Taliban forces seal off Kabul airport to Afghans hoping to be evacuated.

Taliban forces have sealed off Kabul’s airport to most Afghans hoping for evacuation.

The move came as most Nato nations flew out their troops after two decades in Afghanistan, winding down a frantic airlift that Western leaders acknowledged was still leaving many of their citizens and local allies behind.

The United States, which says the round-the-clock flights have evacuated more than 100,000 people since the Taliban claimed Kabul on August 15th, was keeping up airlifts ahead of president Joe Biden’s Tuesday deadline for withdrawal.

Britain also was carrying out its final evacuation flights on Saturday , though prime minister Boris Johnson promised to “shift heaven and earth” to get more of those at risk from the Taliban to Britain by other means.

Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow, said in a video from Kabul airport and posted on Twitter that it was “time to close this phase of the operation now”.

A handout image from the US Marine Corps shows marines providing security at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photograph: AP

A handout image from the US Marine Corps shows marines providing security at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photograph: AP

“But we haven’t forgotten the people who still need to leave,” he said. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to help them. Nor have we forgotten the brave, decent people of Afghanistan. They deserve to live in peace and security.”

Taliban forces were holding some positions within the airport, ready to peacefully take control as American forces fly out, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

The Pentagon stressed on Friday that the Taliban, who now run Afghanistan, were not in control of any operations at the airport.

Outside the airport, Taliban leaders deployed extra forces on Saturday to prevent large crowds from gathering after a devastating suicide attack two days earlier.

New layers of checkpoints sprang up on roads leading to the airport, some manned by uniformed Taliban fighters with night-vision goggles captured from Afghan security forces. Areas where large crowds had gathered over the past two weeks in the hopes of fleeing the country were largely empty.

A suicide attack on Thursday by an Islamic State group affiliate killed 169 Afghans and 13 US service members, and there were concerns that the group, which is far more radical than the Taliban, could strike again.

US Major General Hank Taylor said during a Pentagon news conference on Saturday that a retaliatory drone strike ordered by Mr Biden killed two “high-profile” IS militants believed to have been involved in planning or facilitating attacks, not one, as initially reported.

“The fact that two of these individuals are no longer walking on the face of the Earth, that’s a good thing,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

An Afghan who worked as a translator for the US military said he was with a group of people with permission to leave who tried to reach the airport on Friday.

After passing through three checkpoints they were stopped at a fourth. An argument ensued, and the Taliban said they had been told by the Americans to only let US passport-holders through.

“I am so hopeless for my future,” the man told The Associated Press after returning to Kabul. “If the evacuation is over, what will happen to us?”

The Pentagon said on Friday that Afghans with the proper documents were still being allowed in.

On Saturday, the Taliban fired warning shots and deployed some kind of coloured smoke on a road leading to the airport, sending dozens of people scattering, according to a video circulating online that was consistent with AP reporting.

Economic crises

Afghans, meanwhile, faced economic crises as many Western governments withheld support from Taliban rule.

In Kabul, hundreds of protesters, including many civil servants, gathered outside a bank while countless more lined up at cash machines.

They said they had not been paid for three to six months and were unable to withdraw cash. ATM machines were still operating, but withdrawals were limited to about 200 dollars every 24 hours.

Later on Saturday, the central bank ordered commercial bank branches to open and allow customers to withdraw $200 per week, calling it a temporary measure.

The economic crisis, which predates the Taliban takeover, could give Western nations leverage as they urge Afghanistan’s new rulers to form a moderate, inclusive government and allow people to leave after Tuesday.

Afghanistan is heavily dependent on international aid, which covered around 75 per cent of the toppled Western-backed government’s budget.

The Taliban has said it wants good relations with the international community and has promised a more moderate form of Islamic rule than when it last governed the country, but many Afghans are deeply sceptical.

The Taliban cannot access almost any of the central bank’s $9 billion in reserves, most of which is held by the New York Federal Reserve.

Without a regular supply of US dollars, the local currency is at risk of collapse, which could send the price of basic goods soaring.

Drought

A UN agency has warned that a worsening drought threatens the livelihoods of more than seven million people. The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation said Afghans are also suffering from the coronavirus pandemic and displacement from the recent fighting.

Earlier this month, the UN World Food Programme estimated that about 14 million people roughly one out of every three Afghans – urgently needed food assistance.

Mr Biden has said he will adhere to a self-imposed Tuesday deadline for withdrawing all US forces.

The Taliban, who control nearly the entire country outside of Kabul’s airport, have rejected any extension.

Italy said its final evacuation flight had landed in Rome but that it would work with the United Nations and countries bordering Afghanistan to continue helping Afghans who had worked with its military contingent to leave the country.

“Our imperative must be to not abandon the Afghan people,” especially women and children, Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Maio said.

The Taliban has encouraged Afghans to stay, pledging amnesty even to those who fought against them.

They have said commercial flights will resume after the US withdrawal, but it is unclear if airlines will be willing to offer service.

The US and its allies have said they will continue providing humanitarian aid through the UN and other partners, but any broader engagement – including development assistance – is likely to hinge on whether the Taliban delivers on its promises of more moderate rule. – AP

The Irish Times

The Irish Times online. Latest news including sport, analysis, business, weather and more from the definitive brand of quality news in Ireland.

https://www.irishtimes.com/

Taiwan Receives 160,000 Doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine from Slovakia.

Taiwan Receives 160,000 Doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine from Slovakia.

A plane carrying 160,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from Slovakia arrived at Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan on Sunday, September 26. ––––––––– READ MORE: The shipment was donated by the Slovakian government as a gesture of ...

More Than 12,000 Migrants Remain In The U.S.

More Than 12,000 Migrants Remain In The U.S.

The makeshift migrant camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas is no more. More than 12,000 migrants, mostly Haitian, remain in the U.S. seeking asylum.» Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NBC video: NBC News Digital is a collection of innovative an...

Pfizer Booster Vaccines Rolled Out in U.S.

Pfizer Booster Vaccines Rolled Out in U.S.

People across the country got their Pfizer booster shots this weekend. Doctors in the U.S. say there’s not enough data to support mixing vaccines. Health officials encourage booster shots for those eligible.» Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NB...

New York School Vaccine Mandate Temporarily Blocked.

New York School Vaccine Mandate Temporarily Blocked.

Hours before a vaccine mandate was set to go into effect for teachers in New York, a federal judge temporarily blocked its enforcement. Nearly 150,000 school employees would have needed their first vaccination dose by Monday.» Subscribe to NBC New...

Three Killed, Dozens Injured in Amtrak Train Derailment.

Three Killed, Dozens Injured in Amtrak Train Derailment.

An Amtrak train with 141 people and 16 crew members derailed near Joplin, Montana. Three died in the incident, and dozens more were injured. Federal investigators are on scene to determine what went wrong. » Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NBC...

Battles grow over vaccine mandates

Battles grow over vaccine mandates

Nearly 1,600 people die from the virus every day. WATCH THE FULL EPISODE OF 'WORLD NEWS TONIGHT': WATCH OTHER FULL EPISODES OF WORLD NEWS TONIGHT: WATCH WORLD NEWS TONIGHT ON HULU: #WorldNewsTonight #Vaccines #Boosters #COVID-19