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Afghanistan: United States military has taken control of Kabul Airport to rescue American and Allied personnel


Andrew Reeve
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The Taliban has taken over control of Afghanistan; US troops has secured Kabul's international airport and have taken control of air traffic control in order to evacuate American and allied personnel.

Other countries, notably the United Kingdom, which has committed soldiers to the operation, are also evacuating personnel. Commercial flights, on the other hand, have been stopped, leaving hundreds of Afghans and other foreign nationals stranded.

After the government fell on Sunday, the Taliban declared themselves triumph. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country. The militants' return to rule brings an end to almost 20 years of a US-led coalition's presence in the country.

Kabul was the last big city in Afghanistan to fall to the Taliban attacks, that began months ago in other provinces, but in recent days they have swept across the country and have taken control, after most foreign troops were pulled out.

US President Joe Biden defended the troop pullout over the weekend, saying that a "endless American presence in the middle of another country's civil turmoil" could not be justified.

Kabul airport has been divided into two parts, a commercial side - which has essentially come to a halt - and a military side, which is now been protected by the American military (6,000 US troops have been dispatched to assist in the operation) and Allied forces are working for the various countries evacuating personnel, according to UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

In the next few days, thousands of American citizens, local embassy workers and their families, as well as other "vulnerable Afghan nationals," will be flown out of the country to safety.

Hundreds of people were seen scrambling to get on the last commercial flights out of the city on Sunday night. On Monday morning, photos showed thousands of Afghans waiting on the tarmac while US Marines stood guard. A US official told Reuters that the soldiers fired into the air at one point to "defuse the chaos."

In a joint statement, more than 60 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, stated that the Afghan people "deserve to live in safety, security, and dignity," and that security and civil order should be urgently restored. They also urged the Taliban to let anyone who wished to leave to do so, as well as to keep open roadways, airports, and border crossings. 

People in Kabul need not be alarmed, according to Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban's negotiation team in Qatar, who assured the BBC that their property and lives were safe."We are the servants of the people and of this country," he said.

Source: BBC

 

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Kabul Airlift - Aircraft Tracking Sheet - Version 1.1 (22:00BST 15/08/2021) Data collected via

@flightradar24

@ADSBexchange

and

@planefinder
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21 minutes ago, Andrew Reeve said:

A US official told Reuters that the soldiers fired into the air at one point to "defuse the chaos."

A good idea at the airport dont you think?

Clearly someone with brains in charge.

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Short version.
I spent a lot of time at that airport between 2003-05 when I was working in Kabul (as a civilian, supporting the Canadian contingent).

Control was a joke. They had 3 different types of armed guards (I think it was Police, Army and Immigration/Border Patrol or something similar).
But a lot of people could simply go through the "side entrance" and out onto the tarmac without even being scanned or going through Immigration/Customs.
(As long as the lone guard there let you. Of course, you'd have to be able to board a plane without actually checking in but that wouldn't have been an issue either. Or have your own plane of course.)

That's how the "VIPs" get out/in as well as the people on the "Haj" flights to Mecca every year.
There is also a drive through gate there. Just a simple chain-link fence swinging gate with a cheap padlock. Which is probably how those hordes managed to get onto the tarmac.

Used to be a nightmare at times trying to get our people checked in for flights as the locals had no concept of "queuing" and would happily reach over and around you to try and get their passports/tickets taken before you.

Still, I often (jokingly) ranked Ariana Afghan Airlines ahead of Air Canada on every travel survey I ever saw !

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Longer Version:

I spent a fair bit of time at that airport between 2003-2005 when I was working in Kabul. For a stint I was the company's "security escort". As "contracted civilians" we had to fly in/out on commercial air through the civilian side of the airport, and go through Customs and Immigration.

The military took the civilians to/from the airport in armoured convoys and we had to wear the big, bulky bulletproof vests during the ride.
When a convoy arrived at the airport, the vehicles with the civvies would back up to the front doors and drop their ramps. The civvies would get out, put their vests back into the vehicles, grab their luggage and proceed in to the check in counters (if they were open).

The military would then up ramps and drive around and in to the military side of the airport (about 700 meters away down if you went down the taxiway, a little over 2kms by road). I had to walk between the 2 sides (walking down the taxiway) a couple of times due to flight cancellations or other issues. 

Once the outgoing passengers had been checked in and were in the Departure Area I would sometimes wander over to the Air Traffic Control tower to talk to whoever was there and find out when the plane was due.
(I was lucky, the first guy in my job had convinced the Afghans that we needed to have the "green" access ID cards, which gave us access to any part of the airport. It wasn't unusual for us to have to go out onto the tarmac or to the control tower and other places. Still have my card somewhere actually. We were the only civilian contractors with that level of clearance.)

When the flight arrived, I'd meet the arrivals as they entered the building and direct them to the Immigration queues and then to the luggage area. 
The Customs guys used to scan everyone's luggage and confiscate any alcohol they found. Shortly after I started doing the job, they just started waving all the "non-Afghans" past the x-ray scanners because they'd amassed a large pile of alcohol and didn't know what to do with it !

You see, the Afghans follow a stricter version of Islam, even when the fundamentalists aren't in charge. They won't touch anything that has alcohol in it, even if it's just something like window cleaner !
I asked one Customs guy why they didn't just dump all the booze down the toilet and he said they couldn't because they might "touch" alcohol (get splashed by it) while trying to dump it ! (Seriously, that was what they were afraid of.)
(They won't eat shrimp or crab or clams or other shellfish either.)

That's why they stopped scanning the luggage of foreigners at the airport. They were confiscating too much booze, didn't know what to do with it, and suspected that some of their own people were pilfering from the stash they'd collected.

Once all the arrivals had their luggage I'd call for the convoy to come get us. Same drill in reverse. Luggage into the vehicles, vests on and long, hot ride back to the camp.

If **** hit the fan, I was supposed to herd my people into one of two rooms in the main building and call for the convoy which would take the shorter route down the taxiway in an emergency.
The drill was, the troop carriers would, literally, back through the wall of the building from the tarmac side and drop their ramps. Everyone would cram into the vehicles, they'd up ramp and roar back down the taxiway to the military side with the other AFVs providing cover.

Never had to do that luckily. (Did I mention that I was literally the only civilian "security escort" that didn't have a weapon ? Every other company working in/around Kabul had armed escorts, but they didn't have armoured convoys to get them to/from the airport.)

When I had time between flights, I'd wander around the airport and take note of all the bullet holes in the walls and ceilings that they never bothered to fix.

Control at the airport was a joke as well. For example. Man and woman (in a burqa or black chador) would approach the entrance. The guard would give the man a quick frisk and pat down, then wave them both in.
The x-ray scanner at the entrance of the check-in area never worked the whole time I was there. The walk through Metal detector did (unless you just walked around it). The man/woman would put their bags on the x-ray scanner belt and walk through the metal detector. Guards would have a quick check of the bags and then they'd go to the check-in.

After the check in, they'd go through another metal detector/x-ray scanner, which might or might not work. Men would be frisked again. Women would go into a closed room where a female guard would frisk them.
And then to Immigration and into the Departure area.

Unless you were a "VIP" or it was a "Haj" flight. Then you went around the side of the main building, through an enclosed walkway where there was a single guard and x-ray machine and then out onto the tarmac.
No immigration and literally no check of what you were taking onto the airplane.

(And people wonder how terrorists can get around the world so easily.) Returning VIPs and "Hajis" would come back the same way. 
No Immigration and no Customs checks.

("Hajis" are people who travel to/from Mecca for the annual "Haj". It is a requirement for all Muslims to make the "Haj" at least once in their lifetimes - if they are able. Governments and airlines will lay on extra flights, or divert scheduled flights if need be, to get people to/from the Haj every year.)
(It's also a great way for terrorists to travel, meet up, make plans, arrange financing and return to wherever.)

There was a vehicle gate beside the walkway. Just a normal chain-link fence type of swinging gate. Once in a while I'd see a convoy of vehicles with dark windows roll up to the gate, the guard would open it and the cars would drive out onto the tarmac. Once they'd offloaded (or picked up) their passengers, it was straight back out the gate.

The military side of the airport was as I mentioned, about a 700 meters down the runway from the main civilian terminal.
They controlled vehicle access to the areas where the hangars, offices, mess halls and other areas were, but not on the taxiways. You could enter through the civvy side of the airport and then drive down (or walk) right over to the military side without any problems.

The few times I had to walk between the two, no one ever stopped or questioned me about why I was walking down the taxiway.

It appears they have done some renovations and new construction since I was there. The old terminal is now the Domestic terminal and they have a new International terminal.

Just hope the bathrooms aren't the same. Nasty place. Even rats would hesitate to go there. 

Wonder how long before they change the name to the Mullah Omar International Airport. Can't see them leaving Karzai's name on it for long.
 

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11 hours ago, Stonker said:

I see Australia and New Zealand have now stopped all flights, leaving their fully visa'd interpreters stranded in Afghanistan.

Perhaps they'll talk their way out 🙄

Aus/NZ already have far too many muslim immigrants IMO.  Not being racist, just stating a fact that whilst many are good decent people the few who are not will often influence the majority to challenge authority, other religious beliefs, laws etc.

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47 minutes ago, KaptainRob said:

Perhaps they'll talk their way out 🙄

Aus/NZ already have far too many muslim immigrants IMO.  Not being racist, just stating a fact that whilst many are good decent people the few who are not will often influence the majority to challenge authority, other religious beliefs, laws etc.

Arguably true, although this probably isn't the right place to argue about it, but both countries gave their word that those who worked for and helped them would be able to resettle there if things turned pear shaped.

 

Well, things could hardly have turned more pear shaped but both have gone back on their word.

 

That's not just a rather sad indictment of how much  they can be trusted to keep their word, but equally if not more importantly it's ideal material for those who want to "challenge authority", which is likely to do far more lasting damage and influence far more people than a few re-settled interpreters ever would.

 

It's not just about being racist or not, or keeping your word or not, or doing what's "right" or not, but about seeing the bigger picture too.

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6 minutes ago, Stonker said:

Arguably true, although this probably isn't the right place to argue about it, but both countries gave their word that those who worked for and helped them would be able to resettle there if things turned pear shaped.

Well, things could hardly have turned more pear shaped but both have gone back on their word.

That's not just a rather sad indictment of how much  they can be trusted to keep their word, but equally if not more importantly it's ideal material for those who want to "challenge authority", which is likely to do far more lasting damage and influence far more people than a few re-settled interpreters ever would.

It's not just about being racist or not, or keeping your word or not, or doing what's "right" or not, but about seeing the bigger picture too.

Yes very true.  Although as I understand it, the US and some commercial airlines are working toward a means of evacuating more Afghans.  Aus and NZ military aircraft will no longer travel halfway around the world at risk of personnel and equipment being either destroyed or denied landing.  I don't blame them.

We all know what should have happened and didn't.

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