Afghans desperate to leave the country were seen climbing aboard planes as they sped down the runway. Some of these were able to cling to the planes until they were airborne before dropping to their deaths.
The White House was essentially silent on this withdrawal over the weekend.
Differing reports claimed on Monday morning that either three or five people were killed during the mad scramble at the Kabul airport. The Washington Post reported that: "At least five people were killed amid the chaos of people fearful for their lives trying to force their way onto planes, Reuters reported, citing multiple witnesses."
People could be seen trying to hang on to aircraft.
There was little security, and little plan for the people left behind. As for Americans who find themselves stranded in Afghanistan, which the Taliban has renamed to the Islamic Emirates, Senator Tom Cotton has tried to extend a lifeline. For those not in Kabul, without access to the airport, however, it is unclear how they would get there to board any planes that may come to fetch them.
"It wasn't clear how the people were killed. U.S. forces previously fired in the air to warn unauthorized people from trying to board military flights, according to numerous reports early Monday," WaPo wrote.
Graphic video shows two people falling from an airborne aircraft that was in midair. For some, this was a grim reminder of the notorious image from September 11, 2001, showing a man plummeting to his death head first out of the World Trade Center after it had been attacked by terrorists using civilian aircraft as bombs.
Video from Kabul's airport showed two Apache helicopters taking off at once.
Australian journalist Rita Panahi said that to her it looked like "Saigon on steroids," referencing the withdrawal of troops at the end of the failed Vietnam War.
The situation at the airport Sunday night was reportedly "chaotic." The New York Times reported that the US embassy in Kabul released a statement saying:
"The security situation in Kabul is changing quickly including at the airport. There are reports of the airport taking fire; therefore we are instructing U.S. citizens to shelter in place."
The State and Defense Departments issued a statement on Sunday, the Times reported, that read: "Tomorrow and over the coming days we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals."
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley said that the weekend's events indicated that terrorist activity in Afghanistan could increase sooner than he originally anticipated. A source reporting on a Sunday call with Milley said that a main takeaway was that "We're gonna leave tens of thousands of people behind ... and the timeline in terms of threats has accelerated."
It was later reported by the Asvaka News Agency that those individuals who had attempted to hold on to the departing aircraft fell to their deaths into people's homes.
They reported further that the bodies found were in fact the same men who fell from the plane after clinging tightly to it for as long as they were able.
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