Afghanistan updates: Taliban celebrates US exit with mock funeral


(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 the past two 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 and the Biden administration is now focused on a “diplomatic mission” to help them leave.

When President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House on Aug. 18, he said he was committed to keeping the U.S. military in Afghanistan as long as needed. “If there are American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out,” he said.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Sep 01, 10:26 am
Taliban celebrates US departure

With all U.S. ground troops out of Afghanistan, scenes around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Wednesday showed Taliban fighters in Afghan National Army uniforms after the militant group seized the airport, with some firing celebratory gunshots into the air — a far different picture from the days preceding.

Hours before Biden addressed the nation on Tuesday and firmly defended the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban held a mock funeral in Kabul with show caskets draped with U.S., U.K. and French flags to symbolize what it has called the defeat of NATO allies after 20 years.

The Taliban also released a video overnight they say shows their troops flying over the Kandahar province in an Afghan military helicopter as the militant group works to maintain a hold on the country.

A defiant Biden on Tuesday said that he refused to extend a “forever war” and would not be “extending a forever exit.” The president on Wednesday is meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and does not have any Afghanistan-related briefings on his public schedule.

Aug 31, 6:53 pm
1st plane to bring aid since Taliban took control landed Monday

As the U.S. prepared to evacuate from Kabul airport Monday, the World Health Organization flew a plane into the country with desperately needed aid.

On Monday, 12.5 metric tons of urgent medical supplies were flown from WHO’s warehouse in Dubai to Mazar-i-Sharif airport — not to Kabul, because of the “ongoing disruptions” there, according to WHO.

This is the first medical aid plane to land in Afghanistan since the Taliban took control, according to WHO — and it comes amid a growing need and deteriorating conditions.

“WHO is exploring more options to get further shipments into the country until a reliable humanitarian airbridge to scale-up collective humanitarian effort is established,” the UN agency said in a statement.

Aug 31, 6:17 pm
Top enlisted service member tells troops their service mattered

The military’s top enlisted service member sent a message to U.S. troops reassuring them that their service in Afghanistan mattered.

“You can hold your head high that we prevented an attack on the United States homeland,” writes Ramon Colon-Lopez, the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“To each of you, your service mattered,” he added. “This is personal to us, and we know it is personal to every one of you.”

He also praised those involved in the massive airlift from Afghanistan.

“Your actions honor the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters in arms who lost their lives or were wounded in Afghanistan,” he wrote. “Over the last two decades and the last 2 weeks. you embodied our American values of equality, liberty, and human dignity for all.”

Aug 31, 5:53 pm
US-funded journalists left behind, no updates on airport talks, overland routes

Some 500 Afghan journalists and their families who were employed by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) were left behind in Afghanistan — reporters, producers and more who worked for Voice of America and other U.S.-funded outlets, according to the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We did not forget about USAGM employees and their families, nor will we. These individuals … have not only worked for us, they have worked with us,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price. “We remain keenly focused on getting them out safely just as soon as we can.”

Price wouldn’t confirm how many there are or what the plans to evacuate them may be, saying it was “not prudent for us to speak to tactics.”

He cited the same reason for declining to say more about how the U.S. may help some Americans travel on overland routes to escape Afghanistan, saying only that it “reinforces the point that we’re looking at all available options to bring Americans to safety.”

Price also had no status update on the negotiations to reopen Kabul’s airport, no update on how many American citizens remain in Afghanistan and no update on a protecting power — a country that oversees U.S. interests where there is no embassy, like Switzerland in Iran or the Czech Republic in Syria.

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