After making a deal with the Taliban to allow evacuations from Kabul without jihadi interference, the US army’s General Frank McKenzie locked down the airport.
Gen. McKenzie is leading 6,000 US troops and 900 British soldiers who are trying to evacuate as many as 50,000 Afghan refugees and thousands of other foreign citizens, including aid workers and diplomats, who live in Kabul.
For the moment, the Taliban say they are giving ‘amnesty’ to foreigners who wish to leave.
But amid tense scenes at the capital, which fell to insurgents with astonishing rapidity, fears are growing that the tentative calm could fall apart at any moment.
Gen. McKenzie, whose forces now operate in a country almost completely dominated by the Taliban, has warned that his troops will respond forcefully to defend the airport if necessary, amid reports of insurgents beating and shooting Afghans trying to enter.
US troops, backed by British SAS and Royal Marines special forces, are guarding the perimeter with snipers on rooftops, as well as machine gunners and armored cars on the runway.
Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key, who is running the British evacuation operation, told the BBC the UK will be bringing back as many people as it can, as quickly as possible, until either demand is met or ‘the security situation means that we’re no longer operating with consent’.
But eligible individuals have to make the trip to the airport themselves when called to do so, and the Taliban now control the access points, he added.
Truck-loads of Taliban fighters armed with AK-47s and rocket launchers now wait outside the airport and man the gates into it, as their blood-soaked organisation returns to power following a 20-year conflict with a global superpower that had sought to destroy them.
US troops, backed by British SAS and Royal Marines special forces, are guarding the 7.8-mile perimeter with snipers on rooftops, as well as machine gunners and armored cars on the runway. Meanwhile, truck-loads of Taliban fighters are outside the airport and manning the gates into the airport armed with AK-47s and rocket launchers.
Sir Ben said that his forces face a race against time, and they are ‘alive to the uncertainty’ of the situation.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 12 flights had taken off, many heading to nearby cities like Doha, while others have landed at RAF bases in Cyprus.
But tens of thousands of desperate civilians who worked for the coalition are still stuck in Kabul and facing certain death unless they can be flown out of the country.
The Pentagon says it is aiming to have a flight out of Kabul every hour so that it can evacuate 9,000 people per day.
Here MailOnline runs through how many troops from the US-coalition are on the tarmac, how many people are still to be evacuated and where they will be taken:
TROOPS: More than 7,000 troops from US, UK, Turkey, Canada, are helping to secure the airport led by American commander General Frank McKenzie
During Monday’s briefing, Major General Hank Taylor told reporters that there were currently 2,500 troops at the airport, with 3,000 to 3,500 expected to be there within hours.
The total number of US troops is set to swell to 6,000 within the coming days.
The Taliban have been warned that if they interfere with the airport, American troops will fire at will.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that US commanders were in constant discussions with the Taliban top brass.
The UK had around 700 troops led by members of 16 Air Assault Brigade (The Paras), another 200 were announced last night – bringing the total to 900 soldiers.
Vice Adm Sir Ben Key, who is running the British evacuation operation, told the BBC that the airport was ‘much calmer’ today. Vice Adm Key said that the operation was working at ‘full pace’, with three flights on Tuesday.
He added that because of the ‘dynamic political situation’ in Kabul his forces ‘can’t afford to pause’, adding that officials were ‘alive to the uncertainty’.
General Frank McKenzie, the head of CENTCOM, met directly with Taliban officials on Sunday for negotiations, he is in charge of American troops, while Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key (right), who is running the British evacuation operation remotely, told the BBC that his forces face a race against time but that they are ‘alive to the uncertainty.’
American snipers on the roof of a building at the edge of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Tuesday
US soldiers worked through Monday evening to secure the airport runway which had been packed with thousands of Afghans fleeing the Taliban, forcing the crowds back before laying barbed wire
A British soldier stands guard at the tail end of a military transport plane in Kabul today as British citizens and dual-nationals desperate to escape the Taliban are brought on board
Taliban soldiers are seen at the entrance to Afghanistan’s international airport in Kabul on Tuesday
Turkey, which is a Nato member, has around 600 soldiers in Kabul to assist with the evacuation.
It had offered to keep them in the city to operate the airport once the US pulls out, but dropped those plans following the collapse of the Afghan government.
‘However, in the event that the Taliban asks for technical support, Turkey can provide security and technical support at the airport,’ a military source told Reuters.
Canberra announced plans to send an evacuation force of 250 troops to Afghanistan on Monday to help its embassy staff and Afghan nationals.
Smaller numbers of FRENCH, POLISH and SPANISH troops have arrived to help their diplomats return.
French soldiers stand guard near a military plane at airport in Kabul on Tuesday evening. France launched operation Apagan on Sunday and has sent two transport planes, a C-130 Hercules and an A400M Atlas, to help retrieve its diplomatic staff.
REFUGEES AND EVACUEES: Allied forces have pledged to help more than 50,000 Afghans desperate to flee
Evacuated 1,600 US personnel, Afghans and foreign nationals on Sunday and Monday.
That includes a C-17 cargo jet which was overrun by Afghan refugees before eventually taking off from Kabul with 640 migrants on board.
Washington is issuing 22,000 special immigrant visas (SIVs) to those who helped with combat operations and are likely to face revenge attacks from the Taliban.
However, the US has said that figure could rise to up to 80,000 SIVs for all the Afghans and their families.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday that between 5,000 and 10,000 U.S. citizens were believed to remain in the Kabul area, and that the United States could move between 5,000 and 9,000 people out of Kabul per day.
Three U.S. military bases were prepared to accept up to 22,000 Afghan allies in the coming weeks, he added.
More than 700 people, including more than 150 U.S. citizens, were evacuated in the past 24 hours, Kirby said.
George Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State Robert Charles has indicated that there could be as many as 40,000 American citizens scattered across Afghanistan.
Afghanis, some clutching migration documents, line up behind barbed wire and under the guns of Afghan security guards at Kabul’s main airport – a far cry from the chaos that engulfed the area on Monday
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed that 3,300 Afghans, including diplomatic staff, interpreters and their families have already arrived in Britain.
Afghan nationals who served as British staff are eligible for relocation under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP).
The Foreign Office had ordered 4,000 British nationals in Afghanistan to leave. Around 300 Britons were able to fly out on Sunday as Kabul fell.
Vice Adm Sir Ben Key said he hopes to extract between 6,000 and 7,000 people in the next few days.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace fought back tears on Monday as he revealed that not every Afghan who had helped the UK would be brought back.
‘Some people won’t get back,’ said the former British Army captain.
Angela Merkel has offered to take up to 10,000 Afghan refugees, including 2,500 who worked for Berlin and another 2,000 human rights activists.
Already 807 Afghan refugees have arrived in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to re-settle 20,000, including women’s and LGBT activists.
There are more than 130 Australians working for the United Nations, non-government organizations and elsewhere still in Afghanistan which is now under Taliban control.
Up to 800 Afghans who helped Australia’s military including interpreters are also seeking a safe passage out of the country.
Since April, 430 Afghan employees, as well as their families, have been brought to Australia.
SPAIN, FRANCE and INDIA confirmed that all of their diplomatic staff had been evacuated today.
RUSSIA and INDONESIA say that their embassies will only be partially evacuated.
There are around 7,000 foreign troops providing security at the airport alongside a few remaining Afghan guards (pictured), who seemed to have restored order on Tuesday
FLIGHTS and DESTINATIONS: Flights out of Afghanistan are heading to nearby military bases before onward to host countries
US defense officials claim they’ll remove 5,000 evacuees every day but so far, they’ve only rescued 1,400 since Sunday and as many as 40,000 remain stranded and the Taliban is fast encroaching on the airport, the last safe place for anyone trying to get out.
At a briefing on Tuesday morning, US Army Major General Hank Taylor revealed 700 people were flown out of the region overnight on seven C-17 jets. The number included 165 US citizens and the rest were for foreign nationals.
He claimed between 5,000 and 9,000 people will be removed every day on one flight per hour but there was no sign of any US plane at the airport on Tuesday while Indian, French and British jets were taking off.
It’s unclear why only 700 people were spread across the seven C-17 jets that flew out of the region overnight, when one of the same jets carried 640 Afghan nationals in a single load on Sunday.
C-17 jets were pictured taking off from Kabul on Monday followed by hundreds of desperate Afghanis, some of whom were clinging to the wheels on the same side of the plane that the footage was taken from
Crowds of people are seen on the tarmac at Kabul’s airport in Afghanistan on Monday as the security situation deteriorated
The 5,000 per day goal also seems increasingly ambitious considering only 1,400 people in total have been flown out since Sunday, when the Taliban claimed Kabul.
US Director of Defense Garry Reid confirmed that the refugees would initially be resettled at two military installations in the US – Fort Bliss in Texas, and Camp McCoy in Wisconsin.
Many of the flights are headed to friendly airports in the Middle East, like Doha and Abu Dhabi, before onward travel, while others have landed at RAF bases in Cyprus before onward travel to the UK and the U.S.
The first group of embassy staff and British nationals arrived at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Sunday, following a rapid SAS-backed rescue mission – dubbed Operation ‘Pitting.’ The flight’s passengers included Afghan British Embassy staff and British Nationals.
France launched Operation ‘Apagan’ on Sunday and has sent to transport planes, a C-130 Hercules and an A400M Atlas, to help retrieve its diplomatic staff.
Flight tracking data from around 5pm local time on Tuesday showed a USAF cargo aircraft approaching Kabul after leaving Doha, Qatar