The civilian section of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport has been overrun by panicked Afghans, desperate to flee the country after the fall of the capital to Taliban militants.
Video footage on social media depict chaotic scenes at the airport over the last 24hrs.
One video shows crowds racing toward the terminal amid the sound of automatic weapons.
Another video shows dozens attempting to climb the stairs of an aerobridge that is attached to an Airbus A340-300 in the livery of Afghan carrier Kam Air. Several videos show crowds milling about on the apron near an Ariana Afghan Air 737-300.
A notice from the Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority dated 16 August states that the civilian section of the airport “is closed until further notice”.
The northern section of the airport, which caters to military operations, appears to be under the control of US forces dispatched to evacuate American citizens and local allies. An AFP image shows American troops facing off against Afghan civilians across coils of newly-laid barbed wire.
“At present we are completing a series of steps to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of US and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights,” says the US Department of Defense.
“Over the next 48 hours, we will have expanded our security presence to nearly 6,000 troops, with a mission focused solely on facilitating these efforts and will be taking over air traffic control.”
In some social media footage, the tails of Boeing C-17 strategic transports can be discerned in the distance. One clip, posted early in the morning of 16 August, shows hundreds of civilians clambering onto the raised tail ramp of a C-17.
According to FlightRadar24, several US military transports have headed to Kabul, as well as at least one Boeing 777-300ER operated by Turkish Airlines. Social media suggests that some flights bound for Kabul have been diverted owing to the chaotic situation on the ground.
The US Embassy in Kabul warns that Americans in the city should not attempt to go to the airport, but stay put and register on-line for evacuation flights.
The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 following the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington DC. After two decades of involvement in the country, earlier this year the Biden administration decided to withdraw American forces, opening the door for the collapse of the Kabul regime.
Cirium fleets data suggest there are are 12 airliners in service with the country’s three airlines: Ariana Afghan Airlines, Bakhtar Afghan Airlines, and Kam Air.
Ariana operates two 737-400s and a single Airbus A310, while Bakhtar operates one 737-500. Kam Air is the country’s largest carrier, with five 737-300s, one 737-500, and two A340-300s.