It is a race against time for the Western nations to complete the evacuation of thousands of people from Afghanistan on Wednesday as the Aug. 31 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops draws closer. Zabihullah Mujahid, in his second press conference at Kabul on Tuesday, 24th August gave clear warnings to the west to withdraw foreign troops and their personnel since no extension of the deadline will be issued.
One of the biggest airlifts in history
Since Aug 14, the day before the Taliban swift and unprecedented takeover of Kabul, the United States and its allies have evacuated more than 70,000 people, including their citizens, NATO personnel and Afghans at risk making it one of the biggest such airlifts ever.
Explainer: What happens after Biden's evacuation force leaves Afghanistan? https://t.co/jP6FA827lL pic.twitter.com/rF7INCLIJK
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 25, 2021
“The sooner we finish, the better”: Biden on evacuation
“The sooner we can finish, the better,” US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday. “Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.” Biden claimed that the US administration is working on the pace to meet the deadline and are abided by the agreement that they struck with the Islamist group last year to end America’s longest war.
He added that U.S. troops in Afghanistan faced mounting danger and aid agencies warned of an impending humanitarian crisis for the population left behind.
Two U.S. officials, who chose to remain anonymous, said there was growing concern about the risk of suicide bombings by Islamic State at the airport.
Read more: West faces mounting criticism over Afghan crisis
Kabul airport thronged with thousands desperate to flee
British foreign minister Dominic Raab said the deadline for evacuating people was up to the last minute of the month.
Tens of thousands of Afghans fearing persecution have thronged Kabul’s airport since the Taliban takeover, the lucky ones securing seats on flights.
Satellite images show chaos and confusion at the Kabul airport as thousands seek to flee Afghanistan after Taliban insurgents seized the capital. More photos: https://t.co/kk5Z1Fpppi 📷 MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES pic.twitter.com/aJTZKvauY2
— Reuters Pictures (@reuterspictures) August 25, 2021
Many people crowded about outside the airport – where soldiers from the United States, Britain and other nations were trying to maintain order amid the dust and heat – hoping to get out. They carried bags and suitcases stuffed with possessions, and waved documents at soldiers in the hope of gaining entry. One man, standing knee-deep in a flooded ditch, passed a child to man above.
“I learned from an email from London that the Americans are taking people out, that’s why I’ve come so I can go abroad,” said one man, Aizaz Ullah.
Humanitarian conditions worsen in Afghanistan
While the focus is now on those trying to flee, the risk of starvation, disease and persecution is rising for the rest of the population, aid agencies say.
“There’s a perfect storm coming because of several years of drought, conflict, economic deterioration, compounded by COVID,” David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme, told Reuters in Doha, calling for the international community to donate $200 million in food aid. Also, “The number of people marching towards starvation has spiked to now 14 million.”
Read more: COVID vaccinations in Afghanistan decline post Taliban takeover: UN
The EU said this week it was planning to quadruple aid and was seeking coordination with the United Nations on delivery as well as safety guarantees on the ground.
The U.N. human rights chief said she had received credible reports of serious violations by the Taliban, including “summary executions” of civilians and Afghan security forces who had surrendered. The Taliban have said they will investigate reports of atrocities and pledged accountability.
If history be the guide, the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule was marked by harsh interpretation of sharia law, with many political rights and basic freedoms curtailed and women severely oppressed. Afghanistan was became a hub for anti-Western militants, international terrorism and the West are apprehensive that it might become so again.
However, the Taliban, in their two press conferences delineated that they would present a moderate face, fulfil all the basic human rights and pitch for an “inclusive” political settlement.
Read more: Taliban pledge accountability, strive to present a moderate face