This story contains details some readers may find distressing.
Afghans are doing everything they can to leave their home country. Horrifying videos show chaos at Kabul airport with some people clinging to moving military aircraft.
The Taliban has swept through Afghanistan in recent weeks following the departure of US troops who occupied the country for 20 years in the so-called “war on terror”.
The Islamist group’s takeover of Kabul marks the first time the militants have entered the capital city over the last two decades.
Afghans now fear for their lives more than ever, especially after the country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, fled abroad on Sunday, effectively handing the country over to the terrorist group.
The local military forces trained by the West have also collapsed in recent weeks.
Chaos in Kabul
Part of Kabul airport is controlled by US troops, meaning it is one of only a handful viable escape routes in the whole country. It has subsequently descended into chaos.
Unverified footage on social media shows people pushing each other on staircases in desperate attempts to board departing planes.
Citizens can be seen climbing onto jet bridges, or onto the aircrafts themselves. US troops fired warning shots into the air on Monday in an attempt to control the crowd.
There are also unconfirmed reports of some citizens falling from the planes after takeoff, according to the news agency Reuters. Two people have reportedly died at the airport.
Another video appears to show US military helicopters “buzzing” the runway to clear people from the path of a plane preparing for takeoff.
Afghans fear for their lives
High-profile and educated women in the country, along with those who have worked with the west, fear they are most likely to become targets of the Taliban for their ties to the group’s enemies – but many are terrified they will not be able to escape.
Afghan citizen and data analyst, Massouma Tajik, told the press: “I see people crying, they are not sure whether their flight will happen or not. Neither am I.”
Fellow Afghan citizen Shafi Arifi had a ticket to fly to Uzbekistan on Sunday, but could not board her plane because it was packed with people who did not necessarily have tickets.
She said: “There was no room for us to stand. Children were crying, women were shouting, young and old men were so angry and upset, no one could hear each other. There was no oxygen to breathe.”
At least five people have died in the furore as hundreds crowd the area, although it remains unclear if this is due to a stampede or shooting.
Western forces try to evacuate their own
Western nations are trying to arrange exit flights for their own nationals in Afghanistan, as well as locals who have assisted the Taliban’s opponents over the years.
The US Embassy has been evacuated, while diplomats are trying to relocate to the airport in an attempt to assist with the evacuation.
US troops are trying to evacuate Americans on the ground, just like other western forces, but waves of citizens are desperately trying to board any flight they can.
John Kirkby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the airport would experience stoppages but would remain open for commercial flights, which is the only way for other Afghan citizens to escape.
US troops are attempting to bring order
The US has sent in 6,000 troops, and intends to fly out as many as 5,000 civilians a day. But it remains unclear how long evacuations will be available.
The US even warned civilians not to go near the airport for a brief period in a bid to reduce the chaos.
An email inbox was reportedly overflowing with applications to join the special US visa program for a brief period, although the State Department said it believed it had fixed the problem.
US president Joe Biden reportedly “stands by” his decision to pull out his troops because he did not want the longest war in US history to enter its third decade.
Yet, the progress of the Taliban surprised even American officials, as the militants swarmed the country in a matter of days – just two weeks after Biden confirmed he was pulling out the US military.