US

Pentagon spokesman insists the Kabul airport chaos was NOT a failure

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby insisted Monday that the Kabul airport chaos earlier in the day did not constitute a failure.  

‘I would take issue with your designation of this operation at the airport as a failure,’ he told CNN‘s Barbara Starr during an afternoon press briefing after she pointed out how one A C-17 took off carrying 640 Afghan refugees. 

Eight people were also reportedly killed, including three who tried to stowaway on a departing flight and fell from the sky. 

The Pentagon refused to confirm those figures. 

Instead, Kirby argued that the Defense Department planned for a number of scenarios as the U.S. exited Afghanistan after a 20-year deployment. 

‘Could we have predicted every single scenario and every single breach around the perimeter of the airport with only a couple of thousand troops on the ground?’ Kirby mused. ‘Plans are terrific and we take them seriously, but they are not and never have been perfectly predictive.’    

Both President Joe Biden and Kirby admitted that the U.S. was surprised by the quick work the Taliban made in taking control of the war-torn country. 

‘Now as we talked about here many times, it happened very fast,’ Kirby said from the Pentagon. ‘And one of the things we couldn’t anticipate and didn’t anticipate was the degree to which Afghan forces capitulated, sometimes without a fight.’ 

At Hamid Karzai International Airport, there was a stampede of thousands of people – both stranded foreign nationals and Afghan civilians – desperately trying to escape.   

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby insisted Monday that the chaos at Kabul’s airport earlier in the day did not constitute a failure. ‘I would take issue with your designation of this operation at the airport as a failure,’ Kirby told CNN’s Barbara Starr at an afternoon briefing 

A C-17 jet carrying 640 Afghan refugees that left Kabul on Sunday night as the Taliban claimed the city. The flight landed in Qatar. The refugees ran up the half-open ramp while US forces were preparing for take-off, according to an unnamed defense official cited by Defense One on Monday. At least one other C-17 has departed the area

A C-17 jet carrying 640 Afghan refugees that left Kabul on Sunday night as the Taliban claimed the city. The flight landed in Qatar. The refugees ran up the half-open ramp while US forces were preparing for take-off, according to an unnamed defense official cited by Defense One on Monday. At least one other C-17 has departed the area 

The airport is the last place in the city that is being guarded by NATO troops.

Thousands of Afghan nationals have rushed there in the hopes of being saved along with the foreigners being flown out, but the chaotic rescue operation collapsed on Monday as troops struggled to control the crowds. 

General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr, the head of the Pentagon’s Central Command, met with Taliban representatives in Qatar on Sunday and convinced them to let the US evacuate its citizens and any interpreters and translators it plans to without interference.  

It remains unclear how NATO troops will organize the evacuation of Afghan refugees or even get themselves out given the diabolical situation that unfolded earlier Monday. 

The Pentagon said 2,500 troops were moved into Kabul within the last 72 hours. 

By the end of Monday, 3,000 to 3,500 were expected to be on the ground.  

It’s unclear how many American civilians are there, and how many Afghan translators and interpreters are to be flown out.  

Embassy officials were moved to the airport with the Pentagon saying they were ‘safe’ and preparing for departure. 

The harrowing scene at the airport on Monday included thousands rushing on to the runway as a US Air Force C-17 cargo jet took off.

Frantic Afghan nationals jumped onto the plane’s fuselage in the hope that it would carry them to safety. 

Shortly after it took off, three were filmed falling from the aircraft to their deaths. 

Three were run over by the jet’s wheels on the tarmac. 

Kirby couldn’t confirm the deaths – or the reporting that there would be an investigation, but added ‘it wouldn’t surpise me in the least that commanders would be taking a look at what happened this morning in respect to the C-17.’  

‘On that video footage we’ve all seen of something falling off the wing. I don’t have an update for you in terms of specific validity of that. We’re obviously just as interested in you in learning more about what happened there,’ Kirby also said. 

American troops halted evacuation flights for 90 minutes afterwards while they cleared the airfield, which had become overrun with thousands of Afghan nationals. 

They used apache helicopters and fired warning shots into the crowds to try to control them. 

Outside the walls of the airport, shots from Taliban fighters rang out.  

A US soldier points his gun towards and bellows at an Afghan civilian at the Kabul airport on Monday. Two armed Afghans have been killed by American troops at the airport

A US soldier points his gun towards and bellows at an Afghan civilian at the Kabul airport on Monday. Two armed Afghans have been killed by American troops at the airport

Three stowaways are believed to have plunged to their deaths, with footage showing bodies falling from the underside of a hulking USAF transport jet as it climbed into the skies over the fallen city on Monday

Footage from Hamad Karzai airport showed hundreds of people running alongside – and in front of – a US Air Force plane preparing to take off

Desperate Afghan nationals tried to run onto RCH 885 as it took off from the airfield on Monday. Some were crushed by the C-17's wheels and others clung to the fuselage as it took off

Desperate Afghan nationals tried to run onto RCH 885 as it took off from the airfield on Monday. Some were crushed by the C-17’s wheels and others clung to the fuselage as it took off

An apache helicopter clears the airfield at Kabul on Monday after thousands of Afghan nationals ran onto it in a desperate attempt to get on an evacuation flight

An apache helicopter clears the airfield at Kabul on Monday after thousands of Afghan nationals ran onto it in a desperate attempt to get on an evacuation flight

An apache helicopter clears the airfield at Kabul on Monday after thousands of Afghan nationals ran onto it in a desperate attempt to get on an evacuation flight

Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on Monday

Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on Monday

A little girl is thrown over the wall of the airport on Monday as the Taliban started moving through the city of Kabul. The airport is the last part of the city being defended by US troops - more are expected there later today to try to secure it

A little girl is thrown over the wall of the airport on Monday as the Taliban started moving through the city of Kabul. The airport is the last part of the city being defended by US troops – more are expected there later today to try to secure it

An Afghan child walks near abandoned military uniforms at  Kabul airport on Monday after the Taliban took control of the city

An Afghan child walks near abandoned military uniforms at  Kabul airport on Monday after the Taliban took control of the city

Desperate Afghan families trying to escape Kabul scale the walls of the airport on Monday

Desperate Afghan families trying to escape Kabul scale the walls of the airport on Monday 

FALL OF KABUL: A TIMELINE OF THE TALIBAN’S FAST ADVANCE AFTER 40 YEARS OF CONFLICT

Feb. 29, 2020 Trump negotiates deal with the Taliban setting U.S. withdrawal date for May 1, 2021 

Nov. 17, 2020 Pentagon announces it will reduce troop levels to 2500 in Afghanistan

Jan. 15, 2020 Inspector general reveals ‘hubris and mendacity’ of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan 

Feb 3. 2021 Afghan Study Group report warns against withdrawing  ‘irresponsibly’

March Military command makes last-ditch effort to talk Biden out of withdrawal 

April 14 Biden announces withdrawal will be completed by Sept. 11 

May 4 – Taliban fighters launch a major offensive on Afghan forces in southern Helmand province. They also attack in at least six other provinces

May 11 – The Taliban capture Nerkh district just outside the capital Kabul as violence intensifies across the country

June 7 – Senior government officials say more than 150 Afghan soldiers are killed in 24 hours as fighting worsens. They add that fighting is raging in 26 of the country’s 34 provinces

June 22 – Taliban fighters launch a series of attacks in the north of the country, far from their traditional strongholds in the south. The UN envoy for Afghanistan says they have taken more than 50 of 370 districts

July 2 – The U.S. evacuates Bagram Airfield in the middle of the night 

July 5 – The Taliban say they could present a written peace proposal to the Afghan government as soon as August

July 21 – Taliban insurgents control about a half of the country’s districts, according to the senior U.S. general, underlining the scale and speed of their advance

July 25 – The United States vows to continue to support Afghan troops “in the coming weeks” with intensified airstrikes to help them counter Taliban attacks

July 26 – The United Nations says nearly 2,400 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in May and June in escalating violence, the highest number for those months since records started in 2009 

Aug. 6 – Zaranj in the south of the country becomes the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in years. Many more are to follow in the ensuing days, including the prized city of Kunduz in the north 

Aug. 13 – Pentagon insists Kabul is not under imminent threat 

Aug. 14 – The Taliban take the major northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and, with little resistance, Pul-e-Alam, capital of Logar province just 70 km (40 miles) south of Kabul. The United States sends more troops to help evacuate its civilians from Kabul as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he is consulting with local and international partners on next steps

Aug. 15 – The Taliban take the key eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, effectively surrounding Kabul

Taliban insurgents enter Kabul, an interior ministry official says, as the United States evacuate diplomats from its embassy by helicopter

 

Afghanistan’s representative to the UN’s security council Ghulam M. Isaczai said ‘there are already reports of target killings and looting in the city,’ at a meeting of the council on Monday.

‘Kabul residents are reported that the Taliban have already started house-to-house searches in some neighborhoods, registering names and looking for people in their target list,’ he added.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was ‘particularly concerned’ by accounts of human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who fear a return to the darkest days’ in the 1990s when the Taliban ruled and barred girls for getting an education and imposed draconian measures on women. 

It’s unclear now who America will save from the chaos aside from US citizens and anyone who worked alongside them. 

Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan did a series of TV interviews on Monday where he said evacuation flights were ongoing, but he skirted criticism for the disaster and said: ‘When push came to shove, [the Afghan forces] decided not to step up and fight for their country.’  

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has also come under fire for hightailing out of the country last night, in a helicopter full of cash, according to the Russian embassy. His whereabouts remain unknown. 

The Taliban declared victory from the presidential palace on Sunday following a blistering advance across the country. Experts and lawmakers have for months warned the Biden administrations that this was exactly what would happen if they continued with the hasty retreat and entrusted the country to the Afghan National Army. 

One of the terror chieftains proclaimed from the palace, ‘Praise God, I was in Guantanamo for eight years’, as he sat at the president’s table surrounded by henchmen strapped with AK-47s. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the U.S. decision to withdraw had ‘accelerated’ the crisis that risked creating ‘a breeding ground for terror.’

However, the Taliban has been on a charm offensive, pledging that no harm will come to any foreign citizens or embassy staff as it seeks formal recognition from the international community.  

Almost all major checkpoints in Kabul were under Taliban control by Monday morning and Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority issued an advisory saying the ‘civilian side’ of the airport had been ‘closed until further notice’ and that the military controlled the airspace. 

Taliban officials said everyone would be allowed to return home from Kabul airport if they decide to stay in the country and promised civilians would not be harmed. The group previously said westerners would be allowed to leave the country but that Afghans would be barred from departing. 

US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded. Early Monday morning, flight-tracking data showed no immediate commercial flights over the country. 

In the capital, a tense calm set in, with most people hiding in their homes as the Taliban deployed fighters at major intersections.

There were scattered reports of looting and armed men knocking on doors and gates, and there was less traffic than usual on eerily quiet streets. Fighters could be seen searching vehicles at one of the city’s main squares.

Many fear chaos, after the Taliban freed thousands of prisoners and the police simply melted away, or a return to the kind of brutal rule the Taliban imposed when it was last in power.

They raced to Kabul’s international airport, where the ‘civilian side’ was closed until further notice, according to Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority. The military was put in control of the airspace.

Massouma Tajik, a 22-year-old data analyst, described scenes of panic at the airport, where she was hoping to board an evacuation flight.

Satellite images show the number of people on the tarmac at Kabul airport desperately trying to get onto flights out of Afghanistan on Monday

Satellite images show the number of people on the tarmac at Kabul airport desperately trying to get onto flights out of Afghanistan on Monday 

Thousands of Afghan nationals rushed to the airport on foot on Monday to try to get on evacuation flights as the Taliban took over

Thousands of Afghan nationals rushed to the airport on foot on Monday to try to get on evacuation flights as the Taliban took over

The US Embassy has been evacuated and the American flag lowered, with diplomats relocating to the airport in scenes reminiscent of the evacuation of the embassy of Saigon in 1975. Other Western countries have also closed their missions and are flying out staff and civilians after the Taliban walked into Kabul's presidential palace

The US Embassy has been evacuated and the American flag lowered, with diplomats relocating to the airport in scenes reminiscent of the evacuation of the embassy of Saigon in 1975. Other Western countries have also closed their missions and are flying out staff and civilians after the Taliban walked into Kabul’s presidential palace

In a stunning rout, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces

In a stunning rout, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces

Inside the US Air Force CR-17 that took off on Monday while thousands of Afghans tried to get onboard. The cargo jets can carry 171,000lbs and have be

Inside one of the US Air Force jets that took off from Kabul on Sunday after the Taliban took control of the city 

Those on board the plane appeared to be US nationals. It's unclear how many remain at the airport waiting to be flown out

Those on board the plane appeared to be US nationals. It’s unclear how many remain at the airport waiting to be flown out 

US soldiers rest as Afghan people (not pictured) wait to leave the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule

US soldiers rest as Afghan people (not pictured) wait to leave the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule

Afghan nationals wait on one of the many grounded commercial aircrafts at Kabul airport on Monday in the hope of being flown out

Afghan nationals wait on one of the many grounded commercial aircrafts at Kabul airport on Monday in the hope of being flown out

A volunteer carries an injured man on the tarmac at the airport in Kabul on August 16. The chaos unfolded on Monday as thousands rushed to the airport in a desperate attempt to flee the Taliban after the country's 20 year civil war

A volunteer carries an injured man on the tarmac at the airport in Kabul on August 16. The chaos unfolded on Monday as thousands rushed to the airport in a desperate attempt to flee the Taliban after the country’s 20 year civil war

There are thousands of Afghan nationals at the airport desperately waiting to be put on any flight out of the city

There are thousands of Afghan nationals at the airport desperately waiting to be put on any flight out of the city 

Thousands of Afghans rush to the Hamid Karzai International Airport as they try to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021

 Thousands of Afghans rush to the Hamid Karzai International Airport as they try to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021

People climb a barbed wire wall to enter the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021, in this still image taken from a video

People climb a barbed wire wall to enter the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021, in this still image taken from a video 

US soldiers stand guard as desperate Afghans try to board flights at Hamid Karzai International Airport

US soldiers stand guard as desperate Afghans try to board flights at Hamid Karzai International Airport

Thousands of civilians rush towards one of the last military planes leaving Kabu

The airport was teeming with desperate civilians trying to flee the Taliban

Thousands of civilians rush towards one of the last military planes leaving Kabul (left) the airport was teeming with desperate civilians trying to flee the Taliban (right)

Video posted later appeared to show residents collecting the bodies of three stowaways, who reportedly fell from an airborne plane, from a roof in Kabul

Video posted later appeared to show residents collecting the bodies of three stowaways, who reportedly fell from an airborne plane, from a roof in Kabul

Footage showed desperate Afghans trying to climb onto grounded planes at Hamid Karzai airport

People desperately try to flee after the Taliban took Kabul on Sunday

Footage showed desperate Afghans trying to climb onto grounded planes at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai airport after the Taliban swept the city

Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on August 16, 2021, to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war

Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on August 16, 2021, to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war

Desperate Afghan civilians attempt to clamber over the barbed wire-topped wall into Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday

Desperate Afghan civilians attempt to clamber over the barbed wire-topped wall into Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday

Men climb over a wall into Hamid Karzai International Airport in scenes reminiscent of the chaos in Saigon in 1975

Men climb over a wall into Hamid Karzai International Airport in scenes reminiscent of the chaos in Saigon in 1975

US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded

Soldiers fired warning shots in the air to prevent hundreds of civilians running onto the tarmac

US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded. Soldiers fired warning shots in the air to prevent hundreds of civilians running onto the tarmac, a US official said

US troops fired shots into the air at Kabul airport today as desperate Afghans climbed up the outside of airbridges trying to flee as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan

US troops fired shots into the air at Kabul airport today as desperate Afghans climbed up the outside of airbridges trying to flee as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan

Video posted social media showed hundreds of people trying to climb the outside of airbridges to board commercial liners grounded in Hamad Karzai airport

 Video posted social media showed hundreds of people trying to climb the outside of airbridges to board commercial liners grounded in Hamad Karzai airport

At least five people have been killed at Kabul airport as thousands of people desperately try to flee the country

Witnesses said it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede

At least five people have been killed at Kabul airport as thousands of people tried desperately to get on flights out of Afghanistan amid increasingly chaotic scenes. Witnesses said it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede

Taliban fighters were seen inside the Afghan parliament on Monday

It came after Taliban officials promised civilians would not be harmed and announced everyone would be allowed to return home from Kabul airport if they decided to stay in the country

Taliban fighters were seen inside the Afghan parliament on Monday after officials promised civilians would not be harmed and announced everyone would be allowed to return home from Kabul airport if they decided to stay in the country

Victorious Taliban commander claims he ‘spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay’ in triumphant speech from Kabul palace

A Taliban commander claimed he spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay in a triumphant speech from inside the Presidential Palace in Kabul on Sunday as the militants declared an Islamic state of Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters marched into the ancient palace on Sunday and demanded a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ as the capital city descended into chaos, with US helicopters evacuating diplomats from the embassy in scenes echoing the 1975 Fall of Saigon which followed the Vietnam War. 

The Al-Jazeera news channel livestreamed the press conference from inside the palace, which showed a group of Taliban fighters sitting at the president’s desk before a fighter claimed he was a former inmate of the US-controlled Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba. 

A Taliban commander claimed he spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay in a victory speech from inside the Presidential Palace in Kabul as the militants declared an Islamic state of Afghanistan

A Taliban commander claimed he spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay in a victory speech from inside the Presidential Palace in Kabul as the militants declared an Islamic state of Afghanistan

‘Praise God, I was in Guantanamo for eight years,’ the man told the broadcaster as henchmen with AK-47s stood around him.

Established by George W Bush in 2002, suspected terrorists have been detained without trial and tortured at the facility. Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep the centre open indefinitely in 2018, while in February the Biden administration vowed to shut Guantanamo down.

Various reports said that the commander was either Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir or Gholam Ruhani.

Both of the men were held at Guantanamo Bay and are believed to have returned to the Taliban top brass after being released.

After waiting six hours, she heard shots from outside, where a crowd of men and women were trying to climb aboard a plane. She said U.S. troops sprayed gas and fired into the air to disperse the crowds after people scaled the walls and swarmed onto the tarmac. Gunfire could be heard in the voice messages she sent to The Associated Press.

Shafi Arifi, who had a ticket to travel to Uzbekistan on Sunday, was unable to board her plane because it was packed with people who had raced across the tarmac and climbed aboard, with no police or airport staff in sight.

‘There was no room for us to stand,’ said the 24-year-old. ‘Children were crying, women were shouting, young and old men were so angry and upset, no one could hear each other. There was no oxygen to breathe.’

After another woman fainted and was carried off the plane, Arifi gave up and went back home. 

Meanwhile, refugees have been massing at the borders as people desperately try to flee Afghanistan before the Taliban’s brutal rules are implemented, with pictures from the country’s border with Pakistan showing hundreds of people queuing in an attempt to leave.

‘Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years,’ Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera TV. ‘Thanks to God, the war is over in the country.’

Taliban members are seen near Hamid Karzai International Airport as thousands of Afghans rush to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021

Taliban members are seen near Hamid Karzai International Airport as thousands of Afghans rush to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021

A Taliban fighter stands guard at the Massoud Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021

A Taliban fighter stands guard at the Massoud Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021

A Taliban fighter stands guard at the Massoud Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021

A member of Taliban forces inspects the area outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul

A member of Taliban forces inspects the area outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul

US soldiers stand guard as in the background Afghan people wait at the Kabul airport

US soldiers stand guard as in the background Afghan people wait at the Kabul airport

Smiling Taliban fighters are seen on the back of a vehicle in Kabul on Monday

Smiling Taliban fighters are seen on the back of a vehicle in Kabul on Monday 

A father leads his family towards the airport as crowds of people try to escape Afghanistan on Monday

A father leads his family towards the airport as crowds of people try to escape Afghanistan on Monday

Hundreds of Afghans desperately scaled the walls of Hamid Karzai international airport in Kabul as they try to flee the country

Hundreds of Afghans desperately scaled the walls of Hamid Karzai international airport in Kabul as they try to flee the country

US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded

Early Monday morning, flight-tracking data showed no immediate commercial flights over the country even as thousands of Afghans flooded Kabul airport

US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded. Early Monday morning, flight-tracking data showed no immediate commercial flights over the country even as thousands of Afghans flooded Kabul airport

Desperate civilians try and get into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday after the Taliban took over the country

Desperate civilians try and get into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday after the Taliban took over the country

Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on Monday as American Humvees standby

Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on Monday as American Humvees standby 

President Ghani fled the country on Sunday night as the insurgents encircled the capital – saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed – capping a military victory that saw them capture all cities in just 10 days.

In a Facebook post, Ghani said he had left the country to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of Kabul residents. Some social media users branded Ghani, who did not disclose his location, a coward for leaving them in chaos. Al Jazeera reported he had flown to Uzbekistan, citing his personal bodyguard.

‘The Taliban have won with the judgement of their swords and guns, and are now responsible for the honour, property and self-preservation of their countrymen,’ Ghani said after fleeing.

Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country: ‘The situation is peaceful,’ one official said. The Taliban controlled 90 percent of state buildings and fighters had been told to prevent any damage, the official added.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who fought in the Soviet-Afghan War during the 1980s and helped ex-chief Mohammad Omar create the Taliban in 1994, has already been installed as the head of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, according to reports in the Arab world.  

Video from Afghanistan’s parliament building showed Taliban fighters entering the main chamber today. The grainy footage showed fighters carrying weapons sitting at a table at the head of the chamber under the government’s seal, with some smiling and posing for photographs. 

Ghani fled from the country on Sunday as the Islamists entered Kabul virtually unopposed, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed. 

Desperate Afghans were seen chasing US military transport aircraft

The evacuation flights took off from Kabul airport on Monday

Desperate Afghans were seen chasing US military transport aircraft as the evacuation flights took off from Kabul airport on Monday

US soldiers take up their positions as they secure the airport in Kabul after the Taliban walked into the capital, forcing President Ashraf Ghani to flee

US soldiers take up their positions as they secure the airport in Kabul after the Taliban walked into the capital, forcing President Ashraf Ghani to flee

Thousands of Afghans gathered at Kabul's Hamid Karzai airport, but all commercial services have been suspended, with only military flights leaving the country as the UK, US and other western countries repatriate their citizens

Thousands of Afghans gathered at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai airport, but all commercial services have been suspended, with only military flights leaving the country as the UK, US and other western countries repatriate their citizens

There were chaotic scenes at Kabul International Airport on Sunday night as thousands of Afghan residents rushed onto the tarmac

There were chaotic scenes at Kabul International Airport on Sunday night as thousands of Afghan residents rushed onto the tarmac

Potential passengers can be seen crowding the tarmac at Kabul airport in Afghanistan with people desperate to leave the country any way they can

Potential passengers can be seen crowding the tarmac at Kabul airport in Afghanistan with people desperate to leave the country any way they can

A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies near the U.S. Embassy as smoke rises in Kabul, Afghanistan, late on Sunday night

A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies near the U.S. Embassy as smoke rises in Kabul, Afghanistan, late on Sunday night

How did the Taliban take over Afghanistan so quickly?

The Taliban’s stunning and rapid takeover of Afghanistan was the result not only of their battlefield strength, but also a sustained push to force surrenders and cut deals.

The insurgents mixed threats and lures with propaganda and psychological warfare as they took city after city – some with barely a shot fired – eventually capturing the capital Kabul.

How did this happen? Why didn’t the Afghan army put up a fight? 

As foreign troops began their final withdrawal in May, Washington and Kabul were confident the Afghan military would put up a strong fight against the Taliban.

With more than 300,000 personnel and multi-billion-dollar equipment more advanced than the Taliban arsenal, Afghan forces were formidable – on paper.

In reality, they were plagued by corruption, poor leadership, lack of training and plummeting morale for years. Desertions were common and US government inspectors had long warned that the force was unsustainable.

Afghan forces put up strong resistance this summer in some areas such as Lashkar Gah in the south, but they now faced the Taliban without regular US air strikes and military support.

Faced with the smaller but highly motivated and cohesive enemy, many soldiers and even entire units simply deserted or surrendered, leaving the insurgents to capture city after city.

How did the Taliban take advantage of low morale? 

The seeds for the collapse were sown last year when Washington signed a deal with the insurgents to withdraw its troops completely.

For the Taliban, it was the beginning of their victory after nearly two decades of war. For many demoralised Afghans, it was betrayal and abandonment.

They continued to attack government forces but started to combine those with targeted killings of journalists and rights activists, ramping up an environment of fear.

They also pushed a narrative of inevitable Taliban victory in their propaganda and psychological operations.

Soldiers and local officials were reportedly bombarded with text messages in some areas, urging them to surrender or cooperate with the Taliban to avoid a worse fate.

Many were offered safe passage if they did not put up a fight, while others were reached through tribal and village elders.

What happened to the anti-Taliban warlords and their militias? 

With Afghan forces unable to hold off the Taliban advances, many of Afghanistan’s famed – and notorious – warlords rallied their militias and promised a black eye to the Taliban if they attacked their cities.

But with confidence plunging in the ability of Afghanistan’s government to survive, never mind hold off the insurgents, the writing was also on the wall for the warlords.

Their cities fell without a fight. Warlord Ismail Khan in the western city of Herat was captured by the Taliban as it fell.

Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammad Noor in the north fled to Uzbekistan, as their militia members abandoned humvees, weapons and even their uniforms on the road out of Mazar-i-Sharif.

But how were the Taliban able to do this so quickly?

The Taliban had started putting deals and surrender arrangements in place reportedly long before the launch of their blitz in May.

From individual soldiers and low-level government officials to apparently provincial governors and ministers, the insurgents pressed for deals – with the Taliban all but victorious, why put up a fight?

The strategy proved immensely effective.

The images from their final march to Kabul were not of bodies in the streets and bloody battlefields, but of Taliban and government officials sitting comfortably on couches as they formalised the handover of cities and provinces.

According to one reported US estimate less than a month before the fall of Kabul, the Afghan government could collapse in 90 days.

But once the Taliban captured their first provincial capital, it took less than two weeks.

Reporting by AFP 

Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in a message on Twitter their fighters were under strict orders not to harm anyone. 

‘Life, property and honour of none shall be harmed but must be protected by the mujahideen,’ he said.

Earlier, Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera TV, the Afghan people and the Taliban had witnessed the fruits of their efforts and sacrifices over 20 years.

‘Thanks to God, the war is over,’ he said.

It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of the country after a lightning sweep that ended in Kabul as government forces, trained for years and equipped by the United States and others at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.

Al Jazeera broadcast footage of what it said were Taliban commanders in the presidential palace with dozens of armed fighters. 

Naeem said the form of the new regime in Afghanistan would be made clear soon, adding the Taliban did not want to live in isolation and calling for peaceful international relations.

The militants sought to project a more moderate face, promising to respect women’s rights and protect both foreigners and Afghans.

Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices in their imposition of sharia religious law. During their rule, women could not work and punishments such as stoning, whipping and hanging were administered.

Both the United Nations and the United States said last week they had received reports that Taliban fighters were executing surrendering government soldiers.  

Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country: ‘The situation is peaceful,’ one said, adding the Taliban controlled 90% of state buildings and fighters had been told to prevent any damage.

Central Kabul streets were largely deserted early on a sunny Monday as waking residents pondered their future.

‘I’m in a complete state of shock,’ said Sherzad Karim Stanekzai, who spent the night in his carpet shop to guard it. ‘I know there will be no foreigners, no international people who will now come to Kabul.’

People thronged to the airport from late on Sunday with hundreds wandering on the runways in the dark, pulling luggage and jostling for a place on one of the last commercial flights to leave before U.S. forces took over air traffic control. 

Dozens of men tried to clamber onto an overhead departure gangway to board a plane while hundreds of others milled about, a video posted on social media showed.

U.S. forces gave up their big military base at Bagram, some 60 km north of Kabul, several weeks ago, leaving Kabul’s airport their only way out, to the anger of many Afghans.

‘The Americans have no right to hold the airport for their own use, they could have used their own base to take people out,’ said one person trying to leave.

There was the prospect of chaos in the skies over Afghanistan too. Its civil aviation authority advised transit aircraft to reroute saying its airspace was uncontrolled. 

The Pentagon on Sunday authorized another 1,000 troops to help evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who worked for them, expanding its security presence on the ground to almost 6,000 troops within the next 48 hours.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said early on Monday that all embassy personnel, including Ambassador Ross Wilson, had been transferred to Kabul airport, mostly by helicopter, to await evacuation and the American flag had been lowered and removed from the embassy compound.

Western nations, including France, Germany and New Zealand said they were working to get citizens as well as some Afghan employees out.

In a Facebook post, Ghani said he had left the country to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of Kabul residents. Some social media users branded Ghani, who did not disclose his location, a coward for leaving them in chaos.

In Washington, opponents of President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war, launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said the chaos was caused by a failure of leadership.

Biden has faced rising domestic criticism after sticking to a plan, initiated by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, to end the U.S. military mission by Aug. 31.

Britain’s defence minister said British and NATO forces would not be returning to fight the Taliban.

‘That’s not on the cards,’ Ben Wallace told Sky News. 

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace BREAKS DOWN as he admits ‘some people won’t get back’ but vows to fly hundreds of Afghans out in the next 36 hours 

Ben Wallace choked up today as he vowed to fly hundreds of desperate Afghans out of the country within the next 36 hours – but insisted sending UK troops back in is not ‘on the cards’.

The Defence Secretary was overcome with emotion as he talked about the consequences of the collapse of the Western-trained Afghan army, after the Taliban walked into Kabul and took charge of the presidential palace. 

He said the crisis had become inevitable after a deal was struck with the extremists and the US pulled out, and the focus was now on evacuating British nationals, interpreters and others who might be subject to reprisals.

But he conceded that ‘some people won’t get back’. ‘It is sad the West has done what it has done,’ he said. ‘Twenty years of sacrifice.. is what it is.’  

Wallace – who himself served in the military before entering politics – said he felt the issue so deeply because he was a soldier. 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace admitted he was ‘sad’ at the collapse of the Western-trained Afghan army after the Taliban walked into Kabul and took charge of the presidential palace

Pressed on whether there was any prospect of troops returning to Kabul, Mr Wallace told Sky News: ‘No, look that’s not on the cards that we’re going to go back.’

He added: ‘The US have made itself clear that they’re not intending to stay and as the framework nation that leaves us with difficult choices and I’ve been pretty much honest about that all the way through this process.’

On the airlift of British nationals, he added: ‘The military flights are coming in and out, they’ve just brought in more UK soldiers.

‘Border Force is joining us to make sure that we accelerate the process to get more Afghans out, which is our obligation. We flew out 370 staff and British citizens, eligible personnel yesterday and the day before and we’ll continue to engage those flights.

‘The next group of Afghans to come out will be 782 and we’ll make sure we get them in the next 24 to 36 hours out of the country and are continuing to process those people.’ 

He went on: ‘My job as as defence secretary is to make sure that we protect not only the UK nationals, but those Afghans we have an obligation to, that is actually why we’re in the country. For the last few weeks we’ve been in the country solely to process those people and to make sure we protect our officials doing that job and we’ll continue to do so.’

Mr Wallace – who was a captain in the Scots Guards and saw service in Northern Ireland – told BBC Breakfast it will not be possible to get everyone out of Afghanistan, with the previous August 31 evacuation timetable now in tatters.

‘With the US’ removal of the framework, the military might and the speed of the Afghan government collapse, it’s simply not possible for us to send small bands of troops miles into Afghanistan to find people if they’re not able to be found,’ he said.

‘It is a deep regret that we have gone to a position we have, I haven’t hidden that over the last few weeks. We are doing everything we can to get those people out.’

Asked if translators who have helped British citizens are eligible to come to the UK, he said: ‘Yes, they are. People who are eligible are people who have worked for us in what we call public-facing roles, people who’ve worked for us but are not in public-facing roles, contractors and third parties … and any other special cases.’

Outlining the process of checking people who are being flown to the UK from Afghanistan, he added: ‘We do have to make sure that some of the people we’re bringing back aren’t affiliated to either a terrorist organisation or the Taliban, which, I’m afraid, a very, very small number have been.

‘They might not have worked for us for 10, 12, 15 years, so we have to see that they are right. We’re doing our very best to make sure we do not discriminate against those people who are fully legitimate to come here.’

Challenged that the Taliban had ‘won’, Mr Wallace said: ‘I don’t know about a win, I think, I acknowledge that the Taliban are in control of the country. You don’t have to be a political scientist to spot that’s where we’re at.’

 

Taliban strengthens its grip on Afghanistan with gunmen patrolling streets of Kabul as militants claim civilians and foreigners have nothing to fear despite thousands trying to flee the country

By Chris Jewers 

Victorious Taliban fighters patrolled Kabul on Monday after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan‘s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule.

It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of the country after a lightning sweep that ended in Kabul as government forces trained for years and equipped by Britain, the United States and other Western nations at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.

As the militants declared victory and claimed peace had been brought to the country, at least five people were killed in Kabul airport and another three reportedly died falling from a plane, while hundreds tried to forcibly enter aircraft leaving the Afghan capital, witnesses said.

One witness said he had seen the bodies of five people being taken to a vehicle. Another witness said it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede.

U.S. troops, who are in charge of the airport, earlier fired in the air to scatter the crowd, a U.S. official said, but officials were not immediately available to comment on the deaths.

Pictured: Taliban fighters stand guard along a roadside near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021. Victorious Taliban fighters patrolled Kabul on Monday after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule

Pictured: Taliban fighters stand guard along a roadside near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021. Victorious Taliban fighters patrolled Kabul on Monday after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule

Pictured: Pakistan's soldiers check the documents of stranded Afghan nationals wanting to return to Afghanistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 16, 2021

Pictured: Pakistan’s soldiers check the documents of stranded Afghan nationals wanting to return to Afghanistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 16, 2021

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country

Meanwhile, refugees have been massing at the borders as people desperately try to flee Afghanistan before the Taliban’s brutal rules are implemented, with pictures from the country’s border with Pakistan showing hundreds of people queuing in an attempt to leave.

‘Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years,’ Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera TV. ‘Thanks to God, the war is over in the country.’

President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday night as the insurgents encircled the capital – saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed – capping a military victory that saw them capture all cities in just 10 days.

In a Facebook post, Ghani said he had left the country to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of Kabul residents. Some social media users branded Ghani, who did not disclose his location, a coward for leaving them in chaos. Al Jazeera reported he had flown to Uzbekistan, citing his personal bodyguard.

‘The Taliban have won with the judgement of their swords and guns, and are now responsible for the honour, property and self-preservation of their countrymen,’ Ghani said after fleeing.

Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country: ‘The situation is peaceful,’ one official said. The Taliban controlled 90 percent of state buildings and fighters had been told to prevent any damage, the official added.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who fought in the Soviet-Afghan War during the 1980s and helped ex-chief Mohammad Omar create the Taliban in 1994, has already been installed as the head of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, according to reports in the Arab world.  

Video from Afghanistan’s parliament building showed Taliban fighters entering the main chamber today. The grainy footage showed fighters carrying weapons sitting at a table at the head of the chamber under the government’s seal, with some smiling and posing for photographs. 

Video from Afghanistan's parliament building showed Taliban fighters entering the main chamber today

The grainy footage showed fighters carrying weapons sitting at a table at the head of the chamber under the government's seal, with some smiling and posing for photographs

Video (pictured) from Afghanistan’s parliament building showed Taliban fighters entering the main chamber today. The grainy footage showed fighters carrying weapons sitting at a table at the head of the chamber under the government’s seal, with some smiling and posing for photographs

British Forces from 16 Air Assault Brigade arrive in Kabul, Afghanistan, to provide support to British nationals leaving the country, as part of Operation PITTING after Taliban insurgents took control of the presidential palace in Kabul, August 15

British Forces from 16 Air Assault Brigade arrive in Kabul, Afghanistan, to provide support to British nationals leaving the country, as part of Operation PITTING after Taliban insurgents took control of the presidential palace in Kabul, August 15

Government forces collapsed without the support of the US military, which invaded in 2001 after the September 11 attacks and toppled the Taliban for its support of Al-Qaeda.

But the United States ultimately failed to build a democratic government capable of withstanding the Taliban, despite spending billions of dollars and providing two decades of military support.

Russia said its ambassador to Afghanistan will meet with the Taliban in Kabul on Tuesday and that it will decide on whether to officially recognise the new government.

China on Monday said it is willing to develop ‘friendly relations’ with the Taliban after the Islamist hardliners seized control of Afghanistan.

‘China respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny and is willing to continue to develop… friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan,’ foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters. 

Pashtana Durrani from non-profit organisation Learn Afghanistan told BBC Breakfast on Monday that the Taliban have so far been unclear about how they intend to rule Afghanistan now they are in power.

‘In some places they are very nice to people and then there are places where they have been slitting throats,’ she told the morning show. ‘So I don’t want to trust them and I’m not trusting them for their word.

‘But at the same time, the first thing that they did yesterday – they stripped us of our flag. They brought down the flag. The second thing that they did, is they are in the process of changing the name of Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters stormed the ancient palace on Sunday and demanded a 'peaceful transfer of power' as the capital city descended into chaos

Taliban fighters stormed the ancient palace on Sunday and demanded a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ as the capital city descended into chaos

Pictured: Mullah Baradar Akhund, a senior official of the Taliban, seated with a group of men, makes a video statement, in this still image taken from a video recorded in an unidentified location and released on August 16, 2021

Pictured: Mullah Baradar Akhund, a senior official of the Taliban, seated with a group of men, makes a video statement, in this still image taken from a video recorded in an unidentified location and released on August 16, 2021

Russian ambassador to meet Taliban in Kabul Tuesday 

Russia said its ambassador to Afghanistan will meet with the Taliban in Kabul on Tuesday and that it will decide on whether to recognise the new government based on its conduct.

‘Our ambassador is in contact with the Taliban leadership, tomorrow he will meet with the Taliban security coordinator,’ foreign ministry official Zamir Kabulov said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Monday.

He said the talks between Moscow’s ambassador, Dmitry Zhirnov, and the Taliban would centre on how the group plans to provide security for the Russian embassy in the Afghan capital.

On Sunday, as the Taliban completed its military takeover of Afghanistan, Kabulov said that Russia had no plans on evacuating its embassy – though on Monday he said that ‘part’ of its staff would be ‘evacuated’.

Kabulov also said that Moscow will decide on recognising the new Taliban government based ‘on the conduct of the new authorities’.

‘We will carefully see how responsibly they govern the country in the near future. And based on the results, the Russian leadership will draw the necessary conclusions,’ Kabulov said.

In recent years, Russia has sought to reach out to the Taliban and has hosted Taliban representatives in Moscow several times, most recently last month.

Moscow is closely watching for a potential spillover of the instability into neighbouring ex-Soviet Central Asian countries where Russia maintains military bases. 

Reporting by AFP 

‘And at the same time we are being stripped of our political rights, our mobility rights, our social rights. So these are some immediate things that we know are going to happen, or are in the process of happening,’ she said.     

After police and other government forces gave up their posts in Kabul on Sunday, Taliban fighters took over checkpoints across the city and entered the presidential palace.

Militants with rifles slung over their shoulders were also seen walking Monday through the streets of the Green Zone, the formerly heavily fortified district that houses most embassies and international organisations.

The Taliban sought to reassure the international community that Afghans should not fear them, and they will not take revenge against those who supported the US-backed alliance.

In a message posted to social media, Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar called on his fighters to remain disciplined after taking control of the city.

‘Now it’s time to test and prove, now we have to show that we can serve our nation and ensure security and comfort of life,’ he said.

The Taliban’s capture of the capital had occurred, as in many other cities, without the bloodshed that many had feared.

But there were desperate scenes at Kabul’s airport on Monday as people tried to board the few flights available.

‘We are afraid to live in this city,’ a 25-year-old ex-soldier said as he stood among huge crowds on the tarmac. ‘Since I served in the army, the Taliban would definitely target me.’

The United States had sent 6,000 troops to the airport to ensure the safe evacuation of embassy staff, as well as Afghans who worked as interpreters or in other support roles.

Other governments had also organised charter flights.

The US government said Monday it had secured the airport, but there was still chaos with witnesses reporting American soldiers firing in the air to warn off crowds.

Authorities then cancelled all remaining commercial flights because of the chaos.

‘There will be no commercial flights from Hamid Karzai Airport to prevent looting and plundering. Please do not rush to the airport,’ the Kabul airport authority said in a message sent to reporters.

The United States had earlier released a statement with more than 65 nations urging the Taliban to let Afghans leave the country, warning of accountability for any abuses.

Pictured: Taliban forces patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country as they took control in little over a week

Pictured: Taliban forces patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country as they took control in little over a week

After police and other government forces gave up their posts in Kabul on Sunday, Taliban fighters took over checkpoints across the city and entered the presidential palace. Pictured: Taliban fighters in Kabul, August 16, 2021

After police and other government forces gave up their posts in Kabul on Sunday, Taliban fighters took over checkpoints across the city and entered the presidential palace. Pictured: Taliban fighters in Kabul, August 16, 2021

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged the Taliban and all parties to ‘exercise restraint’ and said the rights of women and girls, who suffered under the previous Taliban regime, must be protected.

The Taliban imposed an ultra-strict interpretation of sharia law during their 1996-2001 rule.

This included banning girls from schools and women from working, while people were publicly stoned to death for adultery. 

As people scrambled to escape Afghanistan, neighbouring Pakistan’s state-run airline said on Monday it has halted all flights to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul because of the ‘uncertain security situation’ there.

Spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said Monday that Pakistan International Airlines decided to protect passengers, the crew and the planes after consulting the Afghan civil aviation authorities.  

Pakistan’s interior minister said on Sunday the country had closed the Torkham border point with Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the Afghan border facility.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the decision to close the Torkhan border was taken due to due to an extraordinary situation on the other side. Ahmed told the local Geo television that the border was closed when Afghan police surrendered to the Taliban.

Ahmed said the Chaman border point with Afghanistan remains open.

Pakistan has already said that it cannot bear any load of new Afghan refugees in the wake of crisis in the war-torn country. Pakistan is about to complete fencing along the long, porous border, saying the step has been taken to check the militants’ movement across the border. 

Al Jazeera broadcast footage of what it said were Taliban commanders in the presidential palace with dozens of armed fighters.

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said the form of the new regime in Afghanistan would be made clear soon, adding the Taliban did not want to live in isolation and calling for peaceful international relations.

‘We have reached what we were seeking, which is the freedom of our country and the independence of our people,’ he said. ‘We will not allow anyone to use our lands to target anyone, and we do not want to harm others.’

Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices in their imposition of sharia religious law. During their 1996-2001 rule, women could not work and punishments such as stoning, whipping and hanging were administered.

Both the United Nations and the United States said last week they had received reports that Taliban fighters were executing surrendering government soldiers.

A Taliban leader the insurgents were regrouping from different provinces, and would wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.

The leader, who requested anonymity, said Taliban fighters had been ‘ordered to allow Afghans to resume daily activities and do nothing to scare civilians’. 

Central Kabul streets were largely deserted early on a sunny Monday as waking residents pondered their future.

‘I’m in a complete state of shock,’ said Sherzad Karim Stanekzai, who spent the night in his carpet shop to guard it. ‘I know there will be no foreigners, no international people who will now come to Kabul.’

The militants sought to project a more moderate face, promising to respect women’s rights and protect both foreigners and Afghans.

Taliban stands guard outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport as people walk to the airport to flee the country after rumors that foreign countries are evacuating people even without visas, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021

Taliban stands guard outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport as people walk to the airport to flee the country after rumors that foreign countries are evacuating people even without visas, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021

Taliban members patrol the streets of Afghan capital Kabul on August 16, 2021, as the Taliban takes control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country

Taliban members patrol the streets of Afghan capital Kabul on August 16, 2021, as the Taliban takes control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country

A Taliban fighter sits on his motorcycle along a roadside at Shahr-e Naw in Kabul on August 16, 2021

A Taliban fighter sits on his motorcycle along a roadside at Shahr-e Naw in Kabul on August 16, 2021

Western nations, including the UK, France, Germany and New Zealand said they were working to get citizens as well as some Afghan employees out. Russia said it saw no need to evacuate its embassy for the time being while Turkey said its embassy would continue operations. 

Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the military side of Kabul airport was secure and that Britain was doing everything it could to evacuate British citizens and Afghans with links to Britain.

‘Our target is… about 1200 to 1500 exit a day in the capacity of our airplanes, and we’ll keep that flow,’ he said.

Britain has relocated its embassy to Kabul airport from the city. Asked what he would feel to see the Taliban flag flying over the former British embassy building in Kabul, Wallace said: ‘Symbolically, it’s not what any of us wanted.’ 

MP Tobias Ellwood, former captain in the British Army and chairman of the defence select committee, criticised the West for pulling out of Afghanistan.

Appearing on Sky News, he said: ‘The world is now a little bit more dangerous because they’ve now taken control of the country, and the West should really hang its head in shame after abruptly abandoning Afghanistan to a civil war after two decades of effort.’

He added: ‘This is not a good day for the West at all, and China will be observing things very, very closely indeed. They are already making alliances with the Taliban and glossing over the human rights atrocities that are likely to unfold.’  

The European Union said it is working with member states to find quick solutions for the relocation of local Afghan staff and their families to a safe place, a spokesperson said.

‘The matter is extremely urgent, we take it very seriously and continue to work hard, together with EU member states, on implementing rapid solutions for them and ensure their safety,’ the spokesperson for the bloc’s executive Commission told Reuters.

The Commission does not give figures for their local Afghan staff for security reasons.

German parliamentary sources said on Monday that chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is planning to deploy soldiers to Afghanistan to help with the evacuation of German nationals and Afghans in danger from the Taliban.

The government is planning to seek a mandate from parliament to allow the deployment of as many as ‘several hundred soldiers’, the sources told AFP, citing a briefing by Merkel to leaders of parliamentary groups late Sunday.

Several dozen French citizens are to be repatriated by plane from Afghanistan, French Armed Forces minister Florence Parly told France Info radio.

Sweden said it had completed the evacuation of all its Swedish embassy staff from Kabul on Monday, and is now working on plans to get local employees and those who have supported its activities out of the country.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for the Taliban to uphold human rights and said the world was watching: ‘It’s going to be all about the actions, not the words.’ 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all parties to exercise the utmost restraint, and expressed particular concern about the future of women and girls.

In Washington, opponents of President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war, launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said the chaos was caused by a failure of leadership.

Biden has faced rising domestic criticism after sticking to a plan, initiated by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, to end the U.S. military mission by Aug. 31.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell blamed Biden for what he called a ‘shameful failure of American leadership’.

Naeem said the Taliban would adopt an international policy of two-way non-interference. ‘We do not think that foreign forces will repeat their failed experience.’ 

The US government has insisted in recent days that its two decades of war in Afghanistan was a success, defined by quashing the Al-Qaeda threat.

President Joe Biden also said he was determined there was no choice but to withdraw American troops, as he would not ‘pass this war’ onto another president.

But Washington was left shocked by the rapid collapse of the Afghan government, and critics have said the United States’ reputation as a global power has been badly tarnished.

‘America’s credibility as an ally is diminished,’ said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States. 

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said early on Monday that all embassy personnel, including Ambassador Ross Wilson, had been transferred to Kabul airport, mostly by helicopter, to await evacuation and the American flag had been lowered and removed from the embassy compound.

Hundreds of Afghans invaded the airport’s runways in the dark, pulling luggage and jostling for a place on one of the last commercial flights to leave before U.S. forces took over air traffic control on Sunday.

‘This is our airport but we are seeing diplomats being evacuated while we wait in complete uncertainty,’ said Rakhshanda Jilali, a human rights activist who was trying to get to Pakistan, told Reuters in a message from the airport.

Crowds thronged into the airport as morning broke and U.S. forces fired into the air to stop people surging onto the tarmac to try to board a military flight, a U.S. official said.

Dozens of men tried to clamber onto an overhead departure gangway to board a plane while hundreds of others milled about, a video posted on social media showed.

There was the prospect of chaos in the skies over Afghanistan too. Its civil aviation authority advised transit aircraft to reroute saying its airspace was uncontrolled.

The Pentagon on Sunday authorized another 1,000 troops to help evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who worked for them, expanding its security presence on the ground to almost 6,000 troops within the next 48 hours.  


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