The Latest: Bidens visit wounded troops at Walter Reed

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In this Aug. 30, 2021, photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, a Air Force aircrew, assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, prepares to receive soldiers, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, to board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of the final noncombatant evacuation operation missions at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul Afghanistan. (Senior Airman Taylor Crul/U.S. Air Force via AP)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited injured U.S. troops at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Thursday night.

There are 15 Marines at the hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside Washington, who were wounded in an Aug. 26 suicide bombing at the Kabul airport. The attack occurred as the U.S. government was arranging evacuations of Americans, Afghans and allies before the nearly two-decade war in Afghanistan officially ended Aug. 31.

Eleven Marines were also killed in the attack, as well as one Army solider and one Navy corpsman. Biden traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday to witness the return of their remains to U.S. soil in a solemn “dignified transfer.”

One of the wounded Marines was in critical condition. Three were in serious condition and 11 in stable condition.

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WASHINGTON — Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of U.S. European Command, said Thursday that so far only one individual evacuated from Afghanistan is being retained in Germany for problems getting through security screening.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters, he said that as far as he knows, the person in custody “is not of a high threat.”

Right now, he said, about 58 individuals triggered additional security checks and processing as they arrived at the way stations in Europe, and needed additional checks. But he said he expects they will all eventually be cleared.

Afghan evacuees are being flown to several locations across the Middle East and Europe, including Germany, Italy and Spain. Wolters said 155 flights have landed in Europe, with about 38,000 people. He said they go through biometric and biographical screening when they arrive, before they are shown to their sleeping quarters. They are screened again when they leave, and again when they arrive in the U.S.

He said there have been few issues with COVID-19 cases, and most of the people requiring some type of medical attention have been pregnant women.

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WASHINGTON — A Marine Corps spokesman says that of 15 Marines wounded in the Aug. 26 suicide bombing at the Kabul airport, one is in critical condition. Three are in serious condition and 11 are in stable condition.

All 15 are at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. No names were provided.

A Marine Corps spokesman, Maj. Jim Stenger, said Thursday that the conditions of the 15 were as of Tuesday morning. In addition to the 15 wounded, 11 Marines were killed in the attack, along with one Army soldier and one Navy corpsman.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations says its Humanitarian Air Service is resuming air operations in Afghanistan to enable 160 aid organizations to continue activities in the country’s provinces.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday that the air passenger service, operated by the Rome-based U.N. World Food Program, is linking the Pakistani capital of Islamabad with Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Kandahar in the southeast.

He said the food program reports that three flights already have taken place to Mazar-i-Sharif since Sunday and that efforts are being made to step up those operations as soon as possible.

In addition, Dujarric said, a cargo airbridge is being established to transport non-food items such as medical and other emergency supplies to where they are needed the most.

He said the Humanitarian Air Service’s domestic passenger service needs $18 million and the cargo airbridge needs $12 million to continue operations.

“From 2002 to 2021, the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service in Afghanistan served more than 20 destinations in the country,” Dujarric said. “It will seek to return to these locations once security and funding permits.”

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ISTANBUL – Turkey’s foreign minister says his country is evaluating plans to reopen Kabul’s airport.

Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on Thursday in Ankara that Hamid Karzai International Airport could be reopened in two stages for military flights and later for commercial flights.

“Now there are requests from the Taliban and some countries to cooperate with us. We’re evaluating all of this,” Cavusoglu said at the news conference with Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag.

Turkey has been operating the airport for six years before the American pullout and the Taliban’s resurgence. Those leaders, along with Qatar’s, have been in discussions about the reopening. Kaag said the Netherlands wanted to help with technical matters or security at the airport.

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ROME — Italian Premier Mario Draghi says diplomats are trying to locate Afghans who fled from their homeland to Iran and other nations bordering Afghanistan.

Draghi said Thursday that “fortunately” many Afghans had escaped, but his country wants to locate those who worked with Italy.

Before Italy ended its airlift from Kabul on Aug. 27, it had evacuated nearly 5,000 Afghans who had worked with the Italian military during its 20-year-deployment in Afghanistan as well as their families and others deemed at risk now under Taliban rule.

Draghi didn’t say how many Afghans his country was seeking. He added that Afghans who have already reached Italy are immediately being given refugee status and praised Italian communities integrating them into local society.

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KABUL, Afghanistan — A Taliban media spokesman has tweeted a picture of Qatar military aircraft on the ground at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan.

Ahmadullah Muttaqi posted the photo on Thursday. In Kabul, meanwhile, the roar of aircraft overhead could be heard.

It was the first air activity in the capital since Monday when the last U.S. evacuation flight left the Afghanistan, bringing to an end to America’s longest war. In interviews on Tuesday at the airport Taliban officials said they hoped to get the civilian airport up and running within days and the military portion sometime later.

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TIRANA, Albania — The Albanian government says another group of 37 Afghans evacuated from Kabul has arrived in the country.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry said the group arrived early at dawn on Thursday from Kiev, Ukraine. They were taken to university campus accommodation in the capital, Tirana, where they will stay before moving to hotels.

Albania has accommodated most of the 644 Afghans it is temporarily hosting in hotels.

The government has said it may house up to 4,000 Afghans temporarily, before they travel on to countries for longer-term settlement.

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MORE ON AFGHANISTAN:

— Afghans face hunger crisis, adding to Taliban’s challenge

—Biden defends departure from ‘forever war,’ praises airlift

— UN chief urges countries to help Afghans in ‘hour of need’

— Victorious Taliban focus on governing after US withdrawal

— New Taliban rulers face tough economic, security challenges

— Analysis: War is over but not Biden’s Afghanistan challenges

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary says that although the U.K. won’t soon recognize the Taliban’s government, “there is an important scope” for dialogue with Afghanistan’s new rulers.

In a joint press conference in Doha with his Qatari counterpart, Dominic Raab said he supported “engagement” with the Taliban to test the group’s wide-ranging promises. He cited the Taliban’s pledges to protect freedom of travel for Afghans and foreigners, to form an inclusive government and, significantly, to prevent international terrorist groups from using the war-scarred country as a base.

Raab said: “In all of these areas, we will judge them by what they do, not just by what they say.”

Diplomatic recognition would prove critical in allowing the Taliban to access development aid and loans from international financial institutions as the group confronts an economy in free fall.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Qatar’s Foreign Minister says there is still “no clear indication” of when the Kabul airport will resume normal operations, but that the Gulf Arab state is evaluating the situation with Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers.

In a joint press conference in Doha with his British counterpart, Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said Qatar remains “hopeful that we will be able to operate (the airport) as soon as possible,” without giving a timeline or elaborating on Qatar’s role in providing technical assistance. He said Qatar is working with the Taliban “to identify what are the gaps and the risks of having the airport back up and running.”

Kabul’s international airport has been closed to normal traffic since Aug. 16, when the Taliban took control of Kabul. Military flights and evacuations continued until Aug. 31, when U.S. forces quit the country and left the runway without air traffic controllers.

Al Thani also urged the Taliban to live up to its promise to allow Afghans and foreigners to leave the country freely once the airport reopens.

Qatar sent a technical team to Kabul airport on Wednesday to assess the operations. The tiny sheikhdom, which facilitated talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, has played an outsized role in American efforts to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan.

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UNITED NATIONS — The president of the U.N. Security Council says the U.N.’s most powerful body will not take its focus off Afghanistan this month and “the real litmus test” for the new Taliban government will be how it treats women and girls.

Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason of Ireland said Wednesday that the protection and promotion of human rights for women “must be at the very heart of our collective response to the crisis.”

Under the Taliban’s previous rule from 1996 to 2001, women were not allowed to go to school, work outside the home or leave homes without a male escort. Though they faced many challenges in the country’s male-dominated society after the Taliban’s ouster, Afghan girls were not only educated but over the last 20 years women increasingly stepped into powerful positions in numerous fields including government, business, health and education.

Bryne Nason said: “My question is, will the Taliban be different, and that’s the real question. We haven’t seen any evidence of that.”

She said the international community has clout because whatever form of government emerges in Afghanistan needs international support — and human rights and respect for international law “are red line issues.”

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