Military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan resumed early Tuesday after the Kabul airport runway was cleared of thousands of people desperate to flee after the Taliban seized the capital.
The number of civilians at the airport had dropped, according to a Western security official at the facility, a day after chaotic scenes at Hamid Karzai International Airport left at least five people dead when US police fired to disperse crowds of people. desperate to flee the Taliban takeover.
The body of an Afghan was found in the undercarriage of a US C-17 transport plane hours after it rushed off Monday with desperate people clinging to the plane, according to US media reports.
A US official told Reuters that two gunmen who appeared to have fired into the crowd were killed by US troops.
Order was restored at the airport and evacuation flights resumed on Tuesday, according to security officials.
“A lot of people who were here yesterday have gone home,” said a security official. However, witnesses said they could still hear occasional gunshots coming from the direction of the airport, while the streets in other parts of Kabul appeared quiet.
US forces took over the airport, Afghanistan’s only remaining exit point, while the Taliban controlled all land routes after insurgents triumphantly arrived in Kabul on Sunday, capturing the capital without a fight.
Biden breaks his silence
Against scenes of panic and confusion in Kabul, US President Joe Biden on Monday defended his decision to withdraw US forces, breaking his silence on the withdrawal after scenes of chaos dominated television news channels during days.
We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear objectives: to catch those who attacked us on September 11, 2001, and to make sure that Al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again.
We did that, a decade ago.
Our mission was never supposed to be nation building.
– President Biden (@POTUS) August 16, 2021
Biden blamed the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan on Afghan political leaders who fled the country and the unwillingness of the US-trained Afghan army to fight the militant group.
But Monday’s video of hundreds of desperate Afghans trying to get on a US military plane as it was about to take off could haunt the United States, as could a 1975 photograph of people struggling to get into a helicopter on the roof of the city. The US embassy in Saigon became an emblem of the humiliating withdrawal from Vietnam.
Macron says France won’t abandon Afghans
Hours before Biden went on the air, French President Emmanuel Macron promised on Monday that France would not abandon Afghans working for their country, from translators to kitchen staff, as well as artists, activists and others threatened by the Taliban.
Macron said that protecting those who helped France over the years is an “absolute urgency” and said that two military transport planes, with special forces on board, were heading for Kabul.
The French president also promised that the fight against “Islamic terrorism in all its forms” would not end.
“Afghanistan cannot go back to becoming the sanctuary of terrorism that it was,” Macron said. “We will do everything possible so that Russia, the United States and Europe can cooperate efficiently because our interests are the same,” he said. Macron also said that France, along with Germany and other European countries, would work quickly to develop a “robust response” to another major concern for many countries, an irregular migration flow of Afghans.
Europe urges unity on the Taliban and migration
European leaders said on Monday they will push for a unified international approach to dealing with a Taliban government in Afghanistan, as they watched in dismay the rapid two-decade collapse of a US-led Western campaign in the country.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with Macron and emphasized the need for a common position, both to recognize any future Afghan government and to prevent a humanitarian and refugee crisis.
The two leaders agreed to cooperate in the UN Security Council, and Johnson also said he will host a virtual meeting of G7 leaders on Afghanistan in the coming days.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman echoed that sentiment on Monday, saying the question of whether there can be a dialogue with the Taliban should be discussed internationally.
“We have no illusions about the Taliban and the essence of their movement,” said Steffen Seibert, the spokesman.
Macron also raised fears of uncontrolled migration to Europe by Afghans, saying that France, Germany and other European countries would work to rapidly develop a “strong, coordinated and united response.”