US Troop Withdrawal, Taliban Warnings: Live Updates

 US Troop Withdrawal, Taliban Warnings: Live Updates

Video

transcript

transcript

‘No Change to Timeline,’ Pentagon Says of Aug. 31 Troop Withdrawal

The Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby noted there has been no change in strategy for extraditing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

There’s been no change to the timeline of the mission, which is to have this completed by the end of the month. We continue to make progress every day in getting Americans as well as S.I.V. applicants and vulnerable Afghans out. And you heard the numbers that the general briefed. The president’s direction has been to complete this withdrawal, this evacuation and withdrawal, by the 31st of August. That that is the direction that we are operating under, and therefore, that is driving a lot of our plans. You heard us say and you heard the secretary say that if there needed to be a conversation about changing that, that he would have that conversation. I’m not going to get into internal deliberations about what people may be thinking one way or the other. But you heard the national security adviser say yesterday that he believes that we can accomplish this mission by the end of the month. So we are still driving towards the end of the month. That’s where we are now. And if and when there’s any change to that we’ll certainly make it clear to the American people. We remain committed to getting any and all Americans that want to leave to get them out. And we still believe, certainly now that we have been able to increase the capacity in the flow, we believe that we have the capability, the ability to get that done by the end of the month.

The Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby noted there has been no change in strategy for extraditing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.CreditCredit…Jim Huylebroek for The World Best News

President Biden said Tuesday that the United States was on track withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan by his Aug. 31 deadline.

But Mr. Biden, speaking at the White House, said he had spoken to military leaders so they would be prepared to “adjust that timetable, should that become necessary.”

“It is a tenuous situation,” he said.

Mr. Biden regaled reporters with a barrage of figures about the accelerating evacuation effort at the Kabul airport.

“We are currently on pace to finish by August the 31st,” he said. “The sooner we can finish the better. Each day of operations and brings added risk to our troops.”

But he said much of the success of that effort hinged on the cooperation of the Taliban.

Earlier in the day, the president told world leaders gathered virtually for a meeting of the Group of 7 nations that he was aiming — for now — to get American troops out of Afghanistan by the looming deadline, but said there was still a possibility of extending the military presence, the president’s top spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that Mr. Biden told his counterparts: “Our mission in Kabul will end based on the achievement of our objectives. He confirmed we are currently on pace to finish by Aug. 31.”

Ms. Psaki said the president warned the other world leaders that every day that American forces stay in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, the risk escalates, especially from terrorist groups operating in the country in the aftermath of the militants’ takeover.

The president also “made clear,” Ms. Psaki said, that “completion of the mission by Aug. 31 depends on continued coordination with the Taliban, including continued access for evacuees to the airport.”

Military officials will start withdrawing the 6,000 forces in Kabul as early as this week or this weekend, according to an American military official, who said U.S. forces would continue to fly evacuation missions up until the last few days. Then they will need to give priority to the remaining troops and equipment, and to any American citizens wanting to leave.

Already, the United States has started to reduce its military presence at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. A Defense Department official said about 300 of the 5,800 Marines and soldiers at the airport who were not essential to the escalating evacuation operation had left the country.

Given the logistics of moving so many troops and so much equipment, officials said, the military needs to start moving out within the next several days if they are to meet the deadline. Officials said military officials could slow the departure if Biden extends the date.

Ms. Psaki said that the president had reiterated his desire to complete the mission by the deadline, but that he said withdrawal will hinge on “the achievement of our objectives.” That includes airlifting all Americans and Afghan allies out of the country to safety, officials have said.

Ms. Psaki said the president has asked his top military and diplomatic advisers to prepare what she called “contingency plans to adjust the timeline should that become necessary.”

Many world leaders have urged the United States to delay its final exit from Afghanistan to ensure that all citizens of other countries could be evacuated safely.

The president and his team have said for days that Mr. Biden is considering whether the troops securing the Kabul airport should stay longer to facilitate more evacuations.

Officials have said they are hopeful that won’t be necessary, but activists, lawmakers and representatives of other governments have expressed skepticism that all of the people seeking to flee the Taliban government will be able to do so by the end of the month.

The Taliban warned Monday that there would be “consequences” if Mr. Biden chose to leave forces in their country beyond that date. And American military and intelligence officials have warned of a heightened danger of attacks from ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, and other terror networks.

The pace of evacuations has accelerated dramatically despite the chaos and desperation, mostly among Afghans, outside the airport. American officials reported Tuesday morning that 21,600 people were evacuated on Monday, and that 58,700 people had been flown out of the city since it fell on Aug. 14.

But Mr. Biden is in a bind.

If he orders an extension of the mission, he may be putting troops and diplomats in more danger. But conservatives have already accused him of being willing to “strand” Americans in Afghanistan by leaving before all of them have been evacuated.

That drew a sharp response on Monday from Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary.

“I think it’s irresponsible to say Americans are stranded,” Ms. Psaki said in response to a question from Peter Doocy of Fox News. “They are not. We are committed to bringing Americans who want to come home, home. We are in touch with them via phone, via text, via email, via any way that we can possibly reach Americans to get them home if they want to return home.”

Video

transcript

transcript

Bipartisan Push in House for Afghanistan Withdrawal Extension

House Democrats and Republicans held news conferences and pushed for the Biden administration to extend the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan past the Aug. 31 extension deadline, citing the need for a slow exit in order to not escalate the current situation with the Taliban.

“We must do everything necessary, regardless of the deadline at the end of the month. We must extend that and get the mission done. The deadline is when the mission is accomplished and we bring our people home — full stop.” “I think it is critically important we ensure our military has the tools it needs to complete the mission. I do not believe that this can be accomplished by Aug. 31. And I’ve requested that the Sec. Def. and State encouraged the president in the strongest possible terms to reconsider that deadline.” “There’s no possible way that we can get every American that’s still in Afghanistan out in the next seven days. We are just three weeks away from the 20th anniversary of 9/11, at no time should America ever been or allow the Taliban to tell us when we have to stop bringing Americans out. We should stay until every single American is able to get out of Afghanistan. We should use every resource possible to make that happen, and we should not negotiate it. We should explain that this is what is going to happen, and anybody in our way to stop us from bringing an American out will be in danger.”

Video player loading
House Democrats and Republicans held news conferences and pushed for the Biden administration to extend the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan past the Aug. 31 extension deadline, citing the need for a slow exit in order to not escalate the current situation with the Taliban.CreditCredit…Sarabeth Maney/The World Best News

Lawmakers in both parties urged Biden administration officials in a closed-door briefing Tuesday to extend the Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, arguing that it would not be possible to evacuate all Americans and Afghan allies by then.

The rising pressure from Congress came as President Biden said that he intended — for now — to stand by the end of the month deadline. But in recent days, even top Democratic lawmakers have said that date is unrealistic.

“There is a broad bipartisan agreement within the United States Congress that we have to get American citizens out and we have to get our Afghan partners and allies out,” said Representative Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado, who is a former Army Ranger. “That can’t be accomplished between now and the end of the month, so the date has to extend until we get that mission done.”

Lawmakers pressed the Biden administration to extend the mission during a classified briefing with the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“That was a major point we all tried to make: urging them to do more to advocate with the president to extend the deadline,” said Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan and a former C.I.A. officer and defense official.

On Monday, the president told leaders during a virtual meeting of the Group of 7 that he intended to withdraw American troops by the deadline, a senior administration official said. He cited a high risk of terrorist attacks as one reason.

But Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said that if the president did not extend the withdrawal date, “he will have blood on his hands.”

“People are going to die, and they are going to be left behind,” Mr. McCaul said.

Lawmakers said they were not told during the briefing how many American citizens remain on the ground in Afghanistan. White House officials said on Tuesday that since Aug. 14, the United States had “evacuated and facilitated the evacuation” of approximately 58,000 people.

For weeks, members of Congress have been inundated with thousands of pleas from American citizens and Afghans trying to escape Afghanistan.

“After 20 years at war, our actions over the next week will leave the most lasting impression around the world,” Ms. Slotkin said on Twitter. “And I want the U.S. to be known as a nation that takes risks for those who risk everything for us.”

President Biden in the White House on Sunday.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The World Best News

European allies failed in their campaign to persuade President Biden to extend the evacuation from Kabul beyond his Aug. 31 deadline. Mr. Biden said he would stick to the timeline, which Britain, France and other allies said did not leave enough time to rescue everyone who wanted to leave Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, who led the meeting of the Group of 7 nations on Monday, sought to put a good face on the discussions, maintaining that the evacuation had been remarkably successful.

Mr. Johnson said the leaders had agreed on a road map for dealing with the Taliban in the long term, vowing to use Afghan funds held in Western banks as a lever to pressure the them.

“The No. 1 condition is that they’ve got to guarantee, right the way through to Aug. 31 and beyond, safe passage for those who want come out,” Mr. Johnson said to the British Broadcasting Corporation after the meeting.

But Mr. Johnson failed in his effort to persuade Mr. Biden to extend the evacuation beyond that date, and it was not clear what other options the allies had to protect their own citizens and Afghan allies without American military might.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said that plans were being made to find a way to ensure that “afterward we can still get as many local employees and people needing protection to be allowed to leave the country.” But her downbeat tone as she spoke laid bare the sense of futility felt by Western leaders about Afghanistan.

“How can it be that the Afghan leader left the country so quickly?” Ms. Merkel said. “How can it be that Afghan soldiers who we trained for so long gave up so quickly? We will have to ask these questions, but they were not the most pressing today.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, who broke away from campaigning to attend the meeting, said Canadian troops would stay in Afghanistan to continue evacuations beyond the U.S. deadline if necessary — and possible.

“We’re going to continue to work every single day to get as many people out alongside our allies,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Hamilton, Ontario, before boarding a campaign bus. “The commitment by our fellow G7 nations is clear: We’re all going to work together to save as many people as possible.”

The meeting came at a moment of acute strain in the trans-Atlantic alliance, with Britain and other allies bruised by what they view as the White House’s lack of consultation on the timing or tactics of the withdrawal.

Diplomats said the meeting was important to clear the air and prevent the chaotic withdrawal from undermining other joint efforts in security and counterterrorism. But it also demonstrated yet again the impotence of European allies, who acknowledged they could not stay in Kabul after the United States left.

“There is serious loss of trust, and that will require a significant reassurance effort by Washington,” said Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to the United States. “But the real lesson from this for Europe is this: Do we really want to be totally dependent on U.S. capabilities and decisions forever, or can Europe finally begin to be serious about becoming a credible strategic actor?”

Other European diplomats played down that prospect.

“The Europeans are moaning, but they are so dependent on the U.S. for their security that eventually, as usual, they will be satisfied with a few nice words from the administration,” said Gerard Araud, a former French ambassador to the United States.

Families hoping to flee the country arrived at the airport at dawn on Tuesday.
Credit…Jim Huylebroek for The World Best News

WASHINGTON — The United States has started to reduce its military presence at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul as President Biden signaled he will stick to the Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawing from Afghanistan.

A Defense Department official said that about 300 of the 5,800 Marines and soldiers at the airport who were not essential to the escalating evacuation operation had left the country, but that their departure would not affect the mission.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon on Tuesday reported its biggest number of daily evacuations from the Kabul airport so far, saying it had airlifted 21,600 people out of the country over 24 hours.

Since Aug. 15, when Kabul fell to the Taliban and the Afghan government fled the country, the military has helped evacuate about 58,000 people, Maj. General Hank Taylor said.

But that is well below the number of American citizens, foreign nationals and Afghan allies who are trying to get out.

President Biden has left the door open to maintaining the American military presence — now at 5,800 Marines and soldiers — at the Hamid Karzai International Airport beyond an Aug. 31 deadline.

But he does not want to do so, administration officials said, and the Taliban has warned of “consequences” if the United States military stays beyond the deadline.

The Pentagon will most likely add additional military bases in the United States to provide temporary housing for Afghan refugees, the Pentagon press secretary, John F. Kirby, said.

Discussing the evacuations, he said, “our plan is to continue this pace as aggressively as we can.”

Still, bottlenecks at the airport and at the bases around the world where the people are being temporarily housed could stand in the way, officials said. In particular, they pointed to the bureaucratic process of vetting people.

Mr. Kirby said Afghan allies of the United States, who fear reprisals from the Taliban, are still being processed at the Kabul airport, although several times over the past week the gates of the airport have been shuttered because of the surge of people.

And on Tuesday, a Taliban spokesman said the group’s fighters would physically block Afghans from going to the airport.

Video

Video player loading
Afghan nationals are continuing to flood the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, looking for an escape route after the Taliban took hold of the country. While emergency flights are chartered every day, it is still difficult to leave the country.CreditCredit…Jim Huylebroek for The World Best News

The Taliban said on Tuesday that they would block Afghans trying to leave the country from traveling to Kabul’s airport and would reject any plans to extend the deadline for American troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this month.

Hours later, President Biden told world leaders gathered virtually for a meeting of the Group of 7 nations that he was aiming — for now — to get American troops out of Afghanistan by his Aug. 31 deadline, citing a high risk of terrorist attack, a senior administration official said. But the president said there was still a possibility of extending that mission, the official said.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, a Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, noted that chaos at the airport remained a dangerous problem, and said the way was being closed to Afghan citizens to prevent people from joining the crowds.

“The road that ends at the Kabul airport has been blocked,” Mr. Mujahid said. “Foreigners can go through it, but Afghans are not allowed to take the road.”

He did not say how long that policy would be in effect, but Mr. Mujahid did urge the crowds of Afghans thronging the airport in hopes of leaving the country to go home. he said the Taliban would “guarantee their security.”

Witnesses, however, have described a Taliban crackdown on those who protest against the militants. The Taliban is also actively seeking out Afghans who worked alongside U.S. and NATO forces.

Mr. Mujahid called on the United States “to not encourage Afghan people to flee their country,” and said, “This country needs our doctors, engineers and those who are educated — we need these talents.”

President Biden’s deadline for the U.S. evacuation of its citizens and allies in Afghanistan is one week away. The operation could enter a dangerous new phase as time runs out to rescue people whom the administration has pledged to protect from Taliban reprisals.

The effort has picked up speed in recent days as U.S. forces pushed past Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul to rescue stranded people in the city, evacuating thousands.

But chaotic and deadly scenes have also played out as crowds of Afghans eager to leave the country have converged on the airport.

People trying to flee Afghanistan must brave Taliban checkpoints and jostle with desperate crowds, risking injury or death. Seven Afghan civilians, including a toddler, have been trampled to death in the crowds outside the airport, according to British military officials.

Other Afghans who supported the two-decade U.S. war effort, particularly women, are terrified to leave their homes, scared of incurring the Taliban’s wrath at checkpoints.

The Taliban and U.S. officials have taken steps to ensure that the situation does not spiral further out of control. The top U.S. official in Afghanistan talks with the Taliban nearly every day, U.S. military officials have said, leading to an agreement that expanded the security perimeter outside the airport, with the goal of bringing more order to the chaos.

The Pentagon has deployed helicopters and troops into select spots in Kabul to extract stranded U.S. citizens and Afghan allies, at least twice venturing from the immediate area of the airport.

The U.S. military has helped secure the evacuation of 58,000 people since Aug. 14, when Kabul fell to the Taliban, and has increased the pace recently. About 21,600 people were evacuated in the past 24 hours, military officials said on Tuesday.

William J. Burns, center, in Washington in May.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The World Best News

The C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, traveled to Kabul this week for talks with the Taliban leadership, according to American officials familiar with his visit — the highest-level in-person talks between a Biden administration official and the new de facto leadership of Afghanistan.

Mr. Burns, a longtime former diplomat, met on Monday with Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban leader who led diplomatic negotiations in Qatar with the U.S. government.

A key issue for the United States is getting the Taliban leadership to allow more time for evacuation operations from the Kabul airport. The United States is conducting a large airlift of people, including Afghans, Americans and others, out of Afghanistan. President Biden has set a deadline for that operation to be concluded by Aug. 31.

The United States has sent thousands of troops to secure the airport, and the pace of evacuations has stepped up in recent days. But getting Afghans from their homes to the airport in Kabul safely is becoming more difficult and dangerous, and it is not clear whether the U.S. government can maintain the pace of evacuations.

Former officials have said that the United States will need more time, perhaps until late September, to ferry out Afghans who have applied for special visas from the United States.

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban in Qatar, said on Monday that any extension beyond Aug. 31 would be a “clear violation” of the United States’ agreement with the group on the withdrawal of troops.

Before being named as C.I.A. director, Mr. Burns had a long diplomatic career in which he specialized in delicate, secret communications. He titled his memoir “The Back Channel” and was responsible for the initial undisclosed discussions that ultimately led to the Iran nuclear talks in the Obama administration.

And with the fall of the American-backed government and the withdrawal of diplomats and troops from Afghanistan, the C.I.A. will bear much of the responsibility for monitoring Afghanistan going forward.

The C.I.A. and the National Security Council declined to comment. The Washington Post earlier reported Mr. Burns’ visit.

For now, the Taliban have allowed the operations to continue at the airport. Although some civilians have been harassed and beaten while trying to approach the airport, the Taliban have not overtly interfered with the American operations.

But U.S. officials worry about the prospects of attacks at the airport by the Islamic State and other groups.

American operations do not just need the passive support of the Taliban to allow the flights. They also need the group to actively stop ISIS and others from mounting attacks on Afghan civilians, including any suicide bombings outside the airport.

Despite the hard-line rhetoric, the Taliban have an incentive to cooperate. The acting government wants to secure international legitimacy and to try to avoid the isolation the group experienced in the 1990s, when it was last in power. Taliban leaders have urged international governments to maintain their embassies in Afghanistan.

Inside the hospital in Kabul run by Emergency, the international aid organization.
Credit…Jim Huylebroek for The World Best News

The farmer, surnamed Mohammad, had been making his way into Kabul. The Taliban were making their last offensive push, an advance that would result in the abrupt fall of Afghanistan’s capital on Aug. 15. Mr. Mohammad had found a ride in a minivan that was also carrying Taliban fighters.

Automatic fire suddenly rang out from an abandoned government vehicle. He felt a burning sensation in his chest. Later, he would find out that five passengers had been killed in the chaos.

“Other drivers were so afraid,” said Mr. Mohammad, who had been hit by six bullets, “they didn’t even stop to help.”

Mr. Mohammad spoke this week from his bed at a hospital run by Emergency, an international humanitarian organization running hospitals in Afghanistan, giving its personnel a firsthand look at the violence there.

In interviews, they said they had seen a shift in violence, including more casualties from the Kabul airport. But they have also seen an ebbing of violence, a potentially positive sign, as well as a shift in the types of injuries.

When the Taliban battled government forces for control of the country, the patients arriving at Emergency’s hospitals had suffered trauma caused by airstrikes, mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades and small explosives, said an official with the group at a Kabul-area hospital.

Now, conflict-related injuries tend to come from bullets, which he attributed to general lawlessness amid the Taliban takeover. Some people, the official said, were taking advantage of the lack of police.

Since then, the number of casualties has gone down, the official said. Now the group takes in about six people per day — generally, people suffering gunfire wounds — from armed clashes around the airport.

Another one of Emergency’s hospitals, in Lashkar Gah, in the southern province of Helmand, was receiving 50 casualties per day at the height of the siege of that city. They were forced to raise the criteria of admission. Soft tissue injuries, for example, were passed on to another government hospital.

Since last week, violence has dropped significantly, and now the hospital takes civilian trauma cases from other causes, like traffic accidents.

The Taliban are aware of their work. A man named Dr. Omar, who identified himself as a Taliban health director, had visited the Kabul hospital and told its administrators that they would be able to perform their work unbothered. Emergency has been able to send supplies to first aid outposts by road across the country.

One worker at the hospital was cautiously optimistic.

“It has been one week now,” the worker said. “The number of injured people is decreasing. We don’t hear gunshots anymore, and we don’t have concerns about suicide attacks. Even the casualties that come from the airport have been decreasing over the last three days.”

Some local workers remember what it was like when the Taliban ruled the country two decades ago, when life — particularly for women — was heavily restricted.

“Women are still walking around without a full veil,” the worker said. “But they’re afraid that when a government is announced, those policies will change.”

Still, the worker welcomed the new sense of security.

“The last three or four years, whenever I left my home, I said goodbye to my family, because I was not sure whether I would return to them,” the worker said. “But these days, to be honest, it is not a concern for me now. I hope it will last forever.”

Taliban members outside the closed U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Sunday.
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The World Best News

BRUSSELS — For all of President Biden’s promises to respect and consult with the NATO allies who were so disdained by his predecessor, officials from Britain, France, Germany and Italy complain that there has been more diktat than conversation on Afghanistan.

Now that the rapid Taliban advance and rushed U.S. pullout have produced chaos and fear in Kabul for more than week, Mr. Biden is likely to hear grumbling on Tuesday in an emergency videoconference call among the Group of 7 leaders.

The crisis in Afghanistan raises once again the question that has dogged NATO virtually since the end of the Cold War: Will there be any serious shift in the way the alliance operates, with the United States leading and Europe following behind?

Whenever the United States acts without much regard for the allies’ views — in Libya and Syria, to say nothing of Iraq — it fuels new calls for European allies, in particular, to become less dependent on Washington in military and security matters. But more autonomy would mean more military spending, and there is little sign that European leaders have the political will for that.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO’s secretary-general from 2004 to 2009, said that European criticism of Mr. Biden was accurate, but also somewhat irrelevant, because “we Europeans have become addicted to U.S. leadership.”

Some of the calls for strategic independence are more serious — and angrier — than in the past.

“Europeans are up in arms, but there are no alternative options,” said Rem Korteweg, a senior fellow at the Clingendael Institute, a Dutch research institution. “So I take this with a grain of salt.”

The Paralympics symbol at Tokyo Bay on Sunday.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The World Best News

Two Afghan Paralympians have fled Kabul with the help of a group of Australian sports stars, according to Nikki Dryden, a former Canadian Olympian turned human rights lawyer who was involved in the effort.

She said on Tuesday that they were part of a group of more than 50 athletes — including soccer players, referees and their families — who had secured protection in Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the athletes and their families had been granted humanitarian visas.

“The operation is still ongoing, but at least 50 athletes and their families are on planes or — for us it was just safely getting them into the airport, that’s when we called it a win,” Ms. Dryden told the ABC.

The two Paralympians were “safely out of Afghanistan,” she added. She did not identify them by name.

Last week, the Afghanistan Paralympic Committee said the country’s athletes would not participate in the Games because of the difficulty of leaving the country.

Ms. Dryden said the Australians had worked for days to contact the athletes over social media, to secure a commitment from the Australian government to accept them, to obtain visa sponsorship and arrange paperwork, and to guide the athletes remotely to the airport in Kabul.

The athletes spent 48 hours in line at the airport before making it inside, she said. “The only thing we could tell them was push forward, push forward push forward, stay in the line, don’t move, and they did it,” she said. “Every single one that is going to make it to Australia did it on their own.”

She said she was unsure whether the Paralympians would compete in Tokyo.

FIFPro, the international federation of soccer players, posted on Twitter that it was “encouraged by recent developments” and “grateful for the assistance of governments, military and human rights groups who are collaborating closely with us to evacuate women footballers and other athletes from Afghanistan.”

Overnight, 650 more people were evacuated from Kabul on four Australian flights and one New Zealand flight, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said on Tuesday.

The athletes’ escape came after members of an Afghan girls’ robotics team that captured international attention fled to Qatar.

Michelle Bachelet, left, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, with Nasir Ahmad Andisha, right, the Afghan ambassador to the United Nations, on Tuesday.
Credit…Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA, via Shutterstock

The United Nations’ top human rights official on Tuesday cited “harrowing and credible” reports the Taliban are carrying out summary executions of civilians and noncombatant soldiers, as well as violating the rights of women.

The official, Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking at the start of an emergency session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, called for the creation of a panel to monitor the Taliban’s conduct.

She urged bold action by states to strongly signal to Taliban leaders that a return to their brutal past practices would be unacceptable, and the proposal had support from some Western states and rights groups.

But a resolution submitted by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Countries, despite calling for the prompt and transparent investigation of rights violations, failed to lay the groundwork for any way to do so.

Instead, it called for Ms. Bachelet to report on developments to the council next March.

Shahrazad Akbar, the chairwoman of Afghanistan’s independent Human Rights Commission, called the resolution “a travesty.”

“Afghan activists on the ground, my colleagues on the ground who face direct threats to their lives and the lives of their families, demand better,” Ms. Akbar told the council by video link. “To be frank with you, you are failing them.”

Video

transcript

transcript

‘Unlawful Claims’: Harris Rebukes China’s Diplomacy

Vice President Kamala Harris criticized China during an address in Southeast Asia, and sought to assure nations in the region that the U.S. was a reliable partner.

Our vision includes freedom of navigation, which is vital to us all. The livelihood of millions of people depend on the billions of dollars in trade that flow through these sea lanes each day, and yet in the South China Sea, we know that Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea. These unlawful claims have been rejected by the 2016 arbitral tribunal decision. And Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order, and threaten the sovereignty of nations. The United States stands with our allies and partners in the face of these threats. And I must be clear. Our engagement in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific is not against any one country, nor is it designed to make anyone choose between countries. Instead, our engagement, it’s about advancing an optimistic vision that we have for our participation and partnership in this region.

Video player loading
Vice President Kamala Harris criticized China during an address in Southeast Asia, and sought to assure nations in the region that the U.S. was a reliable partner.CreditCredit…Evelyn Hockstein/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris sought to fortify the United States’ image as a credible ally on Tuesday by offering a rebuke of China during an address in Southeast Asia, an effort that comes as the White House faces growing questions about its reliability amid continuing violence in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

“We know that Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea,” Ms. Harris said in Singapore, adding that what she described as China’s “unlawful claims” continued “to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations.”

The White House is aiming to refocus its foreign policy strategy on competing with China’s rising economic influence rather than on continuing to fight “forever wars,” such as the two-decade long conflict in Afghanistan. The chaotic effort to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from Kabul has overshadowed the vice president’s trip, which began on Sunday in Singapore and will also take her to Vietnam.

Ms. Harris’s overseas trip, her second as vice president, gained heightened urgency in the days before she boarded Air Force Two. The journey had been seen as a chance to bolster economic and security ties with key partners in Singapore and Vietnam, a crucial piece of President Biden’s strategy in the South China Sea. But in the wake of the haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan, her trip became the administration’s first test of the White House efforts to reassure the world that it can still be a trusted international partner.

That pressure is likely to increase when Ms. Harris arrives in Vietnam. Her senior aides have faced questions about the historical parallel between the U.S. evacuation of American citizens in 1975 from Saigon and the situation in Kabul — replete with scenes of desperate Afghans running behind U.S. military planes, and of American citizens, Afghan allies and their relatives crowded into the Kabul airport and stuck in limbo.

Families who were evacuated from Afghanistan waited on Monday to board buses at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia.
Credit…Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

Airbnb and its charitable arm, Airbnb.org, said on Tuesday that the company intended to provide free temporary housing globally for 20,000 refugees fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

As American and European governments race to evacuate tens of thousands of people, the property rental company called the displacement and resettlement of refugees a “significant humanitarian crisis.”

The cost of the accommodations will be covered with money from Airbnb and its chief executive, Brian Chesky, as well as contributions from the Airbnb.org Refugee Fund, which was begun in June with the goal of raising $25 million. The organization is working with resettlement agencies and offered to support federal and state governments.

“The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time. We feel a responsibility to step up,” Mr. Chesky said on Twitter.

“I hope this inspires other business leaders to do the same. There’s no time to waste,” he added.

Airbnb did not specify how long refugees could stay in the apartments or houses, but said its hosts were offering short- and long-term stays. The company said it had begun supporting Afghans fleeing the country last week when it gave funding to the International Rescue Committee and other organizations to provide temporary stays using the Airbnb platform for up to 1,000 refugees.

Over the weekend, Airbnb said, it placed 165 refugees in housing across the United States, including in California, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington State.

An Afghan refugee with her daughter at a bus station in Van, Turkey, this month.
Credit…Nicole Tung for The World Best News

VAN, Turkey — In the days before the Taliban took Kabul, an Afghan woman was doubled over sobbing on a bench in a bus station in eastern Turkey, her children wailing at her feet.

Fourteen Turkish security and migration officials swooped down on her and other Afghan asylum seekers as our reporting team was interviewing them, part of an intensive crackdown by Turkey to apprehend Afghans crossing from Iran by the thousands and to prevent journalists from reporting on their plight.

As her husband tried to gather their belongings, the woman clutched her stomach and retched. After prolonged questioning, they were escorted to a police vehicle.

Even before the past week’s harrowing scenes of Afghans thronging the Kabul airport to escape the Taliban, many thousands had been steadily fleeing their country over land, making their way some 1,400 miles across the length of Iran to the Turkish border. Now that the Taliban are in power, there is every indication that their numbers will swell still further.

But for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, the burden of hosting so many refugees — 3.6 million Syrians and more than 300,000 Afghans, among others — has become a burning political issue, especially as the Turkish economy has worsened. And Afghans interviewed in Van said Turkey had tightened border security with an often violent police operation, turning away Afghans regardless of their requests for asylum.