Evacuations from Afghanistan speed up, Taliban vows peace: Live | Taliban News

Planes carrying hundreds of evacuees from Kabul have arrived in the United Kingdom and Germany as Western nations stepped up evacuation efforts and the Taliban promised women’s rights, media freedom and amnesty for government officials in Afghanistan.

A British Royal Air Force plane carrying British nationals and embassy staff landed at an air base in Oxfordshire, UK, while a German government-chartered Lufthansa flight carrying 130 evacuees landed in Frankfurt in Germany.

The United States said its military flights had evacuated 3,200 people from Kabul so far, including 1,100 on Tuesday alone.

In Kabul, the Taliban sought to strike a conciliatory tone at its first press conference since its lightning seizure of the Afghan capital, promising to respect the rights of women “within the framework of Islam” and expressing a desire for peaceful relations with other countries.

“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, the armed group’s main spokesman.

The Taliban announcements, short on details but suggesting a softer line than during the group’s rule 20 years ago, came as one of the group’s co-founders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, returned to Afghanistan for the first time in more than 10 years.

Here are the latest updates:

Central bank reserves not compromised: Governor

Afghanistan’s currency reserves are mostly held in foreign accounts and have not been compromised since the Taliban captured Kabul, the head of the central bank says.

Da Afghanistan Bank controlled about $9bn in reserves, about $7bn of which was held as a mixture of cash, gold US bonds and other paper at the Federal Reserve, Ajmal Ahmaty, the acting governor who has now fled Kabul, said on Twitter.

“In no way were Afghanistan’s international reserves ever compromised,” he said.

“No money was stolen from any reserve account … I can’t imagine a scenario where Treasury/OFAC would given Taliban access to such funds.”

US freezes Afghan central bank’s assets of $9.5bn

The US has frozen nearly $9.5bn in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank and stopped shipments of cash to the nation as it tries to keep a Taliban-led government from accessing the money, an administration official confirmed Tuesday.

The official said that any central bank assets that the Afghan government has in the US will not be available to the Taliban, which remains on the Treasury Department’s sanctions designation list.

Read more here.

[File: Victor J Blue/Bloomberg]

Minister: 25 French nationals and 184 Afghans evacuated

Twenty-five French nationals and 184 Afghans were evacuated from Afghanistan overnight and have just landed in Abu Dhabi, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says.

More than 2,200 diplomats and other civilians have been evacuated from Afghanistan on military flights, a Western security official told Reuters news agency, as efforts gathered pace to get people out after the Taliban seized the capital.

India’s midnight evacuation from Afghanistan, escorted by Taliban

Outside the main iron gate of the Indian embassy in Kabul, a group of Taliban fighters waited, armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Inside the compound were 150 Indian diplomats and nationals, growing increasingly nervous as they watched news of the Taliban tightening their grip on the capital, which they took a day earlier without a fight.

Read more here.

Indian nationals sit aboard an Indian military aircraft at the airport in Kabul [Stringer/AFP]

Exiled Taliban co-founder returns from exile

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder and deputy leader of the Taliban, arrives back in Afghanistan.

He chose to touch down on Tuesday night in Afghanistan’s second biggest city Kandahar – the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace and capital during their first time in power.

He arrived from Qatar, where he has spent months leading talks with the United States and then Afghan peace negotiators.

Footage released by pro-Taliban media showed crowds gathering around Baradar at the airport, pumping their fists in the air and chanting in celebration.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group’s top political leader [File: Hussein Sayed/AP]

Thousands of Afghans enter Pakistan via Chaman crossing

Thousands of Afghans have entered Pakistan through the Spin Boldak/Chaman border crossing in Afghanistan’s southeast after the Afghan Taliban’s takeover of the country earlier this week, including patients seeking medical attention and freed Afghan Taliban prisoners.

On Tuesday, the border remained open for all Afghans carrying valid Afghan identity documents or proof of being a registered Afghan refugee resident in Pakistan, Afghan travellers and authorities told Al Jazeera.

Read more here.

[Al Jazeera]

UK getting 1,000 out a day from Afghanistan: Patel

The United Kingdom has managed to evacuate about 1,000 people a day from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the country, Home Secretary Priti Patel says.

“We have been getting out approximately 1,000 people, so far, a day,” she told BBC TV.

“We’re still bringing out British nationals … and those Afghan nationals who are part of our locally employed scheme.”

Dutch efforts to evacuate Afghan staff fails

Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag says Dutch evacuation efforts in Afghanistan were unsuccessful on Tuesday night as chaos outside Kabul airport made it impossible to get eligible people on a plane.

The Netherlands aims to get up to 1,000 local embassy workers, translators and their families out of the country.

US armed forces securing the airport did not allow any Afghans to enter the gates even if they had the right credentials, and the plane was only on the ground in Kabul for about half an hour, Kaag said.

“It’s awful. Many were there at the gates of the airport with their families,” Kaag told Dutch news agency ANP.

People wait to be evacuated from Afghanistan at the airport in Kabul [AFP]

Taliban leaders will not stay in ‘shadow of secrecy’: group official

The leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban will show themselves to the world, an official of the group says, unlike during the past 20 years, when its leaders have lived largely in secret.

“Slowly, gradually, the world will see all our leaders, there will be no shadow of secrecy,” the senior Taliban official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters news agency.

The official said Taliban members had been ordered not to celebrate their recent sweep of the country, which brought them to the capital, Kabul, and added that civilians should hand over weapons and ammunition.

Hello and welcome to the live updates. This is Tamila Varshalomidze, taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.

More than 2,200 people evacuated from Afghanistan

A Western security official has told Reuters news agency that more than 2,200 diplomats and other civilians have been evacuated from Afghanistan so far.

“We are continuing at a very fast momentum, logistics show no glitches as of now and we have been able to remove a little over 2,200 diplomatic staff, foreign security staff and Afghans who worked for embassies,” the official said.

It was unclear when civilian flights would resume, he said.

The official did not give a breakdown of how many Afghans were among the more than 2,200 people to leave nor was it clear if that tally included the more than 600 Afghan men, women and children who flew out on Sunday, crammed into a US military C-17 cargo aircraft.

Germans fear refugee influx after Taliban takeover – poll

Almost two thirds of Germans fear an influx of refugees following recent developments in Afghanistan, according to a new survey.

Some 62.9 percent of people surveyed said they are worried about refugees arriving in the country like in 2015, according to the poll by the Civey polling institute for the daily Augsburger Allgemeine.

Some 30 percent think differently, the poll found. The rest were undecided.

Japan seeks to secure safety of its nationals

A government spokesman has said Japan is in close contact with a “small number” of its nationals still in Afghanistan and is seeking to ensure their safety.

Japan had closed its embassy after the Taliban took over Kabul and had evacuated the last 12 personnel there. The Japanese foreign ministry said an unspecified number of Japanese nationals, many who work with international organisations, remain in Afghanistan.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference that none of the Japanese still remaining in Afghanistan had been reported to have suffered injuries, but declined to give details, citing security concerns.

Canada to resume flights to aid evacuations

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has said it plans to resume military flights to Afghanistan to evacuate civilians.

“CAF flights will support ongoing operations and will evacuate as many Afghans, who are at risk due to their close and enduring relationship with Canada, as possible,” a CAF spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Chartered flights carrying fleeing Afghans have arrived in Canada from Monday evening and additional flights will be sent on Tuesday night, according to the statement.

Australia evacuates 26 people in first rescue flight

Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, said the first Australian rescue flight has flown 26 people out of Afghanistan.

“This was the first of what will be many flights, subject to and weather and we do note that over the back end of this week, there is some not too favourable weather forecast,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Australia said on Monday it would send 250 military personnel to Kabul to evacuate it citizens and an unspecified number of Afghans who had been given visas after working for Australia. The country’s goal is to evacuate 600 people, according to media reports.

Morrison did not provide a number. “Our goal is as many as we can, as safely and as quickly as we can,” he said.

Planes with Afghan evacuees arrive in UK, Germany

Planes carrying evacuees from Kabul have landed in the UK and in Germany.

A British Royal Air Force plane carrying British nationals and embassy staff arrived at an air base in Oxfordshire in the UK early on Wednesday morning. It is not clear how many people were on board the British plane.

The German government-chartered Lufthansa flight was carrying 130 evacuees from Kabul, according to DPA news agency. It had taken off from the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, and landed in Frankfurt in Germany early on Wednesday morning.

A spokesman for Lufthansa told DPA that the airline, in consultation with the German government, will also offer evacuation flights from Doha in Qatar and possibly from other countries bordering Afghanistan

UN refugee agency wants to keep working in Afghanistan

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says it wants to continue working in Afghanistan.

“We want to stay in the country because the people there need help now more than ever,” said Katharina Lumpp, the UNHCR representative in Germany.

“Most of the Afghans who have been displaced in the past few months are currently internally displaced in their own country,” she told the German daily Die Welt. “They now urgently need support and humanitarian aid.”

UK to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees

The United Kingdom is set to announce a plan to welcome as many as 20,000 Afghans under a new resettlement programme that will give priority to women, girls and religious and other minorities, according to British news outlets.

The scheme aimed at those seen “most at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban” will offer a safe and legal route to Britain, the Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.

About 5,000 people are expected to arrive in the UK in its first year.

Read more here.

White House: 1,100 citizens, permanent residents evacuated on Tuesday

The White House says about 1,100 Americans, permanent residents and their families were evacuated by military aircraft from Afghanistan on Tuesday.

“Now that we have established the flow, we expect those numbers to escalate,” a White House official said in a statement.

The US has evacuated 3,200 people in total, it added.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.

For key developments from yesterday, August 17, go here.