The head of the US Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, told Taliban officials in Doha Sunday not to attack the Kabul airport, a US defense official said.
The official confirmed the meeting to reporters Monday, without providing details, as thousands of US troops took control of security at Afghanistan's main international airport to enable the evacuations of US officials.
The Taliban will be denied access to any Afghan reserves held in US accounts, a US administration official told AFP on Monday.
As US forces were evacuating Afghanistan's capital after the Taliban's swift takeover, the official said, "Any Central Bank assets the Afghan government have in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban."
The central bank's gross reserves totaled $9.4 billion at the end of April, according to the International Monetary Fund.
But most of those funds are held outside of Afghanistan, according to a person familiar with the matter.
It was not immediately clear what share of the assets are held in the United States.
- 'Security has deteriorated' -
The Taliban's seizure of power comes after NATO withdrew its 9,500-strong mission on the back of a decision from US President Joe Biden to pull out his troops.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani flew out of the country on Sunday night as the insurgents encircled the capital, capping a military victory that saw them capture all cities in just 10 days.
Washington also could block aid to Afghanistan from multilateral lenders like the IMF and World Bank, as it has done with other countries with governments it does not recognize, like Venezuela.
The IMF in June released the latest installment of a $370 million loan to Afghanistan approved in November to help support the economy amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the time, the fund said the government had kept its economic program on track despite the fact "security has deteriorated and uncertainty has risen as the peace talks between the government and taliban stalled, with the US and NATO troops set to withdraw by September."
The World Bank meanwhile has more than two dozen development projects ongoing in the country and has provided $5.3 billion to date, mostly in grants.
Families of British soldiers who died in Afghanistan have expressed dismay at the sudden fall of the country to the Taliban.
Graham Knight, the father of 25-year-old Ben Knight who was killed when his Nimrod aircraft exploded in Afghanistan in 2006, said the British government should have moved more quickly to get civilians out.
The 69-year-old said the Taliban made their intent ``very clear that, as soon as we went out, they would move in.''
He said the evacuation process should have started about a week ago and voiced worry that ``some hothead American, or British hothead, will decide that the Taliban isn't behaving how they want, shoot at them and that will be it.''
Ian Sadler, whose 21-year-old son Jack died when his Land Rover struck a mine in Afghanistan in 2007, was surprised that the U.S. and its allies had so much confidence in the Afghan national army.
The 71-year-old said it was left ``without any direction'' after the sudden withdrawal of allied forces.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says the failure of the Afghan military is to blame for the Taliban's swift takeover of Afghanistan.
Sullivan said Monday that President Joe Biden didn't want the U.S. to enter a ``third decade of conflict'' in Afghanistan and believed it was time for the Afghan army to defend the country two decades after billions of dollars of investment and training by the U.S.
But Sullivan said, ``we could not give them the will and ultimately they decided that they would not fight for Kabul.''
He added that the ``worst-case scenario'' for the U.S. would be to send thousands of troops to fight in a civil war when the Afghan army ``wasn't prepared to fight itself.``
Sullivan says Biden faced ``bad choices'' on the subject. The president ultimately opted to bring U.S. troops home and leave the Afghans to fight for themselves.
He says ``it's heartbreaking'' to see what's happening in Kabul but that Biden ``stands by'' his decision.
Sullivan spoke Monday on ABC's ``Good Morning America'' and NBC's ``Today.''
DUBAI _ Doctors Without Borders says its operations across Afghanistan have not been affected by the recent developments in Kabul.
While many foreigners have fled the country, the group _ known by its French initials, MSF _ continues to have some international staff on the ground. It also has more than 2,300 Afghan colleagues spread out across five Taliban-held provinces: Kandahar, Herat, Kunduz, Khost and Helmand.
Filipe Ribeiro, MSF's country representative in Afghanistan, told The Associated Press that the group's female medical practitioners in these provinces have resumed work and were already veiled or in the sky-blue burqas before the Taliban takeover, in line with local norms and customs.
``We do not face any impediments with regards to female staff coming to work,'' he said, referring to MSF-run projects in those provinces.
As the Taliban pushed to takeover Helmand and Kunduz, MSF staff tended to large numbers of people wounded in the fighting, he said.
Speaking from his base in Kabul, Ribeiro said the capital's streets were quiet and calm on Monday, despite scenes of chaos unfolding at the airport.
The group halted its main operation in Kabul after May 2020 following an attack on a maternity ward that was blamed on the Islamic State group.
Ribeiro said the focus remains on supporting Afghanistan's welfare.
``We have to keep in mind the health system was already dysfunctional beforehand, and nowadays it's important to keep supporting the Afghan population and to guarantee that the medical services will continue,'' he said.
BERLIN _ Leading German opposition members have expressed criticism of what they perceive to be a slow and uncoordinated evacuation of German and local Afghan embassy personnel from Kabul and other parts of the country.
Annalena Baerbock, the Green Party's candidate for chancellor in national elections next month, said Monday that ``all those people and employees who have supported the NATO troops on the ground in recent years, whether as interpreters, engineers, freelance journalists, who have reported on the situation in Afghanistan, or women's rights activists who have campaigned on the ground for girls to be able to go to school, must fear for their lives.''
She called for their quick evacuation and said that ``it is more than overdue that the German government finally does everything to evacuate the people.''
Sevim Dagdelen, a senior lawmaker with the opposition leftist Die Linke party said in a statement Monday that ``the government has completely failed when it comes to the crisis in Afghanistan and apparently, in a misjudgment of the real condition, not made any emergency plans for evacuations.''
Dagdelen added that: ``It is a shame that after weeks of inactivity and blockades now thousands of helpers are being left behind in Taliban-controlled regions and must fear for their lives.''
BRUSSELS _ European Union foreign ministers will hold emergency talks Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan, after the president fled and the Taliban seized control of the capital, Kabul, over the weekend.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a tweet Monday that he decided to convene the extraordinary videoconference so the ministers can make ``a first assessment'' of developments.
Borrell says that ``Afghanistan stands at a crossroad. Security and wellbeing of its citizens, as well as international security are at play.''
European nations have been caught by surprise at the speed of the takeover. They've been evacuating embassies and leaving the strife-torn country in recent days. The EU has small diplomatic mission in Kabul. It's one of Afghanistan's biggest aid donors.
GENEVA _ The U.N. humanitarian aid coordination agency says it and partners ``are staying and delivering to people in need'' despite a complex security situation in Afghanistan following a sweep by Taliban forces across the country.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid, or OCHA, says in a note: ``The humanitarian community _ both the U.N. and nongovernmental organizations _ remains committed to helping people in the country.''
OCHA said thousands of internally displaced people who have been identified in recent weeks have received assistance including food, cash, health care, water, and sanitation support.
``While the security environment is highly complex, humanitarian agencies are staying and delivering to people in need,'' OCHA said.
Even before the upheaval, some 18.4 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, OCHA said, and its $1.3 billion humanitarian response plan for the country is only 38% funded.
BERLIN _ The German government has called on the Taliban to show restraint, protect the lives of the Afghan people and make sure needed humanitarian aid can reach them.
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said Monday that Germany ``is concerned about the fates of individual Afghans as well as the development of the entire country.''
Steffen Seibert said Monday that ``these are bitter developments, when looking at them against the background of the years-long missions of the western community of states.''
The government also said it is personally contacting all embassy staff, including local hires, whom they are trying to evacuate out of Kabul. A spokesman for the country's foreign ministry warned people not to independently try to reach the airport because of the volatile and dynamic situation there.
Christofer Burger told reporters Monday that the embassy is calling and emailing everyone who is on evacuation lists and giving them personal instructions.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark - The staff with the Finnish Embassy in Kabul have fled to a neighboring country.
The Finland daily Helsingin Sanomat reported Monday that the country's armed forces took part in the evacuation and according to the newspaper's sources, the staff flew out on an American plane.
In Denmark, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that Danes ``are working round the clock. We are in the process of evacuating,'' adding the work was done ``in extremely difficult conditions.''
MOSCOW -- Moscow will decide whether to recognize the new Taliban government based on its conduct, the Kremlin envoy on Afghanistan said in an interview Monday.
Zamir Kabulov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that ``no one is going to rush'' the decision. ``Recognition or non-recognition will depend on the conduct of the new authorities,'' Kabulov said.
Russia labeled the Taliban a terrorist organization in 2003, but has since hosted several rounds of talks in Afghanistan, most recently in March, that involved the group. Moscow, which fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with Soviet troops' withdrawal in 1989, has made a diplomatic comeback as a mediator, reaching out to feuding Afghan factions as it has jockeyed with the U.S. for influence in the country.
Kabulov said Monday the Taliban was ``deservedly'' declared a terrorist group in Russia two decades ago. ``The Taliban have learned this lesson well. If they haven't learned it in full, they will have to face great difficulties in relations not only with Russia, but with the entire global community,'' Kabulov said.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - Slovakia's Prime Minister Eduard Heger says his country will give asylum to 10 Afghan nationals who have intensively cooperated with European Union member states in recent years.
Heger says his country is providing a military plane to transport them to Slovakia together with several Slovak nationals who have asked for it.
BEIJING _ China says its embassy remains open in Kabul and expressed a willingness to support its reconstruction.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying did not answer explicitly when asked whether Beijing would recognize the Taliban as the new government but said that China would respect the choice of the Afghan people.
She noted the Taliban pledges to negotiate the establishment of an inclusive Islamic government and to ensure the safety of both Afghans and foreign missions. China, she added, hopes that would ``ensure a smooth transition of the situation in Afghanistan.''
LONDON -- A leading British lawmaker from Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party is calling the mayhem at Kabul airport ``Saigon 2.0,'' comparing it to U.S. evacuation of South Vietnam's capital in 1975.
Tobias Ellwood, a former defense minister and British Army captain. said the images of the mayhem Monday at Kabul airport echoed the evacuation of the South Vietnam capital after North Vietnamese troops entered the city.
The advance of the North Vietnamese prompted the U.S. to evacuate thousands of its nationals and troops as well as South Vietnamese civilians who had helped during the war. The most dramatic images involved the evacuation of people from the roof of the U.S. Embassy.
``If this is not Saigon 2.0, I don't know what is,'' Ellwood said. ``Is this how we thought we'd depart Afghanistan? I repeat my call for a U.K. inquiry.''
U.S. President Joe Biden's decision earlier this year to announce the timeline for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan led the other nations in the NATO coalition, including the U.K., to announce their own departures, two decades after they first arrived in Afghanistan.
In the photo provided by the Ministry of Defence, the first flight carrying evacuated personnel of British Embassy staff and British Nationals, arriving at RAF Brize Norton, England, early Monday Aug. 16, 2021. AP
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Monday called for national reconciliation in neighboring Afghanistan.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Raisi as saying Iran will support efforts to restore stability in Afghanistan as a first priority. He called Iran ``a brother and neighboring nation'' to Afghanistan. He also described the Americans' rapid pullout as a ``military failure'' that should ``turn to an opportunity for restoring life, security and stable peace.''
Iran shares nearly 600 miles of borders with Afghanistan and is home to about 800,000 registered Afghan refugees and more than two million undocumented Afghans. The influx began after Soviet forces entered Afghanistan in 1979.
MOSCOW _ Russia will evacuate some of its embassy staff in Kabul ``in order not to create too big a presence,'' the Kremlin envoy on Afghanistan said Monday.
Zamir Kabulov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that some of roughly 100 Russian embassy staff ``will be placed on leave or evacuated in some other fashion just in order not to create too big a presence.'' Kabulov said that the Russian ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov will meet a Taliban representative on Tuesday to discuss security for the diplomatic mission, adding that the outside perimeter of the embassy is already being guarded by the Taliban.
Kabulov also said that the Taliban's swift takeover of the Afghan capital was ``somewhat unexpected.'' He said Russia was ``too optimistic in our assessment of the quality of the armed forces trained by the Americans and NATO.''
Kabulov said of those forces, ``They dropped everything at the first shot.''
MOSCOW -- The Uzbek Defense Ministry has confirmed that an Afghan military plane crashed in Uzbekistan on Sunday, but wouldn't reveal the details of the accident.
Ministry's spokesman Bakhrom Zulfikarov told Russia's state news agency Tass on Monday that the plane crashed in the Surkhandarya region in southeastern Uzbekistan and that ``the details of the accident are currently being studied, information about it will be revealed later.''
Uzbek media reported that the plane went down Sunday evening in the southeast of the country not far from the border with Afghanistan. At least one person was reported injured.
Australia is sending three transport and air-to-air refueling jets with 250 military personnel to repatriate more than 130 Australians and their families from Afghanistan, officials said on Monday.
Australia is also working to evacuate an undisclosed number of refugees, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.
The support comes as the U.S. and other nations scramble to evacuate diplomats and Afghan employees and their families from Kabul. The Taliban a day earlier toppled the Western-backed government.
An Airbus A330 airliner modified for aerial refueling would support U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan later this week, Australia's Defense Department said in a statement. Two C-17A Globemaster heavy transport aircraft would also be sent to the Middle East, the statement said.
Australia shut its Kabul embassy in May and withdrew the last of its troops from Afghanistan in June.
More than 39,000 Australian military personnel have served in Afghanistan since 2001, and 41 died there.
Portugal's defense minister says his country is prepared to take in 243 Afghans, and their families who worked with Portuguese forces stationed in the country.
Defense Minister Joao Gomes Cravinho said NATO is coordinating the evacuation of the Afghans because Portugal doesn't have the military capacity to do so.
He told public broadcaster RTP late Sunday he is not aware of any Portuguese citizens living in Afghanistan.
Portugal had a small detachment of fewer than 200 troops stationed at Kabul airport, as part of the NATO mission in the country. The last ones pulled out at the end of May.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Monday that 19 embassy employees had been evacuated from Kabul to Doha, Qatar and they'll eventually flown to Sweden.
Earlier Monday, Norway and Denmark said that the bulk of the embassy staff were out of Afghanistan.
Norway Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said for the sake of the Norwegians it was done overnight.
Denmark's Defense Minister Trine Bramsen told Danish broadcaster DR that while most Danish diplomats had been evacuated, ‘there are still Danes,’ and others in the country still to be flown out.
Challenges include being able to land at Kabul's chaotic airport, he said. But there's a struggle, too, to get people to the airport, ‘a very difficult operation,’ Bramsen was quoted as saying.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace says the government is planning to fly out 1,500 more people from Afghanistan over the next two days.
The first flight carrying British nationals has landed in the U.K., he said Monday, as countries scrambled to evacuate their diplomats, Afghan employees and their families from the chaotic airport in Kabul.
Wallace expressed hope that the government will be able to evacuate around 1,000 people a day, including Afghan nationals who have helped British citizens.
He told the BBC that work is under way to ‘remove any bureaucratic barriers’ to make sure people who pass screenings are able to be flown to the U.K.
He said the British government sent more than 600 troops over the weekend to Kabul to help secure the airport and ‘to effectively process, manage and escort people onto our flights to get them out of Afghanistan’.
Wallace said one of the ‘biggest regrets’ with the speed of the collapse of the Afghan government is that the timetable to remove Afghans and British people from the nation by Aug, 31 has had to be shortened.
Pakistan's state-run airline says it has halted all flights to Afghanistan's capital of Kabul because of the ``uncertain security situation'' there.
Spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said Monday that Pakistan International Airlines decided to protect passengers, the crew and the planes after consulting the Afghan civil aviation authorities.
He spoke as embassies scrambled to evacuate personnel and Afghan employees through the airport. On Sunday, Taliban militants ended two decades of Western-backed government after a blitz through Afghanistan.
Videos on social media showed chaos at Kabul International Airport overnight, with the crack of occasional gunfire and hundreds of panicked Afghans running across the tarmac. By morning, advisories sent by civil aviation authorities announced the ``civilian side'' of the airport had been ``closed until further notice.''
Early Monday morning, flight-tracking data showed no immediate commercial flights over the country.
A paramilitary soldier maintains a line of travelers waiting to cross border to Afghanistan through a crossing point in Chaman, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. AP
MILAN - Italy's has evacuated 70 embassy staff and Afghan employees from the capital city of Kabul. The plane was scheduled to arrive in Rome on Monday. Video taken at Kabul's international airport and released by the Italian Defense Ministry shows people walking up a mobile staircase to board the plane in darkness.
The evacuation is part of Italy's Operation Aquila Omnia (Eagle Ready for Anything) to quickly evacuate Italian diplomatic staff, citizens and Afghan employees and family members.
Italy had one of the largest contingents in Afghanistan before the pullout.
Italian journalist Francesca Mannocchi, who was on the plane, said that it was carrying 20 Afghan embassy employees and their families, including women and children. Prior to the Taliban advance, 228 Afghanis and their families had been transferred to Italy.
Officials declined to give number of how many remained, but Italian media reported over the weekend that some 390 Afghan citizens and their family members were awaiting evacuation.
An information board displaying flights from Kabul to India being cancelled is pictured at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on August 16, 2021. AFP
The first Czech evacuation flight has taken off from Kabul's international airport and landed in Prague.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis said 46 people were on board Monday's flight.
They included Czech nationals, the Afghan staffers at the Czech embassy and Afghan interpreters who helped the Czech armed forces during NATO missions together with their families.
Babis didn't immediately provide more details. It's not clear how many such flights will follow.
Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek tweeted that given the deteriorating situation at Kabul's airport, it was ``a miracle'' that the Czech flight managed to take off.
Local media reported that thousands of people were gathered at the Kabul airport to leave the country.
In an earlier joint statement, the U.S. Pentagon and State Department said the American military would take over air-traffic control at the airport.
Saudi Arabia says it has evacuated all its diplomats from its embassy in the Afghan capital, and New Zealand's government is sending a plane to help its people leave the country.
Saudi Arabia said all staff were evacuated from the embassy in Kabul on Sunday due to the changing conditions on the ground, joining other countries that have also shuttered their embassies as the Taliban advance on the Afghan capital.
New Zealand's government says its sending a C-130 Hercules military transport plane to Afghanistan to help with the evacuation of 53 New Zealanders and dozens of Afghanis and their immediate families who helped New Zealand troops when they were stationed there.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said they had so far identified 37 Afghanis who had helped, but the number of evacuees would be in the hundreds once dependents and others were included.
Defense officials say they have planned for a monthlong mission involving at least 40 military personnel tasked with servicing and protecting the plane. Ardern asked that the Taliban allow people to leave peaceably: ``The whole world is watching,'' she said.
WASHINGTON _ Dozens of nations are calling on all involved in events in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate the departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country.
More than 60 nations released a joint statement Sunday night citing what they call ``the deteriorating security situation'' in Afghanistan. The statement says that those in power and authority across the country ``bear responsibility _ and accountability _ for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order.''
The nations' statement also says that roads, airports and border crossings must remain open, and that calm must be maintained.
The statement concludes: ``The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them.''
The statement was distributed to U.S. media by the State Department.
SEOUL, South Korea _ South Korea's Foreign Ministry said it has ``temporarily closed'' its embassy in Kabul and evacuated most of its staff to an unspecified third country in the Middle East.
The ministry said a few diplomats, including Ambassador Choi Taeho, remain at a safe location in Afghanistan to support the evacuation of a South Korean national in the country and that the Seoul government is closely working with the United States and other countries to ensure their safe evacuation.
Afghanistan has been on South Korea's travel ban list since 2007. There were reportedly around five South Koreans living in Afghanistan before the Seoul government in June called for all of them to leave the country within 10 days as the United States and NATO proceeded with troop pullouts.
Stranded Afghan nationals arrive to return back to Afghanistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 16, 2021. AFO
WASHINGTON _ A State Department official says the American flag is no longer flying at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul amid evacuations from Afghanistan's capital. The official tells The Associated Press that nearly all embassy personnel have been relocated to the city's international airport.
The official says the flag itself is with embassy personnel, who are among thousands of Americans and others waiting for flights. The official was not authorized to discuss the details publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity
In a joint statement Sunday night, the State Department and the Pentagon say they are taking steps to secure the airport for safe departures by way of civilian and military flights.
The statement says the U.S. security presence will have expanded to nearly 6,000 troops over the next two days and will take over air traffic control.
Those leaving include American citizens who have been living in Afghanistan, locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families, and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals.
Also part of the departure plan are thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. special immigrant visas. Nearly 2,000 of those with special visas have arrived in the United States over the past two weeks.
WASHINGTON _ President Joe Biden and other top U.S. officials have been stunned by the pace of the Taliban's nearly complete takeover of Afghanistan, as the planned withdrawal of American forces urgently became a mission to ensure a safe evacuation.
The speed of the Afghan government's collapse and the ensuing chaos posed the most serious test of Biden as commander in chief, and he was the subject of withering criticism from Republicans who said that he had failed.
Biden campaigned as a seasoned expert in international relations and has spent months downplaying the prospect of an ascendant Taliban while arguing that Americans of all political persuasions have tired of a 20-year war, a conflict that demonstrated the limits of money and military might to force a Western-style democracy on a society not ready or willing to embrace it.
By Sunday, though, leading figures in the administration acknowledged they were caught off guard with the utter speed of the collapse of Afghan security forces. The challenge of that effort became clear after reports of sporadic gunfire at the Kabul airport prompted Americans to shelter as they awaited flights to safety.
UNITED NATIONS _ U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging the Taliban and all other parties to exercise ``utmost restraint'' in order to protect the lives of Afghans and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Sunday that ``the United Nations remains determined to contribute to a peaceful settlement, promote the human rights of all Afghans, notably women and girls, and provide life-saving humanitarian assistance and critical support to civilians in need.''
The U.N. humanitarian office said members of the humanitarian community _ both from the U.N. and non-governmental organizations _ remain committed to helping the millions of Afghans needing assistance and are staying in the country despite the ``highly complex'' security environment.
The office, known as OCHA, said in a statement Sunday that more than 18.4 million people were already in need of assistance before more than 550,000 people were displaced by conflict this year, a figure that doubled since May.
KABUL, Afghanistan _ A Taliban spokesman and negotiator tells The Associated Press that the militant group is holding talks aimed at forming an ``open, inclusive Islamic government'' in Afghanistan.
Suhail Shaheen spoke to the AP after the Taliban overran most of the country in a matter of days and pushed into the capital, Kabul, as the United States scrambled to withdraw diplomats and other civilians.
Earlier, a Taliban official said the group would announce a new government from the presidential palace, but those plans appear to be on hold.
WASHINGTON _ The United States is sending another 1,000 troops to Afghanistan, raising the U.S. deployment to roughly 6,000.
A defense official tells The Associated Press on Sunday that 1,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne are going directly to Kabul instead of going to Kuwait as a standby force. The defense official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a deployment decision not yet announced by the Pentagon.
On Saturday, President Joe Biden authorized the U.S. troop deployment to rise to roughly 5,000 by adding about 1,000. Since then, the Taliban have entered the capital of Kabul and Afghanistan's president has fled the country.
Helicopters have been evacuating personnel from the U.S. Embassy, and several other Western missions also are preparing to pull their people out