At least 20 die near Kabul airport amid Afghanistan evacuation chaos

22 August 2021, 14:14 | Updated: 22 August 2021, 18:11

Thousands have gathered at the international airport in Kabul over the past week in an attempt to flee the country after the Taliban takeover
Thousands have gathered at the international airport in Kabul over the past week in an attempt to flee the country after the Taliban takeover. Picture: Alamy Live News

By Will Taylor

At least 20 people have now died near the international airport in Kabul as the evacuation effort continues, according to a Nato official.

Thousands have been trying to flee the Taliban's rule after their rapid takeover of Afghanistan.

But it has led to crowds becoming difficult to manage, with reports of a crush taking place and desperate parents passing their children over the airport's perimeter and handing them to Western troops in the hope they will have a better future.

The Ministry of Defence said their "sincere thoughts" were with the families of those who have died.

"Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible," they added.

Boris Johnson said he will convene G7 leaders on Tuesday for "urgent talks on the situation in Afghanistan".

He added: "It is vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years."

Read more: Nearly 4,000 evacuated from Afghanistan as US deadline looms

Read more: We have 'moral obligation' to stay in Afghanistan until all are evacuated - Blair

The tragedy at Kabul airport follows the Taliban's lighting advance throughout Afghanistan as the former internationally-recognised government crumbled.

It is feared that, despite the group's attempt to moderate its image, a strict interpretation of Islamic law will be applied on the country.

There are worries women's rights will be curtailed - under the Taliban regime, deposed by the US and Afghan fighters in 2001, they were largely confined to the home - and that reprisals against their enemies will take place.

There have already been reports that the group's fighters have carried out targeted killings in areas under their control.

International forces at the airport are trying to manage those hoping to escape the new regime, while the Taliban have reportedly been heavy handed outside the airport. Accounts have claimed they have beaten and even used a whip in a crude form of crowd control.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, defence secretary Ben Wallace admitted foreign nations will not be able to get everyone out of the country and admitted the withdrawal is "unedifying".

But he praised the 1,000 British forces personnel for "risking their lives" to carry out the evacuation.

"The Parachute Regiment at the airport are dealing with unimaginable challenges - public order, overcrowding, searing heat and desperate people," he said.

"Soldiers trained for war are instead holding babies and co-ordinating crowds."

It is feared the UK may have just days to conclude its evacuation efforts, with attention turning to whether the US leaves by August 31.

President Joe Biden has previously suggested the US would remain as long as is necessary.

Tony Blair, the former prime minister who deployed UK troops to Afghanistan to support the US mission when they overthrew the Taliban, said Britain has a "moral obligation" to stay in Afghanistan until "all those who need to be are evacuated".

The military operation began 20 years ago, when the US overthrew the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks, defeating the group and Al Qaeda fighters in the country.

Mr Blair said withdrawal was not in the West's or Afghanistan's interests.