The Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan caused the population of Kabul to rush to the banks and to the capital’s airport in an attempt to flee the country on Sunday (15).
Videos on social media show crowds of people, especially families, at Hamid Karzai International Airport near the capital, walking along runways, amid military vehicles and planes.
This is the first time that the fighters of the fundamentalist group have invaded the Afghan capital since October 13, 2001, when they had to withdraw under American and British bombs.
Witnesses at one of the Kabul airport terminals told the New York Times that they heard gunshots and saw the parking lot filled with people desperate for thefts.
On Sunday afternoon, the US Embassy, which currently operates inside the airport, said security at the site was changing rapidly.
According to a NATO official, all commercial flights have been suspended and only military planes have been allowed to operate.
The country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, has also fled abroad. In a social media post on Sunday, Ghani said he was faced with a tough choice. “I should bear to face the armed group that wanted to enter the palace or leave the dear country that I have dedicated my life to protecting,” he wrote.
He then claims that the Taliban managed to get him out. “To avoid bloodshed, I thought it was better to leave,” the president said. Ghani did not disclose details of his location.
US President Joe Biden on Sunday authorized more than 1,000 troops to be sent to Kabul to help evacuate thousands of American and Afghan civilians.
Another movement in the city was a run on the banks. The Al Jazeera news site said hundreds of residents were lining up at ATMs to withdraw money from their accounts in a bid to drain their savings and leave Afghanistan.
Besides the local population, Western countries have also accelerated the withdrawal of employees and citizens residing in the country. Germany, France and the Netherlands have transferred embassy diplomats to Kabul airport.
Canada has temporarily closed its embassy after evacuating its staff before the Taliban arrived, according to the country’s foreign ministry. The UK, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Spain have also announced the evacuation of diplomats.
RETURN TO THE POWER OF TALEBAN
1994 Islamic fundamentalist group formed in northern Pakistan after the withdrawal of former Soviet Union troops from the border country of Afghanistan
1996 After clashes with other factions, fighters capture Kabul, the Afghan capital, overthrow the regime of then President Burhanuddin Rabbani and create the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
2001 After five years in power, the regime collapses with attacks by a US-led military coalition; Americans claimed the Taliban were protecting the al-Qaeda terrorist network, which carried out the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center
2012 Organized abroad, mainly in Pakistan, the group carries out one of the attacks with the greatest international repercussions: it shoots the 14-year-old Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai, who had publicly opposed the Taliban
2020 In February, the group signs a historic peace agreement with the United States, whose troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001, in an attempt to end a conflict that has lasted nearly 20 years; in October, Republican Donald Trump, then president, announces the withdrawal of American forces
2021 In May, President Joe Biden begins the effective withdrawal of American troops; in august, the taliban launch their strongest offensive in years in afghanistan and, in less than three weeks, they again seize the capital kabul