Heavily armed Taliban fighters manned the entrances to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul Tuesday — scuffling with Afghans desperately trying to evacuate to the country.
The violence came even as the airport was occupied by thousands of US troops trying to help allies escape the country on military and civilian flights.
The chaos follows shootings of refugees who flooded the tarmac Sunday and Monday. Access to the airport remained nearly impossible for thousands of Afghans who had worked for allied embassies and organizations, according to The Wall Street Journal.
But as the Taliban asserted its hold on Kabul, members of the insurgent group erected airport entrance checkpoints and were “beating and whipping” Afghans who tried to enter the US-controlled zone, according to the report.
US officials scrambled to reassure Americans and Afghans that the airport was secure, and warned the Taliban not to interfere, even as some planes departed the airport with few passengers aboard due to militants beating and turning away would-be fliers, the article said.
The Taliban had told the US it would not hinder the ability of civilians to access the airport through the end of the month, as thousands of Americans remain in the country, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday.
“The Taliban have informed us that they are prepared to provide the safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we intend to hold them to that commitment,” Sullivan said.
“We believe that this can go till the 31st. We are talking to them about what the exact timetable is for how this will all play out, and I don’t want to negotiate in public on working out the best modality to get the most people out in the most efficient way,” Sullivan added.
As the insurgents imposed a nighttime curfew in Kabul, it would be unclear if leaders kept their promise at the airport until Wednesday, the security advisor said.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be up to the Taliban to show the rest of the world who they are and how they intend to proceed. The track record has not been good but it’s premature to address that question at this point,” added Sullivan.
White House spokeswoman Jan Psaki said there would be dire repercussions for the extremists if they do not allow American citizens, embassy employees and their families, locally employed Afghan staff and holders of and applicants for Special Immigrant Visas to evacuate.
“The consequences are the full weight and force of the United States military, and I think we’ve made that clear.” Psaki said.
Army Major General William Taylor said Tuesday that an influx of US troops at the airport aim to have one flight depart per hour to accommodate 9,000 daily passengers.
With Post wires