Kabul evacuations disrupted amid airport chaos

Thousands of civilians desperate to flee Afghanistan thronged Kabul airport's single runway after the Taliban seized the capital, prompting the United States to suspend evacuations.

The first of three German evacuation planes diverted to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, because it could not land in Kabul, which lies in a valley surrounded by mountains. A second plane was circling over the city.

Crowds converged on the airport seeking to escape, including some clinging to a US military transport plane as it taxied on the runway, according to footage posted by private Afghan broadcaster Tolo news.

US troops fired in the air to deter people trying to force their way on to a military flight evacuating US diplomats and embassy staff, a US official said.

Five people were reported killed in chaos at the airport on Monday. A witness said it was unclear if they had been shot or killed in a stampede.

A US official told Reuters two gunmen had been killed by US forces there over the past 24 hours. A Pentagon spokesperson said there were indications that one US soldier was wounded.

Jim Messina, a White House deputy chief of staff under former President Barack Obama, has defended Biden, saying there had been a bipartisan consensus that it was time to leave.

"We've been there 20 years. It's America's longest-running war, it is time to get out," he said on Fox. "Why should American troops be fighting a civil war that Afghan troops this week refused to fight for themselves? It was time to get out."

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary of usually staunch US ally Britain, said the 2020 Doha withdrawal accord struck with the Taliban by Biden's predecessor Donald Trump was a "rotten deal".




Photo: AFP Caption: People climb on top of a plane at Kabul's airport on Monday as thousands tried to flee the Taliban-controlled city.