US Sight Funding Afghan Humanitarian Aid, But The Taliban Did Not

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As the Taliban prepares to form a new government,the UN will hold a high-level of meeting to discuss aid in the middle of a humanitarian disaster

Afghan women’s rights defenders and civil activists protest to call on the Taliban for the preservation of their achievements and education under the new government, which is expected to be announced soon

The United States Congress is expected to finance the United Nations’ humanitarian work in Afghanistan but is unlikely to directly fund a new Taliban-led government, according to US officials, as the world body prepares to discuss aid for the war-torn country.

UN chief Antonio Guterres is travelling to Geneva to convene a high-level conference on aid for Afghanistan on September 13.

Since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the US had set aside an estimated $130bn for security, governance, and development and humanitarian needs in Afghanistan.

Congressional aides told the Reuters news agency that lawmakers were nearly certain to provide humanitarian aid for internally displaced Afghans and refugees, but not to the government itself, at least for now.

Even before the Taliban victory, Afghanistan was heavily aid-dependent – with 40 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) drawn from foreign funding.

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The UN has warned 18 million Afghans are facing a humanitarian disaster, and another 18 million could quickly join them. According to reports, as many as 500,000 could also flee the country for fear of the Taliban.

The Taliban has yet to form a government, but there have been reports that an announcement is imminent.

Meanwhile, fighting continues between the Taliban and resistance fighters in Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, raising fears of more civilians being displaced.

Here are the latest updates:

Aerial gunfire takes lives in Kabul

Late Friday evening, approximately at 9pm local time, the Kabul sky was filled with aerial gunfire believed to be celebratory. The exact reasoning for the gunfire remains unclear and several rumors were posted online, but the Taliban offered no official explanation. According to the Emergency Hospital in Kabul, at least 17 people were killed by the aerial fire and another 41 people were injured.

Celebratory gunfire is a common tradition among Afghanistan. On August 31, when the US finally withdrew its forces, the Taliban also unleashed a barrage of gunfire, but quickly offered an explanation.

Meanwhile, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, issued a ban on aerial fire through his Twitter account, saying people should ‘thank God instead’ of firing into the air

Colourful murals disappearing from streets of Kabul

Murals painted by Afghan artists are slowly disappearing from the streets of Kabul, as the Taliban returned to rule Afghanistan.

Omaid H Sharifi, curator and artist, noted in a social media post that among the murals painted over in recent days was a piece depicting the historic Doha deal that showed US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar.

A BBC report said most of the murals are now being painted over with white paint, with slogans praising Taliban fighters for the withdrawal of US troops after 20 years.

Of US-made military equipment to Taliban

US-made Afghan military equipment, including armoured vehicles, which crossed into Iranian territory during the advance of the Taliban have been returned to the country’s new rulers.

Amwaj Media, which covers news from the Middle East, quoted an Iranian source as saying that “almost everything” operated by former Afghan army soldiers, who escaped to Iran, were turned over to the Taliban following the US withdrawal.

Images posted on social media in recent weeks showed the US-made vehicles owned by the Afghan military crossing the border into Iran.

Afghan women wary as Taliban rule returns

Many Afghan women in the city of Jalalabad have expressed concerns about the return of Taliban rule in the country, even as the armed group gave assurance that it has changed its ways.

Mushkan Babri, a teacher in Jalalabad, told Al Jazeera’s Osama bin Javaid that while she understands people’s fears, she has decided to stay in the country and study to become a doctor.

Female health workers have also returned to work at the Nangarhar Regional Hospital, even as the Taliban imposed new rules on gender segregation.

“Nearly all the women we have spoken to said that they are nervous about what will happen under the Taliban,” Javaid said, quoting the same women as saying that the Taliban members have been “respectful” since they returned to the city as rulers.

Third flight from Qatar lands in Kabul

A third Qatari plane carrying technical staff and equipment has landed in Kabul to assist with the operation of the country’s premier airport, according to Al Jazeera Arabic.

Qatar’s special envoy for conflict resolution Mutlaq al-Qahtani was also on board the flight.

According to the report, the Kabul airport is now being prepared for the resumption of regular flights in the coming days.

Afghan infant dies after evacuation flight to US

A nine-month-old Afghan girl has reportedly died following an evacuation flight to the US city of Philadelphia, TV news channel ABC reported on Friday night.

The baby reportedly became unresponsive mid-flight and was rushed to the emergency upon the plane’s arrival. ABC News reported that she died on Wednesday night.

The baby girl had arrived in the US with her family from Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where they had landed after leaving Kabul.

Spectators wave flags of Afghanistan and Taliban as they watch the Twenty20 cricket trial match being played between Afghan teams Peace Defenders and Peace Heroes at the Kabul International Cricket Stadium in Kabul on Friday

Google locks Afghan gov’t accounts as Taliban seeks emails: Reuters

Reuters is reporting that Google has temporarily locked down an unspecified number of Afghan government email accounts, as fears grow about the digital paper trail left by former officials and their international partners.

There have been fears that biometric databases could be exploited by the new Taliban rulers to hunt their enemies.

Google stopped short of confirming the move but said the company was monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and “taking temporary actions to secure relevant accounts”.

One employee of the former Afghan government has told Reuters that the Taliban is seeking to acquire former officials’ emails, and had asked him to preserve the data held on the servers of the ministry he used to work for.

US to provide trauma counselling for Afghan refugees

US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said his department is looking to improve the conditions of Afghan refugees awaiting resettlement.

“I have met with more than 40 community-based organisations, including Afghan-American organisations to learn of their ideas and recommendations,” Mayorkas said on Friday. “I have heard, and we will operationalise more robustly their recommendations – including cultural competency, access to counsel, trauma counselling and pastoral care.”

UN chief to hold aid meeting for Afghanistan

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will hold an international meeting in Geneva on September 13 to raise humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday.

“The conference will advocate for a swift scale-up in funding so the lifesaving humanitarian operation can continue; and appeal for full and unimpeded humanitarian access to make sure Afghans continue to get the essential services they need,” Dujarric said in a statement.

“Afghanistan faces a looming humanitarian catastrophe. Nearly half of Afghanistan’s 38 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.”

Taliban officials meet Pakistani ambassador in Qatar

A Taliban delegation in Qatar led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai met Pakistani Ambassador Syed Ahsan Raza Shah, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Friday.

“Both sides discussed the current Afghan situation, humanitarian assistance, bilateral relations based on mutual interest and respect, reconstruction of Afghanistan and issues related to facilitating people’s movement at Torkhan and Spinboldak,” Shaheen wrote on Twitter, referring to border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Hundreds of families flee fighting between Taliban and resistance forces for the control of final holdout province.

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