The Latest: US veterans hope more Afghans at risk can leave

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Two girls from Afghanistan wait with other evacuees to fly to the United States or another safe location in a makeshift gate inside a hanger at the U.S. Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. The United States is using the military base in Ramstein, Palatinate, as a hub for the evacuation of shelter seekers and local forces from Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

WASHINGTON — U.S. veterans groups hope that news that private evacuation flights are starting up again for Western citizens in Kabul means Afghans considered at risk for past work with Americans will soon be able to leave again as well.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers, veterans groups and other American organizations and individuals have been pressing the Biden administration to do more to get out those vulnerable Afghans. They include thousands of Afghans who used to work with the U.S. military, and are eligible for what are known as Special Immigrant Visas.

James Miervaldis, a spokesman with a veterans group, No One Left Behind working on behalf of those Afghans, called the news, “Awesome. We’ll start getting SIVs booked up.”

Miervaldis said he had yet to hear a commitment from officials to get Afghan allies on the flights out as well as citizens. But veterans had talked with Secretary of State Antony Blinken last Friday, and let him know that the organizations working to get Afghans out have committed $2 million for commercial air fare out of Afghanistan.

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MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is interested in peace and stability in Afghanistan and in stopping the exodus of Afghans from the country, which has been triggered by the Taliban’s swift power grab last month.

Putin spoke at a summit on Thursday via videoconference to officials from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. He told BRICS leaders that “Russia, just like its BRICS partners, consistently supports the establishment of the long-awaited peace and stability on the Afghan land.”

Putin said Russia is “interested in stopping the flow of migration” and wants Afghans to “live peaceful and dignified lives in their motherland.”

Moscow, which fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with the Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989, has made a diplomatic comeback as a mediator over the past few years, reaching out to the feuding Afghan factions, including the Taliban — even though Russia has labeled them a terrorist organization.

Unlike many other countries, Russia hasn’t announced a pledge to take in Afghan refugees in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of power. Putin has previous said that Moscow doesn’t “want militants appearing (in Russia) again under the guise of refugees.”

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MORE ON AFGHANISTAN:

— Taliban name caretaker Cabinet that pays homage to old guard

— US-built databases a potential tool of Taliban repression

— Blinken and Austin to visit Gulf to address postwar stresses

— Taliban say they took Panjshir, last holdout Afghan province

— Over 24 hours in Kabul, brutality, trauma, moments of grace

— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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ISLAMABAD — CIA Director William Burns has met with Pakistan’s powerful army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, the military said.

In a statement, the military said regional security and developments in Afghanistan were discussed during the meeting Thursday. It didn’t elaborate.

“Pakistan remains committed to cooperate with its international partners for peace in the region and ensuring a stable and prosperous future for the Afghan people,” the statement said.

Burns thanked Pakistan for its role in the evacuation operations from Afghanistan and pledged further improvements in diplomatic cooperation with Pakistan.

Burns also met with Pakistan’s intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hamid, the statement said.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan says Qatar’s foreign minister will arrive in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad to discuss the latest situation in Afghanistan.

In a statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said Qatari chief diplomat Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani during his day-long visit Thursday will meet with Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other top officials.

It said Pakistan and Qatar enjoy close, cordial ties. “The two countries closely collaborate on regional and global issues of common interest,” the statement said.

The development comes two days after the Taliban announced an interim government for Afghanistan. The Taliban maintain a political office in Doha.

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The interior ministry of the new Taliban government is seeking to end protests in Afghanistan after days of demonstrations that have brought heavy-handed assaults on protesters.

The minister has issued an order to end all protests in the country — unless demonstrators get prior permission, including approval of slogans and banners.

It’s unlikely the women who have been leading near daily protest demanding their rights from the country’s hardline Islamic rulers will be allowed to protest under the new rules. In the words of the ministry’s statement: “It is announced to all citizens not to attempt at the present time to hold any demonstrations under any name whatsoever.”

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has taken to Twitter to say his flight from Kabul on Aug. 15 was done to save Afghanistan’s capital from bloodshed. He says his security personnel advised the secret departure, which opened the gates of the city to a Taliban takeover.

Ghani also denies widespread allegations of corruption as well as charges that he left the country with millions of dollars. He says there should be an independent investigation.

Ghani’s sudden departure has been widely criticized both in Afghanistan and abroad. Washington blamed Ghani’s flight and the government’s collapse for a Taliban takeover ahead of a negotiated deal.

Prominent Afghan political figures who stayed behind say they had expected to meet with Taliban political leaders the following day to continue negotiations.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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