update(1:17ET): With reports of additional paratroopers headed to the Afghan capital to secure a continued evacuation, more scenes like the below are emerging from earlier in the day.
Shooting has been heard from the vicinity of Karzai International Airport through the evening.
Both the US and United Nations are continuing to reassess the re-emerged terror threat, as Taliban jihadists are busy giving on the ground interviews to Western media vowing more "jihad" to come.
They are vowing to bring "Islamic law... all over the world"...
Taliban commander to CNN: "It's our belief that one day mujahideen will have victory, and Islamic law will come not to just Afghanistan, but all over the world. We are not in a hurry. We believe it will come one day. Jihad will not end until the last day." pic.twitter.com/8bpbH5mtep— Fadi | فادي (@fadihussein8) August 15, 2021
For now there's emerging footage showing what residents can expect in Kabul tonight:
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update(1200ET): With President Biden scrambling back to the White House to contain the unmitigated disaster that is the American pullout from Afghanistan, the Administration has decided to pull a complete 180, and send thousands of troops back to Afghanistan. Fox News' Pentagon correspondent Lucas Tomlinson reported that Biden (commander-in-chief of the American military) has ordered another 1,000 paratroopers fro the 82nd Airborne to Kabul. That will bring the total number of ground troops to 7,000.
BREAKING: President Biden orders another 1,000 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne to Kabul. 7,000 U.S. troops will be on the ground in Afghanistan soon.— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) August 16, 2021
When Biden arrived in the White House, the US has 2,500 troops in the country. A few days ago, Biden authorized another 5,000 troops in an emergency deployment to ensure a safe and orderly withdrawal, bringing the total on the ground to 6,000.
As Biden faces what very well might be remembered as the darkest moment of his presidency, it appears he's starting to consider dramatic alternatives, like doing a 180 on his decision to pull troops out entirely?
US strategy with Afghanistan: let the country crumble, then re-invade— Alastair Williamson (@StockBoardAsset) August 16, 2021
Over the past 20 years, troop levels have fluctuated dramatically in Afghanistan. President Trump faced criticism from the Democrats and the media establishment for raising the total to 4,000 troops not long after taking over from Obama, before lowering it again to roughly the same level as when Obama left office. He also signed a peace accord with the Taliban, before walking away from the table during negotiations.
A timeline of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan (per the Military Times):
Oct. 7, 2001: President George W. Bush announces that U.S. and British troops have begun striking Afghanistan for harboring the al-Qaida terrorists blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks. The massive air campaign initially targets Taliban troops, training camps and air defenses.
November 2001: 1,300 American troops are in the country as commandos and ground troops, mostly Marines, begin to arrive.
April 2004: The number swells to 20,300 as the U.S. builds up forces along the Afghan-Pakistani border and provides security for fledgling reconstruction projects.
December 2006: Attention has shifted to the escalating war in Iraq; the force in Afghanistan remains just over 20,000.
December 2007: The force in Afghanistan rises to 25,000. Still, Iraq is the priority.
May 2009: As fighting in Afghanistan becomes more intense, the number of U.S. troops surpasses 50,000.
December 2009: Troops now number more than 67,000, and the situation is deteriorating, with escalating violence and more service members killed. Obama orders in another 33,000 troops to battle al-Qaida militants and a resurgent Taliban.
August 2010: The U.S. force reaches 100,000.
May 2011: Bin Laden is found hiding in neighboring Pakistan and killed in a U.S. special operations raid. There are still about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.
June 2011: Saying the U.S. is meeting its goals in Afghanistan, Obama announces his withdrawal plan: Bring home 10,000 troops by the end of 2011, and continue at a steady pace until handing over security responsibilities to the Afghans by 2014.
September 2012: Troop levels down to 77,000.
December 2013: Down to 46,000 troops, the slow withdrawal continues.
March 2014: With nearly 34,000 troops in Afghanistan, Obama orders the Pentagon to develop options for a complete military withdrawal, because Afghan President Hamid Karzai refuses to sign a security agreement with the United States.
May 2014: Obama announces his plan to pull virtually all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2016, when his second term in office will be drawing to a close.
December 2014: Troop levels have been cut in half since Obama's announcement in May, down to 16,100. Obama declares their combat mission over, but troops will continue training and advising Afghan forces.
March 2015: Troops decline to their current number — about 9,800 — on track for a nearly total withdrawal in 2016.
Oct. 15, 2015: In a reversal, Obama says the situation is too fragile for the American military to leave. He announces plans to keep the current force of about 9,800 in place through most of 2016 to continue counterterrorism missions and advise Afghans battling a resurgent Taliban. The plan is for the number to decrease to about 5,500 troops by December 2016.
July 6, 2016: Saying the security situation in Afghanistan "remains precarious," Obama announces that instead of dropping the U.S. troop level to 5,500, he will keep it at about 8,400 through the end of his term on Jan. 20, 2017. He said his successor can determine the next move.
Sept. 25 (Fox News): President Trump has signed off on sending an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan, ahead of his address to the nation Monday night, Fox News has learned.
Dec. 19, 2019 (Washington Examiner): The signs are mounting that President Trump will move forward with a major U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan, even as direct talks with the Taliban have yet to produce a cease-fire accord.
Keep in mind, other NATO members have contributed troops to the war effort, including the UK, Canada and others. Since the military alliance exercised its "Article V" - an attack on one is an attack on all - provision in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
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update(1058ET): The death toll rose later in the day to at least seven, including reports of two armed men shot by US troops:
- Heavy gunfire in the vicinity of Kabul International Airport
- AL JAZEERA REPORTS 'HEAVY SHOOTING' IN KABUL INTL AIRPORT
Also according to the AP, "The head of US Central Command met face-to-face with senior Taliban leaders to urge their fighters not to interfere with the U.S. military’s evacuation operations at the airport in Kabul, a defense official says."
WASHINGTON (AP) — AP sources: Seven people dead at Kabul airport amid evacuation chaos.— Jonathan Lemire (@JonLemire) August 16, 2021
Evacuation chaos continues as more and more US troops arrive at Kabul's international airport to "restore order" - or at least get remaining Americans out.
Meanwhile, at the now abandoned and shuttered US Embassy CNN is on the ground mingling with the Taliban, apparently...
CNN reporter outside Kabul embassy:— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) August 16, 2021
“They’re just chanting ‘Death to America’ but they seem friendly at the same time.”
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On Monday, the press reported shocking scenes of thousands of "utterly desperate" Afghan civilians fleeing their homes and mobbing the Kabul international airport tarmac in the wake of the rapid Taliban takeover of Kabul.
According to WSJ and other English-language media outlets, at least three people have died Monday during the frenzied struggle to leave. A group of 60 nations has asked the Taliban to allow any refugees who desire to leave the country to do so without inflicting harm on them or their families.
American troops are now attempting to secure and provide order at Karzai International Airport as military airlifts of American personnel continue. Shots have been fired as American troops arrive to find the security situation spiraling out of control, potentially making safe airport operations - including flights in and out - next to impossible if it's not brought under order.
Insane. Don’t have any other words.— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) August 16, 2021
The Kabul Airport.
Thousands of Afghans who haven't received permission to emigrate are fleeing to the airport anyway, believing it may be their only chance for survival amid rumors that flights are now taking whoever can force their way aboard. As desperate Afghans rushed packed passenger planes, some soldiers fired warning shots as hundreds of Afghans who breached the perimeter and then rushed to board an idling C-17 transport aircraft, a Western military official said. At certain points, American troops fired lethal rounds into the air to try and force the crowds to disperse. Military personnel were forced to try and clear the runways with low-flying helicopters, from which they tossed smoke grenades and fired live ammo. The city fell to the Taliban on Sunday, after fighters massed outside the city, eventually the Taliban leadership took over the presidential palace.
"U.S. forces fired in the air at Kabul's airport on Monday to prevent hundreds of civilians running onto the tarmac, a U.S. official said," according to Reuters.
"The firing was done to defuse the chaos," the official added. Hundreds of Afghans reportedly rushed at idling C-17 US transport aircraft, resulting in US troops firing repeatedly into the air.
Rumors spread claiming the airline was allowing people to board even without a ticket.
Per WSJ, the chaotic rush of people desperate to get out hindered evacuation efforts: "Hundreds of Afghan civilians were seen close to the runway and around parked planes Monday morning, with some hanging from boarding ramps as they scrambled to get into the aircraft, hindering evacuation efforts," the report describes.
So, how much of Afghanistan is now in Taliban hands? Practically the entire country, according to the BBC.
Apache gunships were called in by US forces to help clear the runway, seen doing low strafing runs...
In one particularly grisly scene, footage showed three men who had attempted to hold on to aircraft landing gears as the plane lifted off ended up plunging to their deaths.
Witnesses reported seeing the "prone, bloodied bodies lying on the ground just outside the terminal building," according to the WSJ.
Some have reported being "trapped" in the airport, also while the terminal and other buildings were being looted. There are now said to be thousands of US troops at the Kabul airport, with a total of 6K troops expected to arrive in the form of reinforcements being sent in from Kuwait
Additionally the WSJ described the following surreal scene in its report:
"Afghans with small children sat dazed next to European special-forces operators with their sniper rifles and high-tech helmets equipped with night vision and infrared tags. Outside, the engines of helicopters and transport planes provided a steady, almost lulling, hum. Once in a while, groups of evacuees—the staff of the Indian embassy, or Bulgarian security contractors—donned helmets and body armor and set off toward their plane."
It is chaos at Kabul airport. Planes are taking off and landing and people are running across the runway. pic.twitter.com/kKrg667AQB— Sowaibah Hanifie (@SowaibahH) August 16, 2021
The chaos is expected to worsen in the coming days as the Taliban cements its control of the capital city.
They are literally ON a plane pic.twitter.com/jwOrPrfhfv— FinTwit 🚀 (@FinTwit__) August 16, 2021
Meanwhile, Afghans aren't the only people being trapped at the airport: at least some foreigners have also told the press that they feel trapped. The Taliban claims it's allowing a "safe exit" to any foreigners.
A Reuters Pentagon correspondent is reporting that "The United States military has temporarily halted all evacuation flights from Kabul to try and clear the airfield, which has filled up with people, US official says." It's unclear how long this halt in airport operations will last, but it clearly comes as things get increasingly desperate.
Back in Washington, President Biden's press secretary Jen Psaki is reportedly embarking on a week-long vacation between Aug. 15 and Aug. 22. Now that the war is over, why not?