The Taliban and other Afghan leaders have reached a “consensus” on the formation of a new government and cabinet under the leadership of the group’s top spiritual leader, and an announcement could come in a few days, an official said.
Taliban supreme commander Haibatullah Akhundzada will be the top leader of any governing council, Bilal Karimi, a member of the group’s cultural commission said. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of Akhundzada’s three deputies and the main public face of the Taliban, is likely to be in charge of the daily functioning of the government.
President Joe Biden has again defended the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, rejecting criticism that it was mishandled.
Key stories and developments:
- Biden Defends Afghan Exit Timing, Saying It Saved US Lives
- Taliban Call for Good Ties With US After 20-Year War Ends
- Afghan Pullout May Prove Bigger Problem for Europe Than US
- Biden’s Withdrawal Leaves Afghanistan in Crisis and Uncertainty
- The West’s Hard Lessons From 20 Years of War: Balance of Power
All items are in Eastern Time:
Congressman safe after Afghanistan rescue plan: aide (4:15 a.m.)
Representative Markwayne Mullin “has been and is currently completely safe,” his communications director said following a Washington Post report that the Oklahoma Republican unsuccessfully sought to personally rescue five American citizens from Afghanistan.
The Post reported that Mullin on Monday asked the US embassy in Tajikistan for help transporting a large sum of money into Afghanistan to aid his planned rescue attempt. Embassy staff refused, prompting “outrage” from the congressman, according to the paper.
Mullin and his office “will continue to do anything in our power to bring home all Americans from the war zone that President Biden abandoned,” Meredith Blanford, Mullin’s communications director, said in a statement. — Kathleen Hunter
UK in talks with Taliban on human rights (3:30 a.m.)
The UK is in talks with the Taliban to hold them to account for their actions in Afghanistan, a government minister said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s envoy, Simon Gass, who is Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, has flown into Doha “to speak to senior members of the Taliban,” Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins told BBC radio. His discussions “are important,” and are centred around human rights, the prevention of terrorism, and helping secure the safe passage of people who want to leave Afghanistan, she said.
Atkins also said that “there are a few hundreds of British nationals still there” and that the UK is “trying as best we can in the circumstances to evacuate them when we are able to.” — Alex Morales
Taliban set to unveil new government (1:00 a.m.)
The Taliban is set to announce a new government and cabinet in a few days, an official said.
“The consultations on forming an inclusive Afghan government within the Islamic Emirate’s leaders, with the leaders from previous government and other influential leaders have officially ended,” Bilal Karimi, a member of the group’s cultural commission said. “They have reached a consensus. We’re about to announce a functioning cabinet and government in a few days, not weeks. — Eltaf Najafizada
UN chief warns of ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ (1:34 p.m)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on countries to “dig deep” and provide rapid aid for the people of Afghanistan as the United Nations prepares to release details next week of the humanitarian needs and funding requirements for the country over the next four months.
Guterres noted that almost half of the population of Afghanistan, 18 million people, need humanitarian assistance to survive and that one-in-three Afghans “do not know where their next meal will come from.”
“People are losing access to basic goods and services every day,” he warned in a statement. “A humanitarian catastrophe looms.” –David Wainer
EU ministers determined to prevent mass migration flow (1:12 p.m.)
Interior ministers of the European Union underscored at a meeting in Brussels their determination “to prevent the recurrence of uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration movements faced in the past,” according to a joint statement.
Eager to prevent any repeat of the 2015 crisis, which saw more than a million refugees reaching the bloc, fueling the rise of far-right parties, the ministers focused on boosting support to countries neighboring Afghanistan and already hosting large numbers of migrants and refugees.
“The best way to avoid a migration crisis is to avoid a humanitarian crisis,” Ylva Johansson, EU justice and home affairs commissioner, told reporters after the meeting. She said she had called a forum for next month for countries to discuss resettlement pledges, and declined to give any specific figures. –John Follain, Jan Bratanic
Immigrant group says 113 000 want out (11:50 a.m.)
A US-based group advocating for Special Immigrant Visas for qualified Afghans said about 113 000 people left behind in the US and NATO withdrawal still want to leave the country.
The estimate by the Association of Wartime Allies is based on reports on Afghan employment analyzed by the group and researchers at American University.
The figure does not include Afghans who are not eligible for US Special Immigrant Visas but are at risk under Taliban occupation because of their roles in the Afghan government or their identity as activists, journalists, female leaders, or religious minorities. That larger group, the White House said last week, could be in the millions. –Sophia Cai
NATO chief says Turkey offering to help running airport (9:30 a.m.)
Kabul’s airport is a key link to get aid in and foreign nationals out of Afghanistan, and Turkey has offered to continue to support the airport’s operation even as NATO ceases its operations there, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday.
NATO is working with countries in North Africa and the Middle East to stem any migration crisis triggered by the withdrawal and must ensure that Afghanistan doesn’t become a hotbed for terrorist activity, he said. “NATO allies have strongly stated that we will not forget all those who are still in Afghanistan, who have supported us, who are at risk,” he said. — Josh Wingrove
Bolton says real risk of hostage situation (9:14 a.m.)
The departure of Americans from Afghanistan, and of Afghan allies who helped them, will slow to a crawl after the US withdrawal, former US national security advisor John Bolton told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday.
Bolton said a few more Americans may get out while Afghan evacuees will be few and far between. “We’re at real risk here of a long and brutal hostage situation,” Bolton said. — Josh Wingrove
Indian envoy in Qatar met Taliban official to discuss security (8:46 a.m.)
The Indian ambassador in Qatar met with the deputy head of the Taliban’s political office to discuss regional security, India’s foreign ministry said in a statement. The meeting was at the request of the Taliban and was the first between officials from both sides since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan on August 15. — Archana Chaudhary
EU pressured to tell Afghans to stay put (8:00 a.m.)
The EU shouldn’t send false messages to Afghans that could spur them to come to Europe but instead encourage them to stay put, officials from some countries said.
“The most important thing now is to send the right message into the region: stay there and we will support your region to help people,” said Karl Nehammer, Austria’s interior minister, standing side-by-side with counterparts from the Czech Republic and Denmark as they flagged their joint position to reporters.
Europe needs to avoid making the same mistakes of 2015, Mattias Tesfaye, Danish minister for immigration and integration said, referring to when more than a million refugees reached the bloc as violence raged in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. — John Follain
Merkel says restoring airport operations key (6:50 a.m.)
Restoring civilian operations at Kabul’s main airport is of “existential” importance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, adding that without a functioning air hub there can be no access for medicine and humanitarian assistance. All flights over Afghanistan have stopped for now, with the US withdrawal leaving air-traffic control services in Kabul unmanned.
Merkel also said talks with European allies on Afghanistan are mainly to try and maintain communication with the Taliban, whose leadership has pledged to allow Afghans with travel documents to leave. “This is in contrast to any form of diplomatic recognition. It’s about having diplomats close who can talk to the Taliban,” she told reporters in Berlin. — Patrick Donahue