The airport shooting came as the Taliban sent fighters to the north of the capital earlier this month to eliminate armed resistance to their lightning takeover. The Taliban said they retaken the three areas occupied by the opponents the previous day and surrounded Panjshir, the last province still out of their control.
Although the West has provided aid, training and assistance for 20 years, the Afghan security forces collapsed in the face of the Taliban’s offensive. Since then, tens of thousands of Afghans have been trying to flee the country, fearing that they will return to the brutal rule imposed by the Taliban when they last ruled Afghanistan. This led to chaos at Kabul Airport, which is the country’s main exit route.
Gunshots occurred near the airport entrance. One day ago, at least seven Afghans were killed in a panic stampede by thousands. The shooting occurred at dawn, and the specific circumstances are unclear.
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The German military said on Twitter that one member of the Afghan army was killed by an “unidentified attacker” and three others were wounded. An Italian humanitarian organization that operates a hospital in Afghanistan said it has treated six gunshot patients from the airport.
The US military and NATO did not immediately acknowledge the shooting. The Taliban did not comment.
The tragic scene around the airport shocked the world. Last week, Afghans swarmed on the tarmac. Some people clutched a U.S. military transport plane as it took off, then crashed and died. At least seven people died that day, and another seven people died on Sunday.
The Taliban blamed the US military for the chaotic evacuation and said there was no need for any Afghans to flee. They promised to bring peace and security after decades of war, and stated that they would not retaliate against those who cooperated with the United States, NATO, and the overthrown Afghan government.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid delivered a speech at a meeting of Muslim clergy, urging them to counter Western “propaganda” about the Taliban, saying that the United States sending planes and offering asylum to Afghans is undermining their rule.
Despite their promises, the Taliban violently suppressed the protests and beat people with batons while trying to control the crowds outside the airport. There have also been reports in recent days that the Taliban are hunting down their former enemies. It is not clear whether the Taliban leaders are talking about one thing and doing another thing, or whether the fighters on the ground do it themselves.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told Bild that the main obstacle for people to leave is the crowd outside the airport.
“We have to turn more towards picking up people, so to speak, we are doing this,” Kramp-Karenbauer said.
When asked about the Taliban’s guarantee of safe passage to the airport, she said: “So far, I can say that we have got what we need; more danger comes from these uncontrollable people.”
As the airlift continued, the U.S. government asked U.S. commercial airlines to provide 18 aircraft to help transport Afghan refugees to their final destination after the initial evacuation. The request belongs to the Civil Reserve Aviation Fleet Plan, which was born after the Berlin Airlift, which can increase the military’s capabilities during the crisis.
Since August 14, the United States has evacuated or assisted in the evacuation of more than 30,000 people through military and coalition flights. Tens of thousands of people — Americans, other foreigners, and Afghans who helped in the war — are still waiting to join the airlift, which has slowed down due to security issues and obstacles in the US bureaucracy.
US President Joe Biden said on Sunday that he would not rule out extending the evacuation time beyond August 31, the date he set for the completion of the U.S. withdrawal. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to pressure Biden for an extension.
However, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in an interview with Sky News that August 31 was a “red line” and that expanding the presence of the United States would “provoke a reaction.”
There are also concerns that local branches of the Islamic State Group may use suicide bombers or launch missiles at American aircraft to target people outside the airport. Military aircraft have been performing corkscrew landings, and other aircraft firing signal flare during takeoff-both measures are used to avoid missile attacks.
The Taliban and ISIS have different ideologies and have been fighting in recent years, but one concern about the Taliban’s takeover is that they may once again shelter extremist organizations. The Taliban sheltered Al Qaeda when they planned the 9/11 attacks, which led to the US invasion in 2001. The Taliban now say that they will not allow Afghanistan to become a base for attacks on other countries.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, the Taliban faced limited armed resistance in Baghlan Province, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Kabul. Anti-Taliban fighters claimed to have occupied three areas in the Andalab Valley on Sunday, but the Taliban said on Monday that they had cleared these areas overnight.
Taliban spokesman Mujahid said that the organization’s forces also surrounded nearby Panjshir, the only one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces that has not yet fallen into the hands of combatants.
Several Taliban opponents gathered there, including Amrullah Saleh, the overthrown vice president who claimed to be acting president. Ahmed Masood, the son of the Northern Alliance militia commander who cooperated with the United States to oust the Taliban in 2001, is also in Panjshir.
In an interview with Arab media over the weekend, Masood stated that his fighters would resist any attempts to occupy the province by force, but were willing to talk to the Taliban.
Mujahid said that Panjshir has not yet fought and the Taliban are seeking a “peaceful solution.”
Faiez reported from Istanbul and Klaus from Jerusalem. Geir Moulson of Berlin, Jill Lawless of London and Jon Gambrell of Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.
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