Kabul airport chaos is finally contained as Afghans and diplomats line up to board evacuation flights out of Afghanistan while video emerges of ‘desperate man fleeing Taliban killed after getting caught in landing gea
Hundreds of Afghanis fleeing the Taliban were forced to line up behind barbed wire at Kabul airport today
Under the guns of Afghan guards and US Apache helicopters, they waited to board flights out of the country
It was a far cry from pandemonium at the airport on Monday as thousands of people rushed on to the runway
One man was crushed to death in the landing gear of a US transport plane – with horrific video appearing to show his body dangling from the side of the aircraft mid-flight – while three others fell to their deaths
Joe Biden has been slammed for the chaotic retreat which critics said had ‘humiliated’ the US, while drawing comparisons with the evacuation of Saigon and the Suez Canal crisis
Hundreds of Afghanis fleeing the Taliban are lining up behind barbed wire at Kabul airport and getting on rescue flights as order was restored after 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 – formed orderly queues under the guns of Afghan security guards as Apache helicopters buzzed through the air at Hamid Karzai airport on Tuesday as they waited to board flights out of the country, fearing bloody reprisal by the Islamists.
It was a far cry from the pandemonium which broke out on Monday as thousands of desperate people rushed the runway and clung to the wheels of departing US jets – with 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 has 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 Sunday, with a dozen departing on Tuesday – most of them flying to neighbouring Middle Eastern countries before continuing their journeys west. Spain, France and India confirmed their diplomatic staff had been evacuated today.
Russia and Indonesia have confirmed that 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.
In a day of fast-moving developments…
- Joe Biden was roundly condemned for the ‘humiliating’ retreat after Afghan security forces capitulated with barely a fight, with scenes in Kabul likened to the evacuation of Saigon
- EU foreign ministers met in Brussels for emergency talks over fears that the Taliban take-over could signal the start of a new European refugee crisis as hundreds of thousands seek to flee
- UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab promised that Britain will take ‘tens of thousands’ of Afghans while increasing foreign aid as part of a ‘big-hearted’ response to the crisis
- Turkey said it welcomed ‘positive messages’ from the Taliban since they seized the country, adding that diplomats will hold talks with the Islamists about future relations
- 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
‘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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.