Kabul/Washington: The United States has an “unwavering commitment” to get US citizens and at-risk Afghans to safety out of Afghanistan, President Joe Biden said, as Taliban fighters beat back thousands desperate to flee outside Kabul airport on Sunday.
US forces have expanded their perimeter around Kabul airport as part of their efforts to accelerate evacuations of American citizens, vulnerable Afghans and citizens of US allies, Biden added.
Biden told reporters at the White House the Taliban had been cooperative in those efforts, but the situation remained dangerous.
The president said the security situation in Afghanistan was changing rapidly and his administration was under no illusions about the threat from Daesh militants in Afghanistan known as ISIS-K (for Khorasan).
The Taliban, which seized power in Afghanistan last week as the US and allies withdrew troops after a 20-year war, fired in the air and used batons to force people to form queues outside the airport, witnesses said. On Saturday, seven people were killed in a crush at the gates.
“Let me be clear, the evacuation of thousands from Kabul is going to be hard and painful” and would have been “no matter when it began,” Biden said in a briefing at the White House.
On Sunday, there were no major injuries as gunmen beat back the crowds, according to witnesses, and Washington said it was now able to get large numbers of Americans into the airport.
The Taliban had been “cooperative” about extending the airport perimeter, Biden said.
Britain’s defence ministry said seven Afghans were killed in the crush around the airport on Saturday as thousands tried to get a flight out.
Sky News showed soldiers on a wall on Saturday attempting to pull the injured from the crush and spraying people with a hose to prevent them from getting dehydrated.