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Evacuation flights resume at Kabul airport as crowds clear from tarmac

Crowds thinned out a day after chaotic scenes at Hamid Karzai International Airport where some Afghans, desperate to flee Taliban rule, clung to a US military plane as it taxied for take-off.

French and Afghan nationals wait to board a French military transport plane at the airport in Kabul on August 17, 2021. (AFP)

Military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan have resumed after the runway at Kabul airport was cleared of thousands of people desperate to flee after the Taliban seized the capital.

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The number of civilians at the airport had thinned out, a Western security official at the facility said on Tuesday, a day after chaotic scenes in which US troops fired to disperse crowds and people clung to a US military transport plane as it taxied for take-off.

At least seven people died on Monday at Kabul airport, some of them falling from a plane whose fuselage they had clung to in desperate hopes of fleeing the country.

‘People left airport’

“Many people who were here yesterday have gone home,” the official said.

Reuters witnesses, however, could still hear occasional shots coming from the direction of the airport, while streets elsewhere in the city appeared calm.

US forces took charge of the airport, their only way to fly out of the country, on Sunday as the militants were winding up a dramatic week of advances across the country with their takeover of the capital without a fight.

Flights were suspended flights for much of Monday when at least seven people were killed, AP reported, although it was unclear whether they had been shot or crushed in a stampede.

Media reported two people fell to their deaths from the underside of a US military aircraft after it took off, crashing to their deaths on roofs of homes near the airport.

A US official told Reuters US troops had killed two gunmen who had appeared to have fired into the crowd at the airport.

Biden defends decision despite criticism

Biden insisted he had to decide between asking US forces to fight endlessly in what he called Afghanistan’s civil war or follow through on an agreement to withdraw negotiated by his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump.

“I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden said. “After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces. That’s why we’re still there.”

Facing a barrage of criticism, from even his own diplomats,

Biden insisted he had to decide between asking US forces to fight endlessly in what he called Afghanistan’s civil war or follow through on an agreement to withdraw negotiated by his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump.

“I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden said. “After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces. That’s why we’re still there.”

Facing a barrage of criticism, from even his own diplomats, he blamed the Taliban’s takeover on Afghan political leaders who fled and its army’s unwillingness to fight.

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