Last Sunday (15AUG21), shocking photos depicted the dramatic scenes that unfolded at Kabul Airport. They displayed thousands of people desperately trying to board one of the few aircraft
that had managed to land in the Afghan capital, after the Taliban had taken control. For many locals, including some diplomats and expats that missed leaving the country before the Islamists
seized power, freighter aircraft have become a kind of Noah’s Ark. A last-minute hope of escaping the theocracy of the fanatical Islamists.
The desperation of the situation after the Taliban seized power is best demonstrated by a C-17 Globemaster III flight operated by the U.S. Air Force on Sunday. The aircraft, bound for Qatar, took
off with 640 refugees on board, sitting crosswise from end to end on the floor of the freighter’s spacious main deck. Originally, only 134 passengers were supposed to be taken out of the country,
which corresponds to the capacity of the aircraft. But panicked Afghans who had been cleared to evacuate pulled themselves onto the C-17’s half-open ramp and pushed their way through in order to
reach the freight compartment of the aircraft.
Similar scenes occurred on some other C-17 flights, where even more people managed to get on board and were flown out safely right after military personnel had cleared the runway of the airport enabling departures, a U.S. military commander confirmed to the media.
An Airbus A400M belonging to the German military and ordered by the Berlin government to fly out compatriots and their Afghan aid workforce was less successful. Along with a second A400M, they were initially forced to deviate to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, due to the chaotic conditions at Kabul Airport preventing a safe landing. Only later, in a second attempt, last Monday, were they finally able to make it to Kabul. In the meantime, the Taliban had completely sealed off the airport, especially its military section, so that no refugees could get through the numerous checkpoints on the access roads. Given this situation, the first of the A400Ms had to take off with only 7 passengers on board - among them were 6 German nationals and an Afghan supporter of the German armed forces.
For the time being, the hasty and uncoordinated withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan, together with its NATO partners, has become subject to hefty international criticism. Critics in Europe and North America compare the West's Afghanistan debacle to the chaotic Vietnam pullout of the USA back in 1975. At that time, helicopter squadrons were used to fly out Vietnamese allies at the last minute and thus prevent them from falling victim to communist Viet Cong.
Similarly, the Afghanistan drama is coming to an end after 20 years, which resulted in many casualties and the spending of billions of dollars and euros in attempts to stabilize the country. The only difference is that the airports are now completely controlled by the Taliban and opponents of the Mujahideen have hardly a chance of being flown out, neither by copters nor by freighters.
Afghanistan exodus updated
In the meantime, the German Armed Forces have continued their evacuation flights from the Afghan capital Kabul, despite mounting security risks. Including Saturday (21AUG21) their A400M freighter aircraft had flown out 500+ compatriots, including Afghans who had supported their military and civil missions.
Similar rescue flights were carried out by the U.S, France, the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey, and Italy.
The U.S. and EU bloc members are considering using locations other than Kabul Airport to take rescued people out of the country. According to information from AP news agency, the reasons for this the danger of attacks by the IS terrorist militia that is widening its influence in the country.
In Kabul, thousands are still trying to reach the airport to catch an international flight. However, most of them are being turned away at the Taliban checkpoints. The U.S. military warned both expats and Afghans agains making their way to the airport without protection. This warning has since been issued by the German embassy in Kabul.
In Spain, a first flight of Afghan evacuees, organized by the EU's foreign service, arrived at Madrid's Torrejón airbase on Thursday (19AUG21), with 36 people on board. Spain has offered to be the EU's hub to take in Afghans who have collaborated with its institutions over the years. Germany has pointed to an emergency consensus within the bloc to also ease passage for a limited number of other people in need of shelter from Taliban reprisals.
In Austria - which hosts the world's fourth-largest Afghan diaspora community after Pakistan, Iran, and Germany - the Vienna government said that the Taliban takeover was no reason to take in more Afghan refugees in the future.
Please stay tuned.
We always welcome your comments to our articles. However, we can only publish authenticated senders.