Riding atop the landing gear of an American evacuation jet as its engines roar overhead – this video reveals firsthand the lengths Afghan men desperately fleeing the Taliban take-over of their country were prepared to take as they stormed Kabul airport yesterday.
The footage was captured by one of a dozen men who were seen clinging to wheel housing of an American C-17 military transport plane as it taxied towards the runway for a Freedom Flight back to the west.
It is not known what became of the man who filmed the video or those who appeared in it, but horrifying footage taken on board a similar jet reveals how one was crushed to death in the landing gear – his legs dangling sickeningly from the side of the aircraft.
More video taken from the ground at the airport shows three people falling to their deaths from one of the US planes – their bodies left scattered across rooftops in the Afghan capital.
The horrifying scenes will likely become the defining image of America and NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, a debacle that has seen President Biden accused of ‘humiliating’ his country on the world stage and western allies shamed for ‘abandoning’ Afghans who assisted their failed fight to install democracy in the country.
At least five people died in the pandemonium at Kabul airport on Monday, including the men killed on board the jet and two armed Afghan men who were shot to death by US troops.
Order seemed to have been restored on Tuesday after American troops secured the runway perimeter with barbed wire and Apache helicopters were brought in to drive civilians back – with people lining up to board rescue flights bound for Spain, France, India, the US and UK.
New video footage has emerged showing a dozen men clinging to the landing gear of a US evacuation jet flying out of Kabul airport on Monday as pandemonium unfolded after the Taliban seized the capital
Thousands of Afghanis had raced on to the tarmac at Kabul airport before some jumped on the side of a US C-17 jet which was flying hundreds of diplomatic staff and visa holders out of the country
More footage revealed the horrifying sight of a man’s body crushed in the landing gear of a US jet, with officials confirming that human remains were found after the aircraft made an emergency landing
At least 56,000 people need to be flown out of Afghanistan, including 22,000 using American special immigration visas and 4,000 Britons – though the true number is likely to be far higher once staff at dozens of embassies in the capital are taken into account.
Germany and Canada have said they will take 30,000 refugees between them, and some in the US have warned 80,000 visas may need to be granted to all those they have promised sanctuary – such as translators and informants, who now live in fear of Taliban reprisals.
The Taliban has declared an ‘amnesty’ across the country today, urging people to return to their homes while vowing that government staff and women will be protected, and even invited to join the government.
Meanwhile, Kabul’s international airport, the only way out for many, reopened to military evacuation flights under the watch of American troops.
All flights were suspended on Monday when thousands of people rushed the airport, desperate to leave the country. In shocking scenes captured on video, some clung to a plane as it took off and then fell to their deaths. At least seven people died in chaos at the airport, U.S. officials said.
Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO’s senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, posted video online Tuesday showing the runway empty with U.S. troops on the tarmac.
‘I see airplanes landing and taking off,’ he wrote on Twitter.
Overnight, flight-tracking data showed a U.S. military plane taking off for Qatar. A British military cargo plane, headed to Kabul, took off from Dubai.
Still, there were indications that the situation remained tenuous. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, now operating from the airport, urged Americans to register online for evacuations but not come to the airport before being contacted.
The German Foreign Ministry said a first German military transport plane landed in Kabul, but it took off with only seven people on board due to continued chaos. Another left later with 125 people.
Pandemonium unfolded at Kabul airport on Monday as thousands of people ran on to the runway in a desperate attempt to escape Taliban rule, fearing bloody reprisals by the Islamists
Three people were also seen falling from one of the jet as the landing gear was retracted, before their bodies came crashing down on house rooftops in Kabul
By late Tuesday, the Taliban entered the civilian half of the airport, firing into the air to drive out around 500 people there, said an Afghan official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists. That crowd ended up outside of the airport in a nearby roundabout.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, noted the Taliban’s vows but also gave voice to the fears of everyday Afghans, who worry the Islamists will not live up to their word.
‘Such promises will need to be honored, and for the time being – again understandably, given past history – these declarations have been greeted with some skepticism,’ he said.
‘There have been many hard-won advances in human rights over the past two decades. The rights of all Afghans must be defended.’
Germany suspended development aid to Afghanistan, estimated at 250 million euros ($294 million) for 2021. Other funding separately goes to security services and humanitarian aid. Sweden indicated it would slow aid to the country, but Britain committed to an increase.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said humanitarian aid could rise by 10%. He said the aid budget would be reconfigured for development and humanitarian purposes and that the Taliban would not get any money previously earmarked for security.
Across Afghanistan, the International Committee of the Red Cross said thousands had been wounded in fighting as the Taliban swept across the country in recent days.
However, in many places, security forces and politicians handed over their provinces and bases without a fight, likely fearing what would happen when the last American troops withdrew as planned at the end of the month.
As U.S. President Joe Biden did, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg blamed the swift collapse of the country on a failure of Afghan leadership. But he added that the alliance must also uncover flaws in its effort to train the Afghan military.
Talks continued Tuesday between the Taliban and several Afghan government officials, including former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who once headed the country’s negotiating council.
Discussions focused on how a Taliban-dominated government would operate given the changes in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, rather than just dividing up who controlled what ministries, officials with knowledge of the negotiations said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential details of the talks.
President Ashraf Ghani earlier fled the country amid the Taliban advance and his whereabouts remain unknown.
Scenes at the airport were calmer today after American troops secured the perimeter overnight, with hundreds of people lined up behind barbed wire today trying to board Freedom Flights out
Afghan security guards try and maintain order as hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul
French security forces escort diplomatic staff and their colleagues on board an evacuation flight bound for Abu Dhabi from Kabul airport on Tuesday morning
A Spanish Airbus aircraft takes off from Zaragoza airport bound for Kabul to help evacuated embassy staff on Tuesday