U.S. Troops shot at, return fire at Kabul Airport and kill 'armed individuals,' Pentagon says

President addresses the nation

 

Last updated 8/20/2021 at 1:29pm

President Joe Biden speaks about Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 16, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Kim Harris

Managing Editor

American soldiers deployed at the Kabul airport have been shot at and were forced to return fire, killing two, said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday, April 16. The news of the attacks came shortly before President Joe Biden addressed the nation regarding his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the subsequent collapse of the Afghan government.

A defiant Biden said that he was faced with a choice between sticking to a previously negotiated agreement to withdraw U.S. troops this year or sending thousands more service members back into Afghanistan for a "third decade" of war.

Biden, who batted away the notion of a rapid Taliban takeover last month, said he will not repeat mistakes of the past and did not regret his decision to proceed with the withdrawal. He acknowledged that the Taliban takeover unfolded faster than had been anticipated.


"I stand squarely behind my decision," Biden said in a televised address to the nation from the White House East Room. "After 20 years, I've learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces."

Biden said he'd rather take the criticism over the fallout in Afghanistan that leave the decision to another president. He said the decision to leave Afghanistan was "the right one for America."

Chaos in Kabul

Biden, did not admit any U.S. fault in how the drawdown was executed, described the images coming out of Afghanistan – especially at the airport in Kabul, where Afghans descended in hopes of fleeing the country – as "gut-wrenching." Video of Afghans clinging to a U.S. Air Force plane as it prepared to take off had circulated widely on the internet.


Afghans rushed onto the tarmac as thousands tried to escape after the Taliban seized power. Some clung to the side of a U.S. military plane before takeoff, in a widely shared video that captured the desperation as America's 20-year war comes to a chaotic end.

Another video showed the Afghans falling as the plane gained altitude over Kabul. U.S. troops resorted to firing warning shots and using helicopters to clear a path for transport aircraft.

The Pentagon confirmed Monday that U.S. forces shot and killed two individuals it said were armed, as Biden ordered another battalion of troops – about 1,000 – to secure the airfield, which was closed to arrivals and departures for hours Monday because of civilians on the runway.


Senior U.S. military officials said the chaos at the airport in Kabul left seven people dead Monday, including some who fell from a departing American military transport jet. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss ongoing operations.

"Our mission was, and still is today, to secure the airport so we can evacuate U.S. Citizens, as said earlier today," Joint Staff Director of Regional Operations Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor said during an Aug. 16, Pentagon briefing held shortly after Biden's speech.

Taylor said that there were "approximately 2,500 troops" on the ground in Kabul with more arriving soon.

"By the end of the day, we expect nearly 3,000 to 3,500 troops on the ground," he said, adding that the forward deployed troops are assisting with the closure of the U.S. State Department in Kabul.

Outpouring of support

Dozens of nations from around the world are calling on all involved in events in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate the departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country.

More than 60 nations released a joint statement Sunday night citing what they call "the deteriorating security situation" in Afghanistan. The statement says that those in power and authority across the country "bear responsibility – and accountability – for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order."


The nations' statement also says that roads, airports and border crossings must remain open, and that calm must be maintained.

The statement concludes: "The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them."

In a separate statement distributed to U.S. media by the State Department, an unidentified State Department official confirmed the American flag is no longer flying at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul amid evacuations from the capital. The official told The Associated Press that nearly all embassy personnel had been relocated to the city's international airport.


The official says the flag itself is with embassy personnel, who are among thousands of Americans and others waiting for flights. The official was not authorized to discuss the details publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity

In a joint statement Sunday night, the State Department and the Pentagon say they are taking steps to secure the airport for safe departures by way of civilian and military flights.

Also part of the departure plan are thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. special immigrant visas. Nearly 2,000 of those with special visas have arrived in the United States over the past two weeks.

"Our mission was, and still is today, to secure the airport so we can evacuate U.S. Citizens, as said earlier today," during an Aug. 16 Pentagon briefing held shortly after Biden's speech.

Said that there were "approximately 2,500 troops" on the ground in Kabul with more arriving soon.

"By the end of the day, we expect nearly 3,000 to 3,500 troops on the ground," he said, adding that the forward deployed troops are assisting with the closure of the U.S. State Department in Kabul.

Taliban takes over

The speed of the Afghan government's collapse and the ensuing chaos posed the most serious test of Biden as commander in chief, and he came under withering criticism from Republicans who said he had failed.

Biden expressed confidence in his decision to proceed with the withdrawal and said he was prepared to take the heat.

Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane, some climbing on the plane, as it moves down a runway of the international airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug.16. Thousands of Afghans have rushed onto the tarmac at the airport, some so desperate to escape the Taliban capture of their country that they held on to the American military jet as it took off and plunged to death. (Verified UGC via AP)

He said he was "deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision."

Biden campaigned as a seasoned expert in international relations and has spent months downplaying the prospect of an ascendant Taliban while arguing that Americans of all political persuasions have tired of a 20-year war, a conflict that demonstrated the limits of money and military might to force a Western-style democracy on a society not ready or willing to embrace it.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

Reader Comments(0)

 
 

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2021