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Kabul in Chaos as Taliban Storms Afghan Capital, Thousands Attempt Escape to US-Held Airport

Published: August 16, 2021
TOPSHOT - Taliban fighters sit over a vehicle on a street in Laghman province on August 15, 2021. (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

The Taliban’s fierce march across Afghanistan has ended in the capital city of Kabul, months earlier than first expected, forcing thousands of men, women and children to attempt to flee creating chaos in the streets and at the Kabul airport.

Just weeks after the United States pulled its troops from the country, and close to two decades since the U.S. first landed there, heavily armed Taliban fighters have occupied practically every major city in the embattled nation.

Just last week, the United States security apparatus assessed that Kabul could fall to the Taliban within 90 days. Previous to this, a CIA assessment asserted that Kabul could fall in six months however this prediction was subsequently cut in half. 

Jake Sullivan, White House National Security Advisor, acknowledged on Monday the security situation in Afghanistan stating that the advances of the Taliban “unfolded at unexpected speed” while maintaining that President Biden stands by his decision to withdraw U.S. troops.

Sullivan, told ABC News’ “Good Morning America” on Monday that “The president did not think it was inevitable that the Taliban were going to take control of Afghanistan” adding that “He thought the Afghan national security forces could step up and fight because we spent 20 years, tens of billions of dollars, training them, giving them the best equipment, giving them support of U.S. forces for 20 years.”

The Biden administration is facing intense criticism for its handling of Afghanistan. President Joe Biden is expected to address the nation on Monday, from the White House, after cutting short a vacation at Camp David in order to address the matter. 

The Taliban are expected to restore the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the formal name of the country under Taliban rule before U.S.-led forces occupied the country following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. 

Afghans try to escape incoming Taliban rule

Numerous videos have emerged showing chaos in the streets of Kabul, and at the city’s airport, where thousands of Afghani’s have converged in a desperate attempt to flee Taliban rule. 

Hundreds of vehicles encountered gridlock as people rushed the Kabul airport.

ABC News reported that as of the morning of Monday, August 16, United States troops have taken control of the airport in Kabul after Taliban forces were witnessed seizing control of the presidential palace. 

The occupation of the Kabul airport by U.S. forces follows intense scenes of Afghani’s swarming the airport’s tarmac in an attempt to secure a flight out of Kabul.

Reports and videos of desperate Afghani’s clinging to the outer hulls of U.S. aircraft taking off from the Kabul airport have flooded the internet. 

The country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, reportedly fled the country on Sunday, with cars packed with money, leaving his citizens to suffer under the Taliban’s advances. 

International reaction

International reaction to the Taliban’s advances have been mixed. 

China is reportedly looking forward to a “friendly and cooperative” relationship with the Taliban after it toppled the Afghan government. 

Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson did not explicitly state that Beijing would recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government but did say that China would respect the choice of the Afghan people, the New York Post reported. 

China plans to keep an embassy open in Kabul as other nations suspend or restrict services while others have closed down entirely, evacuating their personnel. 

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, called on countries not to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government without international agreement calling an emergency meeting of the Cobra committee to discuss the rapid takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban forces. 

“We don’t want anybody to bilaterally recognise the Taliban. We want a united position among all the like-minded, as far as we can get one, so that we do whatever we can to prevent Afghanistan lapsing back into a breeding ground for terror,” he said in a broadcast interview.