15:10 Top stories from World News:
14:55 India evacuates citizens from Afghanistan
India has sent a military plane to northern Afghanistan today to pull out its citizens, officials said.
The Indian government shut its consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, the biggest city in the north, and urged its diplomats and Indian citizens to take the special flight home.
Fighting has engulfed Afghanistan with the Taliban taking significant victories in recent days.
Taliban fighters have overrun six provincial capitals in recent days in the north, west and south of Afghanistan with Mazar-i-Sharif expected to be targetted soon.
14:46 Fighting in 25 of the 34 provinces
There is currently fighting in 25 out of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, according to the head of the national disaster authority Gulam Bahauddin Jailani.
He claims that 60,000 families had been displaced over the past two months, with most seeking refuge in the capital city, Kabul.
About 400,000 Afghans have been displaced in recent months and there had been an increase in the numbers of people fleeing to Iran over the past ten days, a senior EU official said.
The Taliban control 65 percent of Afghan territory, were threatening to take 11 provincial capitals and trying to deprive Kabul of its traditional support from forces in the north, the official said.
14:18 ‘Hard to imagine’ forced return of asylum seekers, said EU official
Many EU member states are nervous that developments in Afghanistan could trigger a replay of Europe’s 2015 migration crisis.
The chaotic arrival of more than a million people from the Middle East stretched security and welfare systems and fuelled support for far-right groups.
Asked if the Commission considers Afghanistan a safe country to which asylum seekers can be returned, a spokesman said it is up to member states to make that judgement.
A senior EU official described the situation as less dramatic than recent crises in Syria and Iraq because Kabul still has a solid government that the EU can work with.
Nevertheless, forced returns of asylum seekers would be difficult now.
“Given the context, it is hard to imagine that we would conduct forced return operations for the moment,” he said.
13:55 What is the Taliban’s strategy?
The Taliban’s strategy appears to be to take the north of Afghanistan, as well as main border crossings in the north, west and south, and then close in on the capital city, Kabul.
For years, the north was the most peaceful part of the country with only minimal Taliban presence.
The Taliban is battling to defeat the Western backed government led by President Ashraf Ghani and reimpose strict Islamic law.
They swept into the city of Aibak on Monday afternoon meeting little resistance.
The government has withdrawn forces from hard-to-defend rural districts to focus on holding major population centres.
The government has withdrawn forces from hard-to-defend rural districts (Image: GETTY)
13:32 UN fears erasure of human rights in Afghanistan
The gains made in the past 20 years are in danger of being erased, according to a UN official.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the atrocious situation facing so many Afghans would deteriorate unless all parties returned to negotiations.
Her office said reports of violations that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity were emerging, including “deeply disturbing reports” of the summary execution of surrendering government troops.
“People rightly fear that a seizure of power by the Taliban will erase the human rights gains of the past two decades,” she said.
UN fears erasure of human rights in Afghanistan (Image: GETTY)
13:28 EU wants to avoid ‘massive flow of migration’ from Afghanistan
The European Union wants to avoid Afghanistan slipping into a state of civil war, becoming an even bigger producer of drugs or a source for a “massive flow of migration”, a senior official of the 27-nation bloc said this afternoon.
13:18 Afghanistan situation ‘challenging’ but ‘not desperate’, EU official says
The situation in Afghanistan is “quite challenging” but “not desperate”, according to an EU official.
The official insisted that Afghanistan was different from the crises that Syria and Iraq faced because it still has a solid government and recognised authorities.
12:55 At least 244,000 internally displaced people in Afghanistan
At least 244,000 people have been internally displaced (IDPs) in Afghanistan since the beginning of May.
The war-torn country has seen a dramatic spike in IDPs since the withdrawal of foreign troops began in May, according to data from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The current number of IDPs is more than 300 percent higher than the same period last year.
Since the withdrawal, the Taliban has stepped up their attacks against the western-backed government led by President Ashraf Ghani.
According to the report, nearly all fleeing the violence lack adequate shelter, access to medical care and sufficient food.
An internally displaced Afghan family searching for saleable plastic and metals (Image: GETTY)
12:35 Former senator ‘switched sides’ to join the Taliban
The city of Aibak, which fell to the Taliban on Monday afternoon, was partly brought under control by a former senator who switched sides to support the Taliban.
The former senator switched sides on Sunday and brought 300 of his men with him to the Taliban.
Switching sides has been a survival strategy for years in war-torn Afghanistan.
The city is an important route for the supply of resources to north Afghanistan.
The Taliban are now in a better position to press on the biggest city in the region, Mazar-i-Sharif.
12:20 German forces not considering a return to Afghanistan
German Ministry spokesman, Arne Collatz, said that it was “not apparent” in Berlin that there was a political majority for a renewed engagement in Afghanistan.
He said that he does “not think that one month after the withdrawal of the German forces we should think about going back into a combat mission there again.”
Asked whether the minister felt jointly responsible for the Taliban’s recent victories in Afghanistan, the spokesman said that “the withdrawal from Afghanistan was decided jointly and that there is no question of individual responsibilities”.
When asked whether the country would become terrorist headquarters again, he said: “As the Bundeswehr (German Army), we are now out of Afghanistan and can only partially comment on the situation here.
“I can certainly remind you that we only went into Afghanistan militarily to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a hotbed of terrorism worldwide.
“We were successful there at the beginning.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg
A soldier of the German armed forces, Bundeswehr, in Afghanistan (Image: GETTY)
11:54 German defence minister blames Trump: efforts of the Western Alliance have been in vain
The efforts of the Western Alliance have been in vain, according to German newspaper Bild.
Federal Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is blaming ex-US President Donald Trump for the current situation: “The disastrous agreement between Trump and the Taliban was the beginning of the end.”
On the occasion of the German army’s (Bundeswehr) 20-year mission in Afghanistan, the Defence Minister announced: “In Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr has fulfilled all of the orders given by the German Bundestag.
Anyone who now demands renewed intervention in the country by the Bundeswehr must be asked: “With what goal, with what strategy, with what partners?
“With the willingness to put the lives of many of our soldiers at risk?”
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer also asked: “Is German society, is the German parliament ultimately really ready to enter into a tough military conflict again in Afghanistan?
“Are society and parliament ready to send the Bundeswehr into war and stay there for at least another generation with many troops?
“If we are not, then the joint withdrawal with the partners remains the right decision.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg
10:46 Taliban to hold balance of control in Afghanistan by 2022
The Taliban will hold the balance of power in Afghanistan by 2022, according to Barbara Kelemen, an Associate and the lead intelligence analyst for Asia at Dragonfly.
Ms Kelemen said: “In the short term, the Taliban will further intensify its insurgency and expand its control in northern Afghanistan – a strategically important region for the Afghan government.
“This will weaken the government’s position further since it partially relies on the support of local warlords in the north.
“On current indications, by 2022, the military balance will have shifted in favour of the Taliban, particularly if the peace talks remain stalled.
“The outlook for the peace talks appears negative, not least because any power sharing agreement between the Kabul government and the group remains unlikely.
“The Taliban has repeatedly said it sees the current government as ‘illegitimate’ and there seems to be little incentive for it to enter into any type of agreement, at least for now.”
Ms Kelemen went on to say that she forecast Afghanistan becoming a more hostile environment for foreign organisations in the coming months.
“Kabul is likely to remain an extremely dangerous place for travel and business operations; terrorist attacks have become more frequent over the past few months with incidents occurring on a near-daily basis since 2020,” she added.
10:30 570,000 Afghan asylum requests to EU since 2015
Around 570,000 Afghans have requested asylum in the EU since 2015, according to a letter from six EU countries asking the European Commission not to stop the deportation of Afghan asylum seekers.
The letter was signed by Belgium, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Greece.
There was 44,000 asylum requests in 2020 alone.
This makes Afghanistan the second most important country of origin last year.
“We fully recognise the sensitive situation in Afghanistan in light of the foreseen withdrawal of international troops,” the countries wrote.
The letter went on to say that an estimated 4.6 million Afghans are already displaced, many of them in the region.
The six EU members urged the bloc to look into the possibility of providing support for refugees in neighbouring countries by increasing cooperation with countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.
Asylum seekers say Afghanistan is not safe (Image: GETTY)
10:17 Russia completing military drills near the Afghan border
Russia has today completed joint drills in Tajikistan with Uzbek and Tajik forces close to the Afghan border.
The Russian government announced it would be reinforcing its military base in Tajikistan with assault rifles and other weapons.
Seperately, Russia and China are holding a large-scale joint military exercise in north-central China, Russia’s defence ministry said today.
The drill is focused on counter-terrorism and will involve more than 10,000 troops.
The drills come as the Taliban has made significant progress in Afghanistan where security has deteriorated as the United States withdraws its troops after two decades of war.
The United States withdrawal will be a security concern for Moscow.
Russian military drills (Image: GETTY)
09:50 Taliban refuses to hold up its side of the deal
The United States will complete the withdrawal of its forces by the end of this month under a deal with the Taliban.
The deal agreed the withdrawal of foreign forces in exchange for the Taliban promising to not use Afghanistan for international terrorism.
As part of the deal, the Taliban promised to seek peace and negotiate with President Ashraf Ghani’s government.
However, months of intermittent talks have been fruitless.
Mr Ghani’s government has asked neighbouring Pakistan to stop Taliban reinforcements and supplies coming over their border.
Pakistan denies supporting the Taliban.
09:28 ‘Fight to the death’ to protect north Afghanistan
The Taliban has tightened their control over northern territories today with a pro-government commander vowing to fight to the death to defend Mazar-i-Sharif, the largest city in north Afghanistan.
Atta Mohammad Noor, a northern militia commander, vowed to fight to the end, saying there would be “resistance until the last drop of my blood”.
“I prefer dying in dignity than dying in despair,” he said on Twitter.
President Ashraf Ghani called on regional forces to support his embattled government after a devastating string of Taliban gains – six cities captured since Friday.
The United States has ruled out intervening.
In the town of Aibak, capital of Samangan province on the main road between Mazar-i-Sharif and the national capital, Kabul, Taliban fighters are moving into government buildings, residents said.
Most members of the government security forces appear to have withdrawn from the town.
The Taliban is now in a position to advance from multiple directions on the biggest city in the region, Mazar-i-Sharif.
Its fall would deal a devastating blow to Mr Ghani’s government in Kabul.
We hear the enemy is planning an attack on #Balkh. Have asked the uprising forces to be standby alongside the #ANDSF. The enemy will regret if commits a mistake. Assure the people of our resistance until the last drop of my blood. I prefer dying in dignity than dying in despair. https://t.co/2V6acIOCD5
u2014 Ata Mohammad Noor (@Atamohammadnoor) August 8, 2021
09:13 Afghans ‘not automatically entitled to protection’
Belgium’s state secretary for asylum and migration, Sammy Mahdi, has said Afghans would not be automatically entitled to asylum because their country was not safe.
Belgium was one of six countries to sign a letter to the European Commission warning against halting deportations of Afghan asylum seekers.
The other countries are Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Greece.
“That regions of a country are not safe does not mean that each national of that country automatically is entitled to protection,” said Mr Mahdi.
The Taliban is fighting to reimpose strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster from Kabul.
“Afghans that, after a thorough and independent investigation, obviously do not need asylum, cannot remain in Belgium,” Mr Mahdi added.
Het is niet omdat er regiou2019s in een land onveilig zijn, dat iedere onderdaan uit dat land automatisch recht heeft op bescherming. Wie bescherming nodig heeft en dus asiel krijgt in Belgiu00eb, wordt beoordeeld door het onafhankelijke CGVS. Daar kom ik politiek niet in tussen.
u2014 Sammy Mahdi (@SammyMahdi) August 9, 2021
08:49 U.S. envoy sent to Qatar
Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy on Afghanistan, has been sent to Qatar to “press the Taliban to stop their military offensive”.
The Department of State said that there would be several rounds of meetings between Mr Khalilzad and the Taliban to discuss the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.
Governmental and organisational representatives from the region, and beyond, will be attending the meetings in search of a solution.
08:38 Atrocities against children growing ‘higher by the day’
Atrocities being committed against children in Afghanistan are growing “higher by the day,” according to UN children’s charity Unicef.
The Taliban has made major advances in the past few days, capturing six provincial capitals since Friday.
More than 1,000 citizens have been murdered as a result of the conflict in the last month alone.
Many children have been killed by roadside bombs and caught in crossfire.
“Afghanistan has long been one of the worst places on Earth to be a child but in recent weeks and, indeed, the last 72 hours, that’s got a lot worse,” Unicef Afghanistan’s Samantha Mort told the BBC.
More than 130 children have been injured in the last three days alone (Image: GETTY)
08:30 ‘These are their people to defend,’ says U.S.
The United States is deeply concerned about the escalating violence in Afghanistan but that Afghan security forces have the capability to fight the insurgent group, according to a Pentagon spokesman.
John Kirby, said: “These are their military forces, these are their provincial capitals, their people to defend and it’s really going to come down to the leadership that they’re willing to exude here at this particular moment.”
Asked what the U.S. military can do if the Afghan security forces are not putting up a fight, Mr Kirby replied: “Not much.”