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Taliban ‘Consensus,’ EU Floats Refugee Plan: Afghanistan Update

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The Taliban and other Afghan leaders have reached a “consensus” on the formation of a new government and cabinet under the leadership of the group’s top spiritual leader, and an announcement could come in a few days, an official said.

Taliban supreme commander Haibatullah Akhundzada will be the top leader of any governing council, Bilal Karimi, a member of the group’s cultural commission said. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of Akhundzada’s three deputies and the main public face of the Taliban, is likely to be in charge of the daily functioning of the government.

The European Union has floated a plan to spend 300 million euros ($355 million) to resettle about 30,000 refugees, and President Joe Biden again defended the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, rejecting criticism that it was mishandled.

Key stories and developments:

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Blinken to Brief Members of Congress (8:47 a.m.)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to take part in back-to-back briefings Wednesday afternoon for members of Congress on latest developments in Afghanistan. 

The all-senators briefing, set for 3:30 p.m. in Washington, is to be followed by a session open to all House members. Both meetings are to be virtual. Members of Congress of both parties have been sharply critical of the U.S. withdrawal. — Kathleen Hunter 

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EU Mulls 300 Million-Euro Resettlement Plan (8:36 a.m.)

The European Union has floated a plan to spend 300 million euros ($355 million) to resettle about 30,000 refugees inside the bloc, including from Afghanistan, in a bid to avert a migration crisis following the withdrawal of U.S. troops. 

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, made the proposal to EU ambassadors at an Aug. 26 meeting, according to a diplomatic note seen by Bloomberg. The commission added that additional funds could be made available. 

The EU is eager to avoid a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis caused by the Syrian war when more than a million migrants entered the bloc. —  Alberto Nardelli

Congressman Safe After Afghanistan Rescue Plan: Aide (4:15 a.m.)

Representative Markwayne Mullin “has been and is currently completely safe,” his communications director said following a Washington Post report that the Oklahoma Republican unsuccessfully sought to personally rescue five American citizens from Afghanistan.

The Post reported that Mullin on Monday asked the U.S. embassy in Tajikistan for help transporting a large sum of money into Afghanistan to aid his planned rescue attempt. Embassy staff refused, prompting “outrage” from the congressman, according to the paper.

Mullin and his office “will continue to do anything in our power to bring home all Americans from the war zone that President Biden abandoned,” Meredith Blanford, Mullin’s communications director, said in a statement. — Kathleen Hunter

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U.K. in Talks With Taliban on Human Rights (3:30 a.m.)

The U.K. is in talks with the Taliban to hold them to account for their actions in Afghanistan, a government minister said on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s envoy, Simon Gass, who is Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, has flown into Doha “to speak to senior members of the Taliban,” Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins told BBC radio. His discussions “are important,” and are centered around human rights, the prevention of terrorism, and helping secure the safe passage of people who want to leave Afghanistan, she said.

Atkins also said that “there are a few hundreds of British nationals still there” and that the U.K. is “trying as best we can in the circumstances to evacuate them when we are able to.” — Alex Morales

Taliban Set to Unveil New Government (1:00 a.m.)

The Taliban is set to announce a new government and cabinet in a few days, an official said.

“The consultations on forming an inclusive Afghan government within the Islamic Emirate’s leaders, with the leaders from previous government and other influential leaders have officially ended,”  Bilal Karimi, a member of the group’s cultural commission said. “They have reached a consensus. We’re about to announce a functioning cabinet and government in a few days, not weeks. — Eltaf Najafizada 

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