Afghanistan, Afghans try to scape from Kabul airport

Turkey evacuates its citizens from Afghanistan, keeps open its embassy

The situation in Afghanistan is of uncertainty, with scenes of chaos and despair at the Kabul airport of Afghans trying to escape.

324 Turkish citizens landed today at Istanbul airport on a special flight chartered from Kabul by Turkish Airlines, which has suspended all its regular flights with Afghanistan due to the chaotic situation in the country after the Taliban have regained power and captured the capital, in a blitzkrieg of only 10 days. However, Turkey keeps its embassy in Kabul open and operational, government says.

A Turkish Airlines plane landed at Istanbul Airport at 4:45 p.m. Turkey time with 320 Turkish citizens on board, after taking off at dawn this Monday from Kabul airport to evacuate Turkish residents in the city.

Given however the chaotic situation at the Afghan airport, despite the fact that Turkish and foreign diplomatic personnel remain in an isolated area secured by US and Turkish troops, it is unclear at what pace the evacuations will continue. Shots were heard last night after crowds gathered on the airport runways and tried to force their way onto a plane, and several dead bodies could be seen in the area this morning.

Due to the tense situation at Kabul International Airport, where desperate Afghans were trying to get on a plane this morning after the Kabul authorities handed over control of the Afghan capital to the Taliban on Sunday without resistance (despite President Biden saying barely a month ago that that was impossible), Turkish Airlines announced today the cancellation of all its flights with Afghanistan, where it maintained a route with 10 weekly flights between Istanbul and Kabul.

Scenes of chaos and despair at Kabul airport

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced yesterday that the Turkish embassy in Kabul remains operational and in constant contact with all Turkish citizens in Afghanistan, who number about 1,500, as well as businessmen and workers of Turkish companies in the country. “We are responding to the requests of our citizens. We will provide all the necessary help for those who want to leave Afghanistan. We have made all the necessary preparations,” he said.

In the last hours, an emergency meeting was held in Ankara at the headquarters of the Turkish Ministry of Defence, chaired by the Turkish Minister of Defence himself, Hulusi Akar, to assess the situation after the latest events in Afghanistan, where Turkey maintains 500 soldiers stationed precisely at Kabul airport. At the meeting, which was also attended by the commander of the Turkish forces in Afghanistan, it was agreed that the priority is to guarantee the security of the Turkish troops and officials in the country.

For his part, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, who recently said he was considering to open talks with Taliban leaders, assured yesterday that Turkey will spare no effort to ensure stability in Afghanistan and throughout the region, adding that Ankara plans to intensify cooperation with Pakistan to prevent a possible wave of refugees from Afghanistan, where the images that arrive in the last hours are of a Kabul airport crowded with Afghans who fill the runways and try to get on foreign planes that take off evacuating civilian and military personnel.

In one of these videos, dramatic images can be seen of hundreds of people running alongside a United States Air Force plane evacuating its citizens in Afghanistan and trying to take off from the runway in Kabul, with several Afghans on the wheels of the aircraft.

In another later video, broadcast by a local Afghan television, it can be seen how the plane takes off and several bodies are seen falling into the void, presumably of people who had grabbed onto the fuselage trying to escape from Afghanistan.