The Latest: Red Cross head arrives for 3 days in Afghanistan

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Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

BERLIN — The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, has arrived for a three-day visit in Afghanistan.

Peter Maurer arrived Sunday and plans to visit medical facilities, rehabilitation centers for victims of violence and disease as well as ICRC staffers.

The relief group said in a statement that Maurer also plans to meet with local Afghan authorities.

Maurer said: “Afghans have suffered from 40 years of conflict and they now face years of work to heal and recover. The International Committee of the Red Cross is dedicated to staying here to help that recovery.”

The ICRC president also stressed that the future of Afghans relies on the continued “investment from the outside world.”

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is encouraging countries to welcome Afghan refugees who are seeking a new life.

During his appearance to the public in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Francis also prayed that displaced persons inside Afghanistan receive assistance and protection.

“In these tumultuous moments, in which Afghans are seeking refuge, I pray for the most vulnerable among them, I pray so that many countries welcome and protect all those seeking a new life,” Francis said.

The pope didn’t cite the Taliban or their policies, but added: “may young Afghans receive an education, which is essential for human development.”

He concluded by expressing hope that all Afghans, whether in their homeland, in transit, or in countries taking them in, may be able to “live with dignity, in peace, in brotherhood with their neighbors.”

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BERLIN — Angelina Jolie has expressed concern about the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The actress, who is also a special envoy to the U.N.’s high commissioner for refugees, told a German newspaper Sunday she doesn’t think the incoming government in Afghanistan could simply turn back the clock so that everything would be like 20 years ago. But she still has big worries about the situation for women there.

Jolie told the weekly Welt am Sonntag: “I’m thinking of all the women and girls who don’t know now if they can go back to work or school. And I’m thinking of the young Afghans who are worried that they will lose their freedom.”

Taliban fighters captured most of Afghanistan last month and celebrated the departure of the last U.S. forces after 20 years of war. The insurgent group must now govern a war-ravaged country that is heavily reliant on international aid.

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BERLIN — A Taliban spokesperson has told a German newspaper that his group wants to establish diplomatic relations with Germany.

Zabihullah Mujahid tells the weekly Welt am Sonntag that “we want strong and official diplomatic relations to Germany.”

The newspaper reported Sunday that the Taliban also hope for financial support from Germany as well as humanitarian aid and cooperation regarding Afghanistan’s health care system, education and agriculture.

The German government has been reserved about establishing official ties with the Taliban. Officials say talks are needed to get the remaining former Afghan staffers who worked for the Germans out of the country.

According to the newspaper, Mujahid said it was unfortunate Germany had cooperated with the Americans during the war “but that has now been forgiven.”

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Some domestic flights have resumed at Afghanistan’s international airport in Kabul, with the state-run Ariana Afghan Airline operating flights to three provinces.

Shershah Stor, the airline’s station manager at the airport, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the flights took place Saturday to western Herat, southern Kandahar and northern Balkh provinces. He said the flights were conducted without a functioning radar system at the airport.

Stor said three more flights are scheduled Sunday to the same provinces.

A team of Qatari and Turkish technicians arrived in Kabul last week to help restart operations at the airport, which the U.N. says is crucial to providing the country with humanitarian assistance. It remains to be seen, however, whether any commercial airlines will be willing to offer service.

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WASHINGTON — The top U.S. military general has thanked members of the 10th Mountain Division for their service in Afghanistan during the evacuation of Americans, Afghans and others over the past several weeks.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with military police soldiers at the Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Germany on Saturday.

Standing outside talking to a group, he asked them, “You were there for the bombing?” Heads nodded and a chorus of voices answered, “yes, sir.”

A suicide bombing by the Islamic State group near a gate at the Kabul airport more than a week ago killed 13 U.S. service members as well as 169 Afghans who were crowded around the entry, desperate to get on flights out of Afghanistan.

“You guys did an incredible job, all of you — Army, Navy, Marines, the Air Force — flying out 124,000 people. That’s what you saved,” Milley told the soldiers. He said they “showed enormous courage discipline and capability, working together. It’s something you should always be proud of… This will be a moment that you’ll always remember.”

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