With Kabul Airport Closed, Afghans Rush For The Border


Kabul : Crowds seeking to flee Afghanistan flocked to its borders while long queues formed at banks on Wednesday, as an administrative vacuum after the Taliban’s takeover left foreign donors unsure of how to respond to a looming humanitarian crisis.

Taliban focused on keeping banks, hospitals and government machinery running after the final withdrawal of US forces on Monday brought an end to a massive airlift of Afghans who had helped Western nations during the 20-year war.

With Kabul’s airport inoperable, private efforrts to help Afghans fearful of Taliban reprisals focused on arranging safe passage across the land-locked nation’s borders with Iran, Pakistan and central Asian states.

At Torkham, a local official said: “A large number of people are waiting on the Afghanistan side for the opening of the gate.”

Thousands of people also crowded at the Islam Qala border post between Afghanistan and Iran, witnesses said.

“I felt that being among Iranian security forces brought some kind of relaxation for Afghans as they entered Iran, compared with the past,” said one Afghan who was among a group of eight that crossed into Iran.

More than 123,000 people were evacuated from Kabul in the U.S.-led airlift after the Taliban seized the city in mid-August, but tens of thousands of Afghans at risk remained behind.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said last week that up to half a million Afghans could flee their homeland by the year’s end.

Germany alone estimates that between 10,000 and 40,000 Afghan staff still working for development organisations in Afghanistan have a right to be evacuated to Germany if they feel endangered.

The government of Uzbekistan said it would allow air transit only for Afghans who figure on a German list of those at risk, but its land border with Afghanistan remained closed.

It could take days or weeks for the Taliban to settle negotiations with Qatar and Turkey over how to run Kabul’s airport, in talks French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said were underway.