US domestic airlines and civilian pilots can fly into Kabul for evacuations, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Wednesday night. But at least 12 Afghans have died in and around Kabul airport since the Taliban took power on Sunday while trying to flee, raising questions about the need for a humanitarian corridor to the country’s main exit point. Follow regular Jowharupdates on the Afghan crisis.
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The deadly route to Kabul airport
While military evacuations out of Afghanistan have intensified four days after Kabul fell under Taliban control, access to Hamid Karzai International Airport has become a major security challenge for Afghans trying to flee. At least 12 people have died in and around the airport since Sunday, according to Taliban and NATO officials.
The deaths were caused by gunfire or stampedes, a Taliban official told Reuters on Thursday. He urged people still huddled at the gates of the facilities to go home if they did not have the legal right to travel.
Despite reports that Taliban fighters are preventing Afghans from reaching the airport, Taliban officials insist they are not blocking access, but are trying to control crowds. “We don’t want to hurt anyone at the airport,” said the Taliban official, who declined to be named.
US carriers can conduct evacuations with the approval of the Department of Defense
In a statement issued Wednesday night, the FAA said that without prior approval, US carriers cannot fly over Afghanistan’s airspace or fly into Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. The FAA cited “the lack of high-altitude air traffic control services.”
All aid flights to Kabul “must have permission” from the Defense Department, the FAA said.
Without prior approval, US air and passenger carriers are prohibited from flying over almost all of Afghanistan, the FAA said, adding that it does not apply to flights operated by the Department of Defense.
There is still no indication that the Department of Defense will use US carriers as part of the massive planned evacuation effort of thousands of people.
Reports of Taliban preventing some Afghans from reaching Kabul airport
According to witnesses, armed members of the Taliban are preventing Afghans from reaching Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Afghans who arrived in Germany on Wednesday said the Taliban prevented people from entering the airport compound, including those with the necessary travel documents.
An Afghan national who previously worked for the French government told Jowharthat the security situation en route to the airport was a problem. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the former French government employee said the reports on the situation on the ground were terrifying: “anything can happen,” he explained.
An Afghan seeking France’s help to fly from Kabul speaks to FRANCE 24
Many Afghans are in hiding, waiting for the opportunity to reach the airport, amid reports of traumatic scenes on the way to the airport.
Videos of desperate Afghans trying to get to the airport are circulating on social media sites with at least one report of US troops at the airport not allowing Afghan and US citizens access to Hamid Karzai International Airport, according to the New York Times. .
An Afghan-American friend asked me to write about her and her husband’s ordeal arriving at the Kabul airport so that they could catch a US military evacuation flight back to their home in DC. Her husband recorded this video, she is the one who screams in green: https: //t.co/3abT4TeIvO
– Maria Abi-Habib (@Abihabib) August 18, 2021
Photos of an Afghan translator receiving treatment for gunshot wounds sustained while trying to reach the airport were published on SBS News Australia on Thursday.
Second French evacuation flight from Kabul lands in Paris
The second group of Afghans to be expelled from Kabul by France after the Taliban seized power arrived at Paris’ Charles-de-Gaulle airport on Wednesday.
An air force plane carrying more than 200 passengers, with 25 French citizens and a majority of Afghans, including a large number of women and children, landed shortly before 17:00 GMT.
In a message posted on Twitter on Thursday, French Ambassador to Afghanistan David Martinon said French police escorted French, Afghan and international families out of Kabul’s green zone. The French embassy has been working at the airport since Monday.
Two nights ago, French police escorted French, Afghan and international families out of the embassy in the Kabul green zone to whom 🇫🇷 had offered refuge. The diplomatic and consular team of the embassy has treated them at the airport and they have been evacuated. pic.twitter.com/FxqgU7oQ3z
– David Martinon (@david_martinon) August 19, 2021
The French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII) and the Terre d’Asile association will provide care for the Afghan passengers on the flight, but both declined to provide details about their accommodation.