Chaotic scenes unfolded at Kabul's airport on Monday as thousands of people rushed the tarmac in desperate attempts to flee Afghanistan following a takeover by the Taliban, which swept into the capital in a stunningly swift overthrow of the Western-backed government.
Videos posted to social media from Hamid Karzai International Airport showed Afghans clinging to a departing U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane. Others showed people falling from the wheel well of a jet just before takeoff.
Other planes were seen overloaded with Afghans who flooded across the runway to board them.
U.S. troops stationed at the airport fired warning shots as they struggled to manage the evacuations of Americans and Afghans fearful of Taliban rule.
At least seven people died at the airport during the chaos, the Associated Press reported.
The Taliban seized control of Kabul on Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and Afghanistan's Western-trained security forces collapsed.
The Pentagon said it would send an additional 1,000 troops to Afghanistan to join 5,000 U.S. troops there because of the worsening security conditions on the ground. The U.S. Embassy was evacuated Sunday, with diplomats relocating to the airport.
President Biden, who spent the weekend at Camp David, was not seen in public. On Sunday the White House tweeted a photo of the president in an empty conference room receiving updates on the departure of American personnel via video.
This morning, the President and Vice President met with their national security team and senior officials to hear updates on the draw down of our civilian personnel in Afghanistan, evacuations of SIV applicants and other Afghan allies, and the ongoing security situation in Kabul. pic.twitter.com/U7IpK3Hyj8
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 15, 2021
Biden is facing mounting criticism for his handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, with many comparing it to the fall of Saigon in 1975.
In a lengthy statement Saturday, Biden defended his decision to pull out.
“I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan,” he said. “I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.”
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