Taliban take Afghanistan: Evacuation flights out of Kabul resume


At a glance: What is the situation in Afghanistan and how many people are being evacuated?

The Taliban have seized power in Afghanistan two weeks before the US was set to complete its troop withdrawal after a costly 20-year war. Here is the latest:

  • The Taliban, who ran Afghanistan in the late 1990s, have again taken control after the Western-backed government that has run it for 20 years collapsed
  • Thousands of people are racing to Kabul Airport which is one of the last routes out of the country amid fears the Taliban could carry out revenge attacks
  • At least 56,000 people need evacuating – including some 22,000 on US special immigrant visas, 4,000 British nationals, 10,000 refugees that Germany has said it will accept, and 20,000 bound for Canada 
  • Some people are so desperate that they clung to the side of a military jet as it took off and then plunged to their deaths yesterday – at least seven died 
  • At least 12 military flights took off from Kabul today
  • Britain has carried out three MoD military flights so far today amid hopes they can get out up to 7,000 people 
  • 900 British armed forces are in Afghanistan to bring UK nationals home and secure safety of some Afghans
  • 150 British nationals were flown out on Sunday while 289 Afghan nationals were taken out last week
  • A further 350 British and Afghans will be taken out of the country in the next 24 hours, UK Government says 
  • The US may issue up 80,000 special immigrant visas to those who helped with its combat operations
  • 7,500 troops currently guarding the airport – including 6,000 Americans and smaller numbers of British, Turkish and Australians – will also need to leave  
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for G7 leaders to hold a virtual meeting ‘in the coming days’ 
  • Defence Minister Ben Wallace says the Taliban takeover is a ‘failure of the international community’
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says UK must work with ‘challenging’ partners on dealing with Taliban
  • US President Joe Biden called the situation ‘gut-wrenching’ but rejected blame for what’s happening
  • The Taliban now say they want to form an ‘inclusive, Islamic government’ with other factions – and are holding negotiations with senior politicians
  • Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has already fled the country after the Taliban reached Kabul on Sunday

Hundreds of Afghanis fleeing the Taliban are lining up behind barbed wire at Kabul Airport and getting on rescue flights following yesterday’s chaotic scenes that saw one person crushed to death in the landing gear of an aircraft and three others fall from the sky. 

Dozens of people, some clutching immigration documents, queued under the guns of Afghan security guards as Apache helicopters buzzed through the air at the airport today as they waited to board flights out of the country, fearing bloody reprisal by the Islamists.

At least 12 military flights took off from Kabul Airport today, including three UK planes with the Ministry of Defence hoping they can get out up to 7,000 people.

Some 150 British nationals were flown out on Sunday while 289 Afghan nationals were taken out last week – and a further 350 British and Afghans will be taken out of the country in the next 24 hours, the UK said today. 

It comes after pandemonium yesterday as thousands of desperate people rushed the runway and clung to the wheels of departing US jets – with one horrifying video appearing to show how one man was crushed to death in the landing gear of a C-17 transport plane.

The footage, which emerged today, shows what appears to be a man’s legs protruding from the side of the jet and failing against the side of the aircraft. A US official later confirmed that human remain were found in the landing gear of a jet, which made an emergency landing after declaring a mid-air state of emergency.

There are at least 56,000 people who need evacuating from Afghanistan – including some 22,000 flying on US special immigrant visas, 4,000 British nationals, 10,000 refugees that Germany has said it will accept, and 20,000 bound for Canada. In reality, that number is likely to be far higher once diplomatic staff from dozens of countries which had relations with Afghanistan’s former government are taken into account.

The US said it may issue up 80,000 special immigrant visas to those who helped with combat operations and are likely to face revenge attacks from the Taliban, while 7,500 troops currently guarding the airport – including 6,000 Americans and smaller numbers of British, Turkish and Australians – will also need to leave.

At least 6,000 people have already managed to flee the country on evacuation flights that began on Sunday, with a dozen departing today – most of them flying to neighbouring Middle Eastern countries before continuing their journeys west. Spain, France and India confirmed their diplomatic staff were evacuated today. 

Russia and Indonesia said their embassies will be partially evacuated, with the EU mission has said staff including its ambassador Andreas Von Brandt is still in the country and will need to leave.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to convene a meeting of G7 world leaders at the ‘earliest opportunity’ as he looks to co-ordinate the international response, as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would have to work with ‘challenging’ partners on how to deal with the Taliban following their capture of Kabul.  

During the Taliban’s rule in 1996 to 2001, women could not work and punishments such as public stoning, whipping and hanging were administered. 

The Taliban have said there will be no retribution against opponents and promised to respect the rights of women, minorities and foreigners, but many Afghans are sceptical and fear old enemies and activists will be rounded up. 

In a day of fast-moving developments:

  • Joe Biden was condemned for the ‘humiliating’ retreat after Afghan forces capitulated with barely a fight; 
  • EU foreign ministers met in Brussels for emergency talks amid fears over a new European refugee crisis;
  • Dominic Raab promised that Britain will take ‘tens of thousands’ of Afghans while increasing foreign aid;
  • Turkey said it welcomed ‘positive messages’ from the Taliban and diplomats will hold talks with the Islamists; 
  • The Duke and Duchess of Sussex issued a statement on the crisis, saying it had left them ‘speechless’ 

Meanwhile a second piece of footage showed racks of what appeared to be American and Soviet-made weaponry dumped alongside helmets, body armour and magazines full of ammunition in an arrivals area of the airport.

And Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s deputy president, posted a defiant message from the Panjshir Valley – one of the few areas not conquered by the Taliban – where he is holed up with other anti-Taliban warlords. 

British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan get on an RAF plane at Kabul Airport before being relocated to the UK, in this undated Ministry of Defence photograph. At least 12 military flights took off from the airport today, officials said

British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan get on an RAF plane at Kabul Airport before being relocated to the UK, in this undated Ministry of Defence photograph. At least 12 military flights took off from the airport today, officials said

People gather outside Kabul Airport today as the Taliban declared an "amnesty" and urged women to join their government

People gather outside Kabul Airport today as the Taliban declared an ‘amnesty’ and urged women to join their government

Military personnel board a Royal Air Force Airbus A400M transport plane, after arriving by bus at RAF Brize Norton today, as Britain sends 900 soldiers back to Afghanistan over the coming days to help with repatriations and evacuations

Military personnel board a Royal Air Force Airbus A400M transport plane, after arriving by bus at RAF Brize Norton today, as Britain sends 900 soldiers back to Afghanistan over the coming days to help with repatriations and evacuations

The body of an Afghan man is trapped in the wheel arch of a C-17 transport plane

The body of an Afghan man is trapped in the wheel arch of a C-17 transport plane

The body of an Afghan man is trapped in the wheel arch of a C-17 transport plane that took off from Kabul Airport on Monday

Afghanis, some clutching migration documents, line up behind barbed wire and under the guns of Afghan security guards at Kabul's main airport today, one day after deadly chaos gripped the main airport as desperate crowds tried to flee the country

Afghanis, some clutching migration documents, line up behind barbed wire and under the guns of Afghan security guards at Kabul’s main airport today, one day after deadly chaos gripped the main airport as desperate crowds tried to flee the country

British soldiers help Afghan citizens to board a Hercules transport plane at Kabul Airport in this undated photograph. At least 12 military flights took off from Kabul today, including three UK planes with the MoD hoping they can get out 7,000 people

British soldiers help Afghan citizens to board a Hercules transport plane at Kabul Airport in this undated photograph. At least 12 military flights took off from Kabul today, including three UK planes with the MoD hoping they can get out 7,000 people

Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, today as the crisis continues in the country

Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, today as the crisis continues in the country

Taliban fighters stand at a checkpoint near the US embassy that was previously manned by American troops, in Kabul today

Taliban fighters stand at a checkpoint near the US embassy that was previously manned by American troops, in Kabul today

Evacuees on a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, carrying 640 Afghans to Qatar from Kabul on Sunday

Evacuees on a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, carrying 640 Afghans to Qatar from Kabul on Sunday

Prime Minister Mr Johnson is pushing for a virtual G7 meeting to be arranged, raising the idea with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a call today and doing the same during talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

And in a signal that Mr Johnson wants to draw together a broad coalition, Downing Street confirmed the UK wants the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) – which, as well as Britain, includes the US, China, France and Russia – to meet this week.

‘Idiot’ British student who went on holiday to Afghanistan is evacuated

A British student who took a holiday to Afghanistan before being trapped by the Taliban takeover today shared a video from inside a military plane as he landed in Dubai after being evacuated to safety.

The footage showed Miles Routledge, 21, sitting among hundreds of other people fleeing the militant group as the packed aircraft touched down in the United Arab Emirates.

The banking intern, who was wearing a flak jacket, wrote in a Facebook caption: ‘I’ve landed in Dubai thanks to the brilliant people at the British Army. All safe!’

Thousands of refugees including brave British Army translators have been desperately trying to find space on the few flights leaving Afghanistan to avoid being killed by Taliban fighters.

Miles Routledge, 21, shared footage of him sitting alongside hundreds of other people fleeing the militant group as the aircraft touched down in the UAE

Miles Routledge, 21, shared footage of him sitting alongside hundreds of other people fleeing the militant group as the aircraft touched down in the UAE

Mr Routledge, from Birmingham, had earlier posted a series of photos on message board 4chan and streaming site Twitch of his apparent trip around the war-torn country.

The Loughborough physics student announced yesterday that he had eventually secured an evacuation flight.

Mr Routledge wrote on Facebook: ‘Got Evacuated at 4ish (it’s 2am now) with 100 or so other civilians, couldn’t message as there were cars emitting signals that would set off bombs, it blocked my airpods from connecting so I think it blocked all wifi/data.

‘The Taliban let us go through the airport and we met many of them, very long transition period but everyone was smiling and waving at one another, some took selfies with them. I slept on a dirt/gravel road and woke up as cars went by. We’re in a new safe house and we’re all hydrated, happy and ready for a few hours of sleep.’ 

The gathering would extend even further than the G7 alliance of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US, with the Prime Minister keen for leading economies to act together on choosing how to broach relations with a Taliban-led state in Afghanistan.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said Mr Johnson and Mrs Merkel agreed that ‘global co-operation was crucial’.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed the UK would have to work with ‘challenging’ partners on its approach to dealing with the Taliban following their capture of Kabul.

UK relations with Moscow have been strained in recent years, particularly since the Salisbury Novichok attack in 2018, while Beijing and London have been at loggerheads over China’s growing technological influence amid security and spying fears.

Mr Raab, who admitted that the speed of Afghanistan’s fall took the Government by surprise, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘We’ll need a contact group I believe, of not just like-minded Western countries, but countries with direct influence even if we find it challenging dealing with them.

‘The permanent members of the Security Council, including China and Russia, will need to be, I think, part of the solution, so it’s not going to be easy.’

Mr Raab said he thought the international community must ‘test’ the Taliban’s resolve to hold to promises previously made in their Doha agreement with the US, including ensuring terrorists do not take hold again in Afghanistan and leading a more ‘inclusive’ government.

‘Now the Taliban have never kept a promise so far, but I think given that they have those set of undertakings, we must test it and make sure that there’s a cost if they don’t live up to those responsibilities,’ he added.

‘It is going to be exceptionally challenging, but that is already what we’re looking to do and to try and galvanise some international action with that in mind.’

No 10 said the Prime Minister plans to use a G7 meeting to focus on ensuring Afghanistan does not once again become a source of international terrorist threats, as it did in the 1990s when it harboured al Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.

But politicians and defence experts warned that terrorists will be free to operate under the new administration in Kabul.

Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Jamie Stone said jailed terrorists were ‘now freely roaming the streets of Afghanistan’ after the Taliban’s victory and predicted that backers of so-called Islamic State and al Qaida ‘will begin plotting their revenge on countries such as Britain’.

Mr Stone is calling on ministers to publish the national security assessment it conducted before pulling British troops out of the central Asian country, pushing for a vote when Parliament is recalled on Wednesday if they refuse.

Emily Winterbotham, a specialist in terrorism at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, said it was ‘pointless’ to demand that Afghanistan should be free of international terrorists.

‘Let’s not forget that al Qaida never really left the country whilst Isis already has a foothold,’ she said. ‘The focus right now needs to be on refugees and humanitarian assistance.’

Seven died in chaotic scenes in Jabul yesterday, which was replaced by relative calm today as people lined up behind wire

Seven died in chaotic scenes in Jabul yesterday, which was replaced by relative calm today as people lined up behind wire

An RAF Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport plane taxis on the Tarmac to take of from the airfield at RAF Brize Norton today

An RAF Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport plane taxis on the Tarmac to take of from the airfield at RAF Brize Norton today

Some 7,000 foreign troops providing security at Kabul Airport alongside a few remaining Afghan guards, pictured today

Some 7,000 foreign troops providing security at Kabul Airport alongside a few remaining Afghan guards, pictured today

Afghanis hoping to flee the Taliban were seen outside the airport tday, which reopened after the runway was cleared

Afghanis hoping to flee the Taliban were seen outside the airport tday, which reopened after the runway was cleared

An Apache helicopter buzzes Hamid Karzai airport today as relative calm was restored following chaos yesterday

An Apache helicopter buzzes Hamid Karzai airport today as relative calm was restored following chaos yesterday

A British soldier stands guard as British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan are loaded on to an evacuation flight at Kabul Airport in an undated photograph

A British soldier stands guard as British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan are loaded on to an evacuation flight at Kabul Airport in an undated photograph

French troops are pictured guarding a military transport plane at Kabul airport in the early hours of today as evacuations resume after thousands of desperate locals were cleared off the runway

French troops are pictured guarding a military transport plane at Kabul airport in the early hours of today as evacuations resume after thousands of desperate locals were cleared off the runway

Weapons at Hamid Karzai airport

Weapons at Hamid Karzai airport

Piles of American and Soviet-made weaponry was seen dumped in the arrivals area of the airport alongside helmets and bullet proof vests. Afghan security forces and government staff are among those now trying to leave the country 

The warnings come as Downing Street said Mr Johnson is planning to unveil a ‘bespoke’ resettlement scheme to allow fleeing Afghans to set up home in the UK shortly.

Harry and Meghan are left ‘speechless’ over Afghanistan chaos as they express heartbreak 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shared their heartbreak over the state of the ‘exceptionally fragile’ world, saying they have been left speechless by the situation in Afghanistan.

Harry, who fought in the country on two frontline tours with the Army, and Meghan also expressed their distress about the earthquake in Haiti and said they were ‘scared’ amid the new Covid variants and continuing global health crisis.

The couple, who quit royal duties for a life in California, urged global leaders to speed up humanitarian talks and asked people to support charities trying to help those in need.

In a joint statement on their Archewell website, Harry and Meghan said: ‘The world is exceptionally fragile right now.

‘As we all feel the many layers of pain due to the situation in Afghanistan, we are left speechless.

‘As we all watch the growing humanitarian disaster in Haiti, and the threat of it worsening after last weekend’s earthquake, we are left heartbroken.

‘And as we all witness the continuing global health crisis, exacerbated by new variants and constant misinformation, we are left scared.’

Calling on the international community to alleviate suffering, the Sussexes added: ‘When any person or community suffers, a piece of each of us does so with them, whether we realise it or not.

‘And though we are not meant to live in a state of suffering, we, as a people, are being conditioned to accept it. It’s easy to find ourselves feeling powerless, but we can put our values into action – together.

‘To start, we encourage you to join us in supporting a number of organisations doing critical work. We also urge those in positions of global influence to rapidly advance the humanitarian dialogues that are expected to take place this fall at multilateral gatherings such as the UN General Assembly and the G20 leaders’ summit.

‘As an international community, it is the decisions we make now – to alleviate suffering among those we know and those we may never meet – that will prove our humanity.’

The statement was followed by images of their signatures ‘Harry & Meghan’.

The couple’s not for profit Archewell organisation said it was supporting the emergency response in Haiti with its partner World Central Kitchen, and highlighted other organisations such as Women for Afghan Women, Afghanaid and Mercy Corps.

The Telegraph reported the concept could be similar to that used to take in Syrian refugees in 2015, which saw women with children, people with serious medical conditions and survivors of torture prioritised.

Mr Raab – who has faced criticism after reportedly being spotted on a beach in Crete on the day Kabul was seized by insurgents – said he was unable to confirm how many refugees would be coming to the UK from Afghanistan, but added it was ‘right’ to consider a bespoke process for Afghan nationals.

Around 900 armed forces are in Afghanistan helping to bring UK nationals home and secure the safety of selected Afghans.

Royal Navy Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key, in an interview with Sky News, said British armed forces ‘can’t afford to pause’ as they work with US troops to help get about 6,000 people out of Afghanistan via Kabul.

Sir Ben also told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme the Taliban seemed ‘acquiescent’ about allowing people to reach the city’s airport but stressed that Britain could not take that position for granted as repatriation efforts gather pace. 

An Indian airforce plane evacuated over 170 people from Kabul on Tuesday, including India’s ambassador to Afghanistan, a government official said, as diplomats and civilians scrambled to get out of the country after the Taliban seized the capital.

The flight landed in the western Indian city of Jamnagar for refuelling on the way to Delhi, Jamnagar collector Sourabh Pardhi told Reuters.

Speaking to reporters, Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon said that nearly 200 personnel of the Indian mission in Afghanistan had been evacuated within three days, alongside Indian civilians working in the country.

‘You cannot imagine how great it is to be back home,’ Tandon said. ‘We are back home safely, securely, without any accidents or harm to any of our people.’

Tandon described the situation in Afghanistan as ‘fluid’, adding that a small number of Indian nationals remained in the country who authorities were attempting to bring back.

Politicians in both the UK and US have urged their government to be ‘generous’ with granting asylum to Afghans who helped in the war effort, but there are fears that thousands will be left behind amid the chaos.

The success of the operation now depends upon troops being able to keep the runway open, and on officials being able to locate all those who have been promised a ticket home and get them to the airport. 

Some 6,000 American troops have now encircled the airport, using barbed wire and armoured vehicles to keep people off the runway, but so has the Taliban – which now controls 90 per cent of the country.

While Taliban diplomats have promised that the evacuation will be allowed to go ahead unhindered, it remains unclear if they will be willing to let their countrymen leave, having urged people at the airport to return home and promised an amnesty for government workers who go back to their jobs.  

Early on Tuesday, French soldiers were pictured standing guard alongside a military plane evacuating diplomatic staff and their Afghan colleagues.

People were pictured forming orderly queues to board the aircraft, in stark contrast to the panicked and desperate scenes just hours earlier

Despite the airport runway being secured, witnesses reported gunshots coming from the area overnight. Streets elsewhere in Kabul appeared calm.  

U.S. forces took charge of the airport, their only way to fly out of the country, on Sunday, as the militants were winding up a dramatic week of advances across the country with their takeover of the capital without a fight.

Flights were suspended flights for much of Monday, when at least five people were killed, witnesses said, although it was unclear whether they had been shot or crushed in a stampede.

Media reported two people fell to their deaths from the underside of a U.S. military aircraft after it took off, crashing to their deaths on roofs of homes near the airport. More video showed three bodies being retrieved from the streets. 

French nationals and their Afghan colleagues line up to board a French military transport plane at the Kabul airport

French nationals and their Afghan colleagues line up to board a French military transport plane at the Kabul airport

A French national sleeps on the floor at Kabul airport early on Tuesday as he waits with other diplomatic staff to board a flight out of Kabul airport as evacuations resume

A French national sleeps on the floor at Kabul airport early on Tuesday as he waits with other diplomatic staff to board a flight out of Kabul airport as evacuations resume

David Martinon (centre left), the French ambassador to Afghanistan, waits with French and Afghan nationals to board a French military transport plane at the airport in Kabul

David Martinon (centre left), the French ambassador to Afghanistan, waits with French and Afghan nationals to board a French military transport plane at the airport in Kabul

More horrifying footage from Kabul airport showed the bodies of two people falling from a departing aircraft, while more footage later showed people retrieving three bodies

More horrifying footage from Kabul airport showed the bodies of two people falling from a departing aircraft, while more footage later showed people retrieving three bodies

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

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

A Spanish Airbus transport plane was pictured taking off from Zaragoza airport on Tuesday bound for Kabul, where an unknown number of diplomatic staff are awaiting rescue

A Spanish Airbus transport plane was pictured taking off from Zaragoza airport on Tuesday bound for Kabul, where an unknown number of diplomatic staff are awaiting rescue 

Spanish troops stand on the tarmac as they wait to help evacuate diplomatic staff and personnel from Kabul airport

Spanish troops stand on the tarmac as they wait to help evacuate diplomatic staff and personnel from Kabul airport

Spanish troops are loaded on board an Airbus transport plane in Zaragoza, bound for Kabul airport where evacuation missions have resumed today

Spanish troops are loaded on board an Airbus transport plane in Zaragoza, bound for Kabul airport where evacuation missions have resumed today

An Airbus transport plane loads up at Zaragoza airport, in Spain, as it prepares to fly to Kabul to evacuate Spanish nationals

An Airbus transport plane loads up at Zaragoza airport, in Spain, as it prepares to fly to Kabul to evacuate Spanish nationals

An Afghan boy is given food after arriving in Rome on board an evacuation flight out of Afghanistan

An Afghan boy is given food after arriving in Rome on board an evacuation flight out of Afghanistan

An Afghan girl crouches on the floor of Rome's Fiumicino airport after being evacuated from the country

An Afghan girl crouches on the floor of Rome’s Fiumicino airport after being evacuated from the country

Nepalese people evacuated from Afghanistan arrive via Kuwait at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu

Nepalese people evacuated from Afghanistan arrive via Kuwait at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu

A Nepalese man evacuated from Afghanistan waves as he arrives via Kuwait at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu

A Nepalese man evacuated from Afghanistan waves as he arrives via Kuwait at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu

Macron pledges ‘robust’ EU response to stop Afghan migrants 

Emmanuel Macron has vowed a ‘robust, coordinated and united’ European response to stop Afghan migrants heading to the West and warned that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is on course to become a ‘sanctuary’ for terrorists and people-smugglers unless action is taken.

In a television broadcast from his holiday home in the South of France, the French President said the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan after the 20-year Western intervention had far-reaching consequences for other countries – and would need to work together to manage the change.

‘This is key for international security and peace,’ Mr Macron said on Monday night. ‘We will do everything for Russia, the United States and Europe to co-operate efficiently as our interests are the same’.

Mr Macron also urged the United Nations Security Council – of which France is a permanent member – to produce a ‘reasonable and unified’ response to the crisis engulfing Afghanistan and the wider region.

The French President said the European Union would now be trying to regulate the vastly increased refugee flow from Afghanistan, which has a population of almost 40,000. He said France would be cracking down on ‘illegal people smuggling rings’, along with Germany and other EU countries.

Mr Macron said: ‘We must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows that would endanger the migrants and risk encouraging trafficking of all kinds.’

He said some 800 Afghans including translators and cooks who worked for France had already been evacuated to his country And the President added that France was ready to help activists, artists and journalists who risk being targeted because of their work.

‘We will help them as it is the honour of France to be side-by-side with those who share our values,’ he said.

A U.S. official told Reuters U.S. troops had killed two gunmen who had appeared to have fired into the crowd at the airport.

Despite the scenes of panic and confusion in Kabul, U.S. President Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces after 20 years of war – the nation’s longest – that he described as costing more than $1 trillion.

But a video on Monday of hundreds of desperate Afghans trying to clamber onto a U.S. military plane as it was about to take-off could haunt the United States, just as a photograph in 1975 of people scrambling to get on a helicopter on the roof of a building in Saigon became emblematic of the humiliating withdrawal from Vietnam.

Biden insisted he had to decide between asking U.S. forces to fight endlessly in what he called Afghanistan’s civil war or follow through on an agreement to withdraw negotiated by his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump.

‘I stand squarely behind my decision,’ Biden said. ‘After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there.’

Facing a barrage of criticism, from even his own diplomats, he blamed the Taliban’s takeover on Afghan political leaders who fled and its army’s unwillingness to fight.

The Taliban captured Afghanistan’s biggest cities in days rather than the months predicted by U.S. intelligence, in many cases after demoralised government forces surrendered despite years of training and equipping by the United States and others.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the hasty pullout of U.S. troops had a ‘serious negative impact, ‘ China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported, adding that Wang pledged to work with Washington to promote stability.

Blinken also spoke on Monday with counterparts in Pakistan, Russia, Britain, the European Union, Turkey and NATO about ensuring regional stability, the State Department said.

U.S. Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson dismissed in a Twitter message what he called false reports that he had left the country, saying he and staff remained and were helping thousands of U.S. citizens and Afghans. 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the country on Sunday as the Islamist militants entered Kabul, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed.

The U.N. Security Council called for talks to create a new government in Afghanistan after Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of ‘chilling’ curbs on human rights and violations against women and girls. 

Afghan nationals queue up at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman as they try to escape the country

Afghan nationals queue up at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman as they try to escape the country

An Afghan woman clad in a burqa walks past a Pakistani paramilitary soldier as she crosses the border at Chaman

An Afghan woman clad in a burqa walks past a Pakistani paramilitary soldier as she crosses the border at Chaman

Afghan people sit outside the French embassy in Kabul as they seek safe passage out of the country on Tuesday

Afghan people sit outside the French embassy in Kabul as they seek safe passage out of the country on Tuesday

Thousands of people who had earlier crowded Afghanistan's main airport in Kabul seeking a way out of the country began diverting to embassies on Tuesday, seeking a way out

Thousands of people who had earlier crowded Afghanistan’s main airport in Kabul seeking a way out of the country began diverting to embassies on Tuesday, seeking a way out

Dozens of people gather outside the French embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, as they try to secure a route out of the country

Dozens of people gather outside the French embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, as they try to secure a route out of the country

Taliban fighters on a pick-up truck move around a market area of Kabul, as the militant group retakes control of the country

Taliban fighters on a pick-up truck move around a market area of Kabul, as the militant group retakes control of the country

Civilians make their way around a market in Kabul - women with their heads covered and men wearing traditional dress - as the Taliban begins to reassert control over the country

Civilians make their way around a market in Kabul – women with their heads covered and men wearing traditional dress – as the Taliban begins to reassert control over the country

Life begins to return to normal in parts of Kabul, while chaos still reigns in others as some locals return to their day jobs while others attempt to flee the country

Life begins to return to normal in parts of Kabul, while chaos still reigns in others as some locals return to their day jobs while others attempt to flee the country

China’s state media mocks US Afghanistan withdrawal 

A representative of Chinese state media mocked the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying the Taliban takeover was smoother than the presidential transition earlier this year.

Hu Xijin, an editor of the state-produced Global Times, sent out a tweet Sunday night.

‘Chinese netizens joked that the power transition in Afghanistan is even more smooth than presidential transition in the US,’ Hu wrote.

Hu was referencing content users posted to Weibo, which is the Chinese version of Twitter.

Business Insider translated some of the posts.

 

‘What a joke. In Kabul today, the new government takeover was even more stable than when the US changed presidents,’ Weibo user Chen Zhen wrote.

Hu also tweeted that Taiwan’s democratic government should look to Afghanistan as an example and rejoin mainland China, a communist nation, because it wouldn’t have the help of the United States.

‘After the fall of the Kabul regime, the Taiwan authorities must be trembling. Don’t look forward to the US to protect them,’ Hu wrote. ‘Taipei officials need to quietly mail-order a Five-Star Red Flag from the Chinese mainland. It will be useful one day when they surrender to the PLA.’

Hu also touted the Chinese policy of ‘non-interference’ in a Monday tweet.

‘Chinese Embassy in Afghanistan is operating normally,’ he wrote. ‘The principle of non-interference in domestic affairs enables China to maintain the confidence that it need not close its embassy in Kabul which still functions normally in this special, chaotic time.’

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said she was ‘deeply concerned’ and called for world leaders to take urgent action. She urged Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to open their country to refugees.

Former Afghan faction commander and prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said he would travel to Doha on Tuesday to meet a Taliban delegation, accompanied by former President Hamid Karzai and former foreign minister and peace envoy Abdullah Abdullah, Al Jazeera TV reported.

Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices. During their 1996-2001 rule, women could not work and punishments such as public stoning, whipping and hanging were administered.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Dunya News that the group would improve the security of Kabul and ‘respect the rights of women and minorities as per Afghan norms and Islamic values’.

Shaheen added the new regime would ensure representation of all ethnicities and that the Taliban were keen to work with the international community to rebuild the country.

Shaheen said on Twitter that the group’s fighters were under strict orders not to harm anyone.

‘Life, property and honour of no one shall be harmed but must be protected by the mujahideen,’ he said.

Meanwhile, America’s hasty withdrawal was proving a PR coup for China which accused Washington of ‘leaving an awful mess’ behind the backs of its retreating soldiers. 

Beijing has signalled its readiness to cooperate with the Taliban after the United States’ withdrawal, which spurred a rapid advance by the Islamist hardliners across the country that saw them capture the capital Kabul on Sunday.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Tuesday said Washington had left ‘an awful mess of unrest, division and broken families’ in Afghanistan.

‘America’s strength and role is destruction, not construction,’ Hua said at a regular press briefing.

China shares a rugged 76-kilometre (47-mile) border with Afghanistan.

Beijing has long-feared the neighbour could become a staging point for minority Uyghur separatists in the sensitive border region of Xinjiang.

But a top-level Taliban delegation met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin last month, promising that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militants.

In exchange, China offered economic support and investment for Afghanistan’s reconstruction.

Hua on Monday said China was ready to continue ‘friendly and cooperative’ relations with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

She urged the new Afghan regime on Tuesday to ‘make a clean break with international forces’ and ‘prevent Afghanistan from becoming a gathering place for terrorists and extremists again’.

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

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

American armoured trucks and troops help to force back crowds at Kabul airport on Monday evening, after they blocked the runway and stopped evacuation flights from taking off

American armoured trucks and troops help to force back crowds at Kabul airport on Monday evening, after they blocked the runway and stopped evacuation flights from taking off

American troops lay barbed wire around the runway at Kabul airport so that military evacuation flights can resume

American troops lay barbed wire around the runway at Kabul airport so that military evacuation flights can resume

American troops stand guard as the sun sets at Kabul airport on Monday evening, having managed to secure the main runway from thousands of people fleeing the Taliban

American troops stand guard as the sun sets at Kabul airport on Monday evening, having managed to secure the main runway from thousands of people fleeing the Taliban

Earlier on Monday, chaos had reigned at the airport as people rushed US transport planes trying to evacuate embassy staff - with three falling to their deaths after clinging to the outside of an aircraft as it took off (pictured)

Earlier on Monday, chaos had reigned at the airport as people rushed US transport planes trying to evacuate embassy staff – with three falling to their deaths after clinging to the outside of an aircraft as it took off (pictured)

Incredible photo shows 640 Afghans crammed on a US C-17 cargo jet designed to carry 150 amid desperate fight to get out of Kabul

The first photos have emerged of crammed US cargo jets with hundreds of terrified Afghan refugees on board after they ran onto the aircraft before military personnel could close ramps on them on Sunday in their escape of the Taliban. 

The US has so far flown at least two C-17 cargo jets out of Kabul and more flights are expected throughout Monday night and later this week despite chaos on the ground on Monday which involved eight people dying and flights being halted. 

On Sunday, one of the first flights out was the US Air Force C-17 numbered RCH 871, which flew from Kabul to Qatar. 

As it was preparing to take off on Sunday, hundreds of terrified Afghan nationals ran onto the plane, up the ramp, and settled on board. 

A photo obtained by Defense One shows them all lined up, sitting on the floor of the plane that is fitted to carry 150 soldiers comfortably, but can take 171,000lbs of cargo. 

Initially, audio from on board to an air traffic controller suggested there were 800 on board but Defense One says the true number was 640. 

The refugees – including many women and young children – ran onto the plane’s half-open ramp before take-off and ‘the crew made the decision to go’, taking them with them, an unnamed defense official said. 

A C-17 jet carrying 640 Afghan refugees that left Kabul on Sunday night as the Taliban claimed the city. The flight landed in Qatar. The refugees ran up the half-open ramp while US forces were preparing for take-off, according to an unnamed defense official cited by Defense One on Monday. At least one other C-17 has departed the area

A C-17 jet carrying 640 Afghan refugees that left Kabul on Sunday night as the Taliban claimed the city. The flight landed in Qatar. The refugees ran up the half-open ramp while US forces were preparing for take-off, according to an unnamed defense official cited by Defense One on Monday. At least one other C-17 has departed the area 

Video shows hundreds of refugees running onto the jet on Sunday night before it took off. There are thousands of desperate Afghans still on the ground in Kabul

Video shows hundreds of refugees running onto the jet on Sunday night before it took off. There are thousands of desperate Afghans still on the ground in Kabul

Video shows hundreds of refugees running onto the C-17 on Sunday night before it took off. There are thousands of desperate Afghans still on the ground in Kabul 

‘Approximately 640 Afghan civilians disembarked the aircraft when it arrived at its destination,’ the official said. 

Despite eight people dying at the airport on Monday and amid criticism the fall of the city is reminiscent of the fall of Saigon, President Biden defended his decision to withdraw US troops suddenly, saying he would no longer sacrifice American lives in an Afghan civil war.  

He has been widely condemned for how he has withdrawn the US’s support after 20 years of helping Afghan forces stabilize the region. 

Biden briefly interrupted his vacation from Camp David on Monday to give a short address to the nation about the ongoing catastrophe in Kabul. 

‘We gave them every chance but we couldn’t provide them with the will to fight,’ he said. 

He has been universally condemned for his response, with some of the fawning American media that idolized him a week ago, calling his decision to ‘wash his hands’ of the situation ‘one of the most shameful’ policy decisions in modern history.

Major General Hank Taylor said at a press conference on Monday afternoon that US forced are ‘actively monitoring’ the situation. 

‘We have approximately 2,500 troops who have moved into Kabul. By the end of the day, we expect nearly 3,000 to 3,500 troops on the ground,’ he said.  



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