Monday, August 16, 2021

At Least 7 Dead as Chaos Erupts Amid Evacuations at Kabul International Airport

I'm still shaking my head at this debacle.

It's a huge story and an extreme risk for Joe Biden and his presidency. 

At USA Today, "US troops try to manage Kabul airport turmoil; 7 dead as thousands attempt to flee Taliban":

WASHINGTON – U.S. troops Monday sought to gain control of the international airport in Kabul after thousands of Afghans rushed through the civilian side and swarmed the military landing strip. At least seven people have died in the mayhem.

Senior U.S. military officials say the dead include some who fell from a departing American military transport jet, according to the Associated Press. Videos show people clinging to the sides of a U.S. military plane as it taxied, as well as falling from a plane as it took off.

U.S. troops killed two armed individuals at Hamid Karzai International Airport during the chaos there as civilians poured onto runways and halted flights, Pentagon press John Kirby said.

The troops had been fired on, he said, adding that there may be one servicemember wounded, but reports are incomplete.

There is no indication that the individuals killed were members of the Taliban.

There are about 2,500 troops at the airport and another 500 will arrive by Tuesday, he said. In all, there will be 6,000 American forces at the airport.

Amid this, President Joe Biden is expected to address the Taliban's takeover later Monday from the White House.

US troops try to secure civilian side of airport

U.S. troops are attempting to set up barriers to separate the military portion of Hamid Karzai International Airport from the civilian terminal and its landing strip, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to comment publicly.

The airport had no physical barrier between those operations, although they are separated by a significant distance. Huge crowds of Afghans desperate to flee the country and its new Taliban leadership entered the civilian side of the airport and swarmed a U.S. Air Force C-17 as it taxied on a runway.

U.S., Turkish and other allied troops were clearing the field to allow flights to resume, Kirby said. Large crowds of Afghans remain on the south side of the airport where civilian flights arrive and depart.

The Taliban’s surprisingly swift rout of Afghan security forces and fall of the government on Sunday — including the flight of Afghan President Ashfar Ghani from the country — drew comparisons to the U.S. abandonment of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War, as well as harsh criticism for President Joe Biden’s strategy for winding down the nearly 20-year-old war in Afghanistan.

US veterans:'Were all of our sacrifices wasted?' War veterans react to stunning Afghanistan collapse

Jonathan Finer, Deputy White House National Security Adviser, speaking on MSNBC early Monday, confirmed there will be additional US troops at the airport.

"Absolutely there's a plan to secure the airport," Finer said. "That's why we've been able to flow additional forces into Afghanistan without having to fight their way in. There has been contingency planning going on now for a period of month. We believe there are the forces in place to be able to provide security for the airport, particularly with the additional forces that are going to be arriving again today, tomorrow and in the coming days, and the main focus of our efforts today are going to be getting that airport back up and running so the flights can continue."

Biden expected to speak Monday afternoon

Facing heavy criticism for his handling of Afghanistan, Biden planned to return to the White House on Monday and deliver remarks in the afternoon. Biden spent the weekend at Camp David, where he had been out of sight save for an image of him participating in a videoconference that was released Sunday by the White House.

Robert Gibbs, who served as White House press secretary during the Obama administration, called it imperative that Biden speak to the nation and the world.

“Hopefully this happens very soon,” Gibbs tweeted Monday morning. “He must lay out again the reasoning behind his decisions, how he sees the future of this region & what must be done to prevent another safe haven for al-Qaeda to plan attacks."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., put it more bluntly.

“Mr. President,” McCarthy tweeted, “Do your job and address the nation.”

The comparison to Saigon is haunting. If Vietnam was America's first defeat in war, Afghanistan's the second, and far more foreboding.

Still more.