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US, Germany advise against going to Kabul airport amid evacuation chaos


US soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division arrive Friday to provide security at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Senior Airman Taylor Crul / US Air Force / Document via Reuters)

KABUL – The United States and Germany on Saturday urged their citizens in Afghanistan to avoid traveling to Kabul airport, citing security risks as thousands of desperate people gathered to try to flee almost a week after the takeover by the Taliban Islamists.

Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar has arrived in the Afghan capital for talks with other leaders. The group is trying to forge a new government after its forces swept the country as US-led forces withdrew after two decades as the West-backed government and military collapsed.

Crowds have multiplied at the airport in the heat and dust of the day over the past week, hampering operations as the United States and other countries attempt to evacuate thousands of its diplomats and civilians as well as many Afghans. Mothers, fathers and children collided with concrete blast walls in the crush as they sought to fly away.

The Taliban have urged those without travel documents to return home. At least 12 people have been killed in and around the single-track airfield since Sunday, when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, NATO and Taliban officials said.

“Due to the potential security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport, we advise US citizens to avoid going to the airport and avoid the airport gates at this time. , unless you receive individual instructions from a US government official to do so, “a US Embassy notice said.

The German embassy also advised its citizens not to go to the airport, warning in an email that Taliban forces were carrying out increasingly stringent checks in its immediate vicinity.

The opinions highlighted how volatile the security situation remains. A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US military was looking for alternative routes for people to reach the airport due to threats from militant groups such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State. .

A baby is handed over to the US military over the perimeter wall of the airport for evacuation in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday.
A baby is handed over to the US military over the perimeter wall of the airport for evacuation in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday. (Photo: Omar Haidari, Reuters)

Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor, along with the US Army Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing that 5,800 US troops remained at the airport and the facility “remained secure “. Taylor said some airport gates were temporarily closed and reopened over the past day to facilitate a safe influx of evacuees.

A Taliban official, speaking to Reuters, said security risks could not be ruled out but the group “aimed to improve the situation and provide a smooth exit” for people trying to leave over the weekend. -end. The Taliban takeover sparked fears of retaliation and a return to a harsh version of Islamic law that the Taliban exercised when they were in power two decades ago.

Taylor said the United States evacuated 17,000 people, including 2,500 Americans, from Kabul last week. Taylor said that in the past day 3,800 people were evacuated on US military and charter flights.

The Biden administration has told U.S. airlines they may be ordered to help transport evacuees from Afghanistan, two officials said on Saturday.

Speaking a day after President Joe Biden promised to evacuate “any American who wants to go home,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said he did not have a “perfect number” on the number of US citizens remaining in Kabul and Afghanistan in general, although officials have indicated that it is in the thousands.

Kirby declined to describe Kabul’s specific “threat dynamics”, but called the security situation “fluid and dynamic”.

“We are fighting against time and space,” Kirby said.

“Defy life”

In Qatar, which hosts thousands of evacuees until they can enter a third country, Afghans who have fled have described in interviews with Reuters the desperation of leaving loved ones behind while coping with their own uncertain future.

A law student spoke of looting by the Taliban as they took control of Kabul, with armed militants intimidating people on their way to the airport. He left behind his wife, whom he married on a video call before evacuating.

“Our spirits are back home because our families are staying,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity like the other evacuees over concerns about loved ones left behind.

“It will be a very, very different and difficult life ahead,” said another man, a lawyer who arrived in Doha with his wife, three children, parents and two sisters.

The Qatar Air Force has evacuated Afghan nationals, students, foreign diplomats and journalists from Afghanistan, the Gulf country’s government media office said on Twitter, without giving further details.

Switzerland has postponed a charter flight from Kabul due to chaos at the airport.

Crisis management

The Taliban official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Baradar would meet with militant commanders, former government leaders and decision-makers, religious scholars and others. The official said the group plans to prepare a new model of government for Afghanistan in the coming weeks, with separate teams tackling internal security and financial issues.

“Experts from the former government will be called in for crisis management,” the official said.

The new government structure will not be a democracy according to Western definitions, the official said, but “will protect the rights of everyone”.

The Taliban, whose chief general Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada has so far remained publicly silent, must also unite disparate groups within the movement whose interests may not always coincide now that victory is achieved.

The Taliban follow an ultra-tough version of Sunni Islam. They have sought to present a more moderate face since their return to power, saying they want peace and will respect women’s rights under Islamic law.

When in power from 1996 to 2001, also guided by Islamic law, the Taliban prevented women from working or going out without wearing a wrap-around burqa and prevented girls from going to school.

Individual Afghans and international aid and defense groups have reported harsh retaliation against protests and roundups by those who had previously held government positions, criticized the Taliban, or worked with US-led forces.

“We have heard of some cases of atrocities and crimes against civilians,” said the Taliban official.

“If (members of the Taliban) tackle these public order issues, they will be investigated,” he said.

Contributing: Rupam Jain, James Mackenzie, Tom Sims, Idrees Ali, Humeyra Pamuk, Alexander Cornwell and Charlotte Greenfield

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion