Violence Erupts at Kabul Airport as Afghans Try to Flee Taliban
Monday - 16/08/2021 15:05
Mass evacuations follow the insurgents’ capture of Kabul after a rapid sweep of the country
Kabul’s international airport was in the throes of chaos Monday as desperate Afghans tried to flee on departing U.S. jets, Taliban gunmen roamed the terminals and U.S. troops killed at least two men, a sign of the disorder in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
U.S. troops flew helicopters low overhead, launched smoke grenades and fired into the air in an attempt to disperse crowds and gain control of the facility, where the U.S. is staging the evacuation of American personnel, thousands of Afghan interpreters and others who worked for the U.S. and now fear Taliban retribution.
President Biden was set to address the nation after his administration failed to bring order to an evacuation process that has left both Americans and allies alike stranded in a country that was now under the control of Taliban insurgents. The Biden administration is facing criticism from both parties in Congress for the hasty withdrawal, after expressing confidence for months that the Kabul government and Afghan military could hold off the Taliban.
Over the past three days the Biden administration authorized more troops for the Kabul airport, but only a portion of them have arrived in part because of the lack of security. There are now approximately 2,500 American troops on the ground, with thousands more on the way over the next several days, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Monday.
Afghanistan has had no functioning government since President Ashraf Ghani fled the country Sunday and the Taliban moved into the capital. The airport has become a focal point for security as the U.S. tries to restore order there amid the worsening situation.
At least eight Afghans were killed Monday at the airport. In two incidents, armed men were shot and killed after approaching U.S. Marines. The U.S. troops weren’t injured and the armed men weren’t identified. Military officials said they couldn’t confirm whether the armed individuals were members of the Taliban.
Three Afghans who were holding on to the side of a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport jet as it moved across a runway were killed when they fell off the side of the fuselage and were run over, U.S. officials said. Witnesses separately reported seeing three bloodied bodies, including that of one woman, on the ground outside the passenger terminal building. Stranded travelers said these people had been shot.
After announcing the complete withdrawal of American forces in April, Mr. Biden on Thursday authorized the temporary redeployment of up to 9,000 troops to assist with the complete evacuation of American personnel, Afghans and personnel from allied countries.
On Monday, former President Hamid Karzai and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who had been the chief peace negotiator in Mr. Ghani’s government, said in a joint video message that they had held talks with the Taliban.
“We talked about necessary matters; our ongoing cooperation is very good,” Mr. Karzai said in the video. “God willing, a lasting peace, security and happiness will come to our beloved country.”
Both men are in Kabul. One hindrance to a quicker resolution to arrangements for a new or transitional government is the mayhem at Kabul airport. The chaos has prevented Mr. Karzai and Dr. Abdullah, for now, from flying to the Gulf city of Qatar, where the Taliban’s political office is based, to negotiate face to face with the Taliban’s political chief, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
With the Taliban in control of the whole country, those holding talks with the group have little leverage. It remains unclear to what extent, if any, the Taliban are willing to share power.