Gunfire could be heard at Kabul International Airport on Monday morning as Afghan citizens flooded the tarmac, some clinging to the jet bridge of a plane, as they desperately tried to flee the country.
The chaos followed a disastrous day for Afghanistan and the first day of Taliban rule in the country. The messy withdrawal of US troops, after 20 years of relentless conflict, caused the government to collapse within days, sending President Ashraf Ghani into hiding.
The State Department said early Monday that all staffers from the US embassy in Kabul were safe and being flown out of the country.
“We can confirm that the safe evacuation of all Embassy personnel is now complete. All Embassy personnel are located on the premises of Hamid Karzai International Airport, whose perimeter is secured by the US Military,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
The US sent troops to the embassy on Aug 12, as the Taliban made rapid gains in the country.
Afghan citizens, however, faced danger and uncertainty as the government imploded and the Taliban quickly seized power.
Video taken from the airport showed men climbing atop a staircase and trying to access the crowded jet bridge of an airplane.
“This is, perhaps, one of the saddest images I’ve seen from #Afghanistan,” wrote BBC journalist Nicola Careem. “A people who are desperate and abandoned. No aid agencies, no UN, no government. Nothing.”
Another piece of footage depicted a frantic crowd running from the sound of gunfire that erupted in the background.
“Another day begins in Kabul, a sea of people rushing into the Kabul airport terminal,” wrote Jawad Sukhanyar.
The State Department said they expected to accept thousands of refugees in the coming days through the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program. But help could not come soon enough for those stranded at the Kabul Airport on Monday morning.
Afghanistan was thrown into turmoil Sunday as Taliban forces seized the capital following the withdrawal of US troops for the first time since 2001.
Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled the country earlier in the day, opening the door for Taliban troops to take over the presidential palace and government offices.