Kabul Airport Descends Into Violence, Chaos as US and Allies Leave

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In this handout provided by the U.S. Air Force, an air crew prepares to load evacuees aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 21, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
In this handout provided by the U.S. Air Force, an air crew prepares to load evacuees aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 21, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Image: Taylor Crul/U.S. Air Force via Getty Images)

The Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul has become a scene of violence. Several people have been killed and security forces have clashed with armed groups. Thousands of Afghans are flocking to the airport in a mad rush to escape the country. 

On Monday, according to the German Joint Operations Command, a deadly firefight erupted between security forces and gunmen. One Afghan security personnel was killed and three others were wounded. The identities of the attackers are not known. American and German forces were also involved in the fight. The German troops were unharmed. 

An Italy-based humanitarian organization told the Associated Press that they had treated six people with bullet wounds who had come from the airport. Neither the U.S. nor NATO has commented on the incident. The Taliban has also maintained silence on the issue.

On Saturday, seven people were killed in crowds that had gathered at the airport. Some people who were standing in front of the crowds got crushed against the barricades. Soldiers stood on walls to pull up the injured; they sprayed water on people to keep them hydrated.

“Our sincere thoughts are with the families of the seven Afghan civilians who have sadly died in crowds in Kabul… Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible,” the UK defense ministry said in a statement.

One NATO official told Al Jazeera that 20 people had died in and around the airport during the past week. President Joe Biden has indicated that he might consider extending the U.S. withdrawal deadline scheduled for Aug. 31. However, the Taliban seem unlikely to allow U.S. forces to remain beyond the deadline. That only leaves a few more days for Washington to rescue as many people as possible, including Americans.

“It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that… If the U.S. or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” Taliban spokesperson Dr. Suhail Shaheen told Sky News.

Taliban militants are patrolling the outside perimeter of the airport and have used force to control crowds. Two U.S. defense officials revealed to NBC News that Washington was tracking threats from ISIS at the airport and Americans attempting to flee the country. The military is looking for alternative ways to get Americans, Afghans, and people of other nationalities out of the war-torn country from the Kabul airport. 

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