Horrific footage purporting to show an Afghan caught in the landing gear of a C-17 after clambering on to the plane has emerged amid the chaos of evacuation flights in Kabul as guns and body armor are dumped at the airport.
Some 640 Afghans were seen crammed into a C-17 jet, fitted to carry 150 soldiers but can take 171,000lbs of cargo, earlier today as American soldiers were seen cradling the US embassy flag while removing it from the country.
Footage which appears to have been taken from a porthole in the rear door of a C-17 military plane shows a man’s legs protruding from the wheel arch and failing against the side of the plane as it cuts through the air.
C-17 planes were evacuating US personnel from Kabul airport on Monday, and videos showed desperate Afghans clinging to the wheels in the exact position shown on the footage.
American officials later confirmed that human remains had been found in the wheel well of a C-17 that was originally bound for the US but diverted to a third country after declaring a state of emergency – though MailOnline has been unable to confirm whether the plane shown in the footage is one and the same.
It is just the latest sickening image to come out of the chaos in Kabul after at least three people plunged to their deaths from the side of an American C-17 transport that took off from the city’s airport on Monday in a desperate bid to escape the Taliban – which has taken over the country.
Pandemonium unfolded at the airport after thousands of Afghans stormed runways and attempted to force their way on board flights out of the country, temporarily halting evacuation missions which resumed early Tuesday after thousands of US troops helped clear the tarmac.
The embassy in the Afghan capital closed down on Sunday following reports that officials there were destroying sensitive documents and equipment ahead of the Taliban’s arrival.
Footage shows military weapons, gear and vehicles that have been abandoned by soldiers hastily forced to evacuate the country to flee the Taliban.
Horrifying footage has revealed what appears to be the body of an Afghan man trapped in the wheel arch of a C-17 transport plane that took off from Kabul airport on Monday
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 embassy in the Afghan capital closed down on Sunday following reports that officials there were destroying sensitive documents and equipment ahead of the Taliban’s arrival. Pictured: A US soldier is seen cradling the US flag out of the embassy in Afghanistan
U.S soldiers stand guard along a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul amid a sea of hopeful refugees
Military weapons, gear and vehicles were abandoned by soldiers as they were forced to hastily evacuate the country
US troops were forced to leave military vehicles abandoned as they hastily fled the country following the Taliban’s takeover
Abandoned weapons and luggages are seen in Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
Taliban fighters on a pick-up truck move around a market area, flocked with local Afghan people at the Kote Sangi area of Kabul today
Taliban fighters sit with guns as they drive through a market in Kabul this morning
Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Taliban declared an ‘amnesty’ across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government Tuesday
Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint near the US embassy that was previously manned by American troops in Kabul
Taliban fighters stand guard on a tower at the interior ministry in Kabul
There are thought to be at least 40,000 people who need evacuating from the country – including 30,000 US diplomats, visa holders and Afghans they have promised sanctuary, 4,000 Britons and an unknown number of other westerners including Spanish, French, Germans and Poles.
US soldier cradles American Embassy flag while loading it onto evacuation plane
A picture emerged on Monday showing a US soldier forlornly clutching the American Embassy flag as he loaded it into a plane to be flown out of Afghanistan.
The Taliban swept into the capital on Sunday after the Western-backed government collapsed and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country ‘to avoid bloodshed’, bringing a stunning end to a two-decade campaign in which the US and its allies had tried to transform the country.
The US Embassy has been evacuated along with the American Embassy flag, with ambassador Ross Wilson and other diplomats relocating to the airport in scenes reminiscent of the evacuation of the embassy of Saigon in 1975.
They were evacuated from Kabul via chinook helicopters on Sunday evening according to US State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
‘We can confirm that the safe evacuation of all Embassy personnel is now complete. All Embassy personnel are located on the premises of Hamid Karzai International Airport, whose perimeter is secured by the US Military,’ he said.
US soldier clutches the American Embassy flag as he loads it into a plane to be flown out of Afghanistan
The US has so far flown at least two C-17 cargo jets out of Kabul and more flights are expected later this week despite chaos on the ground on Monday which left eight people dead, including desperate stowaways who fell from the sky in harrowing scenes.
The refugees – including many women and young children – ran onto one of the planes’ half-open ramp before take-off and ‘the crew made the decision to go’, taking them with them, an unnamed defense official said.
India confirmed today that it had closed its embassy in Kabul and flown its diplomatic staff to safety, while Russia and Indonesia have announced partial evacuations – though said some diplomatic staff would remain. Nepalese diplomatic staff were also seen loading on to buses bound for the border.
America is hoping to fly out some 5,000 people per day and the UK 1,200 – though both managed just a few hundred on Monday, meaning the operation is likely to drag on for weeks, if not months.
Politicians in both the UK and US have urged their government to be ‘generous’ with granting asylum to Afghans who helped in the war effort, but there are fears that thousands will be left behind amid the chaos.
The success of the operation now depends upon troops being able to keep the runway open, and on officials being able to locate all those who have been promised a ticket home and get them to the airport.
Some 6,000 American troops have now encircled the airport, using barbed wire and armoured vehicles to keep people off the runway, but so has the Taliban – which now controls 90 per cent of the country.
While Taliban diplomats have promised that the evacuation will be allowed to go ahead unhindered, it remains unclear if they will be willing to let their countrymen leave, having urged people at the airport to return home and promised an amnesty for government workers who go back to their jobs.
Early on Tuesday, French soldiers were pictured standing guard alongside a military plane evacuating diplomatic staff and their Afghan colleagues.
People were pictured forming orderly queues to board the aircraft, in stark contrast to the panicked and desperate scenes just hours earlier
Despite the airport runway being secured, witnesses reported gunshots coming from the area overnight. Streets elsewhere in Kabul appeared calm.
U.S. forces took charge of the airport, their only way to fly out of the country, on Sunday, as the militants were winding up a dramatic week of advances across the country with their takeover of the capital without a fight.
Flights were suspended flights for much of Monday, when at least five people were killed, witnesses said, although it was unclear whether they had been shot or crushed in a stampede.
Media reported two people fell to their deaths from the underside of a U.S. military aircraft after it took off, crashing to their deaths on roofs of homes near the airport. More video showed three bodies being retrieved from the streets.
C-17 jets were pictured taking off from Kabul on Monday followed by hundreds of desperate Afghanis, some of whom were clinging to the wheels on the same side of the plane that the footage was taken from
More horrifying footage from Kabul airport showed the bodies of two people falling from a departing aircraft, while more footage later showed people retrieving three bodies
French troops are pictured guarding a military transport plane at Kabul airport in the early hours of Tuesday as evacuations resume after thousands of desperate locals were cleared off the runway
French troops help load their embassy staff, visa holders and other allies they have promised sanctuary to on to a military transport plane in the early hours of Tuesday
David Martinon (centre left), the French ambassador to Afghanistan, waits with French and Afghan nationals to board a French military transport plane at the airport in Kabul
French nationals and their Afghan colleagues line up to board a French military transport plane at the Kabul airport
A French national sleeps on the floor at Kabul airport early on Tuesday as he waits with other diplomatic staff to board a flight out of Kabul airport as evacuations resume
French and Afghan national sit amongst their luggage as they wait to board a flight out of Kabul – one of dozens that will shuttle tens of thousands of people out of the country in the coming weeks
A U.S. official told Reuters U.S. troops had killed two gunmen who had appeared to have fired into the crowd at the airport.
Despite the scenes of panic and confusion in Kabul, U.S. President Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces after 20 years of war – the nation’s longest – that he described as costing more than $1 trillion.
But a video on Monday of hundreds of desperate Afghans trying to clamber onto a U.S. military plane as it was about to take-off could haunt the United States, just as a photograph in 1975 of people scrambling to get on a helicopter on the roof of a building in Saigon became emblematic of the humiliating withdrawal from Vietnam.
Biden insisted he had to decide between asking U.S. forces to fight endlessly in what he called Afghanistan’s civil war or follow through on an agreement to withdraw negotiated by his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump.
‘I stand squarely behind my decision,’ Biden said. ‘After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there.’
Facing a barrage of criticism, from even his own diplomats, he blamed the Taliban’s takeover on Afghan political leaders who fled and its army’s unwillingness to fight.
The Taliban captured Afghanistan’s biggest cities in days rather than the months predicted by U.S. intelligence, in many cases after demoralised government forces surrendered despite years of training and equipping by the United States and others.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the hasty pullout of U.S. troops had a ‘serious negative impact, ‘ China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported, adding that Wang pledged to work with Washington to promote stability.
Blinken also spoke on Monday with counterparts in Pakistan, Russia, Britain, the European Union, Turkey and NATO about ensuring regional stability, the State Department said.
French soldiers stand guard as French nationals and their Afghan colleagues wait to board a military transport plane at the airport in Kabul
Video shows hundreds of refugees running onto the C-17 on Sunday night before it took off. There are thousands of desperate Afghans still on the ground in Kabul
U.S. Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson dismissed in a Twitter message what he called false reports that he had left the country, saying he and staff remained and were helping thousands of U.S. citizens and Afghans.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the country on Sunday as the Islamist militants entered Kabul, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed.
The U.N. Security Council called for talks to create a new government in Afghanistan after Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of ‘chilling’ curbs on human rights and violations against women and girls.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said she was ‘deeply concerned’ and called for world leaders to take urgent action. She urged Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to open their country to refugees.
Former Afghan faction commander and prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said he would travel to Doha on Tuesday to meet a Taliban delegation, accompanied by former President Hamid Karzai and former foreign minister and peace envoy Abdullah Abdullah, Al Jazeera TV reported.
Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices. During their 1996-2001 rule, women could not work and punishments such as public stoning, whipping and hanging were administered.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Dunya News that the group would improve the security of Kabul and ‘respect the rights of women and minorities as per Afghan norms and Islamic values’.
Shaheen added the new regime would ensure representation of all ethnicities and that the Taliban were keen to work with the international community to rebuild the country.
Shaheen said on Twitter that the group’s fighters were under strict orders not to harm anyone.
‘Life, property and honour of no one shall be harmed but must be protected by the mujahideen,’ he said.
Joe Biden delivered a speech of quiet fury at the White House last night, defending his decision to bring home U.S. troops before blaming Afghan leaders for their failure to prevent the country collapsing.
‘I stand squarely behind my decision,’ the President said. ‘After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way. That there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there.’
The speech came on a day that brought some of the most disturbing images so far of the confusion and disorder in Kabul.
Biden admitted missteps during the past two decades and described the chaos at Kabul airport, where throngs of Afghans are still hoping to escape, as ‘gut wrenching.’
The President beat a hasty retreat to Camp David after the 18-minute speech, which came amid ferocious headlines from all sides of the media at his decision to plow ahead with the withdrawal from Afghanistan despite grave warnings that the country will once again become a terrorist hotbed.
US soldiers train their rifles on Afghan civilians pouring onto the runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday
An American soldier gestures for the Afghan civilians to get back as troops stand guard with rifles at the airport on Monday
US troops keep watch at the airport amid pandemonium at the airport that saw eight people killed, including three who tumbled out of planes as they took off
President Joe Biden defended leaving Afghanistan during remarks at the White House Monday, saying he had learned there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces
Biden spoke for about 18 minutes in the East Room of the White House and then left without taking questions. It marked the first time he had spoken publicly about Afghanistan in six days
As soon as he finished his address to the nation, Biden got on Marine One and headed back to Camp David
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
Later, Biden authorized a $500million emergency fund to meet ‘unexpected urgent’ refugee needs stemming from the situation in Afghanistan, including for Afghan special immigration visa applicants, the White House said.
The U.S. is said to be preparing to begin evacuating thousands of Afghan applicants for special immigration visas (SIVs) who risk retaliation from Taliban insurgents because they worked for the U.S. government.
Last night during his speech, Biden declared: ‘I am president of the United States of America. And the buck stops with me.’
But only up to a point. He said the blame for such a rapid disintegration lay not with him, but his predecessor as president and Afghanistan’s leaders.
‘The truth is – this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,’ he said, his eyes narrow.
‘So what’s happened? Afghanistan’s political leaders gave up and fled the country.
‘The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.’
He delivered his speech on a day that brought some of the most disturbing images so far of the confusion and disorder in Kabul.
A video showed desperate Afghans clinging to the sides of a U.S. military plane as it tried to leave the city’s airport. Another showed people plunging to their deaths from a C-17 transport aircraft.
Major General Hank Taylor said at a press conference on Monday afternoon that US forced are ‘actively monitoring’ the situation.
‘We have approximately 2,500 troops who have moved into Kabul. By the end of the day, we expect nearly 3,000 to 3,500 troops on the ground,’ he said.
One C-17 flew out of Kabul on Monday that was carrying US Marines, he said. Another is in the air currently and is scheduled to land shortly.
One – plane number RCH 885 – flew out of Kabul with desperate Afghan nationals clinging on to the fuselage on Monday. Three fell to their deaths.
Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby said the situation at the airport wasn’t a ‘failure’ despite thousands of Afghans flooding the airfield and US troops shooting dead two armed Afghan nationals.
‘When you look at the images out of Kabul… that would have been difficult for anyone to predict,’ he said.
In his remarks, Biden insisted the rapid collapse of the country only reinforced his belief that bringing troops home was the right thing to do.
‘American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves,’ he said.
Biden also pointed a finger at former President Donald Trump’s agreement with the Taliban to pull out American troops by May 1, 2021.
‘So I’m left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay: How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan’s civil war, when Afghan troops will not?’ Biden said.
‘How many more lives, American lives is it worth? How many endless rows of head stones at Arlington National Cemetery?’
‘I’m clear in my answer: I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past. The mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States,’ he continued.
‘Of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country. Of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of U.S. forces,’ the president added.
His speech lasted about 18 minutes. At its conclusion, he walked out of the East Room, ignoring reporters’ shouted questions.
Twenty minutes later his motorcade left for Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., where Marine One was waiting to take him back to Camp David.
Biden’s speech repeated many of the talking points already circulated by White House officials, who asked the simple question: If not now, when?
But critics said he did nothing to address the sense that the U.S. withdrawal was hasty and ill-planned.
Former President Trump hit back at Biden.
‘It’s not that we left Afghanistan,’ he said in an emailed statement. ‘It’s the grossly incompetent way we left!’
Vandenberg Coalition chairman and former senior State Department official Elliott Abrams said it was a ‘disgraceful performance.’
He added: ‘The president never addressed the real questions: why would he not leave a few thousand troops to provide air power?
‘Why did he not understand that his decisions would create chaos?’
Jim Carafano, of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said: ‘It is unconscionable that the Biden administration accelerated this withdrawal without having plans in place to get all American citizens and allied Afghan partners who assisted American forces out of the country first.
‘It is shocking that there was no contingency planning in place to respond to the worst-case scenario.’
Biden was originally supposed to stay at Camp David until Wednesday as part of an August vacation.
Only last month, Biden had shrugged off concerns that the Taliban were poised to return to power, saying the Afghan military had the advantage in men and arms
‘The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,’ he said.
The past week has proved him wrong and plunged his presidency into crisis.
At least eight people were killed during chaos at the Kabul airport on Monday, as thousands of Afghans traveled to the airfield in hopes of escaping the Taliban.
Two of those killed were armed Afghans shot dead by US troops.
Another three were run over by taxiing jets. An additional three were stowaways who fell from the engines of a US Air Force jet as it took off.
Meanwhile, Taliban fighters are going door to door to find Afghan special forces who fought alongside the U.S., Fox News reported.
A day earlier President Ashraf Ghani flew out of the country.
He has been widely condemned for how he has withdrawn the US’s support after 20 years of helping Afghan forces stabilize the region.
Biden briefly interrupted his vacation from Camp David on Monday to give a short address to the nation about the ongoing catastrophe in Kabul.
‘We gave them every chance but we couldn’t provide them with the will to fight,’ he said.
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
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
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
Desperate Afghan families trying to escape Kabul scale the walls of the airport on Monday
Taliban commander who gave taunting victory speech from Kabul palace was released from Guantanamo Bay after claiming he was a ‘simple shopkeeper’ who ‘helped Americans’
Taliban commander Gholam Ruhani
A Taliban ‘commander’ who goaded the US in a victory speech from inside the presidential palace in Kabul was released from Guantanamo Bay after promising authorities he was returning to Afghanistan to care for his sick father, DailyMail.com can reveal.
The bearded fanatic was among a group of gun-toting fighters who staged a celebratory press conference Sunday just hours after President Ashraf Ghani fled his country amid chaotic scenes.
Experts identified him as Gholam Ruhani, a former Gitmo detainee who was accused by US officials of being a longtime security agent for the Taliban’s feared Ministry of Intelligence with close family ties to its senior figures.
Ruhani revealed to Al Jazeera on Sunday that he was incarcerated for seven years at the Cuban-based military lockup which was established nearly two decades ago to cage the world’s most dangerous terrorists.
State Department documents seen by DailyMail.com confirm that Ruhani – detainee number 3 – was one of the very first prisoners at Guantanamo Bay but record that he spent five years there, from 2002 to 2007.
The files also reveal that Ruhani secured his eventual freedom by telling an administrative review board that he was a ‘simple shopkeeper’ who ‘helped Americans’.
Despite being rated a medium security threat, a March 2007 document says that Ruhani continued to insist that he had never heard of Al-Qaeda before 9/11 and merely joined the Taliban as a ‘survival necessity’.
He claimed his ‘only wish’ was to return to Afghanistan and ‘assist his father, who is sick, in operating the family appliance store in Kabul.’
According to Ruhani’s Gitmo file he was born in 1975, grew up in Ghazni, southeastern Afghanistan, before being sent to Iran by his parents to avoid the Afghan-Soviet war.
He returned home in 1992 and worked at his father’s business cleaning and stocking shelves before the Taliban seized the city four years later.
US officials believe Ruhani originally decided to join the Ministry of Intelligence to avoid being drafted for combat operations and was part of a security detail patrolling the streets of Kabul.
He worked there for four years, carrying a pistol and investigating supposed ‘crimes’, until he was arrested in 2001 alongside his brother-in-law, Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of intelligence.
According to an intelligence assessment, the pair attended a meeting with American officials to ‘identify the location of Mullah Muhammad Omar’, the notorious one-eye founder of the Taliban whose decision to provide safe-haven for Osama Bin Laden prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
While deciding whether or not Ruhani should be released, US officials agreed that he had downplayed his rank and high-level connections in the Taliban.
He was also described as a ‘threat to the US, it’s interests and allies’ who would ‘probably join ACM (Anti-Coalition Militia) groups dedicated to attacking US and coalition forces in Afghanistan if released.’
Ruhani presented his case to the review board who recommended in January 2007 that he should be transferred out of Department of Defense control.
According to the New York Times he was repatriated alongside Mullah Abdul Zakir, a key Taliban leader who was moved to an Afghani jail but quickly released and later became a top military leader.
Ruhani’s former lawyer, Rebecca Dick, said she was able to confirm her client had left Gitmo but told the Times she never spoke with him again and had no idea where he went.
That question was finally answered this weekend when Ruhani and his militia cohorts made themselves comfortable behind President Ghani’s abandoned desk to declare the reinstatement of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Ruhani was one of several militants who recited the Koran then briefly took turns to answer questions from Al Jazeera, telling the broadcaster he was arrested in 2001 and taken to Gitmo, according to reports.
At least eight people were killed at Kabul airport on Monday, including two who were shot dead by US troops, three who were run over by taxiing jets and three stowaways who fell from the engines of a US Air Force plane as it fled an airfield of thousands of desperate Afghan nationals.
The Taliban has taken control of Afghanistan and are going door to door in Kabul looking for enemies to kill despite promising the international community they wouldn’t breach human rights because they wanted to be formally recognized.
At Hamid Karzai International Airport, there was a stampede of thousands of people – both stranded foreign nationals and Afghan civilians – desperately trying to escape.
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 on Monday.
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
Men climb over a wall into Hamid Karzai International Airport in scenes reminiscent of the chaos in Saigon in 1975
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
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.’
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.
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 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
Smiling Taliban fighters are seen on the back of a vehicle in Kabul 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
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
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
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.