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    US seeks to secure Kabul airport after chaos

    The United States will focus on securing the Kabul airport and additional US forces will flow into the airport on Monday and Tuesday, US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said, as people tried to flee a day after Taliban insurgents seized the Afghan capital.

    The United States has temporarily halted all evacuation flights from Kabul to clear people who had converged on the airfield, a US defense official told Reuters, but did not say how long the pause would last.

    The defense official said the United States aims get tens of thousands of at-risk Afghans who worked for the US government out of Afghanistan and was looking at temporarily housing them at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Fort Bliss in Texas.

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    The United States was focused intensively on securing the Kabul airport on Monday, US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer told MSNBC. The goal was to continue civilian evacuation flights for American citizens in Afghanistan, Afghans who worked alongside the US over the past 20 years and for other particularly vulnerable Afghans, he said.

    The chaos at the Kabul airport has hindered the evacuation operations of other countries.

    The first of three German evacuation planes en route to Afghanistan diverted to the Uzbek capital Tashkent after it could not land at Kabul airport, a German general said on Monday.

    The A400M transport plane circled for more than an hour over Kabul before changing its destination, Lieutenant General Markus Laubenthal told public broadcaster ZDF.

    A foreign ministry spokesperson said earlier in Berlin that no evacuation flights were leaving Kabul airport because desperate people trying to flee the country were blocking the runway.

    Germany and other western countries should provide aid to countries neighboring Afghanistan to help them deal with an influx of Afghans fleeing the Taliban or risk a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday.

    “We need to make sure that the many people who have big worries and concerns even though they have not worked with German institutions have a secure stay in countries neighboring Afghanistan,” Merkel said during a news conference. “We should not repeat the mistake of the past when we did not give enough funds to UNHCR and other aid programs and people left Jordan and Lebanon toward Europe.”

    In addition, an Afghan military jet was shot down by Uzbek air defense forces and crashed after crossing the border into Uzbekistan, the Uzbek defense ministry said on Monday. The jet crashed late on Sunday in Uzbekistan’s southernmost Surxondaryo province adjacent to Afghanistan.

    “Uzbekistan’s air defense forces prevented an attempt by an Afghan military aircraft to illegally cross Uzbekistan’s border,” defense ministry spokesman Bahrom Zulfikorov said.

    Hundreds of Afghan soldiers have fled to Uzbekistan with 22 military planes and 24 helicopters last weekend, including one aircraft that collided with an escorting Uzbek fighter jet causing both to crash, Uzbekistan said on Monday.

    A total of 585 Afghan soldiers have arrived on aircraft and 158 more crossed the border on foot on Sunday, Uzbek prosecutor general’s office said in a statement.

    “This is our airport but we are seeing diplomats being evacuated while we wait in complete uncertainty,” said Rakhshanda Jilali, a human rights activist who was trying to get to Pakistan, told Reuters in a message from the airport.

     A man pulls a girl to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021 (credit: REUTERS) A man pulls a girl to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021 (credit: REUTERS)

    At least five people were killed in Kabul airport on Monday as hundreds of people tried to forcibly enter planes leaving the Afghan capital, witnesses told Reuters.

    One witness said he had seen the bodies of five people being taken to a vehicle. Another witness said it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede.

    US forces managing the airport fired into the air to stop Afghans surging onto the tarmac to try to board a military flight, a US official said.

    Dozens of men tried to clamber up onto an overhead departure gangway to board a plane while hundreds of others milled about, a video posted on social media showed.

    Some people even tried to hang on to airplanes as they were taking off. Videos circulated on social video saw people falling from airplanes after they had taken off.

    Germany is working to get as many people as possible out of Afghanistan quickly, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday, adding that NATO allies had misjudged the situation when they thought Afghan government forces could hold back the Taliban.

    “We want to get as many people out of the country as quickly as possible,” Maas told reporters. He said people who had worked with German military forces in the country, human rights activists and Afghan-German dual nationals will make up the bulk of some 10,000 people Germany wants to lift out of Afghanistan.

    Belgium will send military planes to Kabul to evacuate Belgian citizens and Afghan staff, news agency Belga reported on Monday.

    Foreign affairs minister Sophie Wilmes told Belgian daily Le Soir that evacuation was being organized for 47 Belgians and more than 20 Afghans who worked for the Belgian embassy, Belgian Defence, the European External Action Service, or the EU’s Directorate General for Economy.

    Belgium will send three military transportation planes, one Airbus 400M and two Lockheed C-130, Le Soir reported.

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