Kabul evacuations stall amid airport chaos, criticism of U.S. pullout

KABUL:  Thousands of civilians desperate to flee Afghanistan thronged Kabul airport on Monday after the Taliban seized the capital, promptin...


KABUL:  Thousands of civilians desperate to flee Afghanistan thronged Kabul airport on Monday after the Taliban seized the capital, prompting the United States to suspend evacuations as it came under mounting criticism at home over its pullout.

Crowds converged on the airport seeking to escape, including some clinging to a U.S. military transport plane as it taxied on the runway, according to footage posted by private Afghan broadcaster Tolo n-ew-s.

U.S. troops fired in the air to deter people trying to force their way on to a military flight evacuating U.S diplomats and embassy staff, a U.S. official said.

Five people were reported killed in chaos at the airport on Monday. A witness said it was unclear if they had been shot or killed in a stampede. A U.S. official told Reuters two gunmen had been killed by U.S. forces there over the past 24 hour-s.

A Pentagon spokesperson said there were indications that one U.S. soldier was wounded.

The Taliban's rapid conquest of Kabul follows U.S. President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw U.S. forces after 20 years of war that cost billions of dollars.

The speed at which Afghan cities fell in just days and fear of a Taliban crackdown on freedom of speech and women's rights have sparked criticism.

Biden, who said Afghan forces had to fight back against the Islamist Taliban, was due to speak on Afghanistan at 1945 GMT after returning from the presidential retreat at Camp David.

He is facing a barrage of criticism from opponents and allies, former government officials and even his own diplomats over his handling of the U.S. exit, pulling out troops and then sending back thousands to help with the evacuation.

"If President Biden truly has no regrets about his decision to withdraw, then he is disconnected from reality when it comes to Afghanistan," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Twitter.

Republican Representative Jim Banks, a member of the House armed services committee, told Fox News: "We have never seen an American leader abdicate his responsibilities and leadership like Joe Biden has. He's in hiding. The lights are on at the White House, but nobody's home. Where is Joe Biden?"

Jim Messina, a White House deputy chief of staff under former President Barack Obama, defended Biden, saying there had been a bipartisan consensus that it was time to leave.

"We've been there 20 years. It's America's longest-running war, it is time to get out," he said on Fox. "Why should American troops be fighting a civil war that Afghan troops this week refused to fight for themselves? It was time to get out."

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary of usually staunch U.S. ally Britain, said the 2020 Doha withdrawal accord struck with the Taliban by Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, was a "rotten deal".

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Local Glob: Kabul evacuations stall amid airport chaos, criticism of U.S. pullout
Kabul evacuations stall amid airport chaos, criticism of U.S. pullout
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