Chaos reigns at Afghanistan’s Kabul international airport as thousands try to board flights to flee from the Taliban who have reconquered Afghanistan in a lightning surge 20 years after they were toppled by the US invasion.
The United States lowered the flag on its embassy in Kabul on Sunday and has relocated almost all staff to the airport.
Afghanistan’s government has collapsed, with reports that its president Ashraf Ghani has fled to Uzbekistan. Thousands of residents and foreign nationals are trying to escape Kabul, with scenes of chaos and panic being seen at the airport since Sunday night.
— Ahmer Khan (@ahmermkhan) August 16, 2021
Commercial flights have been suspended, with priority reportedly being given to US military flights that are evacuating diplomatic staff.
Rush for the last flight at Kabul Airport. pic.twitter.com/Z6M26uhPeQ
— Sudhir Chaudhary (@sudhirchaudhary) August 16, 2021
“We are completing a series of steps to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of US and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights,” the Pentagon and State Department said in a joint statement.
“Almost all” personnel from the embassy have relocated to the airport including the acting ambassador, Ross Wilson, who remains in touch with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a State Department spokesperson said.
“The American flag has been lowered from the US embassy compound and is now securely located with embassy staff,” the spokesperson said.
The shuttering of the US embassy, which was one of the largest in the world, comes nearly 20 years after the United States returned to it following the defeat of the Taliban regime.
The Taliban took control of Kabul on Sunday, more than two weeks before the August 31 deadline set by Biden to complete the withdrawal of American troops from the country.
This footage shows Taliban fighters inside Afghanistan's presidential palace.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 16, 2021
Trump calls on Biden to resign over Afghanistan
It was under Trump that the US brokered a deal with the Taliban in Doha in 2020 that would have seen the US troops pull out by May 2021 in exchange for various security guarantees from the Taliban.
When Biden took power earlier this year, he pushed back the deadline for the withdrawal and set no conditions for it.
Trump called for his successor to resign on Sunday. “It is time for Joe Biden to resign in disgrace for what he has allowed to happen to Afghanistan,” Trump said in a statement.
“What Joe Biden has done with Afghanistan is legendary. It will go down as one of the greatest defeats in American history!” he said in another statement on Sunday.
The Biden administration is quick to point out that Trump negotiated the Doha deal on the withdrawal and that a majority of the US public favors ending “forever wars.”
Taliban spokesman speaks of “peaceful transition of power”
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen spoke to TRT, saying that the Taliban seek a “peaceful transition of power.”
“Our forces are in Kabul. We are expecting a peaceful transfer of power,” he said, adding that “the city and the people are safe.”
“They should have no fear. Their lives, their properties are safe. This is our message to them.”
Shaheen said that the Taliban represent the will of the people of Afghanistan because many Afghans support them.
Greece among countries demanding safe passage out of Afghanistan
Greece joined 65 other countries in asking that Afghans and international citizens who wish to depart must be allowed to do so.
Here’s the full text:
“Given the deteriorating security situation, we support, are working to secure, and call on all parties to respect and facilitate, the safe and orderly departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country. Those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan bear responsibility – and accountability – for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order.
“Afghans and international citizens who wish to depart must be allowed to do so; roads, airports and border crossing must remain open, and calm must be maintained.
“The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them.”