AT least five persons have reportedly died from a chaotic situation at the Kabul airport tarmac in Afghanistan, as thousands of Afghans and foreign nationals scramble for a place on a flight out of the country now under the control of the Taliban.
Many countries like the US, UK and Canada have shut down their embassies in Kabul and evacuated their citizens.
The Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) said on Monday that Kabul airspace had been released to the military, and it advised transit aircraft to reroute.
Foreign embassies warned their nationals and Afghan citizens that it was not safe to travel through the airport and only go there if instructed. Embassy staff are being helicoptered to the military side of the airport, which US soldiers have secured.
ACAA said any transit through Kabul airspace would be uncontrolled, and it had advised the surrounding flight information regions that control airspace. Kabul’s flight information region covers all of Afghanistan.
United Airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic had already stopped using Afghanistan airspace after insurgents took control of the presidential palace in Kabul, forcing President Ashraf Ghani to flee the country, ending nearly 20 years of US occupation in Afghanistan.
The visuals from Kabul airport resembled a chaotic bus stand more than an airport.
On September 18, 2001, US Congress authorized U.S. forces to go after culprits of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Taliban, removed from power by US-led forces that same year, have now seized power again after the US announced it would completely withdraw its more than 2500 troops from the country by September 11, to mark the 20th anniversary of the attacks.
There are also an additional 7,000 foreign forces in the coalition there; most of them are NATO troops.
Ghani later posted on Facebook that he had chosen to leave the country to avert bloodshed in the capital, without saying where he had gone, but media later reported that Ghani left for Uzbekistan.
The former President said he believed countless patriots would be martyred and the city of Kabul would be destroyed if he had stayed behind.
“The Taliban have won … and are now responsible for the honour, property and self-preservation of their countrymen,” he said.
Responding to the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, nations worldwide have called on all involved in events in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate the departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country.
A joint statement signed by more than 60 nations released Sunday night said that those in power and authority across the country “bear responsibility and accountability for the protection of human life and property, and the immediate restoration of security and civil order.
The nations’ statement also said that roads, airports and border crossings must remain open and that calm must be maintained.
“The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them,” the statement added.
On Sunday evening, Taliban fighters deployed across Kabul, taking over abandoned police posts and pledging to maintain law and order during the transition.
However, the city has been gripped with panic as Afghans fear that the Taliban could re-impose a brutal rule. There are also fears that the country is at risk of a humanitarian crisis.