Western powers share ‘shame, blame’ for airport bedlam

Images of throngs trying to flee Kabul are shameful for Western nations, Germany’s president says, as desperate people clamored at the airport after the Taliban takeover.

“We are experiencing a human tragedy for which we share responsibility,” said President Frank-Walter Steinmeier after the Western-backed government in Kabul collapsed and its foreign-trained security forces melted away.

Germany, which had the second largest military contingent in Afghanistan after the United States, wants to airlift thousands of German-Afghan dual nationals as well as rights activists, lawyers and people who worked with foreign forces.

“The images of despair at Kabul airport shame the political West,” Steinmeier said.

Calm returned to Kabul’s international airport yesterday. On Monday thousands of Afghans rushed into main airport, some so desperate to escape the Taliban that they held onto a military jet as it took off and plunged to their deaths. At least seven people died in the chaos, officials said.

Stefano Pontecorvo, Nato’s senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, posted a video online showing the runway empty with American troops on the tarmac. What appeared to be a military cargo plane could be seen in the distance from behind a chain-link fence in the footage.

The runway “is open,” he tweeted. “I see airplanes landing and taking off.”

Overnight, flight-tracking data showed a US Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules plane at the airport and later taking off for Qatar, home to Al-Udeid Air Base and the US military central command’s forward headquarters. There were no other immediate flights seen in Afghan airspace, which has been taken over by the American military as commercial flights have been halted in the country.

China, meanwhile, accused Washington of “leaving an awful mess” after earlier signaling its readiness to cooperate with the Taliban.

Faced with criticism over the disorganized pullout of American troops after 20 years, President Joe Biden defended the withdrawal and blamed Afghan forces whom he said were “not willing to fight for themselves.”

Biden promised a complete withdrawal of US troops by September 11, marking an end to two decades of war. “I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces,” he said in a televised address from the White House.

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