The U.S. military confirmed Monday that its troops and those from Germany engaged in a firefight with an “unknown” assailant outside Kabul’s airport, killing one Afghan security personnel and injuring several others.
Navy Captain William Urban, U.S. CENTCOM spokesperson, said the overnight brief clash erupted at the north gate of the airport, but no American or coalition forces were hurt in it.
“The incident appeared to begin when an unknown hostile actor fired upon Afghan security forces involved in monitoring access to the gate. The Afghans returned fire, and in keeping with their right of self-defense, so, too, did U.S. and coalition troops,” Urban said.
The airport has been the site of mass evacuations by Western nations, particularly the United States, since the Taliban’s seizure of the Afghan capital a week ago.
The scramble to leave the conflict-hit country for fear of Taliban retributions has claimed the lives of at least eight Afghans, some crushed to death, with at least one person falling from a moving plane.
The U.S. and other countries have brought in troops to manage the evacuation effort at the airport.
About 30,000 or more people have been evacuated to safety since the Taliban marched into Kabul, seizing control of almost all of Afghanistan.
Tens of thousands of Afghans have flooded the capital’s Hamid Karzai International 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.
The United States’ pace of evacuations and chaotic scenes at and around the airport have prompted criticism of the U.S. effort.
Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking during a visit Monday to Singapore, said there will be plenty of time later to analyze what has taken place, emphasizing that the primary mission is “evacuating people from that region who deserve to be evacuated.”
“We are singularly focused on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us, and Afghans who are vulnerable, including women and children,” Harris said.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong offered the use of a military plane to help with the evacuation effort.
Other countries are sending aircraft, including Japan, which said it was dispatching a military plane on Monday to bring back its citizens from Afghanistan.
President Joe Biden has ordered all U.S.-led international forces to withdraw from the country by August 31 to end Washington’s nearly 20 years of engagement in the Afghan war. However, Biden said Sunday his administration was exploring the possibility of extending the deadline.
But Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen warned Monday that any delay in the withdrawal of the foreign troops would lead to “consequences." He did not elaborate.
The Taliban has blamed the United States for the chaos around Kabul’s airport.
“There is peace and calm all over the country,” Amir Khan Muttaqi, a top Taliban leader, asserted Sunday, 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,” Muttaqi said in an audio statement shared with the media.
Taliban leaders stressed that Afghanistan wants good relations with the U.S. and the global community, but the chaotic evacuation is hurting their goodwill among Afghans.
Muttaqi said the crisis has prevented airports across the country from transporting Afghans to and from Kabul, adding to problems facing the war-ravaged nation.
The United Nations warned Monday that aid groups’ abilities to respond to urgent humanitarian needs in Afghanistan are rapidly declining because no commercial aircraft are currently permitted to land in Kabul, leaving no way to get supplies into the country and to those in need.
“While the main focus over the past days has been major air operations for the evacuation of internationals and vulnerable Afghans, the massive humanitarian needs facing the majority of the population should not and cannot be neglected,” the world body stressed in a statement.
It noted that even prior to the events of the past weeks, Afghanistan represented the world’s third largest humanitarian operation, with over 18 million people requiring assistance.
“WHO and UNICEF call for immediate and unimpeded access to deliver medicines and other lifesaving supplies to millions of people in need of aid, including 300,000 people displaced in the last two months alone,” the agency said.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.