National Security & Defense

Gunfight Erupts at Kabul Airport as Biden Considers Extending Withdrawal Deadline

U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command take a moment to rest during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 21, 2021. (Staff Sergeant Victort Mancilla/U.S. Marine Corps)

A deadly gunfight erupted at Kabul airport in Afghanistan Monday morning, killing a member of the Afghan security forces and wounding other personnel.

Mayhem erupted at the embattled airport around 4:15 a.m. local time, when Afghan guards responded to gunfire from unidentified attackers, the German military announced on Twitter.

U.S. and German soldiers were reportedly involved in the skirmish, drawing their weapons to return fire against a suspected sniper, CNN first reported. The Pentagon has not acknowledged the incident.

Amid the chaos, U.S. troops possibly shot at Afghan soldiers supporting the civilian evacuation effort.

German and American forces engaged “in further exchange of fire,” the German army said in a statement obtained by the New York Post. One member of the Afghan security forces died and three others suffered injury in the clash, German officials told the Post.

However, Emergency, an Italian humanitarian organization that operates hospitals in Afghanistan, told the outlet that it was rehabilitating six patients with bullet wounds from the airport, none of which were fatal.

Two NATO officials told the publication that the airport had since been secured.

Monday’s violent episode comes after seven people, including a toddler, perished as they were trampled in the desperate crowd pushing to secure a priority departure out of the war-torn country that has returned to Taliban rule.

The chaos came after President Biden said Sunday that his administration was considering extending its August 31 withdrawal deadline and pledged to evacuate Afghan allies.

“We will welcome these Afghans who have helped us in the war effort over the last 20 years to their new home in the United States of America,” he said in remarks delivered from White House. “Because that’s who we are. That’s what America is.”

The Taliban responded Monday, saying the administration should meet its initial commitment.

“They should finish the evacuation by Aug. 31 as they have promised,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naem said.

U.S. and allied forces assisting with the evacuation have been on high alert for threatening rogue interference from the Taliban’s operatives or ISIS militants, who could sabotage the effort by planting suicide bombers in the crowds outside the airport or launching missiles at US jets carrying refugees out.

On Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan advised Americans looking to evacuate against traveling to the Kabul airport unless directed to do so, citing “potential security threats,” chipping further away at Biden’s claim that Americans have not struggled to access the airport.

Addressing the nation Sunday, President Biden acknowledged that the security situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating and become increasingly difficult to manage.

“Let me be clear, the evacuation of thousands from Kabul is going to be hard and painful” and would have been “no matter when it began,” he remarked at the White House press conference. “We have a long way to go and a lot could still go wrong.”

He said he ordered the State Department to contact Americans still trapped in Afghanistan’s interior as a way to expedite the U.S. rescue mission, which Biden said will also liberate Afghan collaborators, women, and journalists who served our interests during U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan.

“We’re executing a plan to move groups of these Americans to safety and to safely and effectively move them to the airport compound . . . I will say again today what I’ve said before: Any American who wants to get home will get home,” Biden affirmed.

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