Joe Biden, the president of the United States, has committed to keeping troops in Afghanistan until every American is evacuated, even if that means maintaining a military presence beyond his August 31 deadline for withdrawal.
The pledge on Wednesday came as 5,000 people were evacuated from Kabul’s airport and armed members of the Taliban kept some Afghans desperate to leave the country from reaching the airfield.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin acknowledged evacuations had not reached targets, but said the US military does not have the forces and firepower in Afghanistan to expand its current mission from securing the Kabul airport to collecting Americans and at-risk Afghans elsewhere in the capital and escorting them for evacuation.
Meanwhile in the city of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Taliban fighters opened fire at protesters who tried to install Afghanistan’s national flag at a square in the city, killing at least three and wounding dozens more.
A senior Taliban official told Reuters news agency that a new government in Afghanistan may take the form of a ruling council with the group’s supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada in overall charge.
Afghanistan will not be a democracy, said Waheedullah Hashimi.
“It is sharia law and that is it.”
The United Arab Emirates confirmed hosting President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country as Taliban fighters surrounded Kabul on Sunday.
The disgraced leader spoke for the first time since his departure, saying that he had left Kabul to prevent bloodshed and denied reports he took large sums of money with him as he fled the presidential palace.
Here are the latest updates:
UN warns of hunger in Afghanistan
Mary Ellen McGroarty, the head of the United Nations food agency in Afghanistan, said a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the country with 14 million people facing severe hunger following the Taliban takeover.
The World Food Program’s country director told reporters in a video briefing that the conflict in Afghanistan, the nation’s second severe drought in three years, and the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed an already dire situation into a “catastrophe”.
More than 40 percent of crops have been lost, she said, while hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by the Taliban advance.
McGroarty called for a halt to the conflict and urged donors to provide the $200m needed to get food into the country so it can get to communities before winter sets in and roads are blocked.
“Really the race is on to get food where it’s most needed,” she said.
Media watchdog calls on Taliban to stop journalist attacks
The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling on the Taliban to stop attacking journalists and searching their homes after being informed of at least four incidents since the group took power.
The CPJ says the media must be allowed to “operate freely and without fear of violence or reprisal”.
It said it had received reports of at least four journalists who had had their homes searched since the Taliban takeover, and was investigating reports that at least two reporters in Jalalabad had been beaten by the Taliban.
IMF blocks Afghanistan access to reserves citing ‘lack of clarity’
The International Monetary Fund has suspended Afghanistan’s access to IMF resources, including about $440 million in new monetary reserves.
The IMF’s announcement follows pressure from the US Treasury, which holds a controlling share in the Fund, to ensure that Afghanistan’s share of a Special Drawing Rights reserves allocation scheduled for Monday not fall into Taliban hands.
“There is currently a lack of clarity within the international community regarding recognition of a government in Afghanistan, as a consequence of which the country cannot access SDRs or other IMF resources,” an IMF spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“As is always the case, the IMF is guided by the views of the international community,” the spokesperson 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 18, go here.