(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government’s collapsed and the Taliban seized control, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.
The U.S. has evacuated approximately 9,000 people since Aug. 14, according to a White House official, with 3,000 people evacuated Thursday and double that number slated to be flown out Friday. Pentagon officials have said their focus remains on maintaining the airport perimeter and increasing the number of evacuees out of Kabul.
President Joe Biden returned to Washington from Camp David on Wednesday and sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan. He addressed the nation on evacuation efforts Friday.
Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:
Aug 21, 2:43 pm
7 killed in crowds at Kabul airport
Seven Afghan civilians died in crowds gathered outside the Kabul airport Saturday, British officials said.
Footage from British broadcaster Sky News showed chaotic scenes of people being crushed as crowds trying to flee gathered around concrete barriers outside the airport. Soldiers could be seen covering bodies with white sheets, assisting those injured and pulling people from the crowds.
“Our sincere thoughts are with the families of the seven Afghan civilians who have sadly died in crowds in Kabul,” a spokesperson for the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement to ABC News. “Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible.”
Aug 21, 1:12 pm
Voluntary evacuation order for New York’s Fire Island
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced a voluntary evacuation order for residents and visitors of Fire Island in New York on Saturday.
He said Saturday is the only chance for locals and visitors to leave the island and ferry and water taxi service will be suspended Sunday. Emergency shelters will be set up for evacuees, he said in a press conference.
Portions of Long Island are currently under hurricane and storm surge warnings as Henri draws near, expected to make landfall in Suffolk County on Sunday.
“This storm is significant and potentially dangerous and is likely to be really impactful,” he said. “Remember the storm we experienced last year, Tropical Storm Isaias, was not a direct hit. We had 650,000 power outages from that storm. We are now looking at a weather event that may be hitting us directly.”
Aug 21, 12:25 pm
2,500 Americans evacuated from Kabul so far
So far, 17,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul since Aug. 14, including 2,500 Americans, officials said during a Pentagon briefing late Saturday morning.
President Biden had previously estimated that up to 15,000 Americans were needing to be evacuated, though Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby acknowledged Saturday that “we don’t have a perfect figure of how many are in Afghanistan.”
In the last 24 hours, 38 flights — including six U.S. Military C-17s and 32 charters — departed from Kabul with approximately 3,800 passengers total, White House officials said.
Flights are now headed to Qatar and other destinations. Three flights arrived at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., Friday night carrying Afghans headed to Fort Bliss in Texas.
Since the end of July, the U.S. has relocated approximately 22,000 people from Afghanistan, according to the White House.
Aug 21, 8:55 am
US embassy tells citizens to avoid Kabul airport
The U.S. embassy in Afghanistan has advised American citizens to avoid traveling to Kabul airport due to “potential security threats.”
U.S. nationals should “avoid the gates to the airport at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so,” a notice posted on the embassy website says.
It adds: “U.S. citizens requesting assistance in departing the country who have Repatriation Assistance Request for each traveler in their group should do so as soon as possible. Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who are awaiting immigrant visas should also complete this form if they wish to depart.”
Previous advice issued two days ago said the U.S. government “cannot ensure safe passage” but said that citizens “should consider travelling to Hamid Karzai International Airport when you judge it is safe to do so”.
-ABC News’ Guy Davies
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