By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani surfaced in the United Arab Emirates Wednesday, while his nation was in turmoil with people being killed or injured during evacuations and in protests against Afghanistan’s new Islamist Taliban rulers.
Ghani, condemned by former ministers for leaving Afghanistan as Taliban forces captured Kabul Sunday, said he followed the advice of government officials. He denied reports he took large sums of money with him. “If I had stayed, I would be witnessing bloodshed in Kabul,” Ghani said in a video streamed on social media.
His words did little to ease tensions as thousands of people, many of whom supported the Western-backed government and the U.S.-led military coalition, tried to escape the war-torn nation. Many feared a return to the strict interpretation of Islamic law imposed during the previous Taliban rule that ended 20 years ago.
Others risked their lives to protest against the Taliban. At least three people were killed and a dozen injured in anti-Taliban protests in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, about 115 kilometers (71 miles) east of the capital Kabul, witnesses said. Footage viewed by Worthy News showed people running in panic Wednesday as shots reverberated throughout the area.
Gunmen fired into a crowd who took down a black-on-white Taliban flag waving at a Jalalabad roundabout and replaced it with the previous Afghan government’s black, red, and green banner.
Video circulating on social media showed the crowd at the city’s Pashtunistan Square dispersing as the sound of gunshots rang out across the busy traffic intersection. Dozens of protesters could be seen waving Afghan flags as they walked down a street, with bystanders whistling their support.
There were also chaotic scenes in and near Kabul’s international airport from where huge crowds attempted to flee the country.
Witnesses said armed members of the Taliban were preventing people from getting into the airport compound, including those with the necessary documents to travel. In at least one case, a former Afghan interpreter for the Australian army was shot and injured by a Taliban fighter as many Afghans crowded at the airport gates.
“It’s a complete disaster. The Taliban were firing into the air, pushing people, beating them with AK47s,” said one person who was trying to get through.
American forces guarding the tarmac were firing tear gas and reportedly shot in the air to hold back desperate crowds, according to witnesses and footage watched by Worthy News.
The Taliban erected checkpoints throughout the capital and near the airport’s entrance. Footage showed Taliban fighters beating some Afghans who attempted to cross.
Despite the turmoil, the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Australia, and other countries evacuated citizens from Afghanistan into Wednesday. But many seeking to leave Afghanistan could not reach Kabul’s international airport as the security situation remained volatile.
A Taliban official admitted that commanders and soldiers had “fired into the air” to disperse crowds outside Kabul airport but claimed that “We have no intention to injure anyone.”
American officials warned the Taliban “that we expect them to allow all American citizens, all third-country nationals and all Afghans who wish to leave to do so safely and without harassment,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
But critics questioned U.S. President Joe Biden’s exit strategy with outnumbered American troops facing an uphill battle to help evacuate thousands of people.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin admitted that the 4,500 troops in Kabul are not enough to bring people to the airport for evacuation. Instead, they are focused on securing the airfield.
Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations were due to discuss the evacuation effort and seek to coordinate flights at a virtual meeting on Thursday, confirmed German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
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