When the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 16, thousands of civilians who risked their lives to flee Afghanistan crowded into Kabul airport. The US military had to open fire, 5 people were killed and evacuation flights were halted.
Video: People run on tarmac of Kabul international airport as a US military aircraft attempts to take off. pic.twitter.com/9qA36HS0WQ
— TOLOnews (@TOLOnews) August 16, 2021
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 16, 2021
According to the BBC, Kabul airport is currently in chaos as thousands of Afghans flock here to try to flee the South Asian country that has fallen into the hands of Islamic Taliban fighters.
The US military said soldiers shot and killed two armed men. Three other civilians were killed when they fell while clinging to the underside of the plane, which was starting to take off.
All flights up and down at Kabul airport have been halted to allow troops to clear the runway and stabilize crowds.
According to Reuters, the first of three German evacuation planes failed to land at Kabul airport, but had to be diverted to the Uzbek capital Tashkent. A second German plane was flying around Kabul.
Reuters quoted US Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby as saying that one US soldier was injured. Mr Kirby later confirmed all flights at Kabul airport had been halted “out of an abundance of caution”.
“American military forces along with soldiers from Turkey and other countries are having to ensure order. We don’t know how long this will take,” Kirby said.
The US has deployed 6,000 troops to assist with the evacuation at Kabul airport.
In related developments, President Joe Biden on Monday afternoon (August 16) returned to the White House and delivered a speech to the nation on the situation in Afghanistan.
“This actually went faster than we expected,” Biden said at the White House. He blamed Afghan government leaders for giving up and fleeing the South Asian country.
Biden also said that Afghanistan’s collapse was the responsibility of former President Donald Trump for negotiating an agreement with the Taliban to begin withdrawing US troops from May 1, 2021. He added that his administration had been forced to stick to the line of the deal that Mr. Trump signed with the Taliban.
President Biden did not respond to reporters’ questions. The White House confirmed to the press that Mr. Biden will return to Camp David to continue his vacation.
Earlier, the Taliban held a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul to declare victory after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled and his government had collapsed.
Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera TV that the militant group will soon announce a form of government organization in Afghanistan. Mr. Naeem added that the Taliban did not want to be isolated.
The Taliban are trying to show internationally that they are taking over power peacefully. They also promised to respect women’s rights and protect foreigners and Afghans.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart Antony Blinken discussed the situation in Afghanistan by phone. The two senior diplomats are said to have agreed to continue discussions with China, Pakistan and the United Nations.
Russia announced on August 16 that it would not close its embassy in Kabul because the Taliban ensured security. Turkey also confirmed that it will continue to maintain its embassy in Afghanistan.
China has expressed willingness to develop “friendly relations” with the Taliban. Meanwhile, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said the US withdrawal was an opportunity to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan.