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7 Killed at Gates of Kabul Airport; Taliban Blame US for Chaos

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Afghans gather on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul, Aug. 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

The Taliban on Sunday blamed the United States for the chaos around Kabul’s airport, where thousands of people have been trying to leave following the insurgent group’s takeover of the country.

The British Ministry of Defense has confirmed the deaths of seven Afghans near the airport on Saturday.

“There is peace and calm all over the country,” Amir Khan Mutaqi, a top Taliban leader asserted, saying “there is chaos only at Kabul airport.”

“America, with all its power and capabilities, and with their president paying direct attention to the evacuation process, they have failed to bring order to the airport,” Mutaqi said in an audio statement shared with media.

The U.S. and other countries have brought in troops to manage the evacuation effort at the airport.

Witnesses have said Taliban fighters outside of the airport have fired shots into the air as crowds seeking to leave the country have converged in the area.

Taliban fighters search a vehicle at a checkpoint on a road in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2021.
Taliban fighters search a vehicle at a checkpoint on a road in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2021.

The Taliban’s stunning nationwide advances that culminated on its seizure of the Afghan capital a week ago prompted Western nations, particularly Washington, to undertake mass evacuation of their personnel, along with Afghans fleeing the fundamentalist group’s takeover of the country. Taliban officials alleged that the evacuation of Afghans was illegal.

Since then, tens of thousands of Afghans have flooded the Kabul airport in hopes of getting a place on one of the evacuation flights, fearing a return to the harsh interpretation of Islamic law practiced when the Taliban controlled the country 20 years ago.

Afghanistan Special Forces try to keep a crowd from entering, outside Kabul Airport, Aug. 18, 2021 in this still image obtained from a social media video.
Afghanistan Special Forces try to keep a crowd from entering, outside Kabul Airport, Aug. 18, 2021 in this still image obtained from a social media video.

“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 British Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Temperatures on Saturday in Kabul reached 34° C (93° F). It wasn't immediately clear whether those killed had been physically crushed, suffocated or suffered a fatal heart attack in the crowds.

A Sky News correspondent who was at the Kabul airport, however, said tens of thousands of Afghans turned up on Saturday with those at the front crushed against the barricades, Reuters reported.

Also Saturday, U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who want to leave the country were advised not to go to Kabul’s airport unless they had received “individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.”

The security alert advisory from the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan seems to have added to the confusion and panic as thousands of people surround Kabul’s international airport hoping to find transport out of the country.

“They are evacuating their people and local supporters illegally. This is unfair. Afghans are free to go anytime and anywhere they want to, but they should do this with passports and visas,” Mutaqi insisted.

Taliban leaders stressed Afghanistan wants good relations with the U.S. and the global community, but the chaotic evacuation is hurting their goodwill among Afghans. Mutaqi lamented the crisis has prevented airports across the country from transporting Afghans to and from Kabul, adding to problems facing the war-ravaged nation.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Taliban insurgency are conducting internal talks and meetings with former rivals on forming what they have promised will be an “inclusive Islamic government.”

The framework for the formation of the new government is expected to be announced soon, Taliban officials in Kabul said Saturday.

Senior Taliban leaders held new meetings Saturday with prominent figures in the Afghan capital to exchange views on the future governance system, said Mohamad Naeem, the group’s political spokesman.

He quoted a senior leader, Shahabuddin Dilawar, as telling Afghan interlocutors that the Taliban want a “strong central system that respects the rule of law, is free from corruption and every citizen has the opportunity to serve his country and people.”

The Taliban opened the political engagements after issuing a blanket amnesty for all who served or were part of the former Afghan government.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy Taliban leader, also has arrived in Kabul from the Islamist group’s southern stronghold of Kandahar to oversee the process of forming the new government.

This file handout video grab taken from a footage released by Taliban-affiliated Al Hijrat TV on Aug. 17, 2021 shows Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar's arrival in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
This file handout video grab taken from a footage released by Taliban-affiliated Al Hijrat TV on Aug. 17, 2021 shows Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar's arrival in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban, returned to Afghanistan this week from Qatar, where he headed the group’s political office and oversaw peace negotiations with the Trump administration that culminated in the February 2020 deal that paved the way for U.S.-led allied troops to withdraw from nearly 20 years of war in Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden delayed the May 1 withdrawal date that he inherited to August 31. But last week, Biden said during a national address from the White House that the U.S. may extend that deadline to evacuate all Americans who want to leave. He also stood firmly by his decision to leave the country, despite the chaos that has ensued.

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