The Latest: Pentagon says ‘still time’ to get Americans out

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In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, Capt. Kepper Pickard, commanding officer, Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, deplanes a Boeing 777 before it leaves NAS Sigonella with evacuees from Afghanistan, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Claire DuBois/U.S. Navy via AP)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says it remains prepared to airlift more Americans from the Kabul airport, even as the evacuation winds down.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Monday “there is still time” for remaining Americans to get out. He would not be more specific about the state of the evacuation. He said a total of 5,400 Americans have been airlifted thus far.

President Joe Biden has set Tuesday as a deadline for completing the evacuation.

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MORE ON AFGHANISTAN:

— Rockets fired at Kabul airport amid US withdrawal hit homes

— Qatar emerges as key player in Afghanistan after US pullout

— Afghans killed outside airport were seeking new lives abroad

— White House: US has capacity to evacuate remaining Americans

— Slain Marine who cradled baby at Kabul airport loved her job

— Evacuated Afghan activist dreams of going back home one day

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

Here’s what else is happening:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Qatar is in talks about providing civilian technical assistance to the Taliban at Kabul’s international airport once the U.S. military withdrawal is complete on Tuesday.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday that the country has been taking part in negotiations about the operations of Kabul airport with Afghan and international parties, mainly the United States and Turkey.

Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwa al-Khater said in a statement Qatar’s main priority is restoring regular operations while preserving safety and security at the airport facilities.

Qatar has ties with both Washington and the Taliban, which took control over nearly all of Afghanistan in past weeks. The tiny Gulf Arab state is taking part in a meeting of key partners hosted by the United States on Monday to discuss next steps in Afghanistan.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A plane provided by the government of Pakistan has brought medicine and health supplies from the World Health Organization to Afghanistan.

WHO said Monday’s shipment was the first of medical supplies to land in Afghanistan since the country came under control of the Taliban two weeks ago.

The plane, which departed from Dubai, landed in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, fell to the Taliban on Aug. 14, a day before Kabul.

WHO said the supplies included trauma kits and emergency health kits enough to cover the basic needs of more than 200,000 people, as well as treat 6,500 trauma patients. It said the supplies will be delivered to 40 health facilities in 29 provinces across Afghanistan.

The plane was loaded with supplies by WHO’s logistics team at the International Humanitarian City in Dubai. WHO said that “a reliable humanitarian air bridge is urgently required.”

“The demanding humanitarian work of meeting the needs of tens of millions of vulnerable Afghans who remain in the country is now beginning,” the agency added.

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CAIRO — The Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for Monday’s rocket attack in Kabul, saying it fired at least six Katyusha rockets at the airport in the Afghan capital.

The rockets stuck a neighborhood close to the Kabul airport. The claim of responsibility was carried by the militant group’s media arm, the Aamaq news agency. It didn’t provide further details.

The U.S. military said five rockets targeted the airport on Monday morning and that U.S. forces on the airfield used a defensive system to intercept them.

The attack did not halt the steady stream of U.S. military C-17 cargo jets taking off and landing at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

It was the latest attack by the militants. The Islamic State group launched a devastating suicide bombing Thursday at one of the airport gates that killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. military says five rockets targeted the Kabul airport on Monday morning and U.S. forces on the airfield used a defensive system to intercept them.

Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for the U.S. military’s Central Command, said there were no U.S. casualties. He said U.S. forces used a defensive weapon known by the acronym C-RAM — a Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar System — in response to the attack.

It targeted the rockets in a whirling hail of ammunition, Urban said. The system has a distinct, drill-like sound that echoed through the city at the time of the attack.

He said the Kabul airfield remains operational as the evacuation continued on Monday. Other details were not immediately available.

Meanwhile, Ross Wilson, the chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul now working out of the airport, insisted that evacuations remain ongoing Monday. He dismissed as false claims that American citizens have been turned away or were denied access to the Kabul airport by U.S. Embassy staff or American troops.

“This is a high-risk operation. Claims that American citizens have been turned away or denied access to HKIA by Embassy staff or US Forces are false,” he said in a message on Twitter, using the acronym for the Kabul airport. He did not elaborate.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul said on Monday that his country’s national carrier is setting up an airlift for medical supplies from the World Health Organization to Afghanistan’s northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

The diplomat, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, announced on Twitter that the state-run Pakistan International Airlines will serve as a humanitarian air bridge for essential supplies to Afghanistan, in coordination with international agencies.

He thanked PIA, as the carrier is known, for the supplies. It wasn’t immediately cleat when the airlift would begin.

The latest development comes days after WHO sought Pakistan’s help in airlifting medical supplies to Afghanistan following last week’s deadly attack on the Kabul airport.

Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, fell to the Taliban on Aug. 14, a day before Kabul.

Later on Monday, Pakistan’s state-run news agency said the PIA plane landed in Mazar-e-Sharif after taking of from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.

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TIRANA, Albania — Another plane carrying 150 Afghans who fled their homeland fearing the Taliban takeover arrived in Albania early on Monday, the Foreign Ministry said.

The new arrivals brought the total number of Afghans brought to this Balkan country to 607. A ministry statement said the plane had come from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Albania has accommodated most of the Afghans in hotels and some of them temporarily at the students’ campus in the capital of Tirana.

The government has said it may house up to 4,000 Afghans for at least a year before they move to the United States for final settlement.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s military says suspected militants fired across the border from Afghanistan at a military post in northwestern Pakistan, killing two soldiers.

The military says the cross-border attack took place on Sunday, in the district of Bajur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. It said Pakistani troops returned fire “in a befitting manner,” killing some attackers and wounding others.

The military said Pakistan strongly condemns the use of Afghan soil by “terrorists for activities against Pakistan” and expects the current and future authorities in Afghanistan not to allow such activities.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and the Pakistani military provided no further details. Pakistan and Afghanistan have long accused one another of harboring militants fighting against the other’s government.

The two share an internationally recognized border known as the Durand Line, which was drawn in the 19th century when the British dominated South Asia. Kabul has never recognized the boundary.

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