At least eight people were killed at Kabul airport on Monday, including two who were shot dead by US troops, three who were run over by taxiing jets, and three stowaways who fell from the engines of a US Air Force plane as it fled an airfield of thousands of desperate Afghan nationals.
The Taliban has taken control of Afghanistan and are going door to door in Kabul looking for enemies to kill despite promising the international community they wouldn’t breach human rights because they wanted to be formally recognized.
At Hamid Karzai International Airport, there was a stampede of thousands of people – both stranded foreign nationals and Afghan civilians – desperately trying to escape.
The airport is the last place in the city that is being guarded by NATO troops. Thousands of Afghan nationals have rushed there in the hopes of being saved along with the foreigners being flown out, but the chaotic rescue operation collapsed on Monday as troops struggled to control the crowds.
General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr, the head of the Pentagon’s Central Command, met with Taliban representatives in Qatar on Sunday and convinced them to let the US evacuate its citizens and any interpreters and translators it plans to without interference.
It remains unclear how NATO troops will organize the evacuation of Afghan refugees or even get themselves out given the diabolical situation that unfolded on Monday.
There are believed to be 2,500 US troops at the airport with another 3,500 on the way but it’s unclear how many American civilians are there, and how many Afghan translators and interpreters are to be flown out.
President Joe Biden – whose days-long silence on the chaos has been deafening – will return to the White House from Camp David on Monday to address the nation at 3.45 pm. He has been blamed for the fast-escalating catastrophe in Afghanistan after declaring in April that all US troops would leave the region by September.
The harrowing scene at the airport on Monday included thousands rushing onto the runway as a US Air Force C-17 cargo jet took off with US citizens on board.
Frantic Afghan nationals jumped onto the plane’s fuselage in the hope that it would carry them to safety. Shortly after it took off, three were filmed falling from the aircraft to their deaths. Three were run over by the jet’s wheels on the tarmac.
American troops halted evacuation flights for 90 minutes afterward while they cleared the airfield, which had become overrun with thousands of Afghan nationals. They used apache helicopters and fired warning shots into the crowds to try to control them.
Outside the walls of the airport, shots from Taliban fighters rang out.
Afghanistan’s representative to the UN’s security council Ghulam M. Isaczai said ‘there are already reports of target killings and looting in the city,’ at a meeting of the council on Monday.
‘Kabul residents are reported that the Taliban have already started house-to-house searches in some neighborhoods, registering names and looking for people in their target list,’ he added.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was ‘particularly concerned’ by accounts of human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who fear a return to the darkest days in the 1990s when the Taliban ruled and barred girls from getting an education and imposed draconian measures on women.
It’s unclear now who America will save from the chaos aside from US citizens and anyone who worked alongside them.
Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan did a series of TV interviews on Monday where he said evacuation flights were ongoing, but he skirted criticism for the disaster and said: ‘When push came to shove, [the Afghan forces] decided not to step up and fight for their country.’
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has also come under fire for hightailing out of the country last night, in a helicopter full of cash, according to the Russian embassy. His whereabouts remain unknown.
The Taliban declared victory from the presidential palace on Sunday following a blistering advance across the country. Experts and lawmakers have for months warned the Biden administrations that this was exactly what would happen if they continued with the hasty retreat and entrusted the country to the Afghan National Army.
One of the terror chieftains proclaimed from the palace, ‘Praise God, I was in Guantanamo for eight years, as he sat at the president’s table surrounded by henchmen strapped with AK-47s.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the U.S. decision to withdraw had ‘accelerated’ the crisis that risked creating ‘a breeding ground for terror.’
However, the Taliban has been on a charm offensive, pledging that no harm will come to any foreign citizens or embassy staff as it seeks formal recognition from the international community.
Almost all major checkpoints in Kabul were under Taliban control by Monday morning and Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority issued an advisory saying the ‘civilian side’ of the airport had been ‘closed until further notice and that the military controlled the airspace.
Taliban officials said everyone would be allowed to return home from Kabul airport if they decide to stay in the country and promised civilians would not be harmed. The group previously said westerners would be allowed to leave the country but that Afghans would be barred from departing.
US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded. Early Monday morning, flight-tracking data showed no immediate commercial flights over the country.
In the capital, a tense calm set in, with most people hiding in their homes as the Taliban deployed fighters at major intersections.
There were scattered reports of looting and armed men knocking on doors and gates, and there was less traffic than usual on eerily quiet streets. Fighters could be seen searching vehicles at one of the city’s main squares.
Many fear chaos after the Taliban freed thousands of prisoners and the police simply melted away or a return to the kind of brutal rule the Taliban imposed when it was last in power.
They raced to Kabul’s international airport, where the ‘civilian side’ was closed until further notice, according to Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority. The military was put in control of the airspace.
Massouma Tajik, a 22-year-old data analyst, described scenes of panic at the airport, where she was hoping to board an evacuation flight.