Desperate scenes in Kabul’s Hamid Karzai airport today were shown in video footage of Afghan people begging US troops to help them escape the Taliban.
Distressed women stretched through iron gates at the capital’s airport, and could be heard crying for help from armed soldiers.
“The Taliban are coming for me,” one woman could be heard screaming.
At #kabulairport gates where the US forces controlling, people crying and begging US forces to allow them to pass the gates otherwise the Taliban will come and will behead them. pic.twitter.com/wzxXJf2ngL— Natiq Malikzada (@natiqmalikzada) August 18, 2021
As many as 50,000 Afghans have gathered at the capital’s airport in hopes of evacuation.
But while some Western nations, including the US, Britain, Canada and Germany have pledged to take in thousands of Afghan refugees, a number of flights from Kabul to those countries reportedly left half-empty.
Taliban fighters have surrounded the airport, making access extremely difficult, even for those with travel documents. For anyone without valid documentation, hopes of fleeing the country are becoming increasingly faint.
Witnesses reported panic as Taliban gunmen beat the crowd with sticks, ropes and rifle butts and fired warning shots into the air. At least once, bullets were fired into the crowd, leaving several badly injured.
Very few people were actually allowed into the airport, although hundreds tried to push through the gates.
US General Frank McKenzie, who is on the ground organising evacuation efforts, said in a statement that he had cautioned Taliban leaders that any attempts to interfere with the process would be met with “overwhelming force”.
He added: “The protection of U.S. civilians and our partners is my highest priority and we will take all necessary action to ensure a safe and efficient withdrawal.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a press conference on Tuesday that US citizens and visa holders might not all be able to leave the country before August 31– when US troops are due to pull out.
“Our focus right now is on the task at hand, and that is day by day getting as many American citizens, SIV applicants, as many of the vulnerable population who are eligible to be evacuated to the airport and out on planes,” she said.
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