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Afghans and foreigners struggled Thursday to get through Taliban checkpoints and crowds to reach the airport in Kabul, a day after President Biden said U.S. troops would stay as long as needed to evacuate Americans.

Operations within the airport have improved from the initial chaos that followed the Taliban’s march into Kabul on Sunday, Western officials say. But many people are still struggling to reach the airport, which is controlled inside by thousands of U.S. military personnel.

Thousands of Afghans continued to surround the airport, pushing desperately to get in. Many lack the required documents to be allowed to board a flight but blocked entry gates.

Janan, a 37-year-old Afghan from the eastern province of Paktia, said by phone that he had made it inside the airport earlier this week but waited for four days without managing to get on a flight. He said that he had worked for a German company but that it hadn’t responded to his request for paperwork to prove it.

“Maybe I only have a 1% chance of getting on a plane but I’m trying," he said. “The Taliban will kill us. They are only behaving a bit so far because the Americans are here."

Many others, both Westerners and Afghans whom U.S. allies are seeking to evacuate are hiding in their homes, are fearful of crossing the Taliban-controlled city.

Mr. Biden said Wednesday that the U.S. is committed to evacuating Americans from Afghanistan, adding that troops could remain in Kabul past the Aug. 31 exit deadline if necessary.

The Taliban, who are outside the airport perimeter, are firing in the air, beating people to keep the crowd under control and urging them to go home. In a security alert for American citizens on Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy said that it couldn’t ensure safe passage to the airport.

The Taliban say they want to end the pandemonium at the airport as soon as possible, with the televised sight of Afghans fleeing the Taliban takeover undermining their efforts to portray their regime as more tolerant than when the group was last in power.

The Taliban now have almost total control of Afghanistan. They have stated that their government will be more inclusive than their previous regime, which was in power between 1996 and 2001, but they have provided few details of how they will rule.

Since the U.S. deployed more military to secure the airport, a plane can in principle now take off every half-hour, with up to 300 passengers on board each C-17 transport aircraft being used, Western officials say. Passenger processing capacity is also being expanded.

The Taliban haven’t confronted the 5,000 American troops controlling the airport, but it remains unclear what would happen if Washington tried to delay their departure beyond the end of the month.

With thousands of American soldiers still in Afghanistan, it is difficult for the group to declare it has achieved its aims and form a new Islamic administration.

The Taliban released a statement Thursday marking Afghanistan’s Independence Day, the 102nd anniversary of freeing the country of British occupation.

“At the same time, we have defeated another arrogant superpower in the world, the U.S., with our jihadist resistance. They were forced to retreat from the sacred territory of Afghanistan," the group said.

The Taliban on Thursday imposed a curfew in the eastern city of Khost following protests there and two other cities Wednesday in which demonstrators carried the flag of the fallen republic, the first signs of political opposition to the group’s rule. The Taliban responded Wednesday with gunfire and beatings, killing at least two people and injuring several more.

Locals in Khost said the Taliban had feared that Independence Day would be marked by more flag-waving protests in Khost.

U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told British broadcaster Sky News that the Taliban were cooperating in allowing British nationals to be evacuated. He also said the U.K. is “not sending out any empty planes."

Earlier this week, some planes were departing with only a handful of passengers, in part due to the difficulty people encountered in getting through Taliban checkpoints.

Along with foreigners, tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the U.S.-led multinational effort in Afghanistan for two decades, who fear reprisals by the Taliban, are also seeking to get out. Many have problems with paperwork to prove that they were employed by international military and civilian organizations.

Mr. Biden, in an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, said he was committed to getting Americans in the country out and expressed optimism that it could be done by the deadline. Pressed on what he would do if there were Americans remaining after Aug. 31, he said, “If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay till we get them all out."

The White House said on Tuesday the Taliban had agreed to provide for the safe passage of civilians to the airport. But the continuing frustration voiced Wednesday by Afghans over their treatment by the Taliban prompted new concerns in Washington.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has suspended arms sales to Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover.

The State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls wrote in a notice to defense contractors posted Wednesday that it is reviewing all pending and issued export licenses and other approvals “to determine their suitability in furthering world peace, national security, and the foreign policy of the United States."

The notice said it would provide an update in the near future.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

 

 

 

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