Kabul airport reopens to receive aid: Qatari envoy | Taliban News

Katie R. Ochoa

A technical team has been able to reopen Kabul airport to receive aid and it will be prepared for civilian flights soon, according to Qatar’s ambassador to Afghanistan.

The runway at the airport has been repaired in cooperation with authorities in Afghanistan, the ambassador added on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the United States Congress is expected to finance United Nations’ humanitarian work in Afghanistan but is unlikely to directly fund a new Taliban-led government, according to US officials, as the world body prepares to discuss aid for the war-torn country.

UN chief Antonio Guterres is travelling to Geneva to convene a high-level conference on aid for Afghanistan on September 13.

The Taliban has yet to form a government, but there have been reports that an announcement is imminent.

This comes as fighting continues between the Taliban and resistance fighters in Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, raising fears of more civilians being displaced. The Panjshir Valley is the last province in Afghanistan holding out against the Taliban.

Here were the latest updates for Saturday September 4:


Afghan patients suffer amid healthcare crisis

Watch the report from Kabul by Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford here:


Statement from US Embassy in Pristina

The US Embassy in Kosovo in a statement has stressed that the arrangements for Afghan evacuees in Kosovo did not mean the Balkan country was taking those who had been deemed ineligible for admission to the United States.

“Some applicants are still in the process of obtaining needed documents and providing all the information required to qualify under US law for immediate entry,” the embassy statement said.


Afghan women filmmakers plead at Venice Festival

Speaking at a panel discussion at the Venice Film Festival, Afghan female filmmakers begged the world to support its artists and warned that a country without culture will eventually lose its identity.

Sahraa Karimi, the first female president of the Afghan Film Organization, choked up in telling reporters all that had been lost after the Taliban completed their takeover of the country.

She cited numerous films in pre-and-post production, filmmaking workshops, insurance policies that had ground to a halt, and film archives that are now in the hands of the Taliban.

“Imagine a country without artists, a country without filmmakers. How can they defend its identity?” she asked.


Domestic flights restart

Ariana Afghan Airlines has resumed some flights in Afghanistan between Kabul and three major provincial cities, the carrier has said, after a technical team from Qatar reopened the capital’s airport for aid and domestic services.

Flights between Kabul and the western city of Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and Kandahar in the south have started, the airline said in a statement on its Facebook page.

“Ariana Afghan Airlines is proud to resume its domestic flights,” it said.


Afghan refugees in Qatar’s World Cup complex fear for families

Qatar has staked much on hosting the 2022 World Cup, but the official accommodation has now assumed a different role from that envisaged by the organising committee – housing Afghan refugees.

“In our home, we don’t have facilities” like air conditioning or flat-screen TVs, says 28-year-old Ahmad Wali Sarhadi, who arrived a few days ago and is now one of about 600 refugees housed in the complex, most of them journalists.

Although he is comfortable in the clean, furnished ground floor space he shares with 24-year-old Khalid Andish, Sarhadi says he has sleepless nights worrying about his family back home.

Read the story here.

Afghan refugees are pictured at Park View Villas, Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup residence in Doha, on September 4, 2021 [Karim Jaafar/AFP]

Women protest in Zaranj

About a dozen women took to the streets of Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz province, to call for their rights to be protected.

 

The protest came on the same day as a similar gathering of about 50 women in Kabul.

Last Thursday, a group of women staged another protest in Herat.


Kosovo will host evacuees who need more screening: Report

The US plans to send Afghanistan evacuees who fail to clear initial screenings to Kosovo, which has agreed to house them for up to a year for additional processing, a US official told The Associated Press news agency.

The US official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the plan. It was the first disclosure of what the US intends to do for Afghans or other evacuees who have failed to clear initial rounds of screening or whose cases otherwise require more time.

The US plan is likely to face objections from refugee advocates, who have already complained of a lack of public disclosure and uncertain legal jurisdiction in the Biden administration’s use of overseas transit sites to screen many of the roughly 120,000 Afghans, Americans and others evacuated from Taliban-held Afghanistan.

Most Afghan evacuees are clearing processing in a matter of days at large transit sites that US government employees set up quickly at military bases in Qatar, Germany and Italy, along with smaller sites elsewhere. Those evacuees then fly through Philadelphia or Washington Dulles airports for resettling in the US.


Mullah Baradar promises ‘inclusive’ gov’t

Senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has told Al Jazeera the group is in the process of forming an inclusive government.

“I assure the people that we strive to improve their living conditions, and that the government will be responsible to everyone and will provide security because it is necessary for economic development, not just in Afghanistan but in the whole world,” he said, adding that security was necessary to kick-start major economic projects in the country.

“If we are able to provide security, we will overcome other problems, and from here the wheel of progress and advancement will begin,” he said.

Read more here.

Baradar negotiated the Taliban’s 2020 agreement with the US [File: Social Media/via Reuters]

Time needed to repair Kabul airport: Taliban

A Taliban official said more work needs to be done before the Kabul airport is fully operational again.

“The airport was destroyed by the Americans,” said Sibghatullah Waseel of the Taliban Information Committee.

“They burned down every part of it, therefore we needed time to repair it. But we predict that within a few days, international fights will be in progress.”


Airport security crucial for resumption of flights

Aviation experts say international airlines are unlikely to resume flights to Kabul until airport security is guaranteed.

“It’s going to take a lot of convincing and reassuring to have a foreign airline fly not just over Afghanistan – because overflight is off-limits now too – but to Afghanistan,” aviation analyst Alex Macheras told Al Jazeera.

“We are talking about aircraft that are insured by third-party companies which are going to say, ‘No airline, you are not able to take this aircraft there because we can’t guarantee that it will get out in the state we require, and so on’.”


Rescue groups: US tally misses hundreds left in Afghanistan

Veteran-led rescue groups say the Biden administration’s estimate that no more than 200 US citizens were left behind in Afghanistan is too low and also overlooks hundreds of other people they consider to be equally American: permanent legal residents with green cards.

Green card holders have lived in the US for years, paid taxes, become part of their communities and often have children who are US citizens. Yet the administration says it does not have an estimate on the number of such permanent residents who are in Afghanistan and desperately trying to escape Taliban rule.

“The fear is that nobody is looking for them,” said Howard Shen, spokesman for the Cajon Valley Union School District in the San Diego area that is in contact with one such family who say they cannot get out.

“They are thousands of miles away under an oppressive regime and we’re leaving them behind,” he said. “That’s not right.”


Afghanistan could be catalyst for common EU migration policy: Commissioner

Events in Afghanistan could be a catalyst for the European Union to forge a common migration policy, European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas has said in a newspaper interview.

“It is true that we are now in a major crisis, but the EU did not cause the situation, yet we are once again called upon to be part of a solution,” the Greek commissioner, whose brief includes migration policy, told Austrian daily Wiener Zeitung.

While not seeing a migration crisis, he said he wanted to “avoid a reflex that takes us back to the crisis year 2015 before it is even clear how the situation will develop”.

“Therefore, I see now as the moment to agree on a common European migration and asylum policy, as we proposed in the EU Commission in September,” he said.

European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said he wants to ‘avoid a reflex that takes us back to the crisis year 2015 before it is even clear how the situation will develop’ [File: Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS]

Taliban special forces bring abrupt end to women’s protest

A march by Afghan women demanding equal rights from their country’s new rulers has been brought to an end by Taliban special forces.

The demonstration – which was the second of its kind in two days in Kabul – ended abruptly after the fighters fired their weapons into the air.

Protesters chanted slogans including “You don’t have legitimacy without women’s rights,” aimed at the Taliban government.


Kurz: Wave of Afghan migrants to Europe must not happen

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said has said that any migration wave from Afghanistan should be handled in neighbouring countries.

Speaking during a visit to Belgrade after meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Kurz said that a potential wave toward Europe must not take place.

“We are convinced that people who are leaving Afghanistan should be taken care of in neighbouring countries. This is why we are in contact with the countries in the region … and it must not happen that they head towards Europe,” Kurz said.

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz recently said that Austria would not accept any migrants from Afghanistan because it had taken in a ‘disproportionately high’ number since 2015 [Markus Schreiber/REUTERS]

Taliban rule brings concern and fear about women’s rights

The Taliban is under pressure to form an inclusive government. The international community has also urged it to respect women’s rights as it takes over rule of the country.

Many women fear a return to brutality seen when the group last held power 20 years ago. But Taliban officials say they are different, and women are only afraid because of propaganda.

Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid got exclusive access to the city of Jalalabad and spoke to Afghan women there. Watch the video below.


Hello, this is Mersiha Gadzo taking over the live updates from my colleague Ted Regencia.


Fewer than 1,400 evacuees still at Qatar base: US general

The United States has moved most of the 57,000 people it evacuated from Afghanistan to Qatar out of the Gulf state, with fewer than 1,400 still at the US military base there, a US general said on Saturday.

The US and its allies evacuated roughly 124,000 people from Kabul last month as part of a huge US-led airlift of its citizens, Afghans and other nationals as the Taliban took control of the country.

Brigadier General Gerald Donohue told reporters some of those who had been flown out of Qatar were now in the US, while others were in Europe, where they are being processed.


Fresh fighting reported in Panjshir

Fresh fighting was reported between the Taliban and resistance forces in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, according to the AFP news agency.

Panjshir, which held out for nearly a decade against the Soviet Union’s occupation and also the Taliban’s first rule from 1996 to 2001, is the last area holding out against Taliban in the country.


Kabul airport reopens to receive aid: Qatari ambassador

Qatar’s ambassador to Afghanistan said a technical team was able to reopen Kabul airport to receive aid and that it would be prepared for civilian flights soon.

The runway at Kabul airport has been repaired in cooperation with authorities in Afghanistan, the ambassador said. Two domestic flights were also recently operated from Kabul to the cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar.


UN to convene Afghanistan aid conference on September 13

The United Nations will convene an international aid conference in Geneva on September 13 to help avert what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called a “looming humanitarian catastrophe”.

“We need the international community to stand together and support the Afghan people,” Guterres said in a post on Twitter announcing the conference that he said would seek a swift scale-up in funding for humanitarian relief.

“We also appeal for full and unimpeded humanitarian access to make sure Afghans continue to get the essential services they need,” he said.


Chief of Pakistan’s ISI arrives in Kabul

The chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, Faiz Hameed, has arrived in Kabul. Hameed is the first high-ranking foreign official to visit Afghanistan under the Taliban rule. He is accompanied by a delegation of senior Pakistani officials.

Hameed’s arrival on Saturday has raised criticism among Afghans online. Pakistan and the ISI have been accused by many of aiding and abetting the Taliban.


Aerial gunfire kills 17 in Kabul: Hospital

Late on Friday evening, the Kabul sky was filled with aerial gunfire believed to be celebratory. The exact reasoning for the gunfire remains unclear and several rumours were posted online, but the Taliban offered no official explanation. According to the Emergency Hospital in Kabul, at least 17 people were killed by the aerial fire and 41 others were injured.

Celebratory gunfire is a common tradition in Afghanistan. On August 31, when the US finally withdrew its forces, the Taliban also unleashed a barrage of gunfire, but quickly offered an explanation.

Meanwhile, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, issued a ban on aerial fire through his Twitter account, saying people should “thank God instead” of firing into the air.


Colourful murals disappearing from streets of Kabul

Murals painted by Afghan artists are slowly disappearing from the streets of Kabul, as the Taliban returns to rule Afghanistan.

Omaid H Sharifi, curator and artist, noted in a social media post that among the murals painted over in recent days was a piece depicting the historic Doha deal that showed US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar.

A BBC report said most of the murals are now being painted over with white paint, with slogans praising Taliban fighters for the withdrawal of US troops after 20 years.

 


Iran ‘returns’ most of US-made military equipment to Taliban

US-made Afghan military equipment, including armoured vehicles, which crossed into Iranian territory during the advance of the Taliban have been returned to the country’s new rulers.

Amwaj Media, which covers news from the Middle East, quoted an Iranian source as saying that “almost everything” operated by former Afghan army soldiers, who escaped to Iran, was turned over to the Taliban following the US withdrawal.

Images posted on social media in recent weeks showed the US-made vehicles owned by the Afghan military crossing the border into Iran.

 


Afghan women wary as Taliban rule returns

Many Afghan women in the city of Jalalabad have expressed concerns about the return of Taliban rule in the country, even as the armed group gave assurances that it has changed its ways.

Mushkan Babri, a teacher in Jalalabad, told Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid that while she understands people’s fears, she has decided to stay in the country and study to become a doctor.

Female health workers have also returned to work at the Nangarhar Regional Hospital, even as the Taliban imposed new rules on gender segregation.

“Nearly all the women we have spoken to said that they are nervous about what will happen under the Taliban,” Javaid said, quoting the same women as saying that the Taliban members have been “respectful” since they returned to the city as rulers.


Third flight from Qatar lands in Kabul

A third Qatari plane carrying technical staff and equipment has landed in Kabul to assist with the operation of the country’s premier airport, according to Al Jazeera Arabic.

Qatar’s special envoy for conflict resolution Mutlaq al-Qahtani was also on board the flight.

According to the report, the Kabul airport is now being prepared for the resumption of regular flights in coming days.

 


Afghan infant dies after evacuation flight to US

A nine-month-old Afghan girl has reportedly died following an evacuation flight to the US city of Philadelphia, TV news channel ABC reported on Friday night.

The baby reportedly became unresponsive mid-flight and was rushed to the emergency upon the plane’s arrival. ABC News reported that she died on Wednesday night.

The baby girl had arrived in the US with her family from Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where they had landed after leaving Kabul.


Spectators wave flags of Afghanistan and the Taliban as they watch a Twenty20 cricket trial match being played between Afghan teams Peace Defenders and Peace Heroes at the Kabul International Cricket Stadium in Kabul on Friday [Aamir Qureshi/AFP]

Google locks Afghan gov’t accounts as Taliban seeks emails: Reuters

Reuters is reporting that Google has temporarily locked down an unspecified number of Afghan government email accounts, as fears grow about the digital paper trail left by former officials and their international partners.

There have been fears that biometric databases could be exploited by the new Taliban rulers to hunt their enemies.

Google stopped short of confirming the move but said the company was monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and “taking temporary actions to secure relevant accounts”.

One employee of the former Afghan government has told Reuters that the Taliban is seeking to acquire former officials’ emails, and had asked him to preserve the data held on the servers of the ministry he used to work for.


US to provide trauma counselling for Afghan refugees

US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said his department is looking to improve the conditions of Afghan refugees awaiting resettlement.

“I have met with more than 40 community-based organisations, including Afghan-American organisations to learn of their ideas and recommendations,” Mayorkas said on Friday. “I have heard, and we will operationalise more robustly their recommendations – including cultural competency, access to counsel, trauma counselling and pastoral care.”


UN chief to hold aid meeting for Afghanistan

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will hold an international meeting in Geneva on September 13 to raise humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday.

“The conference will advocate for a swift scale-up in funding so the lifesaving humanitarian operation can continue; and appeal for full and unimpeded humanitarian access to make sure Afghans continue to get the essential services they need,” Dujarric said in a statement.

“Afghanistan faces a looming humanitarian catastrophe. Nearly half of Afghanistan’s 38 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.”


Taliban officials meet Pakistani ambassador in Qatar

A Taliban delegation in Qatar led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai met Pakistani Ambassador Syed Ahsan Raza Shah, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Friday.

“Both sides discussed the current Afghan situation, humanitarian assistance, bilateral relations based on mutual interest and respect, reconstruction of Afghanistan and issues related to facilitating people’s movement at Torkhan and Spinboldak,” Shaheen wrote on Twitter, referring to border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s embassy in Doha confirmed the meeting.


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