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US troops shoot, kill 2 armed men at Afghanistan airport while evacuating thousands, report says

U.S. Forces Afghanistan service members maintain security in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Catherine Carroll/Released)
August 16, 2021

U.S. troops shot and killed at least two armed men at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported. Thousands of Afghans have crowded around the Kabul airport in an effort to escape the city, which fell under Taliban control on Sunday.

The Wall Street Journal initially reported witnesses saw three bodies lying bloodied on the ground outside the airport terminal and it was not initially clear who opened fire. It was later reported that a U.S. official said U.S. troops shot and killed two armed men at the airport. The official said only that the two armed men approached U.S. troops who deployed to provide security at the airport.

It is unclear if a third person was shot at the airport and if the circumstances of that possible shooting were related to the same security incident.

On Sunday, U.S. troops finalized the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and took over air traffic control operations at the nearby Hamid Karzai International Airport in order to coordinate evacuation flights out of the country.

U.S. Marines reportedly fired warning shots late on Sunday night when hundreds of Afghans breached the airport perimeter and rushed to board a C-17 military transport aircraft. According to witnesses at the Kabul airport, U.S. troops fired warning shots in the air to disperse the crowds throughout Sunday night.

Two U.S. military helicopters also reportedly flew low passes, launched smoke grenades and fired shots into the air in an effort to disperse the crowds.

On Sunday, the Pentagon announced the deployment of an additional 1,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, adding to the approximately 4,000 troops the Pentagon rapidly deployed last week and the 1,000 troops already deployed in the country prior to last week. The current U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan is now at about 6,000, mostly located at the Kabul airport.

The Taliban entered the Kabul outskirts earlier on Sunday. The militant group initially said they would wait at the city limits until the Afghan government could formally surrender. After reports broke that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country for Tajikstan, the Taliban began to enter the city and seized the Afghan presidential capital. On Sunday night after taking Kabul, Taliban leaders declared the war in Afghanistan was over.

Kabul, which served as the seat of power for the U.S.-backed Afghan government, fell just over a week after the Taliban seized control of its first fo 34 Afghan provincial capital. According to Al-Jazeera, as of Sunday, the Taliban now control 26 of the 34 provincial capitals.

The fall of Kabul to the Taliban came well ahead of the timeline U.S. officials estimated for the Taliban’s territorial gains in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, Reuters reported one U.S. intelligence analysis projected Kabul wouldn’t fall to the Taliban for another 90 days. On Thursday, a day later, the New York Times reported expectations that Kabul would only hold out against the Taliban for 30 days.