Chaos ensues at Kabul airport as Americans abandon Afghanistan

ISTANBUL – Thousands of desperate Afghans trying to escape the Taliban takeover stormed Kabul’s main international airport on Monday, ru...

ISTANBUL – Thousands of desperate Afghans trying to escape the Taliban takeover stormed Kabul’s main international airport on Monday, rushing to the departure gates, invading the runways, climbing on the wings of the jets and trying even to hang on to the fuselage of US military planes when departing.

At least half a dozen Afghans were killed in the chaos, some falling from the sky as they lost their grip, and at least two shot dead by American soldiers trying to contain the flocking crowd.

The images evoked America’s frantic departure from Vietnam, summing up the breathtaking collapse of Afghanistan following American abandonment.

As US troops sought to manage the exodus, seizing air traffic control to prioritize military flights evacuating Western citizens and flying Apache helicopters at low altitude As the crowd cleared the track, Taliban fighters capped a swift and devastating race for power, posing for an iconic photo behind the ornate presidential office in the presidential palace hours after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

In a video broadcast on Al Jazeera, the head of the Afghan presidential guard shook hands with a Taliban commander. “I welcome them and congratulate them,” said the manager.

Taliban fighters dispersed through the streets of the capital on Monday, riding motorcycles and driving police vehicles and Humvees seized by government security forces. Armed fighters occupied Parliament, some visited the homes of government officials, confiscating goods and vehicles, while others pretended to direct traffic.

Taliban officials have promised civilians safety and urged them to stay, but crowds at Hamid Karzai International Airport have revealed the depths of panic and desperation among Afghans who fear retaliation and a return to the Taliban’s draconian rule. .

“Our situation is bitter,” said an Afghan, whose name has not been released to protect him from Taliban retaliation. Speaking amid a din of hundreds of people talking and children crying, he said, “There is no food and no water. Now we have moved to another location but we don’t know when we will have a departing flight. “

President Biden, speaking at the White House Monday afternoon, admitted the pullout was “messy” but dismissed the Vietnam analogy, defending his decision to pull out of Afghanistan and blaming military leaders and the country’s policies of not defending itself after two decades of American support.

“The Afghan political leaders gave up and fled the country,” he said. “On the contrary, the developments of the past week reinforce the fact that ending the US military engagement in Afghanistan was now the right decision.”

He said he had urged Afghan political leaders to engage in genuine diplomacy. “This advice has been categorically refused,” he said.

But the ugly scenes at the airport, which quickly went around the world, seemed to speak louder than words.

In an extraordinary scene filmed by Afghan media, hundreds of people ran alongside a US military C-17 cargo plane and some tried to climb into the wheel arches or hang onto the side of the plane as it picked up speed, a striking symbol of the US military could fly away even as the Afghans clung to hope.

A US military official confirmed that some Afghans had been killed, either run over by the plane on take-off, or died.

US troops shot dead at least two gunmen who approached Americans at the airport security perimeter and brandished their weapons, according to a US military official.

An Afghan, who was waiting with his family to be evacuated, said several people were killed when US troops opened fire to stop the influx of crowds. He said he saw two bodies on the ground covered with sheets but understood that at least three people, including a woman, died during an episode, around 10 a.m., and others died during an episode. second shootout.

The scale of the chaos has exposed how much of the international presence in Afghanistan is unprepared for a Taliban victory. Turkey, which had offered to maintain troops to secure the airport after the US withdrawal, said it was abandoning plans on Monday evening, Reuters reported.

“It is untenable,” said Asli Aydintasbas, senior researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations, “We have no idea what Taliban 2.0 could be like.”

Thousands of people camped overnight in the departure lounges of civilian terminals while waiting for flights out of the country. Many of them were employees of international organizations and media companies who had been targeted by the Taliban and feared for their safety in a state ruled by the Taliban.

White House officials said several thousand US troops were securing the airport. But some Afghans have said their priority is to evacuate Americans and other Westerners, not Afghans.

An employee of an international organization had a confirmed seat on a Turkish Airlines flight but was kicked off the flight by US troops in favor of US citizens, according to a colleague.

And after U.S. troops took control of air traffic, commercial air traffic was largely disrupted in order to move military flights in and out.

Mr Biden vowed to save the thousands of Afghans who had helped Americans during the two-decade conflict, but the fate of many who remained in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan was uncertain. The american government said that in the next few days it would evacuate thousands of American citizens, embassy workers and their families, as well as “particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals”.

The State Department said the United States evacuated 1,600 people from Afghanistan over the weekend, bringing the total number of people flown to 3,600 since mid-July. The Pentagon said Monday evening that in the previous 48 hours, some 700 Afghans who worked with the United States, along with their families, had been evacuated. The Pentagon hopes to evacuate up to 5,000 people a day by the end of the week.

Other countries were also trying to evacuate their citizens. British officials said they were confident they could withdraw some 3,000 Britons believed to be in Afghanistan, but said they were less confident they could provide a safe exit to the Afghans who aided the British and whose lives could now be in danger.

For much of Sunday and Monday, there was no security on the civilian side of the airport, after government police and airport security forces left their posts, giving way as the Taliban forces began to occupy the city on Saturday evening.

As security deteriorated, many of those promised flights abandoned the effort and returned home to a town where the Taliban were tightening their control.

An Afghan who was due to catch the plane on Monday said he made it to the airport and after seeing the madness he even decided not to try to bring his family there.

In Kabul, residents have started to tear down advertisements showing women without headscarves for fear of upsetting the Taliban, whose ideology excludes women from much of public life. Some policemen were arrested by Taliban fighters, while others were seen donning civilian clothes and trying to escape.

A freelance journalist said he took documents he said could incriminate him from a Pashtun neighbor, from the same ethnic group as the Taliban, and asked him to hide them.

“I was having anxiety attacks imagining that the Taliban would raid my home and beat me for wearing shorts or arrest me for being a reporter,” said reporter Ammar, who asked. that his last name not be published for fear of reprisals. “So I put on traditional Afghan clothes that I know the Taliban approve of to protect me. “

The military reopened the airport for flights Monday afternoon, the Pentagon said, and US military aircraft flights bringing in thousands of Navy and Army reinforcements resumed. About 3,500 US Marines and soldiers were expected to be at the airport on Monday evening, along with 2,500 other soldiers en route, Pentagon officials said.

In the early evening, the Taliban began to exercise more control around the airport. Residents living nearby said shops and homes in the neighborhood had been looted, but since the Taliban arrived, they felt a little more secure.

At dusk, they heard gunshots coming from the airport as Taliban fighters entered the outer compound of the airport and opened fire to disperse the crowd.

The Afghan interviewed earlier today said he was about to be treated for departure around 8 p.m., after a wait of more than 36 hours, when the Taliban arrived and started beating people. to disperse the crowd.

“They hit us with their rifle butts and I’m slightly injured,” he said. His wife and son were also beaten, he said. “It was a very dangerous situation but we managed to get out of it. Thank goodness we made it out of the airport. I am coming back home.

In a harbinger of the harsh rule that many Afghans fear, the Taliban allowed people to leave the airport, but an employee of a European organization trying to enter the airport was told no one would not be allowed to leave the country now without permission. of the “new government”.

In one video posted on Facebook a Taliban commander driving a government police van outside the airport was questioned about the hundreds of people seeking to leave the country by plane. “They shouldn’t be going,” he replied. “We will be here and we will bring peace and security now that we have left the corrupt regime behind us. “

Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Lara Jakes contributed reporting from Washington and Farnaz Fassihi from New York.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Chaos ensues at Kabul airport as Americans abandon Afghanistan
Chaos ensues at Kabul airport as Americans abandon Afghanistan
Newsrust - US Top News
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