BOSTON — Taliban websites that delivered the victorious insurgents’ official messages to Afghans and the world at large in five languages have abruptly gone offline.
It is not immediately clear why the sites in the Pashto, Urdu, Arabic, English and Dari languages went offline Friday. They had been shielded by Cloudflare, a San Francisco-based content delivery network and denial-of-service protection provider.
Cloudflare has not responded to emails and phone calls seeking comment on the development, which was first reported by The Washington Post.
Also Friday, the popular encrypted messaging service WhatsApp removed a number of Taliban groups, according to Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks online extremism.
The websites’ disappearance may just be temporary as the Taliban secures new hosting arrangements. But the reported removal of the WhatsApp groups followed the banning of Taliban accounts by Facebook, the service’s parent company, on Tuesday after the U.S.-backed Afghan government fell to the Taliban.
MORE ON THE CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN:
— Report: Taliban killed minorities, fueling Afghans’ fears
— US struggles to speed Kabul airlift despite Taliban, chaos
— Western groups desperate to save Afghan workers left behind
— Allies embraced Biden. Did Kabul lay bare "great illusion"?
— Afghan president latest leader on the run to turn up in UAE
— Afghanistan war unpopular amid chaotic pullout: AP-NORC poll
— Afghan officer who fought with US forces rescued from Kabul
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken says 13 countries have thus far agreed to at least temporarily host at-risk Afghans evacuated from Afghanistan and a dozen more have agreed to serve as transit points for evacuees, including Americans and others.
Blinken says in a Friday statement that potential Afghan refugees not already cleared for resettlement in the United States will be housed at facilities in Albania, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Mexico, Poland, Qatar, Rwanda, Ukraine and Uganda.
Transit countries include Bahrain, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Qatar, Tajikistan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.
Blinken says: “We are encouraged by other countries that are also considering providing support. We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas and to fulfill our commitments to citizens of partner nations and at-risk Afghans.”
KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. helicopters have ferried 96 Afghans to the Kabul airport for evacuation, signaling that U.S. military flights are taking place beyond the airport perimeters in the Afghan capital.
Senior American military officials told The Associated Press that an American CH-47 Chinook helicopter picked up the Afghans, mostly women and children, and ferried them to Hamid Karzai International Airport on Friday. U.S. Army’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division airlifted the Afghans from Camp Sullivan, near the Kabul airport.
The officials say sorties like this one have been underway for days as Afghans seek to flee the country taken over by the Taliban. Intelligence teams inside Kabul are helping guide both Americans and Afghans and their families to the airport or are arranging for them to be rescued by other means.
For those living in other cities and provinces outside Kabul, CIA case officers, special operation forces and agents from the Defense Intelligence Agency on the ground are gathering U.S. citizens and Afghan nationals who worked for the U.S. at pre-determined pick-up sites.
The officials would not detail where these airlift sites were for security reasons. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing operations.