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UN adopts watered down Afghanistan resolution as rockets hit close to Kabul airport

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By Euronews with AP, AFP
Afghan people are seen inside a house after U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021.
Afghan people are seen inside a house after U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi
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The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on Monday requiring the Taliban to honour their commitment to let people freely leave Afghanistan, but the text doesn't cite a "safe zone" mentioned by French President Emmanuel Macron.

13 out of the 15 Security Council members voted in favour of the resolution drafted by the United States, France and the United Kingdom, while China and Russia abstained.

The resolution says the council expects the Taliban to allow a "safe, secure, and orderly departure from Afghanistan of Afghans and all foreign nationals."

It refers to an August 27 statement by the Taliban in which the hardline Islamists said Afghans would be able to travel abroad, and leave Afghanistan any time they want to, including by any border crossing, both air and ground.

The Security Council "expects that the Taliban will adhere to these and all other commitments," the resolution says.

Macron had raised hopes of more concrete proposals in comments published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche over the weekend.

He said Paris and London would present a draft resolution which "aims to define, under UN control, a 'safe zone' in Kabul, that will allow humanitarian operations to continue," Macron said.

"I am very hopeful that it will be successful. I don't see who could be against making humanitarian projects secure," he said.

But the UN resolution on the table is far less ambitious. It is not clear whether another resolution proposing a "safe zone" will be circulated later on.

"This resolution is not an operational aspect. It's much more on principles, key political messages and warnings," a UN diplomat told reporters.

Experts said the text was watered down to ensure China and Russia would not use their vetoes to block it, including softening some of the language related to the Taliban.

Rockets fired at Kabul airport

Rockets struck a neighbourhood near Kabul's international airport on Monday amid the ongoing US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The rocket attack was claimed by the Afghanistan affiliate of the so-called Islamic State.

**The US defence department said they employed measures to thwart the attack and that it did not affect the mission at the airport or pose a danger to US personnel. One rocket did land inside the airport perimeter, officials said.

Pentagon Press secretary John Kirby said the threats were still "active" and that the US was taking them seriously.**

The rockets on Monday morning struck in Kabul's Salim Karwan neighbourhood — some 3 kilometres from the airport.

A witness who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said they heard the sound of three explosions and then saw a flash, like fire, in the sky.

In a statement, the White House said that "operations continue uninterrupted" at Kabul airport. Planes took off roughly every 20 minutes at one point Monday morning.

On Sunday, a US drone strike blew up a vehicle carrying “multiple suicide bombers” from Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate before they could attack the ongoing military evacuation at Kabul’s international airport, American officials said. An Afghan official said three children were killed in the strike.

**The Pentagon was aware of "reports of civilian casualties and we take these reports very seriously and we are continuing to assess the situation," General Hank Taylor said at a press conference.

Press secretary Kirby said that they were not in a position to "dispute" the reports of civilian casualties. **

The US is to withdraw from Afghanistan by Tuesday. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is to hold a virtual ministerial meeting with key partners on Monday at 20:30 CEST.

More than 122,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since the beginning of the operation.

'Assurances from the Taliban'

In a statement released on Sunday, the US and 98 other countries including most European Union member states said they "remained committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals, residents, employees, Afghans who have worked for us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan."

"We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorisation from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country," they added. The signatories of the statements also include NATO and the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security.

Several countries have ended their evacuation operations as the security around Kabul airport deteriorated, including France, Germany and the UK.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Sunday evening that its diplomatic team in Kabul as well as special forces soldiers and police officers had arrived in France on the country's last evacuation flight.

Overall, France has evacuated 2,834 people out of Afghanistan, including 142 French nationals and 2,630 Afghans. A further 600 Afghan staff and their families were also evacuated by Paris between May ad July.

Britain's Operation Pitting enabled the evacuation of 15,000 people, the Ministry of Defence said on Sunday. Germany flew more than 5,000 people out of Afghanistan.

Jake Sullivan, national security adviser for US President Joe Biden, said Washington has "the capacity to have 300 Americans, which is roughly the number we think are remaining, come to the airport and get on planes in the time that is remaining" before the complete military withdrawal on Tuesday.

"We moved out more than that number just yesterday. So from our point of view, there is an opportunity right now for American citizens to come, to be admitted to the airport and to be evacuated safely and effectively," he added

The US has so far evacuated more than 110,000 people.

'Put pressure on the Taliban'

Several European countries, including Britain, France and Germany, had lobbied the US to retain control of Kabul airport past the August 31 withdrawal deadline but Washington dismissed this suggestion last week during a meeting of G7 leaders.

Paris, London and Berlin are expected to present an emergency resolution to the UN's Security Council on Monday calling for a safe zone at Kabul airport.

French President Emmanuel Macron told French broadcaster TF1 in an interview aired on Sunday evening that Paris, and several other allies, have "initiated a dialogue" with the Taliban.

"The objective is indeed to obtain humanitarian evacuations of all the men and women who are at risk," he said.

"There are discussions going on to see how flights can be reopened. What we have proposed and what we are taking to the UN Security Council with the UK and Germany is a solution that we know, that we have already seen in other theatres of operation, of a zone to secure the arrivals at the airport and the protection of people.

"I think it is interesting, why? First of all, because it mobilises the whole international community, secondly because it would put pressure on the Taliban and because let's put into action what we ask of them. If you want to move forward and have a country that is open to the rest of the region and the world, you have to respect the humanitarian rules and allow all the women and men who want to be protected," he added.

The Taliban are reportedly opposed to the idea. The Deputy Director of the group's political office said over the weekend that "those Afghans who are intending to go abroad, they can do so in a dignified manner and peace of mind by having legal documents like passports and visas after the resumption of commercial flights in the country."