Afghanistan updates: Taliban allowing some Americans, other Westerners to leave: Qatari envoy

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(KABUL, Afghanistan) — With the U.S. military and diplomatic withdrawal now complete after 20 years in Afghanistan, the Taliban has taken over the country, including the Kabul airport, the site of an often-desperate evacuation effort in past weeks.

But even as the last American troops were flown out to meet President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline, other Americans who wanted to flee the country were left behind. The Biden administration is now focused on a “diplomatic mission” to help them leave but some hoping to evacuate are still stuck in the country. Meanwhile, the Taliban has announced its new “caretaker” government which includes men with U.S. bounties on their heads — and no women.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Sep 09, 3:57 pm
More than 30 Americans invited as passengers on flight from Kabul, some declined

More than 30 U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents were invited by the U.S. to be passengers on the first chartered flight out of Kabul since the American evacuation mission ended, but not all said yes. Some said no because of medical reasons, extended family members or their desire for more time, among other reasons, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

Price said he could not give an exact number of those who did make Thursday’s flight to Qatar.

Echoing an earlier statement from the National Security Council, Price said he welcomed the Qatari Airways departure from Kabul. He said he hopes and expects more flights will be allowed to continue in the days to come.

Sep 09, 2:16 pm
White House confirms flight with Americans landed in Qatar, calls Taliban cooperation ‘professional’

National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne has confirmed that U.S. citizens and permanent residents were among the passengers on the first charter flight to leave the airport in Kabul since Qatar took over operations at the airport and that they have safely landed in Qatar.

The statement offered no passenger numbers, so it’s unclear how many U.S. citizens were on board, but it did provide some praise for the Taliban’s cooperation.

“The Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents on charter flights from HKIA. They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort. This is a positive first step,” the statement said.

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

Sep 09, 1:33 pm
Defense secretary: New Taliban government ‘more of the same’

The United States has not seen evidence that the Taliban’s newly formed government will be as inclusive as promised, and it appears to be “more of the same” with “many of the same actors,” according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“I think the whole international community was hopeful that they would be inclusive as they kind of said they would be weeks and months ago,” Austin told a small group of reporters traveling with him to the Middle East. “But we’ve not seen evidence of that early on, and so it appears to be many of the same actors.”

Austin said the U.S. and the international community would continue “to listen to what they’re saying, but we’re watching what they’re doing and right now it just seems that it’s more of the same.”

The Taliban’s new government includes several leaders of the Haqqani network, which has been directly tied to violent attacks against American troops over the last two decades, including the group’s de facto leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, who was named as interior minister.

“They want sanctions lifted, and that sort of business so they have goals and aspirations,” said Austin. “If they demonstrate that they’re going to harbor terrorism, and in Afghanistan, all of that will be very very difficult for them to achieve.”

Sep 09, 11:48 am
1st passenger flight out of Kabul since US withdrawal takes off

A Qatari Airways plane took off at 9:48 a.m. from Kabul, according to FlightRadar24, en route to Doha, Qatar — the first passenger flight out of Afghanistan’s capital since the U.S. withdrew all ground troops and the Taliban seized control of the airport.

Passengers are expected to make their own journeys on commercial flights from Doha.

The flight has U.S. citizens and other Westerners on board, according to Mutlaq bin Majed al Qahtani, the Qatari envoy.

-ABC News’ Sam Sweeny and Conor Finnegan

Sep 09, 8:41 am
Americans, foreigners to leave Kabul on first flight since Taliban takeover: Qatari envoy

A Qatari Airways flight has landed at Kabul’s international airport and will be the first to fly out of Afghanistan’s capital since the Taliban seized power, with U.S. citizens and other Westerners on board, Qatar’s special envoy for Afghanistan announced on the tarmac Thursday alongside the Taliban’s spokesperson.

A State Department spokesperson told ABC News, “As we have said, our efforts to assist U.S. citizens and others to whom we have a special commitment are ongoing, but we aren’t in a position to share additional details at this time.”

Mutlaq bin Majed al Qahtani, the Qatari envoy, told reporters during the joint press conference, “Call it what you want, a charter or a commercial flight — everyone has tickets and boarding passes.”

He said the airport in Kabul will be fully up and running, telling reporters, “Hopefully life is becoming normal in Afghanistan.”

While the number and breakdown of passengers it’s unclear, this is the first large departure — the first flight out — of Americans and other foreigners since the U.S. evacuation operation ended last week, leaving hundreds of U.S. citizens and thousands of Afghan partners behind.

Sep 08, 3:00 pm
All US service members who died in Kabul attack to be awarded Purple Heart

All 13 U.S. service members who died in the Aug. 26 airport attack in Kabul will be posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

Both the Marine Corps and the Army told ABC News their members will receive the decoration after the Navy announced on Tuesday that the one member of its service that died was posthumously promoted and would also be awarded the Purple Heart.

“The 11 Marines killed-in-action while supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel will be awarded the Purple Heart,” said Capt. Andrew Wood, Marine Corps spokesperson on Tuesday.

The Army’s 1st Special Forces Command said in a press release the day after the attack that its member who died, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star medal and Combat Action Badge.

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