Plane deaths reported at Kabul airport when Taliban invade Afghanistan
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WASHINGTON – U.S. forces attempted to take control of Kabul International Airport on Monday after thousands of Afghans stormed through the civilian side and flooded the military runway. At least seven people were killed in the chaos.
Senior US military officials said the dead included some dropped from a departing American military transport plane, according to the Associated Press. Videos show people clinging to the sides of a U.S. military aircraft as they taxi and falling from an airplane as it takes off.
U.S. forces killed two gunmen at Hamid Karzai International Airport during the chaos there as civilians flocked to runways and flights stopped, Pentagon press John Kirby said.
The troops were shot at, he said, adding that a soldier may have been wounded, but the reports are incomplete.
There is no evidence that the people killed were members of the Taliban.
There were around 2,500 soldiers at the airport, and another 500 would arrive by Tuesday, he said. A total of 6,000 US forces will be at the airport.
In this regard, President Joe Biden is expected to speak from the White House later Monday about the takeover of the Taliban.
US troops try to secure the civilian side of the airport
US troops are trying to erect barriers to separate the military part of Hamid Karzai International Airport from the civilian terminal and its runway, according to a US official who was not empowered to speak publicly.
The airport did not have a physical barrier between these operations, although they are separated by a considerable distance. Huge crowds of Afghans desperate to flee the country and their new Taliban leadership invaded the civilian side of the airport and swarmed on a US Air Force C-17 taxiing on a runway.
U.S., Turkish and other allied forces cleared the field to allow flights to resume, Kirby said. Large crowds of Afghans remain on the south side of the airport, where civil flights arrive and depart.
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U.S. forces are erecting accordion wire barriers to secure the military side of the airport, the official said. Another 3,000 soldiers will arrive in Kabul in the next few days to help.
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The surprisingly quick flight of the Afghan security forces by the Taliban and the overthrow of the government on Sunday – including the flight of Afghan President Ashfar Ghani from the country – led to comparisons with the abandonment of Saigon by the US at the end of the Vietnam War and to sharp criticism for President Joe Biden’s strategy to end the nearly 20 year old war in Afghanistan.
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Jonathan Finer, Assistant National Security Advisor to the White House, confirmed on MSNBC early Monday that additional US troops will be at the airport.
“There is definitely a plan to secure the airport,” said Finer. “That’s why we were able to send additional forces to Afghanistan without having to fight. The emergency planning has been running for a month. We believe that the forces are there to keep it safe. ”For the airport, especially with the additional forces arriving again today, tomorrow and in the coming days, and the focus of our efforts today will be on this airport to be put back into operation so that the flights can continue. “
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Biden is expected to speak on Monday afternoon
Faced with severe criticism of his dealings with Afghanistan, Biden planned to return to the White House on Monday and make remarks that afternoon. Biden spent the weekend at Camp David, out of sight, except for a picture of him attending a videoconference released by the White House on Sunday.
Robert Gibbs, who served as White House press secretary during the Obama administration, made it imperative that Biden speak to the nation and the world.
“Hopefully this will happen very soon,” Gibbs tweeted Monday morning. “He must explain again the reasons for his decisions, how he sees the future of this region and what must be done to prevent another safe haven for al-Qaeda in order to plan attacks.”
House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Put it more bluntly.
“Mr. President,” McCarthy tweeted, “Do your job and speak to the nation.”
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A tense calm set in in Kabul, with most people hiding in their homes when the Taliban stationed fighters at key intersections. There have been isolated reports of looting and armed men knocking on doors and gates, and the eerily quiet streets have less traffic than usual. Fighters ransacked vehicles in one of the city’s main squares.
The U.S. embassy was evacuated and the American flag was lowered while diplomats were moved to the airport to assist with the evacuation. Other western countries have also closed their missions and are expelling personnel and nationals.
Contributor: Associated Press; Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY