United Nations flights link the Pakistani capital Islamabad with the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and with Kandahar in the south.
The United Nations has resumed humanitarian flights to northern and southern Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, a spokesman has announced, as the country’s new rulers clash with rebel fighters who are defending their territory in Panjshir Valley north of Kabul.
The UN Humanitarian Air Service is now operating flights “to enable 160 humanitarian organisations to continue their life-saving activities in Afghanistan’s provinces,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. Three flights have already landed in Mazar-i-Sharif since August 29.
Tens of thousands of Afghans have been internally displaced due to the recent violence. As many as half a million others are also estimated to become refugees in neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Iran.
Dujarric said that efforts are being made to launch more flights and to more destinations.
The country’s main airport in Kabul remains closed but is expected to reopen in days with the help of technical experts from Qatar.
Meanwhile, Taliban forces and fighters loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud continue to fight in Panjshir Valley, even as efforts continue to reach a political truce. Panjshir Valley is the last anti-Taliban enclave in the country. Each side said it had inflicted heavy casualties.
Here are the latest updates:
UN resumes humanitarian flights to Afghanistan
The UN has resumed Humanitarian Air Service flights to Afghanistan with three planes arriving in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif since Sunday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday.
The flights, operated by the World Food Programme (WFP), link Pakistan’s Islamabad to Mazar-i-Sharif and the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. The programme aims to deliver humanitarian aid to areas that are difficult to reach.
Dujarric said WFP is looking to “step up” its operations in Afghanistan as soon as possible.
“From 2002 to 2021, the UN Humanitarian Air Service in Afghanistan served more than 20 destinations in the country; it will seek to return to these locations once security and funding permits,” Dujarric said.
US Republicans demand transcript of Biden’s call with Ashraf Ghani
Republican legislators have sent a letter to the White House requesting the release of “the full, unedited and unredacted” transcript of President Joe Biden’s call with exiled Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in July.
The letter, sent on Thursday, signed by 12 US Congress members, including top Republican Elise Stefanik, accused the administration of engaging in a “deliberate effort” to mislead the public on the situation in Afghanistan.
The legislators argued that releasing Biden’s conversation with Ghani would increase transparency to hold the White House accountable.
“The contrast between your administration’s official spin and the reality on the ground revealed a bewildering lack of coherence, strategy and fundamental transparency,” the letter said.
Blinken discusses Afghanistan in calls with counterparts
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the situation in Afghanistan in separate phone conversations with his Saudi, Italian, Spanish and German counterparts on Thursday.
The State Department said Blinken thanked Germany for its “support in facilitating the transit of thousands of people out of Afghanistan” in a call with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
“The Secretary and Foreign Minister discussed ways to promote the safety and security of Afghan and international citizens following the withdrawal of NATO forces,” it said.
Spoke today with Spanish Foreign Minister @jmalbares and conveyed our appreciation for Spain’s steadfast support for our evacuation operation in Kabul. We discussed how the international community can continue to promote and achieve safety and security for Afghans.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) September 2, 2021
EU mulls reaction force after Kabul evacuation
European Union defence ministers weighed proposals for a European rapid reaction force after the bloc was sidelined during the US-led evacuation from Afghanistan.
Calls have grown for the 27-nation group to develop its own joint military capability to respond quickly to crises in the wake of the chaotic scenes at Kabul airport.
“Afghanistan has shown that deficiencies in our strategic autonomy come with a price and that the only way forward is to combine our forces and strengthen not only our capacity but also our will to act,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told journalists after the meeting in Slovenia.
“If we want to be able to act autonomously and not be dependent on the choices made by others, even if these others are our friends and allies, then we have to develop our own capacities.”