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U.S. Embassy in Kabul successfully evacuated

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Taliban sweeps across Afghanistan
Taliban sweeps across Afghanistan 02:16

The latest updates from Afghanistan

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, was successfully evacuated Sunday night, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. "All Embassy personnel are located on the premises of Hamid Karzai International Airport, whose perimeter is secured by the U.S. Military," Price added.

A Defense Department official said Sunday that 1,000 troops are being sent to the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, as the capital city fell into Taliban hands. The stunning development unfolded rapidly on Sunday as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul and the U.S. evacuated Americans from the country. 

The additional troops will bring the total number of authorized military in Kabul to 6,000, with 3,000 on the ground now.

There are still sporadic commercial flights out of Kabul International Airport, which is being run by the U.S. military. There have been reports of sporadic gunfire around the airport, but a Defense Department official said the shelter in place order was an attempt to keep the flow of  people at the airport manageable.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered there be "no empty seats," meaning every plane out of Kabul International Airport must be full. It's unclear how many American citizens are still in the country. 

The Taliban took control of the presidential palace on Sunday. Ghani said Sunday that he left Afghanistan to spare the country any bloodshed.

"[The] Taliban have won the judgment of sword and guns and now they are responsible for protecting the countrymen's honor, wealth and self-esteem," Ghani wrote on Facebook, according to an automated translation.

General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told senators in a briefing that al Qaeda could now reconstitute itself faster than the original estimate of two years.  Austin said he would also have to reevaluate his own estimates.

The White House tried to project an image of calm, tweeting that President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with national security officials and other senior officials about Afghanistan. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected any comparisons to the U.S. pullout from Vietnam. "This is manifestly not Saigon," Blinken said on ABC's "This Week." 

The U.N. Security Council called an emergency meeting for Monday morning.

APTOPIX Afghanistan
A man sells Taliban flags in Herat province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. Hamed Sarfarazi / AP
 

Intelligence officials push back on criticism

The scramble to evacuate thousands of American citizens from Kabul as the Taliban closed in on the Afghan capital prompted criticism from some Republican lawmakers and other observers that the U.S. intelligence community had failed to anticipate how quickly the government would fall. 

Current and former intelligence officials pushed back on those accusations Sunday. 

"We have noted the troubling trend lines in Afghanistan for some time, with the Taliban at its strongest, militarily, since 2001," a senior U.S. intelligence official told CBS News. "Strategically, a rapid Taliban takeover was always a possibility."

"The question all along was whether the Afghan government and military would be cohesive enough and have the willpower needed to exercise its military capabilities to resist the Taliban. As the Taliban advanced, they ultimately met with little resistance," the official said. "We have always been clear-eyed that this was possible, and tactical conditions on the ground can often evolve quickly." 

The official said the intelligence community's focus would now be on preventing future terror attacks and supporting ongoing efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan partners. 

Former CIA acting director and CBS News senior national security contributor Michael Morell said on Twitter that the developments in Afghanistan were not the result of an intelligence failure but of "numerous policy failures by multiple administrations." 

"Of all the players over the years, the Intelligence Community by far has seen the situation in Afghanistan most accurately," Morell wrote. 

By Olivia Gazis
 

House Intel Committee to hold classified briefing

The House Intelligence Committee will hold a classified briefing for its members on Afghanistan "soon," committee chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday.

A committee official told CBS News the briefing will cover the intelligence community's assessment of the trajectory of Afghanistan and how it evolved, as well as the U.S.'s current priorities, including the counterterrorism mission in the region and evacuating as many Afghan allies as possible.

By Olivia Gazis
 

All U.S. Embassy personnel evacuated

All U.S. Embassy personnel have been safely evacuated, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Sunday.

"All Embassy personnel are located on the premises of Hamid Karzai International Airport, whose perimeter is secured by the U.S. Military," Price added.

By Jordan Freiman
 

From the 60 Minutes Archive: Women describe life under the Taliban

2001: Women describe life under the Taliban 07:03

From 2001, five young women, refugees from Afghanistan, talk about living under Taliban rule.  

 

Afghan evacuees who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the U.S., State and Defense Departments say

The State and Defense Departments issued a joint statement Sunday night saying the U.S. will be evacuating thousands from Kabul in the coming days. Thousands of American citizens who have been residents in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul, their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals, will be evacuated.

Additionally, the two departments said the process for Special Immigrant Visas will be sped up. For all categories, Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States, and those who have yet to be screened will be sent to additional locations. 

By Caroline Linton
 

U.S. ambassador is at the airport

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, is at the airport, and has been in close contact with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a State Department official said.

Almost all embassy personnel have been relocated from the embassy compound to a facility at the airport, the State Department official said. The American flag has been lowered from the U.S. embassy compound and is now securely located with embassy staff. 

By Christina Ruffini
 

Fate of Afghan nationals who helped U.S. military in question

Fate of Afghans who helped U.S. in question 03:58

As thousands of people evacuate Afghanistan amid a Taliban takeover, the fate of those Afghan nationals who helped U.S. forces over a 20-year war is in question. Many are applying for a special visa that would allow them to relocate to the U.S., but time is not on their side. Association of Wartime Allies co-founder Kim Staffieri spoke with CBSN's Michael George about their struggle to secure safe passage out of the country.

 

Defense Secretary Austin on the Afghan forces: "You can't buy will and you can't purchase leadership"

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone briefing with House members on Sunday morning, according to a congressional staffer on the briefing call.

Austin said the Taliban saw very little resistance from Afghan forces. "You can't buy will and you can't purchase leadership. And that's really what was missing in this equation," Austin said. 

Milley told House members that al Qaeda could reconstitute itself faster than the original estimate of two years. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried to push the officials on why the U.S. decided to continue the withdrawal of troops. 

"The ramifications of this for America will go on for decades and it won't just be in Afghanistan," McCarthy said. 

Blinken pointed to the May 1 deadline negotiated by the Trump Administration.  "Had the president decided not to follow through on May 1  – on May 2 – we would have seen, I think, what we are seeing now, which is a resumption of the war with the Taliban," Blinken said.  

By Christina Ruffini
 

10,000 Americans awaiting evacuation from Kabul in Afghanistan, sources say

10K Americans awaiting evacuation from Kabul 08:14

The U.S. is trying to process tens of thousands of visas to airlift roughly 10,000 civilians out of Afghanistan as the Taliban seizes control of the nation's capital. CBS News' Christina Ruffini joins CBSN's Michael George with the latest.

 

UN World Food Programme says it will "stay and deliver" food in Afghanistan

Steve Taravella, Senior Spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme in Washington told CBS News that the agency plans to "stay and deliver" aid to those in need in Afghanistan. 

The World Food Agency tweeted Sunday that the "situation in and around Kabul is fluid" and that the agency was assessing the situation and looking to ensure operations can continue while maintaining security of staff and partners."

By Pamela Falk
 

Flights temporarily stop at Kabul International Airport after gunfire

Sporadic gunfire at Kabul International Airport led to a temporary flight stoppage. There have been no incidents of U.S. troops exchanging gunfire with Taliban forces or any other armed intruders, and it is unclear whether the gunfire is coming from the Taliban or other people storming the airport in an attempt to get out. The additional incoming 1,000 U.S. troops are being sent to the airport for support. 

More than 500 embassy personnel were evacuated and the Pentagon expects to have the rest out by Monday morning. 

By David Martin
 

Lindsey Graham calls Taliban advance a "sad and dangerous event"

Senator Lindsey Graham, who is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement on Sunday calling the Taliban's advances a "sad and dangerous event for U.S. national security interests and the world at large."

 Graham, who has been a vocal critic of President Biden and even his ally President Trump for withdrawing troops in Afghanistan, called Mr. Biden "reckless."

"The decision by President Biden to fully withdraw is a calamity for the people of Afghanistan, a disaster for the American people, and shows a lack of understanding as to the threats that still emanate from the War on Terror," Graham said. "The long-term consequences for America flowing from this debacle in Afghanistan are enormous.  America will be seen as weak in the eyes of our enemies and unreliable in the eyes of our allie

By Caroline Linton
 

Additional 1,000 troops being sent to airport

The U.S. military  has taken over air traffic control at Kabul International Airport, and the Pentagon is sending another 1,000 troops to the airport, a Defense Department official said. The troops are part of the 82nd Airborne and are leaving Fort Bragg Sunday evening.  That would bring the number authorized troops to 6,000, with about 3,000 now on the ground.

By David Martin
 

U.N. Security Council calls emergency meeting

The U.N. Security Council called an emergency meeting for Monday morning to discuss Afghanistan. There will be a briefing from the Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and will be followed by closed consultations of the 15-nation Council of world leaders.  

The meeting was called by Estonia and Norway in order to "avoid escalation," Estonia's Deputy Ambassador Andre Lipand told CBS News. 

The U.N. has over 19 agencies in Afghanistan, including UNICEF, the children's agency; WFP, the food program; and UNOCHA, the humanitarian agency; and the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, with over a thousand U.N. personnel. 

The humanitarian agency's head, Isabelle Moussard Carlsen, tweeted Sunday that "despite immense challenges," the agency would stay to deliver aid to millions in need. 

The U.N. Refugee chief, Filippo Grande, said that "the international response to Afghanistan's tragic crisis cannot only be about evacuating a few of those at risk," adding that "millions face an uncertain future, especially women."

By Pamela Falk
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