Joe Biden is still unrepentant as Afghanistan descends into a major humanitarian crisis

Joe Biden is still unrepentant as Afghanistan descends into a major humanitarian crisis

A girl is hoisted on to one of the security fences at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, as thousands of people attempted to flee the Taliban as it advanced on the Afghan capital yesterday. Picture: Reuters/Stringer 

With the world looking on in disbelief, the Taliban has swept to power in Afghanistan, sparking global calls for the extremist group to allow swathes of people who want to flee the country to safely do so.

Amid warnings of a potential humanitarian disaster, some Afghans tried to cling onto the wheels of a US Airforce plane at a chaotic Kabul Airport in a bid to flee the country, with three believed to have fallen to their deaths. 

The Taliban, ousted from power 20 years ago, had moved into Kabul unopposed and quickly occupied the presidential palace, while around the capital city and across social media, many Afghan nationals expressed deep fear over what may lie ahead.

Biden defends withdrawal 

US president Joe Biden, having cut short a trip to Camp David to return to Washington DC, and facing criticism that the withdrawal of American troops had paved the way for the Taliban's ascent, said the choice — framed by a withdrawal agreement struck by his predecessor, Donald Trump — was "either to follow through on that agreement or escalating the conflict".

"After 20 years, I learned the hard way there was never a good time to withdraw US forces," he said.

US president blames Afghan troops

The US president admitted the events in Afghanistan had unfolded "more quickly than we had anticipated" but lay the blame at the door of Afghan leaders and their armed forces who, he said, had not put up a fight.

He said the US would continue to monitor the situation and would respond if there was a threat to America, but added that he stood by his decision that US troops should withdraw from the country, saying: "How many more lives, American lives, is it worth?

"I will not repeat the mistakes we made in the past."

Distressing scenes at Kabul Airport

Images swept the globe of desperate Afghans crowding onto the runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Amid distressing scenes, at least five people were reported to have been killed at the airport as US Army personnel struggled to maintain order, with three people reportedly falling to their deaths from the underside of US aircraft. Other planes were diverted.

Shortly before 5pm Irish time yesterday,    the Pentagon announced that flights in and out of Kabul Airport had been suspended, with extra US troops sent to the airport ahead of the possible restarting of flights to evacuate thousands of people a day from the country.

World leaders expressed alarm at what had taken place in Afghanistan, and called on the Taliban to allow people to leave, with German chancellor Angela Merkel describing the Taliban's rapid rise to power as a "bitter, dramatic and terrible development".

World leaders call for safe departures

A joint statement issued by the international community called for "the safe and orderly departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country", while UN secretary general António Guterres referred to "chilling reports of severe restrictions on human rights throughout the country", citing the plight of women and girls in particular, and added: "We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan."

Taoiseach Micheál Martin echoed the call for the Taliban to exercise restraint and said he was "deeply concerned by the unfolding situation". He added that Ireland would "participate fully" in providing international aid and facilitating refugees.

"The pace of developments there has taken many by surprise," Mr Martin said.

The Department of Justice said it is “currently processing family reunification applications for 103 Afghan family members” and that humanitarian visas will also be processed for around 150 Afghan people due to arrive in Ireland under the Refugee Protection Programme. Also, a spokesperson for Minister for Integration, Roderic O'Gorman, said refugee status to Afghans would be granted on a humanitarian basis.

Irish citizens still in Afghanistan

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it has been in contact with all 23 Irish citizens in Afghanistan, with 20 indicating that they would like to return.

An Irish woman currently in Kabul says she is hoping she will be able to leave and return home in the next 48 hours.

Aoife MacManus, from Ashbourne in Meath, has been in the Afghan city for two years working in the primary education sector.  

“There is a sense of panic and fear all over the city,” Ms MacManus told the PA news agency. “This last 24 hours has been so crazy, I don’t know how many places I’ve been. 

Things are “chaotic” across the city, she said.

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