Kabul (dpa) – Due to increasing time pressure, despair and violence around the airport in the Afghan capital Kabul are increasing.
Thousands of Afghans still hope for a chance to take Western flights out of the country after the militant Islamist Taliban took power.
The evacuation of foreigners was far from over on Friday either. On the way to the airport, a German, a civilian, suffered a gunshot wound. Deputy government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said in Berlin: “He is receiving medical care, but there is no danger to his life.”
Taliban evict people with whips
An adviser to the Afghan mission to the United Nations in the United States had previously written on Twitter that a family member had been shot in the head at Kabul Airport on Thursday. Despite the danger, the influx of people trying to reach the airport grounds continued for the fifth day in a row. Taliban fighters fired into the air at the entrance to the civilian part of the airport and beat them with whips to scare people away, an eyewitness from the German news agency dpa reported.
There is a civilian and a military area at the airport. The amount of access to the military part is large and unpredictable, reports a reporter for the American broadcaster CNN. Photos show U.S. soldiers firing into the air to push the crowds back from the outer walls.
A letter from the German embassy to people hoping for a flight reads: “The situation at Kabul airport is extremely confusing. Dangerous situations and armed conflicts constantly arise at the gates. Access to the airport is currently possible. In between, however, the gates can be closed at short notice, also because so many people are trying to get on the site with their families. Unfortunately, we cannot inform you in advance when the gates will open.”
Many people’s nerves are on edge as time pressure mounts: The US actually wants to complete the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan by August 31. However, the evacuation missions of other armed forces, such as the German armed forces, depend on the protection currently offered by the 5,200 American soldiers. US President Joe Biden estimates that between 50,000 and 65,000 people want to be brought to safety by the United States. It is possible that US troops will remain in Kabul after August 31 – that is not certain. It is also uncertain how the Taliban will behave.
How long will the evacuation take?
The Bundeswehr tweeted Friday that it has so far brought 1,649 people from 38 countries to safety via an airlift. It is the largest evacuation mission of the Bundeswehr to date. According to the Pentagon, US military forces have flown 7,000 people abroad since Saturday. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday. A few hours later, the Taliban took the city of 5.4 million inhabitants without a fight. Since then, they have been the new rulers in Afghanistan.
According to the New York Times, US intelligence agencies warned in July of a rapid collapse of the Afghan military and a growing risk to the capital, Kabul. In several reports at the time, they questioned whether Afghan security forces would seriously oppose the militant Islamist Taliban, the paper wrote, citing informed circles.
On July 8, Biden had publicly stated that it was unlikely that the Taliban would take power in all of Afghanistan. Despite the advance of the Islamists, he stuck to his withdrawal plans.
The human rights group Amnesty International blames the Taliban for a mass murder of the Hazara minority in Afghanistan in early June. After taking power in Ghazni province, Islamist militants brutally murdered nine men, according to a report published Friday. “These targeted killings are evidence that ethnic and religious minorities are particularly at risk under the new Taliban rule in Afghanistan,” said Amnesty Secretary-General Agnès Callamard.