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Incredible photo shows 640 Afghans on a US C-17 cargo jet – designed to carry 150 – after they ran on before soldiers could close ramp and pilot decided to take off from Kabul and save them all 

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Incredible photo shows 640 Afghans on a US C-17 cargo jet - designed to carry 150 - after they ran on before soldiers could close ramp and pilot decided to take off from Kabul and save them all 
  • Incredible photo shows 640 Afghans on a US C-17 cargo jet – designed to carry 150 – after they ran on before soldiers could close ramp and pilot decided to take off from Kabul and save them all
  • Plane no. RCH 871 took off from Kabul on Sunday night after the Taliban claimed the Afghan city 
  • The C-17 jet was due to take US embassy personnel but terrified Afghan civilians ran onboard
  • They jumped onto the plane’s ramp before the flight crew could stop them, and they took off with them 
  • Initial audio from the plane estimated 800 were on board but officials say the true number was 640 
  • The refugees will be taken to air bases in Texas and Wisconsin, Defense Dept confirmed on Monday  
  • The US, India and Canada are all using C-17s to get foreign nationals and Afghan refugees out of Kabul 
  • There are grave concerns over the efficacy of the rescue mission which collapsed into chaos on Monday 
  • Eight people were killed at the airport; two were shot by US troops and three were run over by jets 
  • Another three died falling from the fuselage of a different US Air Force C-17 jet as it took off  

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.

‘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.

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 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

‘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.

One C-17 flew out of Kabul on Monday that was carrying US Marines, he said. Another is in the air currently and is scheduled to land shortly.

One – plane number RCH 885 – flew out of Kabul with desperate Afghan nationals clinging on to the fuselage on Monday. Three fell to their deaths.

Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby said the situation at the airport wasn’t a ‘failure’ despite thousands of Afghans flooding the airfield and US troops shooting dead two armed Afghan nationals.

‘When you look at the images out of Kabul… that would have been difficult for anyone to predict,’ he said.

A US soldier points his gun towards and bellows at an Afghan civilian at the Kabul airport on Monday. Two armed Afghans have been killed by American troops at the airport

A US soldier points his gun towards and bellows at an Afghan civilian at the Kabul airport on Monday. Two armed Afghans have been killed by American troops at the airport
Three stowaways are believed to have plunged to their deaths, with footage showing bodies falling from the underside of a hulking USAF transport jet as it climbed into the skies over the fallen city on Monday
Three stowaways are believed to have plunged to their deaths, with footage showing bodies falling from the underside of a hulking USAF transport jet as it climbed into the skies over the fallen city on Monday
Desperate Afghan nationals tried to run onto RCH 885 as it took off from the airfield on Monday. Some were crushed by the C-17's wheels and others clung to the fuselage as it took off
Desperate Afghan nationals tried to run onto RCH 885 as it took off from the airfield on Monday. Some were crushed by the C-17’s wheels and others clung to the fuselage as it took off
An apache helicopter clears the airfield at Kabul on Monday after thousands of Afghan nationals ran onto it in a desperate attempt to get on an evacuation flight
An apache helicopter clears the airfield at Kabul on Monday after thousands of Afghan nationals ran onto it in a desperate attempt to get on an evacuation flight
An apache helicopter clears the airfield at Kabul on Monday after thousands of Afghan nationals ran onto it in a desperate attempt to get on an evacuation flight
An apache helicopter clears the airfield at Kabul on Monday after thousands of Afghan nationals ran onto it in a desperate attempt to get on an evacuation flight
Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on Monday
Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on Monday
A little girl is thrown over the wall of the airport on Monday as the Taliban started moving through the city of Kabul. The airport is the last part of the city being defended by US troops - more are expected there later today to try to secure it
A little girl is thrown over the wall of the airport on Monday as the Taliban started moving through the city of Kabul. The airport is the last part of the city being defended by US troops – more are expected there later today to try to secure it
An Afghan child walks near abandoned military uniforms at  Kabul airport on Monday after the Taliban took control of the city
An Afghan child walks near abandoned military uniforms at  Kabul airport on Monday after the Taliban took control of the city
Desperate Afghan families trying to escape Kabul scale the walls of the airport on Monday
Desperate Afghan families trying to escape Kabul scale the walls of the airport on Monday

In 2013, the planes were used to carry 670 Filipino nationals from a typhoon zone.

At least eight people were killed at Kabul airport on Monday, including two who were shot dead by US troops, three who were run over by taxiing jets and three stowaways who fell from the engines of a US Air Force plane as it fled an airfield of thousands of desperate Afghan nationals.

The Taliban has taken control of Afghanistan and are going door to door in Kabul looking for enemies to kill  despite promising the international community they wouldn’t breach human rights because they wanted to be formally recognized.

FALL OF KABUL: A TIMELINE OF THE TALIBAN’S FAST ADVANCE AFTER 40 YEARS OF CONFLICT

Feb. 29, 2020 Trump negotiates deal with the Taliban setting U.S. withdrawal date for May 1, 2021

Nov. 17, 2020 Pentagon announces it will reduce troop levels to 2500 in Afghanistan

Jan. 15, 2020 Inspector general reveals ‘hubris and mendacity’ of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan

Feb 3. 2021 Afghan Study Group report warns against withdrawing  ‘irresponsibly’

March Military command makes last-ditch effort to talk Biden out of withdrawal

April 14 Biden announces withdrawal will be completed by Sept. 11

May 4 – Taliban fighters launch a major offensive on Afghan forces in southern Helmand province. They also attack in at least six other provinces

May 11 – The Taliban capture Nerkh district just outside the capital Kabul as violence intensifies across the country

June 7 – Senior government officials say more than 150 Afghan soldiers are killed in 24 hours as fighting worsens. They add that fighting is raging in 26 of the country’s 34 provinces

June 22 – Taliban fighters launch a series of attacks in the north of the country, far from their traditional strongholds in the south. The UN envoy for Afghanistan says they have taken more than 50 of 370 districts

July 2 – The U.S. evacuates Bagram Airfield in the middle of the night

July 5 – The Taliban say they could present a written peace proposal to the Afghan government as soon as August

July 21 – Taliban insurgents control about a half of the country’s districts, according to the senior U.S. general, underlining the scale and speed of their advance

July 25 – The United States vows to continue to support Afghan troops “in the coming weeks” with intensified airstrikes to help them counter Taliban attacks

July 26 – The United Nations says nearly 2,400 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in May and June in escalating violence, the highest number for those months since records started in 2009

Aug. 6 – Zaranj in the south of the country becomes the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in years. Many more are to follow in the ensuing days, including the prized city of Kunduz in the north

Aug. 13 – Pentagon insists Kabul is not under imminent threat

Aug. 14 – The Taliban take the major northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and, with little resistance, Pul-e-Alam, capital of Logar province just 70 km (40 miles) south of Kabul. The United States sends more troops to help evacuate its civilians from Kabul as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he is consulting with local and international partners on next steps

Aug. 15 – The Taliban take the key eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, effectively surrounding Kabul

Taliban insurgents enter Kabul, an interior ministry official says, as the United States evacuate diplomats from its embassy by helicopter

At Hamid Karzai International Airport, there was a stampede of thousands of people – both stranded foreign nationals and Afghan civilians – desperately trying to escape.

The airport is the last place in the city that is being guarded by NATO troops. Thousands of Afghan nationals have rushed there in the hopes of being saved along with the foreigners being flown out, but the chaotic rescue operation collapsed on Monday as troops struggled to control the crowds.

General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr, the head of the Pentagon’s Central Command, met with Taliban representatives in Qatar on Sunday and convinced them to let the US evacuate its citizens and any interpreters and translators it plans to without interference.

It remains unclear how NATO troops will organize the evacuation of Afghan refugees or even get themselves out given the diabolical situation that unfolded on Monday.

There are believed to be 2,500 US troops at the airport with another 3,500 on the way but it’s unclear how many American civilians are there, and how many Afghan translators and interpreters are to be flown out.

The harrowing scene at the airport on Monday included thousands rushing on to the runway as a US Air Force C-17 cargo jet took off with US citizens on board.

Frantic Afghan nationals jumped onto the plane’s fuselage in the hope that it would carry them to safety. Shortly after it took off, three were filmed falling from the aircraft to their deaths. Three were run over and killed by the jet’s wheels on the tarmac.

American troops halted evacuation flights for 90 minutes afterwards while they cleared the airfield, which had become overrun with thousands of Afghan nationals. They used apache helicopters and fired warning shots into the crowds to try to control them.

Outside the walls of the airport, shots from Taliban fighters rang out.

Afghanistan’s representative to the UN’s security council Ghulam M. Isaczai said ‘there are already reports of target killings and looting in the city,’ at a meeting of the council on Monday.

‘Kabul residents are reported that the Taliban have already started house-to-house searches in some neighborhoods, registering names and looking for people in their target list,’ he added.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was ‘particularly concerned’ by accounts of human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who fear a return to the darkest days’ in the 1990s when the Taliban ruled and barred girls for getting an education and imposed draconian measures on women.

It’s unclear now who America will save from the chaos aside from US citizens and anyone who worked alongside them.

Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan did a series of TV interviews on Monday where he said evacuation flights were ongoing, but he skirted criticism for the disaster and said: ‘When push came to shove, [the Afghan forces] decided not to step up and fight for their country.’

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has also come under fire for hightailing out of the country last night, in a helicopter full of cash, according to the Russian embassy. His whereabouts remain unknown.

The Taliban declared victory from the presidential palace on Sunday following a blistering advance across the country. Experts and lawmakers have for months warned the Biden administrations that this was exactly what would happen if they continued with the hasty retreat and entrusted the country to the Afghan National Army.

One of the terror chieftains proclaimed from the palace, ‘Praise God, I was in Guantanamo for eight years’, as he sat at the president’s table surrounded by henchmen strapped with AK-47s.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the U.S. decision to withdraw had ‘accelerated’ the crisis that risked creating ‘a breeding ground for terror.’

However, the Taliban has been on a charm offensive, pledging that no harm will come to any foreign citizens or embassy staff as it seeks formal recognition from the international community.

Almost all major checkpoints in Kabul were under Taliban control by Monday morning and Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority issued an advisory saying the ‘civilian side’ of the airport had been ‘closed until further notice’ and that the military controlled the airspace.

Taliban officials said everyone would be allowed to return home from Kabul airport if they decide to stay in the country and promised civilians would not be harmed. The group previously said westerners would be allowed to leave the country but that Afghans would be barred from departing.

US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded. Early Monday morning, flight-tracking data showed no immediate commercial flights over the country.

In the capital, a tense calm set in, with most people hiding in their homes as the Taliban deployed fighters at major intersections.

There were scattered reports of looting and armed men knocking on doors and gates, and there was less traffic than usual on eerily quiet streets. Fighters could be seen searching vehicles at one of the city’s main squares.

Many fear chaos, after the Taliban freed thousands of prisoners and the police simply melted away, or a return to the kind of brutal rule the Taliban imposed when it was last in power.

They raced to Kabul’s international airport, where the ‘civilian side’ was closed until further notice, according to Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority. The military was put in control of the airspace.

Massouma Tajik, a 22-year-old data analyst, described scenes of panic at the airport, where she was hoping to board an evacuation flight.

Satellite images show the number of people on the tarmac at Kabul airport desperately trying to get onto flights out of Afghanistan on Monday

Men climb over a wall into Hamid Karzai International Airport in scenes reminiscent of the chaos in Saigon in 1975
Men climb over a wall into Hamid Karzai International Airport in scenes reminiscent of the chaos in Saigon in 1975
Taliban fighters were seen inside the Afghan parliament on Monday
Taliban fighters were seen inside the Afghan parliament on Monday

Victorious Taliban commander claims he ‘spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay’ in triumphant speech from Kabul palace

A Taliban commander claimed he spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay in a triumphant speech from inside the Presidential Palace in Kabul on Sunday as the militants declared an Islamic state of Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters marched into the ancient palace on Sunday and demanded a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ as the capital city descended into chaos, with US helicopters evacuating diplomats from the embassy in scenes echoing the 1975 Fall of Saigon which followed the Vietnam War.

The Al-Jazeera news channel livestreamed the press conference from inside the palace, which showed a group of Taliban fighters sitting at the president’s desk before a fighter claimed he was a former inmate of the US-controlled Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.

A Taliban commander claimed he spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay in a victory speech from inside the Presidential Palace in Kabul as the militants declared an Islamic state of Afghanistan
A Taliban commander claimed he spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay in a victory speech from inside the Presidential Palace in Kabul as the militants declared an Islamic state of Afghanistan

‘Praise God, I was in Guantanamo for eight years,’ the man told the broadcaster as henchmen with AK-47s stood around him.

Established by George W Bush in 2002, suspected terrorists have been detained without trial and tortured at the facility. Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep the centre open indefinitely in 2018, while in February the Biden administration vowed to shut Guantanamo down.

Various reports said that the commander was either Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir or Gholam Ruhani.

Both of the men were held at Guantanamo Bay and are believed to have returned to the Taliban top brass after being released.

After waiting six hours, she heard shots from outside, where a crowd of men and women were trying to climb aboard a plane. She said U.S. troops sprayed gas and fired into the air to disperse the crowds after people scaled the walls and swarmed onto the tarmac. Gunfire could be heard in the voice messages she sent to The Associated Press.

Shafi Arifi, who had a ticket to travel to Uzbekistan on Sunday, was unable to board her plane because it was packed with people who had raced across the tarmac and climbed aboard, with no police or airport staff in sight.

‘There was no room for us to stand,’ said the 24-year-old. ‘Children were crying, women were shouting, young and old men were so angry and upset, no one could hear each other. There was no oxygen to breathe.’

After another woman fainted and was carried off the plane, Arifi gave up and went back home.

Meanwhile, refugees have been massing at the borders as people desperately try to flee Afghanistan before the Taliban’s brutal rules are implemented, with pictures from the country’s border with Pakistan showing hundreds of people queuing in an attempt to leave.

‘Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years,’ Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera TV. ‘Thanks to God, the war is over in the country.’

President Ghani fled the country on Sunday night as the insurgents encircled the capital – saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed – capping a military victory that saw them capture all cities in just 10 days.

In a Facebook post, Ghani said he had left the country to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of Kabul residents. Some social media users branded Ghani, who did not disclose his location, a coward for leaving them in chaos. Al Jazeera reported he had flown to Uzbekistan, citing his personal bodyguard.

‘The Taliban have won with the judgement of their swords and guns, and are now responsible for the honour, property and self-preservation of their countrymen,’ Ghani said after fleeing.

Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country: ‘The situation is peaceful,’ one official said. The Taliban controlled 90 percent of state buildings and fighters had been told to prevent any damage, the official added.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who fought in the Soviet-Afghan War during the 1980s and helped ex-chief Mohammad Omar create the Taliban in 1994, has already been installed as the head of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, according to reports in the Arab world.

Video from Afghanistan’s parliament building showed Taliban fighters entering the main chamber today. The grainy footage showed fighters carrying weapons sitting at a table at the head of the chamber under the government’s seal, with some smiling and posing for photographs. 

Ghani fled from the country on Sunday as the Islamists entered Kabul virtually unopposed, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed.

A Taliban fighter stands guard at the Massoud Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021
A Taliban fighter stands guard at the Massoud Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021
US soldiers stand guard as in the background Afghan people wait at the Kabul airport
US soldiers stand guard as in the background Afghan people wait at the Kabul airport
Smiling Taliban fighters are seen on the back of a vehicle in Kabul on Monday
Smiling Taliban fighters are seen on the back of a vehicle in Kabul on Monday
The evacuation flights took off from Kabul airport on Monday

The evacuation flights took off from Kabul airport on Monday
US soldiers take up their positions as they secure the airport in Kabul after the Taliban walked into the capital, forcing President Ashraf Ghani to flee
US soldiers take up their positions as they secure the airport in Kabul after the Taliban walked into the capital, forcing President Ashraf Ghani to flee
There were chaotic scenes at Kabul International Airport on Sunday night as thousands of Afghan residents rushed onto the tarmac
There were chaotic scenes at Kabul International Airport on Sunday night as thousands of Afghan residents rushed onto the tarmac
Potential passengers can be seen crowding the tarmac at Kabul airport in Afghanistan with people desperate to leave the country any way they can
Potential passengers can be seen crowding the tarmac at Kabul airport in Afghanistan with people desperate to leave the country any way they can

How did the Taliban take over Afghanistan so quickly?

The Taliban’s stunning and rapid takeover of Afghanistan was the result not only of their battlefield strength, but also a sustained push to force surrenders and cut deals.

The insurgents mixed threats and lures with propaganda and psychological warfare as they took city after city – some with barely a shot fired – eventually capturing the capital Kabul.

How did this happen? Why didn’t the Afghan army put up a fight?

As foreign troops began their final withdrawal in May, Washington and Kabul were confident the Afghan military would put up a strong fight against the Taliban.

With more than 300,000 personnel and multi-billion-dollar equipment more advanced than the Taliban arsenal, Afghan forces were formidable – on paper.

In reality, they were plagued by corruption, poor leadership, lack of training and plummeting morale for years. Desertions were common and US government inspectors had long warned that the force was unsustainable.

Afghan forces put up strong resistance this summer in some areas such as Lashkar Gah in the south, but they now faced the Taliban without regular US air strikes and military support.

Faced with the smaller but highly motivated and cohesive enemy, many soldiers and even entire units simply deserted or surrendered, leaving the insurgents to capture city after city.

How did the Taliban take advantage of low morale?

The seeds for the collapse were sown last year when Washington signed a deal with the insurgents to withdraw its troops completely.

For the Taliban, it was the beginning of their victory after nearly two decades of war. For many demoralised Afghans, it was betrayal and abandonment.

They continued to attack government forces but started to combine those with targeted killings of journalists and rights activists, ramping up an environment of fear.

They also pushed a narrative of inevitable Taliban victory in their propaganda and psychological operations.

Soldiers and local officials were reportedly bombarded with text messages in some areas, urging them to surrender or cooperate with the Taliban to avoid a worse fate.

Many were offered safe passage if they did not put up a fight, while others were reached through tribal and village elders.

What happened to the anti-Taliban warlords and their militias?

With Afghan forces unable to hold off the Taliban advances, many of Afghanistan’s famed – and notorious – warlords rallied their militias and promised a black eye to the Taliban if they attacked their cities.

But with confidence plunging in the ability of Afghanistan’s government to survive, never mind hold off the insurgents, the writing was also on the wall for the warlords.

Their cities fell without a fight. Warlord Ismail Khan in the western city of Herat was captured by the Taliban as it fell.

Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammad Noor in the north fled to Uzbekistan, as their militia members abandoned humvees, weapons and even their uniforms on the road out of Mazar-i-Sharif.

But how were the Taliban able to do this so quickly?

The Taliban had started putting deals and surrender arrangements in place reportedly long before the launch of their blitz in May.

From individual soldiers and low-level government officials to apparently provincial governors and ministers, the insurgents pressed for deals – with the Taliban all but victorious, why put up a fight?

The strategy proved immensely effective.

The images from their final march to Kabul were not of bodies in the streets and bloody battlefields, but of Taliban and government officials sitting comfortably on couches as they formalised the handover of cities and provinces.

According to one reported US estimate less than a month before the fall of Kabul, the Afghan government could collapse in 90 days.

But once the Taliban captured their first provincial capital, it took less than two weeks.

Reporting by AFP

Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in a message on Twitter their fighters were under strict orders not to harm anyone.

‘Life, property and honour of none shall be harmed but must be protected by the mujahideen,’ he said.

Earlier, Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera TV, the Afghan people and the Taliban had witnessed the fruits of their efforts and sacrifices over 20 years.

‘Thanks to God, the war is over,’ he said.

It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of the country after a lightning sweep that ended in Kabul as government forces, trained for years and equipped by the United States and others at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.

Al Jazeera broadcast footage of what it said were Taliban commanders in the presidential palace with dozens of armed fighters.

Naeem said the form of the new regime in Afghanistan would be made clear soon, adding the Taliban did not want to live in isolation and calling for peaceful international relations.

The militants sought to project a more moderate face, promising to respect women’s rights and protect both foreigners and Afghans.

Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices in their imposition of sharia religious law. During their rule, women could not work and punishments such as stoning, whipping and hanging were administered.

Both the United Nations and the United States said last week they had received reports that Taliban fighters were executing surrendering government soldiers.

Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country: ‘The situation is peaceful,’ one said, adding the Taliban controlled 90% of state buildings and fighters had been told to prevent any damage.

Central Kabul streets were largely deserted early on a sunny Monday as waking residents pondered their future.

‘I’m in a complete state of shock,’ said Sherzad Karim Stanekzai, who spent the night in his carpet shop to guard it. ‘I know there will be no foreigners, no international people who will now come to Kabul.’

People thronged to the airport from late on Sunday with hundreds wandering on the runways in the dark, pulling luggage and jostling for a place on one of the last commercial flights to leave before U.S. forces took over air traffic control.

Dozens of men tried to clamber onto an overhead departure gangway to board a plane while hundreds of others milled about, a video posted on social media showed.

U.S. forces gave up their big military base at Bagram, some 60 km north of Kabul, several weeks ago, leaving Kabul’s airport their only way out, to the anger of many Afghans.

‘The Americans have no right to hold the airport for their own use, they could have used their own base to take people out,’ said one person trying to leave.

There was the prospect of chaos in the skies over Afghanistan too. Its civil aviation authority advised transit aircraft to reroute saying its airspace was uncontrolled.

The Pentagon on Sunday authorized another 1,000 troops to help evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who worked for them, expanding its security presence on the ground to almost 6,000 troops within the next 48 hours.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said early on Monday that all embassy personnel, including Ambassador Ross Wilson, had been transferred to Kabul airport, mostly by helicopter, to await evacuation and the American flag had been lowered and removed from the embassy compound.

Western nations, including France, Germany and New Zealand said they were working to get citizens as well as some Afghan employees out.

In a Facebook post, Ghani said he had left the country to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of Kabul residents. Some social media users branded Ghani, who did not disclose his location, a coward for leaving them in chaos.

In Washington, opponents of President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war, launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said the chaos was caused by a failure of leadership.

Biden has faced rising domestic criticism after sticking to a plan, initiated by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, to end the U.S. military mission by Aug. 31.

Britain’s defence minister said British and NATO forces would not be returning to fight the Taliban.

‘That’s not on the cards,’ Ben Wallace told Sky News.

Taliban strengthens its grip on Afghanistan with gunmen patrolling streets of Kabul as militants claim civilians and foreigners have nothing to fear despite thousands trying to flee the country

By Chris Jewers

Victorious Taliban fighters patrolled Kabul on Monday after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan‘s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule.

It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of the country after a lightning sweep that ended in Kabul as government forces trained for years and equipped by Britain, the United States and other Western nations at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.

As the militants declared victory and claimed peace had been brought to the country, at least five people were killed in Kabul airport and another three reportedly died falling from a plane, while hundreds tried to forcibly enter aircraft leaving the Afghan capital, witnesses said.

One witness said he had seen the bodies of five people being taken to a vehicle. Another witness said it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede.

U.S. troops, who are in charge of the airport, earlier fired in the air to scatter the crowd, a U.S. official said, but officials were not immediately available to comment on the deaths.

Taliban fighters stormed the ancient palace on Sunday and demanded a 'peaceful transfer of power' as the capital city descended into chaos
Taliban fighters stormed the ancient palace on Sunday and demanded a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ as the capital city descended into chaos

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