Desperation deepened around the Kabul airport on Saturday with evacuation operations amid chaos and US President Joe Biden warning that he could not predict the outcome of one of the “most difficult airlifts in history.” .
Six days after the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan, the flood of people trying to flee their feared hardline Islamist regime continued to overwhelm the international community.
Traffic, people and checkpoints clogged the roads to the airport, while families hoping for a miraculous escape huddled between the barbed wire fences of an unofficial no-man’s-land that separated the Taliban from US troops and wreckage. from an Afghan special forces brigade helping them.
The video of an American soldier lifting a baby over a wall at Kabul airport offered the latest tragic images of utter despair, following horrifying images of people hanging outside of departing planes.
“Please, please help me … where should I go, what should I do,” wrote one man, who said he worked for the US embassy in the mid-2000s, on a WhatsApp group set up to people share information on how to get out.
“I’ve been trying to get (to the airport) for a few days, but I can’t. Please save me.”
Thousands of US soldiers are at the airport trying to guide foreigners and Afghans to flights, but President Joe Biden admitted that the presence of the troops offered no guarantees of safe passage.
“This is one of the largest and most difficult airlifts in history,” Biden said in a televised address.
“I cannot promise what the end result will be.”
US military helicopters were deployed to rescue more than 150 Americans who were unable to reach the airport on Friday morning, an official in Washington said.
It was the first report of US forces going beyond the airport to help people seeking an evacuation.
A German civilian was also shot and wounded on his way to the airport, a government spokeswoman in Berlin said on Friday.
Biden had set a deadline of Aug. 31 to fully withdraw all troops from Afghanistan, but noted that this could be extended to continue the airlifts.
“We’re going to make that judgment on the fly,” he said.
About 13,000 people have left in US military planes, the White House said. Thousands more have fled on other foreign military flights.
United States declined
The crisis has cast another shadow on America’s status as a global superpower and its ability to help its allies around the world.
The Taliban entered the capital last week, ending two decades of war, after Biden withdrew nearly all US troops from the country.
Biden and other US allies admitted they were surprised at how quickly the Taliban were able to defeat government forces, most of which surrendered.
The Taliban have promised a form of government “positively different” from their 1996-2001 period in power, which was infamous for an ultra-fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law.
Women were excluded from public life, girls were excluded from school, and people were stoned to death for adultery.
They have also vowed not to seek revenge against their opponents, promising a blanket amnesty for anyone working with the US-backed government.
But a United Nations intelligence document said the militants went door-to-door chasing former government officials and those working with US and NATO forces.
According to the confidential document of the UN threat assessment consultants seen by AFP, the militants were also checking people on the way to the Kabul airport.
German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that the Taliban had shot dead the relative of one of their journalists while searching for the publisher.
In the first Friday prayers since the Taliban’s return to power, imams and guest speakers celebrated America’s defeat.
At a mosque in Kabul, gunmen flanked a scholar as he delivered a fiery speech in which he recounted how the Afghans had defeated the British Empire, the Soviet Union and now the United States on the battlefield.
“Afghans have once again shown collective pride,” he said.
At another mosque, the imam referred to the tragic scenes at the airport, describing those trying to flee as lacking strong enough religious convictions.
“Those with weak faith run after American planes or hang from them,” he said.
“They should stay and build their country.”