bne IntelliNews – Afghan president reported to have fled with helicopters full of cash amid chaotic scenes at airport

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reportedly left his country on August 15 in helicopters full of money, abandoning thousands of regular citizens crowding the airport. Some became so desperate to leave the country as it returned under Taliban control that they tried to return to the chassis of the departing planes. At least two people who tried this reportedly died shortly after takeoff.

Ghani fled the capital just hours after the Taliban appeared outside Kabul and took a plane to the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. However, his whereabouts are now unknown, although the plane was flying to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, according to some reports.

“As for the collapse of [outgoing] regime, it is most eloquently characterized by the way Ghani fled Afghanistan, “Nikita Ishchenko, a spokeswoman for the Russian embassy in Kabul, was quoted as saying by the state news agency RIA. Russia has one of the few embassies still operating in Kabul. After receiving assurances from the Taliban that his staff would not be harmed, the Chinese embassy is also still open, while most of the rest of the diplomatic corps is at Kabul International Airport, Hamid Karzai, awaiting evacuation.

“Four cars were full of money, weren’t they? [Ghani’s staff] tried to cram another piece of money into a helicopter, but not everything fit. And part of the money was left lying on the asphalt, “Ishchenko was quoted as saying, citing” witnesses “in reports that had not been independently verified. Ishchenko repeated his comments to Reuters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, said earlier that it was unclear how much money the government would escape.

“I hope that the government that fled did not take all the money from the state budget. This will be the basis of the budget, if anything remains,” Kabulov told Moscow’s Echo Moscow radio station.

Airport drama

There was more chaos at the airport. Some of the US military contingent of about 2,500 soldiers was captured in an exchange of shots and two people were killed. They were later reported to be members of the Taliban. A video shared on social media shows two bodies on the ground around the perimeter of the airport.

U.S. forces say they fired into the air only in an attempt to turn back crowds trying to enter the airport, now the only part of Kabul that is not under Taliban control. The two killed Taliban were also reported in various ways to be part of an off-airport force that was also involved in crowd control.

All seven people were reportedly killed on August 16 at the airport, although the information remains sketchy and unverifiable in the current chaos. U.S. officials have indeed confirmed that some of the victims are civilians who tried to cling to planes as they took off.

On the perimeter of the airport, according to some reports, hundreds or thousands of refugees are camping in hopes of boarding planes sent to evacuate NATO personnel.

A widespread video on social media showed civilians on the runway moving alongside an American C-17 transport plane that took off before takeoff. At least a dozen people climbed into the plane’s superstructure as it picked up speed, though it was unclear if they stayed there when the plane took off from the runway.

Others video the footage shows an airplane shortly after take-off. Man seems to be falling from the ground. According to various reports, at least two Afghans have tried to return to the hull of the C-17 wheels.

The evacuation of people, including foreigners and Afghans who have worked for NATO members, continues, and so far the Taliban appear to have agreed to its progress. Bagram Airport, which serves as the headquarters of US military efforts in Afghanistan and is an hour’s drive from the capital, came under Taliban control on August 15th.

U.S. forces are working with Turkish and other international troops to clear Kabul airport to allow for the resumption of international evacuation flights, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

Germany is working to get as many people out of Afghanistan as possible, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, adding that NATO allies had misjudged the situation when they concluded that Afghan government forces could detain the Taliban.

“We want to get as many people out of the country as possible as soon as possible,” Maas told reporters.

He said people who have worked with the country’s German military, human rights activists and Afghan-German dual citizens will make up the majority of the 10,000 people Germany wants to leave Afghanistan.

The U.S. military said late August 15 that it was sending another battalion of about 1,000 troops to help protect Kabul airport and reinforce troops already stationed there. The head of US Central Command, General Kenneth Mackenzie, told Taliban officials in Doha on the night of August 15 “not to attack Kabul airport,” a U.S. defense official said, according to Al Jazeera, although he did not give further details of the reported conversation.

Government troops flee to Uzbekistan

The remaining government soldiers are on the run or in hiding. Hundreds fled to Uzbekistan in 22 military planes and 24 helicopters on August 16th. A plane collided with an accompanying Uzbek fighter jet, causing both to crash, Uzbekistan was quoted as saying by Aljazeera.

The Uzbek Defense Ministry said earlier that an Afghan military plane had been shot down and crashed after crossing the border.

A total of 585 Afghan troops arrived by plane, and another 158 crossed the border on foot on August 15th, according to a statement issued by the Uzbek prosecutor’s office on August 16th.

Kabul quarantined without government

The Taliban have closed the capital and imposed blockades across the city. They checked documents and confiscated weapons from government officials, police and other members of the former administration.

Roads have also been built on the road between Kabul and Jalalabad in Pakistan, the nearest major city on the border with Afghanistan. The Taliban border police checked the documents of those passing and leaving the country and asked those without beards if they were Muslims.

The Taliban still say publicly that they want a peaceful transition of power and that there will be no revenge killings or retaliation against those who collaborated with NATO allies during the two-decade occupation.

As the Taliban now physically and militarily control the country, work on forming a government has just begun. The rebels have already secured control of key levers of power, including national television, but much work remains to be done to form a functioning government.

The reaction of the EU and the UN

The leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), Armin Laschet, a candidate for chancellor in Germany’s general election in September, called the US withdrawal “NATO’s biggest failure since the military alliance was formed.”

“This is the biggest failure that NATO has suffered since its inception, and we are facing a landmark change,” Lashet said. “But we will talk about the reasons and conclusions drawn after this rescue mission – a no-fault analysis in Germany, with our allies and in the international community,” he added.

Despite the harsh condemnation of the withdrawal from the United States, Laschet has indicated that he will not repeat the policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to open the doors to refugees with the fleeing Afghans, which she did for a million Syrian refugees in 2015, causing great divisions among Germans. who are not gone.

The UN held an emergency meeting in New York the day after the fall of the Taliban’s Afghan capital, where world leaders called for peace and restraint.

One question that remains open is whether the Taliban will be eligible to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) $ 650 billion. to help countries, especially poorer countries, overcome the negative effects of the coronary crisis more quickly. In theory, only the legitimate governments of the IMF member countries are eligible, and the status of the Taliban government, which has yet to be settled, will be the subject of debate.

The United Nations has been conducting a large-scale aid operation in Afghanistan since the early days of the US-led occupation, which began two decades ago after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on the Taliban to uphold human rights, especially those of girls and women.

Guterres also called on the UN Security Council, of which both Russia and China are members, to stand together and ensure respect for human rights, for humanitarian aid to continue and for Afghanistan not to become a platform for terrorism again.

“The next few days will be crucial,” the UN chief said. “The world is watching. We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan … At this difficult time, I call on all countries, especially the Taliban, to show maximum restraint in order to protect life and ensure that humanitarian needs can be met.

Fear grips Kabul

Afghanistan’s ambassador to the UN, Ghulam Isakai, talks about the fear that has gripped Kabul; people displaced from other provinces flocked to the capital, considered the country’s last refuge.

“Kabul residents say the Taliban have already begun house-to-house searches in some neighborhoods in Kabul, registering names and looking for people on their list of targets,” Isakai was quoted as saying by the UN news agency. “There have already been reports of murders and robberies in the city.”

As approximately half of all Afghans, or about 18 million people, depend on humanitarian aid, it is essential to continue providing basic services, Guterres said.

“In a statement issued yesterday, the Taliban said they would work with existing institutions,” Guterres told UN ambassadors. “It is crucial that civil servants’ salaries continue to be paid, that infrastructure is maintained, that airports are reopened and that health and education services continue.

Separately, Pakistan, which has close ties to the Taliban, has said it is committed to an “inclusive political settlement” in Afghanistan. Such an agreement is “the way forward, representing all Afghan ethnic groups,” according to a statement issued by the prime minister’s office. The statement called on all countries in Afghanistan to respect the rule of law, to protect the basic human rights of all Afghans and to ensure that Afghan land is not used by any terrorist organization, the statement said.

Wait and see

Russia, which also maintains communications with the Taliban leadership during the crisis, said it was in no hurry to recognize the Taliban government and was taking a wait-and-see approach.

China, which is also careful to build ties with the Taliban and hosted a senior member of the group in the northwestern Chinese provinces for talks in July, has said very little so far.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said on Twitter that “China respects the will and choice of the Afghan people. China said the Afghan Taliban said so [on August 16] that the war in Afghanistan is over and they will hold talks aimed at forming an open, inclusive Islamic government in Afghanistan and will take responsible action to protect the security of Afghan citizens and foreign missions.

“China hopes these remarks will be implemented to ensure a smooth transition to Afghanistan, to stop terrorism and crime, and to ensure that the Afghan people stay away from the war and rebuild their homeland.

Beijing’s most important goal is to limit instability in the country and prevent the spread of radical Islamic fundamentalists across the border to its unstable regions across the border.

Russia and neighboring Central Asian countries also fear instability spreading to their territory from Afghanistan and seek to prevent any potential refugee crisis.