That’s especially important given concerns about the future for women and girls in Afghanistan with the return of the Taliban.
But there are also substantial risks. A longtime district attorney and former senator, Ms Harris is largely untested in international diplomacy and foreign policy.
Her swing through Vietnam could also draw unwanted comparisons between the humiliating withdrawal of US troops there in 1975 and the tumultuous effort this week to evacuate Americans and allies from Afghanistan.
This is all happening in the shadow of China, whose growing influence worries some US policymakers.
On Monday, Ms Harris will speak with Singapore President Halimah Yacob over the phone, participate in a bilateral meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and deliver remarks on a US combat ship visiting Singapore.
On Tuesday, she plans to deliver a speech outlining the US vision for engagement in the region, and participate in an event with business leaders focused on supply chain issues.
The vice president then heads to Vietnam, a country that holds both strategic and symbolic significance for the US. Leaders there have echoed US concerns about the rise of neighboring China and the potential threat that could pose to global security. But it’s also a nation etched into American history as the site of another bloody, costly war with an ignominious end.
During her visit to Vietnam, Ms Harris is planning to hold a virtual meeting with ASEAN health ministers and tout the launch of a regional office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With reporting from the Associated Press
Oliver O’Connell20 August 2021 16:31
CNN: No US flights have departed Kabul in eight hours
CNN reporter Clarissa Ward, who is on the ground in Kabul, is reporting that she has not seen a US flight take off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in eight hours.
The White House reported overnight that 3,000 people were evacuated on Thursday on 16 flights, bringing the total number of airlifted people to 9,000 since 14 August, and 14,000 since the end of July.
Oliver O’Connell20 August 2021 16:24
US Marines confirm baby seen at Kabul airport cared for by medics
Marine Corps Maj Jim Stenger tells CBS News: “I can confirm the uniformed service member depicted in the video is a Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The baby seen in the video was taken to a medical treatment facility on site and cared for by medical professionals.”
Oliver O’Connell20 August 2021 16:19