Arrangement would allow desperate flights out of Afghanistan to continue.
CHICAGO, United States (AA) – The head of the US Central Command met with senior Taliban leaders in Qatar’s capital Doha and reached agreement that the Afghanistan evacuation effort can continue without interference, according to a report published on Monday.
Gen. Frank McKenzie’s meeting was reported by the Associated Press, which cited an anonymous defense official who spoke to the news agency on condition of anonymity.
The situation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul has become increasingly chaotic as embassies in the country shut down, sending staff members streaming to the airport, joined by tens of thousands of Afghans desperate to get out.
US officials said seven people have died, including some who clung to an American military jet and fell to the ground as the plane took off, the AP reported.
Bystander video from the scene shows hundreds of people running across the tarmac, and people sitting on top of a passenger jet, although civilian air travel is on hold, with air travel reduced to military operations.
Taliban holding off, with US in control of airport
The scene has grown more desperate since the Taliban rolled into Kabul on Sunday, unimpeded, and announced they now control the country, marking a return to power 20 years after US forces invaded following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
So far, it appears the Taliban are indeed holding off on trying to overtake the airport, the last part of the country not under Taliban rule.
In fact, a CNN reporter on the scene said on Monday night in Kabul that Taliban fighters were providing crowd control outside the airport, to allow a more orderly influx of people inside.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had warned that any Taliban attempt to disrupt the evacuation would bring a swift retaliation. There are an estimated 6,000 US troops on the scene to secure the airport and aid in the evacuation.
The State Department announced the US military now controls operations at the airport, and officials overseeing the logistics say it may be possible to safely fly about 5,000 people per day out of the airport, according to multiple reports.
Priority is being given to staff at embassies, including about 4,000 at Washington’s embassy, along with tens of thousands of Afghan nationals who helped the US and its allies during the 20-year war.
But ordinary citizens are now rushing to the airport and military analysts who spoke to American media say at some point, the last outgoing military flight will take off, leaving whoever is left on the ground to face a very uncertain future in the country.