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1 Afghan soldier killed, 3 injured in gun battle outside Kabul airport surrounded by Taliban

U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command, provide assistance during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nicholas Guevara)
August 23, 2021

A gun battle broke out outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday morning, killing one Afghan soldier and injuring at least three others.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed the incident in a statement to American Military News on Monday morning. “The incident appeared to begin when an unknown hostile actor fired upon Afghan security forces involved in monitoring access to the gate. The Afghans returned fire, and in keeping with their right of self-defense, so too did U.S. and coalition troops,” CENTCOM spokesman Navy Capt. William Urban said.

“No U.S. or coalition forces were hurt during a brief exchange of gunfire last night outside the north gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport,” he added.

An official German military account also confirmed the incident in a tweet saying, “This morning at 4:13 p.m. CEST it arrived at the North Gate of the airport #Kabul a firefight between Afghan security forces and unknown attackers. An Afghan security force was killed and three others wounded.”

The gun battle took place near where U.S. and NATO forces are overseeing. evacuation efforts out of the country. The Taliban has not yet commented publicly about the incident.

On Sunday, President Joe Biden said that the Islamic State terrorist group’s Afghan branch, known as ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K), poses a risk to U.S. troops and civilians every day that they remain in the country.

The Monday morning attack is the latest incident to threaten evacuation efforts. Last week, Afghans were seen crowding active Kabul airport runways while aircraft were preparing to take off. At least two people fell to their deaths after attempting to cling to the sides of transport aircraft leaving the airport. Another individual was found deceased inside the wheel well of a transport aircraft’s landing gear.

Efforts to get Americans evacuated from Afghanistan have also been slowed by Taliban checkpoints around the city of Kabul, and massive crowds outside the airport gates.

U.S. troops are maintaining their security perimeter at the Kabul airport and not going out to retrieve U.S. citizens. The evacuation operations have instead relied on assurances from the Taliban that Americans with passports will be let through to the airport. Meanwhile, British troops have reportedly left the security perimeter at the Kabul airport to instead retrieve their citizens trapped outside the airport.

In a Friday address, Biden said, “We have no indication that [U.S. citizens] haven’t been able to get — in Kabul — through the airport.”

Politico reported, based on the accounts of several people who participated in a briefing call with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Friday, that Austin contradicted Biden and told lawmakers that Americans attempting to reach the Kabul airport have been beaten by Taliban fighters.

The Associated Press reported the Taliban is blaming the U.S. military for the chaotic evacuation process in Afghanistan. The militant group said there’s no need for any Afghans to flee the country.

In a meeting with Muslim clerics, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the U.S. was undermining Taliban rule by sending offering evacuation flights to Afghans. Mujahid called on the Muslim clerics to push back against that Western “propaganda.”