Hundreds of people poured onto the tarmac at Kabul’s international airport desperately seeking a route out of Afghanistan on Monday, after the Taliban’s sudden seizure of power sparked a chaotic Western withdrawal and brought to a crashing end the United States’ two-decade mission in the country.
Commercial flights to Hamid Karzai International Airport were canceled, but footage showed panicked crowds trying to force their way onto any plane leaving the city late Sunday night or Monday morning.
Their pleas come as the US, the UK and other nations mount a hurried evacuation of embassy staff and nationals, in scenes echoing the Fall of Saigon 46 years ago. While the US military guards a section, its embassy in Kabul has warned Afghan citizens and Afghans to not travel there without their explicit permission.
Many were taken by surprise when chaos suddenly erupted in Kabul. US intelligence analysts predicted that it would take many more weeks before Afghanistan’s civilian government collapses in Kabul to Taliban fighters. But on Sunday, after encroaching towards the city, the militants took control of the presidential palace and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
Afghans are now waiting to hear about the type of government they will be living under. Daily Reuters spoke to Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson, on Sunday. He said that an announcement regarding the formation of a new government would be made “as soon possible”, but it would be premature now to identify who will be included.
According to Daily Reuters, the US defense secretary has approved the addition of 1,000 additional troops to the country because of the worsening security situation. The State Department stated that all US Embassy staff were evacuated and arrived at the airport Sunday night.
Amazing footage captured on the site showed people trying out to board planes as they took off and landed. Some even tried to cling to the sides of the planes that were taxiing down the runway. Many C-17 transport planes were seen departing, but the Turkish government claimed that a flight it had organized had not left. The first flight of British nationals and staff to the UK arrived home Sunday night.
Daily Reuters spoke with witnesses at the airport who said they heard gunshots throughout Monday. Witnesses said that they aren’t sure if the shots were directed at people or into the air to disperse crowds.
Daily Reutersspoke to one witness who was hoping to board a flight from Afghanistan. He fears being persecuted by the Taliban if the Americans leave. One witness was able to enter the airport and saw US soldiers telling Afghans “stay back.”
“The US must take us with them. The witness stated that once they are gone, we will be forever forgotten.”
According to a senior administration official, President Joe Biden will address Americans on Afghanistan within the next few days. Biden’s young presidency is in danger of being swept away by the crisis. On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated to Daily Reuters that the administration had not accurately predicted how quickly Kabul would fall.
“The truth of the matter is that we’ve seen the force has not been able to defend the country,” Blinken stated to Daily Reuters’s Jake Tapper, referring to Afghanistan’s national security forces. “And that has occurred more quickly than we expected.”
The US allies are also unsure about the details of their withdrawal from Afghanistan, which triggered the Taliban’s surge.
In a Monday interview, Ben Wallace, the UK’s Defence Secretary, cried and admitted that “some people will not get back” to the country. He said, “It’s sad that the West has done what they’ve done.”