Kabul Airport Reopens For Evacuations After Chaos Forced Flight Suspensions
August 16, 2021
The Kabul airport reopened early on August 17 after flights were paused the day before due to a breakdown in security on the tarmac that interrupted evacuation operations, the Pentagon said.
Chaos erupted at Kabul airport on August 16 with thousands of scared Afghans swarming the airfield in a desperate attempt to catch a flight out of the country, prompting the U.S. military and international forces to temporarily suspend flights to clear the airfield. At least seven people were reported killed in the mayhem at the airport.
Major General Hank Taylor, a logistics specialist on the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States was "in charge of air traffic control" at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) for military and commercial flights.
"Our focus right now is to maintain security at HKIA, to continue to expedite flight operations while safeguarding Americans and Afghan civilians," he said.
The Afghan government collapsed with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing abroad on August 15 as the Taliban captured Kabul -- the last major city in Afghanistan to hold out against a Taliban offensive that accelerated in the space of days as they rapidly gained control of territory across the country.
Western governments are scrambling to evacuate their nationals, Afghans who worked alongside them, and others considered vulnerable under Taliban rule.
In Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden said "thousands" of U.S. citizens and Afghans who had worked with American forces will be evacuated over the coming days.
He threatened a "devastating" military response if the Taliban launch attacks on U.S. interests.
After the airport reopened, the first of three German planes sent to Afghanistan departed Kabul with evacuees.
The German military said the flights will run between Kabul and Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent, in order to expedite evacuations. From Tashkent, other flights will take people to Germany.
Germany said on August 16 that it would airlift thousands of German-Afghan dual nationals as well as human rights activists and other people who worked with NATO forces in the country.
French President Emmanuel Macron promised that France would not abandon Afghans who worked for his country, as well as artists, activists, and others under threat from the Taliban.
Macron said that protecting those who helped France over the years is an "absolute urgency," adding that two military transport planes, with special forces, were due to arrive in Kabul.
Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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