US takes control of Kabul airport to evacuate staff from country

US troops are taking control of Kabul’s international airport, while desperate residents try to flee the city after the Taliban seized Afghanistan.

The US military has secured the site and is taking over air traffic control to evacuate American and allied staff.

But commercial flights have mostly been suspended, stranding hundreds of Afghans and other foreign nationals.

The Taliban claimed victory after the government collapsed on Sunday. President Ashraf Ghani has fled abroad.

The militants’ return to rule has brought to a swift end almost 20 years of a US-led coalition’s presence in the country.

Kabul was the last major city in Afghanistan to hold out against a Taliban offensive that began months ago but accelerated in recent days as they gained control of territories, shocking many observers.

The US said it has moved all of its embassy staff to the airport to await evacuations, with nearly 6,000 troops sent in to assist in the operation.

Thousands of American citizens, locals embassy staff and their families, as well as other “vulnerable Afghan nationals” will be airlifted in the coming days, an official government statement said.

Many commercial airlines have either re-routed around Kabul or have suspended flights.

On Sunday night footage showed hundreds of people running to try to get on the last commercial flights out of the city.

Pictures showed crowds of Afghans waiting on the tarmac while US troops stood guard on Monday morning. At one point the soldiers fired in the air to “defuse the chaos”, a US official told Reuters.

Rakhshanda Jilali, a human rights activist who is trying to leave, said: “How can [the Americans] hold the airport and dictate terms and conditions to Afghans?”

“This is our airport but we are seeing diplomats being evacuated while we wait in complete uncertainty,” she told Reuters.

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