Update (1425ET): What's happening at Hamid Karzai International Airport, otherwise known as Kabul Airport, is straight out of the scenes from the 2013 horror/action flick World War Z's airport scene when Brad Pitt and others escaped on a commercial jet while zombies attempted to commandeer the plane.
For some comparison, military news and video website Funker530 released a dramatic video filmed by a US soldier in a mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle that shows AH-64 Apache gunships were used to clear the runway for C-17 aircraft to evacuate Afghans as the Taliban closed in on the area.
There has been piles of videos coming out of the chaotic effort to evacuate US and partner nation personnel from the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), but this is the first footage we have received that was filmed by an actual service member taking part in the evacuation security operations.
The footage is filmed by a turret gunner in a mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle, and it shows the use of AH-64 Apache gunships to clear the runway for C-17 aircraft. It also gives scope of the massive crowd of desperate Afghans that are hoping to hitch a ride out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
More recent reports suggest that the military side of the aircraft has been cleared of the Afghan mob and evacuations are being executed at approximately one flight per hour, and thousands of people leaving the country per day. An additional infantry battalion, with equipment, deployed to Kabul to help regain and retain security. The DOD stated an approximate 4,000 US troops are now on the ground for the 82nd Airborne Division-led evacuation effort. -Funker530
Here's the video of the Apache gunships clearing people off the runway to make room for C-17 aircraft to evacuate Afghans.
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Update (1130ET): A photographer for the LAT who is still reporting from Kabul shared a harrowing report exposing the Taliban for not living up to their cuddly new reputation. The photographer said Taliban fighters beat members of a crowd waiting outside the Kabul Airport on Wednesday with the butts of their guns, tied rubber hoses and other weapons. The photographer himself was beaten when he was caught photographing the scene, he said.
Here's a host of snaps courtesy of the LAT, all taken outside the airport in Kabul, the last piece of territory held by the US.
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Update (1100ET): Here's an update on the situation in Afghanistan, courtesy of Reuters and Bloomberg.
The number of people who have been evacuated from Kabul airport has risen to 5K over the past 24 hours. Meanwhile, the death toll from the Taliban's outburst of violence meant to suppress a protest in Jalalabad has brought the country's death toll to 3.
Protests were held in several cities across the eastern part of the country on Wednesday, including in Khost, as well as Jalalabad and Asadabad. The Taliban's violence "clashed with the image of benevolent tolerance that the Taliban have attempted to project since seizing the Afghan capital on Sunday," the WSJ said.
Iran started to turn away Afghans at the border, believing the situation in the country has "stabilized" while the first group of 300 Afghan refugees has arrived in Albania.
Another country that’s accepting fleeing Afghans, North Macedonia, says it expects 450 refugees, most of whom will arrive with organized flights by the end of the week. Kosovo has also said it will accept refugees.
On Wednesday, Anas Haqqani, a senior member of the Taliban, arrived in Kabul for a meeting with former President Hamid Karzai, who ruled until 2014, and with the fallen republic's chief peace negotiator, Abdullah Abdullah.
Despite the outburst of violence on Wednesday, global leaders, including Boris Johnson of the UK, have been urging the public to give the Taliban a chance.
"We will judge this regime based on the choices it makes, and by its actions rather than by its words, on its attitude to terrorism, to crime and narcotics, as well as humanitarian access and the rights of girls to receive an education," he told parliament, recalled from summer recess to debate the crisis.
And as sources on the ground continue to describe the situation as "chaotic," more videos of Taliban violence are emerging on social media, including one purporting to show the Taliban arresting people after "knocking on doors", which they promised not to do.
To those who believe what Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed yesterday about respecting human rights watch this is happened on Wednesday August 17. They are attacking people’s homes and arresting them.Many people in Afghanistan who worked for government live in fear now pic.twitter.com/qT5AQ3wDJm— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) August 18, 2021
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The thousands of American citizens still in Afghanistan (there are more than 10K left in the country) are now officially S.O.L because while Democrats in Congress scramble to try and appropriate more money for refugees, the Biden Administration is warning that it can no longer guarantee the safety of Americans still in Afghanistan, as Taliban fighters form a ring of checkpoints around Kabul Airport.
Meanwhile, as the world waits to see whether the newly reformed Taliban will stick to their promises of not resorting to violence, the organization's fighters have already killed several protesters in cities across Afghanistan.
According to Bloomberg, the new Taliban-manned checkpoints at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul (which is the last place under US control in the country) are only intended to ensure security and prevent people from rushing in after several people died during the chaotic scenes on Monday.
As the remaining Americans still in Afghanistan wonder whether they can trust the Taliban with their safety after 20 years of war with the US, the State Department sent the following message via text alert to every American in the country yesterday. The alert begins by advising the remaining AmCits that the US military and State Department "cannot guarantee your safety", while directing them to the proper channels for any bureaucratic paperwork that still needs to be completed before they can leave.
The security breakdown is just another consequence of the Biden Administration's disastrous pull-out from Afghanistan, which was supposed to happen far more slowly, since the Taliban weren't supposed to conquer the entirety of the country for weeks.
A congressional aide tells @CBSNews we have no partners left in Afghanistan to safely get Americans in-country to Kabul. “There are 10-15k AmCits who still need to get out, and that obviously doesn’t include the tens of thousands of SIVs or P2 applicants trying to get out of Afg” https://t.co/SKw1FvXBCV— Sara Cook (@saraecook) August 17, 2021
The below note went out this afternoon to American citizens requesting to be evacuated from Afghanistan, @alanacbs reports. It instructs people to come to Hamid Karzai Intl Airport in Kabul, but says the US govt cannot guarantee their safety as they make the trip. @CBSNews pic.twitter.com/rgEyjGup4K— Sara Cook (@saraecook) August 17, 2021
Americans who haven't yet received details about the departure of their flight should "shelter in place" until it's time to leave.
A spokesperson for the Biden administration’s State Department told CNN, "The US message to Americans in Afghanistan right now is to shelter in place until they get communications from the US embassy which tell them when they should come to the airport and where exactly to go."
The advisory comes as White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused to commit to keeping troops on the ground past Aug. 31.
While the Taliban have apparently kept their promise not to mete out violence to Americans and anybody violating their strict version of Islamic law in the city of Kabul (with the exception of one summary execution), Taliban fighters have already violently suppressed several protests and murderd at least one woman accused of not wearing the proper headgear.
Fox News reported overnight that a woman was killed by Taliban fighters for not wearing her head-covering in public. Surely, this isn't part of the Taliban's promise of a new day where women's rights will be respected?
Is this what CNN meant when it said a crowd of Taliban fighters chanting "death to America" seemed friendly?
Or what Nick Carter, Britain's chief of the defense staff, meant when he said the Taliban might be "more reasonable" this time around (he added that the world should "give them some space"), per the BBC.
"We have to be patient, we have to hold our nerve and we have to give them the space to form a government and we have to give them the space to show their credentials," Carter told the BBC. "It may be that this Taliban is a different Taliban to the one that people remember from the 1990s."
"We may well discover, if we give them the space, that this Taliban is of course more reasonable but what we absolutely have to remember is that they are not a homogenous organisation - the Taliban is a group of disparate tribal figures that come from all over rural Afghanistan."
The Taliban has also "promised" to grant amnesty to Afghans who worked with the American government, but Afghanistan's first female mayor says she's simply waiting for the Taliban "to come kill me" since she has nowhere left to hide.
Meanwhile, Taliban fighters have violently suppressed the first protest against their rule. It occurred early Wednesday in Jalalabad; protesters took down the Taliban flag and replaced it with the flag of the Afghan Republic. The Taliban fighters responded by firing into the crowd. At least two were killed, and nearly a dozen were wounded by the gunfire.
Residents in Jalalabad took down the Taliban flag and replaced it with red, black and green flag. pic.twitter.com/AEQA8gjG3u— BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) August 18, 2021
Taliban soldiers did fire to disperse the crowds in Jalalabad city. There are repairs or injuries. pic.twitter.com/8ABTmuaind— BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) August 18, 2021
Another protest occurred in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar Province.
This is Asadabad , city the capital of Kunar province. pic.twitter.com/HSohtXK00h— BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) August 18, 2021
At any rate, with the US troop presence expected to climb to 7,000 in the coming days, while other Nato partners - including Germany - send a few hundred additional troops to aid with the pull out - civilian and military flights have re-started, with more than 700 people moved out in a matter of 24 hours as of early Wednesday in New York.
As the House prepares to hold hearings on the Afghan pullout, lawmakers from both parties are urging President Biden to do what he can to ensure American troops remain on the ground long enough to finish evacuating all American citizens and Afghan allies with travel visas.
But now that the Taliban are 'reformed', we can't help but wonder: what's the rush?