The Latest: Up to 150 Americans expected to fly out of Kabul

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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)

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two Qatari officials say they expect 100 to 150 Americans to fly out from Kabul’s airport in the coming hours.

If confirmed, this would mark the first large-scale evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan since the last U.S. forces left the country at the end of August.

The officials say the Americans would leave later Thursday on a Qatari flight that had delivered humanitarian aid to Afghanistan earlier Thursday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The departure of a large group of Americans would also signal that U.S. officials have come to an arrangement with the new Taliban rulers. In recent days, there had been a stand-off between the Taliban and organizers of several charter planes who had hoped to evacuate Americans and at-risk Afghans from an airport in northern Afghanistan.

The Taliban have said they would let passengers with valid travel documents leave, but that many of those at the northern airport did not have such papers.

— By Kathy Gannon

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KUWAIT CITY — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday the al-Qaida extremist group that used Afghanistan as a staging base to attack United States 20 years ago may attempt to regenerate there following an American withdrawal that has left the Taliban in power.

“That’s the nature of the organization,” he told a small group of reporters in Kuwait City at the conclusion of a four-day tour of Persian Gulf states. He said the United States is prepared to prevent an al-Qaida comeback in Afghanistan that would threaten the United States.

The Taliban had provided al-Qaida with sanctuary while it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. The U.S. invaded and overthrew the Taliban after it refused to turn over al-Qaida leaders following the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the United States. During the course of the 20-year U.S. war, al-Qaida was vastly diminished, but questions have arisen about its future prospects with the Taliban back in Kabul.

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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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