Several sources confirmed that Taliban fighters last week executed two senior police officials – Haji Mullah Achakzai, the security director of Badghis province, and Ghulam Sakhi Akbari, security director of Farah province. Video footage showed Mr Achakzai was kneeling, blindfolded, with his hands tied behind his back before he was shot.
A day after the last US soldier left the country after 20 years of war, the effort to evacuate American citizens from Afghanistan has “shifted from a military mission to a diplomatic mission”, the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Tuesday.
At least 100 US citizens are believed to remain in Kabul, from where the last US flight left on Monday. Many Afghan allies of the US and other nations were also left behind in a country now controlled by the Taliban.
Sullivan was answering fierce criticism over the evacuation, including from Republicans who have seized on the admission that not all Americans were airlifted out. The hawkish Arkansas senator Tom Cotton, for example, slammed “a disgraceful lack of leadership from an incompetent president”.
Speaking to ABC’s Good Morning America, Sullivan said:
Leadership means taking a look at the situation and asking the hard question, ‘What is going to be in the best interest of the United States of America, those American citizens still in Afghanistan and those Afghan allies?’
And [Joe Biden] got a unanimous recommendation from his secretary of state, his secretary of defense, all of his civilian advisers, all of his commanders on the ground, and all of the joint chiefs of staff, that the best way to protect our forces and the best way to help those Americans was to transition this mission.
On 14 August when this evacuation mission began, we believe that there were between 5,500 and 6,000 Americans in Afghanistan … we got out 97% or 98% of those on the ground, and a small number remain.
We contacted [them] repeatedly over the course of two weeks to come to the airport: 5,500 or more did that. The small number who remain we are committed to getting out, and we will work through every available diplomatic means with the enormous leverage that we have and that the international community has to make that happen.
Such leverage with the Taliban, he said, included “humanitarian assistance that should go directly to the people of Afghanistan, they need help with respect to health and food aid and other forms of subsistence and we do intend to continue that”.
Secondly, when it comes to our economic and development assistance relationship with the Taliban, that will be about the Taliban’s actions, it will be about whether they follow through on their commitments their commitments to safe passage for Americans and Afghan allies, their commitment to not allow Afghanistan to be a base from which terrorists can attack the United States or any other country, their commitments with respect to upholding their international obligations.
It’s going to be up to them.
Dominic Raab has rejected US claims that Britain was indirectly responsible for the suicide attacks at Kabul airport this week because it insisted that the Abbey gate entry point to the site be kept open to allow British nationals to enter the airport.
He said the “story was simply untrue”, adding nothing the UK did required Abbey gate to be kept open.
In a difficult round of media interviews defending the Foreign Office’s role in the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the UK foreign secretary was also unable to say whether call logs would show he made a single phone call to the foreign ministers of Afghanistan or Pakistan in the six months prior to the crisis, adding that he had delegated the issue to a junior minister, Lord Ahmad.
Raab also rounded on his critics, describing them as “backbiting finger-pointing peripheral people involved in buck-passing”, adding that no department had done better than the Foreign Office. Among his targets were retired military figures including Lord Dannatt. Raab said they needed to reflect on whether the resources required for nation-building in such an inhospitable climate as Afghanistan had ever been sufficient.
Defending Britain’s actions before the ISKP – also known as Isis-K – suicide bombings at Kabul airport, he said: “We coordinated very closely with the US, in particular around the Isis-K threat, which we anticipated, although tragically were not able to prevent, but it is certainly right to say we got our civilians out of the processing centre by Abbey gate, but it is just not true to suggest that other than securing our civilians inside the airport that we were pushing to leave the gate open.
“In fact, and let me just be clear about this, we were issuing changes to travel advice before the bomb attack took place and saying to people in the crowd, about which I was particularly concerned, that certainly UK nationals and anyone else should leave because of the risk.”
Raab accepted there had been a surge in the number of claims by Afghans fearful of Taliban reprisals who were stranded in Afghanistan and had contacted the Foreign Office or MPs seeking a chance to come to the UK.
He vowed MPs would be given a proper response in days, but refused to accept claims reported by the Guardian that as many as 7,000 claims or emails had yet to be processed.
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Hossain Rasouli, one of the two Paralympic athletes evacuated from Afghanistan in an emergency operation last week, has been able to take part in competition at Tokyo’s flagship Olympic Stadium.
The 26-year-old, who is primarily a sprinter, competed in the T47 long jump on Tuesday morning. He finished in last place, but recorded a personal best distance of 4m 46 as he took the applause of the competing athletes and delegates.
If Rasouli gave the appearance of being discombobulated, bewildered by the experience, then it was understandable. He flew into the country on Saturday night with his teammate Zakia Khudadadi, who will compete in the taekwondo competition later this week, after being smuggled out of Kabul in dramatic circumstances.
In an international operation that included efforts on the part of ParalympicsGB, Rasouli and Khudadadi were able to enter Kabul airport thanks to the assistance of the Australian military, which had a presence there.
The founder of Human Rights for All, Alison Battisson, who provides legal assistance to refugees and was personally involved in the process of helping the athletes out, described her experience in an interview with the New York Times.
She said that the athletes were guided into the airport remotely using a shared GPS position, and that they were told to carry bright scarves so as to identify themselves to troops once inside. Athletes were given advice such as to hide their papers and money in a bright scarf in their underwear, “and then when you pass through Taliban checkpoints, bring out your scarf and wave it like crazy,” Battisson said.
Khoudadadi and Rasouli got the attention they needed and were able to board a plane. They flew first to Dubai and then on to Paris, where they spent several days at the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance in Paris. On Saturday they came to Tokyo where they were welcomed by the International Paralympic Committee.
“I was very happy to hear they made it to Tokyo, because I had no idea where on the planet they were,” Battisson said.
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As the last US military transport aircraft lifted off from Kabul airport on Monday night, marking the end of two decades of American troops in Afghanistan, celebratory gunfire rang out the capital as Taliban fighters revelled in the end of America’s longest war.
Just two weeks earlier, Taliban fighters had taken Kabul and toppled the government without force as President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. It was a rise to power so swift that it had taken the US and even Taliban leadership by surprise.
After the US announced its departure just before midnight local time, an exit made with little fanfare and no official handover, Taliban spokesperson Qari Yusuf said in statement: “The last US soldier has left Kabul airport and our country gained complete independence.”
The mood was one of jubilance from Afghanistan’s new rulers, marking their return to power 20 years after the first Taliban regime was ousted by the 2001 US military invasion. Footage from inside the city showed loud gunfire ringing out, lighting up the night sky as Taliban fighters fired into air.
“The last five aircraft have left, it’s over!” said Hemad Sherzad, a Taliban fighter stationed at Kabul’s international airport. “I cannot express my happiness in words … Our 20 years of sacrifice worked.”
“The world should have learned their lesson and this is the enjoyable moment of victory,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a livestream posted by a militant.
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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Annual inflation equaled 10-year high in Europe in August, boosted by more expensive fuel and supply chain disruptions. Economists say the jump is temporary, but it could raise questions about how persistent higher inflation might turn out to be.
The 19 countries that use the euro currency saw inflation spike to an annual 3.0% in August, up from 2.2% in July, according to figures released Tuesday by European Union statistics agency Eurostat. Market analysts had expected 2.8%
The increase was so large in part because some prices were much lower a year ago due to one-time factors connected to the coronavirus pandemic. The last time inflation was this high was in November, 2011.
Oil prices, following a price slump a year ago during the depths of the pandemic recession, contributed to a 15.4% rise in energy costs. With volatile fuel and food left out, core inflation was 1.6%. The latest figure also reflects other transitory factors, such the timing of summer retail sales in France and Italy, and the expiration of German tax breaks on retail purchases.
Economists have cited a raft of additional reasons for recently higher prices in Europe. Some hotels and tourist businesses have marked up prices after the end of pandemic lockdowns, while supply chain disruptions and higher raw material prices have raised prices for producers of goods as economic activity has picked up.
The inflation question has been getting global attention, especially after annual U.S. consumer inflation reached 5.4% in July. The International Monetary Fund says it sees inflation returning to pre-pandemic levels in most countries next year, but adds that there’s high uncertainty about that. It cautioned that central banks may need to take action if price increases prove to be more persistent than expected.
Since many of the factors are temporary, economists do not expect the European Central Bank to attempt to counter inflation by curtailing its stimulus programs or by raising interest rates. The central bank’s most recent projections from June see inflation hitting 1.9% for all of this year, and falling to 1.5% next year. The ECB’s governing council next meets Sept. 9 to review its policy stance.
Still, higher inflation is getting public attention, as witnessed by the front page of Germany’s Bild newspaper trumpeting a “new inflation shock” after German figures came in at 3.4% based on inflation outcomes of several regions, the highest in 13 years. Higher inflation expectations could play a role in wage demands by German unions in upcoming negotiations, according to Carsten Brzeski, global head of macro research at ING bank. One member of the ECB’s governing council, Germany’s Jens Weidmann, has warned that inflation could go as high as 5% and then decline, although the future path is uncertain.
The higher figures come after an extended period of low inflation that undershot the ECB’s goal of below but close to 2%. The bank has recently revised the goal to allow for brief periods of inflation above 2%. Inflation has been low across the developed world for years, with economists theorizing that causes could include digitalization, aging populations and global competition in labor markets.
Taliban forces clashed with militia fighters in the Panjshir valley north of the Afghan capital Kabul on Monday night, with at least seven killed, two members of the main anti-Taliban opposition group said on Tuesday.
Since the fall of Kabul on Aug. 15, the Panjshir has been the only province to hold out against the Taliban, although there has also been fighting in neighbouring Baghlan province between Taliban and local militia forces.
Fahim Dashti, a spokesman for the National Resistance Forces, a group loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud, said the fighting occurred on the western entrance to the valley where the Taliban attacked NRF positions.
He said the attack, which may have been a probe to test the valley’s defences, was repulsed with eight Taliban killed and a similar number wounded, while two members of the NRF forces were wounded.
“Last night, the Taliban attacked Panjshir, but were defeated with 7 dead and several wounded,” Bismillah Mohammadi, a member of the resistance movement who served as a minister under exiled President Ashraf Ghani, said in a tweet.
“They retreated with heavy casualties.”
It was not immediately possible to reach a Taliban spokesman for comment.
Massoud, son of the former anti-Soviet mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, has established himself in the Panjshir valley with a force of several thousand, made up of local militias and remnants of army and special forces units.
He has called for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban but has said his forces will resist if their province in the narrow and mountainous valley is attacked.
A significant force of Taliban fighters has been moved to the area but the two sides have so far been engaged in negotiations and have avoided fighting.
Celebratory gunfire resounded across Kabul on Tuesday as Taliban fighters took control of the airport after the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops, marking the end of a 20-year war that left the Islamist militia stronger than it was in 2001.
The Taliban’s spokesman has said that the group will crack down on Islamic State (IS) attacks and expects terror strikes to end once foreign forces leave the country.
“We hope that those Afghans who are influenced by IS… will give up their operations on seeing the formation of an Islamic government in the absence of foreigners,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP. “If they create a situation for war and continue with their operations, the Islamic government… we will deal with them.”
A devastating suicide bomb attack claimed by IS outside Kabul airport on Thursday killed scores of people who were hoping to flee the country, as well as 13 US service members. Retaliatory and pre-emptive strikes by the United States on IS positions over the past few days seem to have angered the terrorists.
The Pentagon said it carried out a drone strike on Sunday against a vehicle threatening Kabul airport that had been linked to IS.
“There is no permission for them to do such operations… our independence must be respected,” the Taliban spokesperson said.
Islamic State has been highly critical of the troop withdrawal deal struck between the Taliban and Washington last year, which saw the Taliban offer security guarantees.
One IS commentary published after the fall of Kabul accused the Taliban of betraying jihadists with the US withdrawal deal and vowed to continue its fight, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant communications.
During the Taliban’s prison break spree this summer to free its fighters, many battle-hardened IS militants were also released – increasingly looking like a lethal error.
Although both groups are hardline Sunni Islamist militants, they have differed on the minutiae of religion and strategy, while each claiming to be the true flag-bearers of jihad.
In recent years, the IS Afghanistan-Pakistan chapter has been responsible for some of the attacks in those countries.
Global coalition’s vow
A group of countries that have banded together to fight Islamic State, including the US, released a statement pledging to work to eliminate the group. “We will draw on all elements of national power – military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, law enforcement – to ensure the defeat of this brutal terrorist organisation,” the coalition said in a statement released by the US state department.
Macron’s ‘safe zone’ call
Russia has welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to create a “safe zone” in Kabul to protect humanitarian operations. “This is certainly a proposal that must be discussed,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. He said that it was “very important” to discuss all aspects of “such a zone”.
France and Britain will urge the United Nations Security Council on Monday to work for the creation of this secure area to “allow humanitarian work to continue”, Macron said.
World needs to guide the Taliban: China tells US
The international community including the US should “guide” the Taliban, provide aid, stop the currency from depreciating and help maintain stability, Chinese state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi has told US secretary of state Antony Blinken.
“The US should… help Afghanistan fight terrorism and stop violence, rather than playing double standards or fighting terrorism selectively,” Wang said in a phone call with Blinken.
With inputs from Sutirtho Patranobis in Beijing
A Taliban spokesperson has condemned the US for not informing them beforehand of the drone airstrike that US officials had previously said they carried out in “self-defence” against an Afghan member of the Islamic State group in Nangarhar province. Spokesperson of Taliban claims that the attack has resulted in civilian casualties.
In other news, South Africa has identified a new potential COVID-19 variant of interest (VOI). The strain was first spotted in May 2021 during the third wave of Covid in the country and study results indicate that the strain named ‘C.1.2’ develops 41.8 mutations per year. This is an increase of roughly 1.7 fold over the current global rate as well as an increase of approximately 1.8 fold over the original estimate for SARS-CoV-2 evolution.
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A Taliban spokesperson has accused the United States of not informing them beforehand of the drone strike, claiming that civilians were killed in the attack.
The discovery of a new variant of interest (VOI) for COVID-19 has been made in South Africa. It is believed that the variant evolved from C.1, which was predominant during the first outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 in South Africa.
Concern was expressed by the World Health Organization (WHO) over the increasing transmission rates of the Coronavirus in Europe.
As the US withdrew from Kabul on Tuesday, dozens of Afghans who had been attempting to flee the Taliban received help from an unexpected source: Instagram influencer Quentin Quarantino.
A team of SAS fighters has volunteered to avenge the deaths of 13 US troops killed in an airport suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan.
According to Bloomberg News, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has fired ten employees for reporting a female colleague’s sexual assault allegation against a former manager.
UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced Monday that leaded petrol use has been eliminated from the globe, a milestone that will prevent 1.2 million premature deaths and save the world economy over $2.4 trillion annually.
At the Tokyo Paralympic Games 2020, Sumit Antil wins the gold medal in the men’s javelin throw (F64) final event, with a world record throw of 68.55 meters.
The US reportedly deployed the deadly R9X variant of the AGM-114 Hellfire missile from its MQ-9 Reaper drone as it killed two militants in Afghanistan.
An armed robbery in Brazil left at least three people dead after bank robbers strapped civilian hostages to the outside of their car as a human shield.
Still, there’s always a fear that the next storm could be “the big one”. Kenneth McGruder has lived in the lower 9th ward for more than 30 years. He evacuated for Hurricane Katrina and, like many others, came back to find his house under water. He is an older man who speaks openly about the trauma that caused.
The UK evacuation effort from Afghanistan had to focus on people already at Kabul airport meaning many cases raised by MPs and others may not have been looked at, a Foreign Office minister has said.
James Cleverly did not deny that a large numbers of emails about Afghans potentially eligible to leave the UK might still be unopened in official inboxes, as revealed by the Observer. There had been “a flood of requests” for help, Cleverly said.
“We focused on the people who were at the airport, were being processed, and who we felt we could get out through whilst we still had security of Kabul airport,” he told the BBC, though many people have told of failed attempts to be allowed into the airport despite having their UK passport and evacuation authorisation documents.
“We will of course continue to work through applications from people who have contacted us, who are still try to get out of Afghanistan,” Cleverly said.
He said it was “impossible number to put a figure on” the number of people stuck in Afghanistan who would be eligible for UK help, though Whitehall sources have suggested this number was about 9,000.
While the “vast, vast bulk” of British nationals had left Afghanistan, Cleverly added, the figures were less clear both for people who could qualify under Arap, the formal scheme for Afghan nationals who assisted UK forces, or for others potentially targeted by the Taliban.
He said: “We are going to continue working to get people out who fall into those groups – predominantly now, of course, it will be in that third group – people at risk of reprisals, whether they be high-profile individuals … religious minorities or others who may be under severe risk of reprisals from the Taliban.”
Up to 5,000 emails to the Foreign Office detailing urgent cases of Afghans seeking to escape Kabul remained unread, including those sent by MPs and charities, the Observer reported on Sunday.
It followed complaints from MPs that they and constituents who alerted officials to people inside Afghanistan needing UK assistance had received no response.
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Several rockets were fired at Kabul airport on Monday, less than 48 hours before the United States is due to complete its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Eyewitnesses said the rockets were launched from a car and were aimed towards the airport on Monday morning. It appears Salim Karwan, a neighbourhood adjacent to the airport, was hit in one of the blasts. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
Smoke could be seen rising above buildings in the north of the city, where the Hamid Karzai international airport is located, and gunfire could be heard after the explosions.
Locals reported hearing the activation of airport’s missile defence system, and pictures on social media showed shrapnel falling on to rooftops and the street, suggesting that at least one rocket had been intercepted.
Social media posts, which could not immediately be verified, also showed a vehicle in flames after being apparently struck by retaliatory fire.
In Washington, the White House issued a statement saying President Joe Biden was being briefed on “the rocket attack at Hamid Karzai international airport” in Kabul.
“The president was informed that operations continue uninterrupted at HKIA [Hamid Karzai international airport], and has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritise doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground,” the statement said.
It followed warnings issued by Biden on Saturday that another terrorist attack in Kabul was highly likely in the next 24 to 36 hours. On Thursday, Islamic State, rivals of the Taliban, carried out a suicide bomb attack at the airport that killed more than 150 people, including 13 US troops, and IS militants pose the greatest threat to the final phase of US evacuations.
Biden has set a deadline of 31 August to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan, drawing to a close his nation’s longest military conflict. The UK, Nato and all other western countries ended their evacuation missions over the weekend.
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“This is the first case in New Zealand where a death in the days following vaccination has been linked to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. While the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring has received other reports of deaths in someone recently vaccinated, none are considered related to vaccination,” it said in a statement.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — The Ivy League was the first conference to scuttle its basketball postseason when the pandemic broke out during March Madness a year and a half ago. It was the first Division I conference to suspend fall sports in July 2020.
Now the schools are getting back on the field the same way they left: cautiously.
All eight Ivies are requiring that their football teams be vaccinated for COVID-19 — just like the rest of the students on campus. Ivy League executive director Robin Harris said this month that the goal had been reached with “very limited medical or religious” exceptions.
“While COVID-19 is very much a part of our lives, we believe in the campus policies,” she said. “This allows us to plan for a regular football season.”
Although the alliance of eight prestigious private schools in the Northeast has always been more about academics than athletics, the Ivy League decision to cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments before anyone else on March 10, 2020, was a turning point in the response to the pandemic. Other college and professional leagues soon followed amid a worldwide sports shutdown.
In the almost 18 months since, the Ivies have remained idle with the exception of scattered individuals or teams competing in some one-off, nonconference events, including the NCAA rowing championships. That ended when all eight women’s soccer teams opened their seasons on Aug. 27, with Harvard playing Fairfield in the Crimson’s first intercollegiate sporting event since March 8, 2020.
“You don’t always appreciate how much you miss something until it’s taken from you,” Harvard football coach Tim Murphy said.
Since then, players were able to do different things to stay in shape, depending on restrictions in their home states or countries. And because of the varied local restrictions, players returned this fall in a wide rage of fitness levels.
“I think we did the best job we possibly could have, and it’s going to show this season,” Brown running back Allen Smith said. “It’s been a long time coming, so we could not be more excited to get back to Brown football.”
Brown did have spring football practice, but Columbia had few students — and thus, players — on campus last fall, and mostly seniors in the spring; Harvard had some freshman last fall and a small contingent in the spring.
Murphy said his team will have just eight padded practices in almost two years between its 50-43, double-overtime loss to Yale in The Game and its 2021 opener Sept. 18 at Georgetown.
“We’ve all had different on-campus footprints,” he said. “It does leave a lot of question marks.”
As they return, players will face new protocols to combat the spread of the delta variant.
In addition to the vaccine requirement, Dartmouth players will wear masks indoors, with improved air filtration and circulation; some meetings on the Hanover, New Hampshire, campus will be held outdoors. Cambridge has a city-wide indoor mask mandate that goes into effect on Sept. 3.
“Harvard’s done a remarkable job, making sure that students — and the student athletes, therefore — are healthy and well,” Murphy said. “I know that our medical folks have done a phenomenal job, and whatever they tell us to do, we’re 100% going to do it.”
Penn coach Ray Priore said he reached out to coaches who played or practiced in the spring — including his brother, Chuck, who is the head coach at Stony Brook. Chip Kelly at UCLA also passed along a little advice for ramping things up after the long layoff: “Less is more.”
“You grab some of those tidbits and wisdoms: How many reps do you really need; do more with walkthroughs. The key thing is how we maximize our time with our players,” Priore said. “We’ve been in the Zoom world for a long time.”
Princeton coach Bob Surace noted that his team now includes five different classes — itself a big change — and two of them he’s never met. Dartmouth’s Buddy Teevens also said he was anxious to actually see his players in person.
“I don’t completely know what these guys look like,” he said. “The guy that says he’s 6-5, 280, he could be 5-11 just wearing a big coat.”
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