A human tragedy struck the war-ravaged country when an Afghan national team footballer, Zaki Anwari, died in a fall from a US plane at Kabul airport on Monday, the Afghan news agency Ariana said on Thursday.
Crowds of people seeking to flee Afghanistan have thronged the airport since Taliban insurgents swept to power on Sunday, many seen trying to board a moving plane.
Ariana said the Afghan footballer fell from a USAF Boeing C-17 and that the death had been confirmed by the General Directorate for Sport.
The United States said today its troop strength on the ground at the Kabul airport stands at more than 5,200, adding that the city’s Hamid Karzai International Airport remains “secure and open for flight operations.” The remarks were made by US Army Major General William “Hank” Taylor, the deputy director of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, in a press conference at the Pentagon.
“The US footprint at the Kabul airport is now over 5,200 troops on the ground. Kabul Airport remains secure and open for flight operations. Since the start of evacuation operations on August 14, we have evacuated approximately 7,000 total evacuees,” Major General Taylor said at the press briefing.
“However, if we go back to when the Department of Defense began to support the State Department with the movement of the Special Immigrant Visas at the end of July, the cumulative number of people moved out of Afghanistan is 12,000,” he said.
When questioned on the number of evacuation flights from all countries out of the airport in the Afghan capital, the officer said that while he did not have the numbers, flight operations were being coordinated by the US Central Command (Centcom).
Meanwhile, at the Pakistani-Afghan border, the tricolour flag of the Republic of Afghanistan has been replaced with the white flag of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan, and in place of Afghan border security forces now stand gun-holding bearded Taliban militants. They are now in control of Torkham, the busiest crossing with Pakistan.
A few days ago, hundreds of panicked Afghan civilians gathered here for days, desperate for a way out. Then what seemed inevitable happened: outnumbered Afghan police forces surrendered to the Taliban.
Just a few metres away from the border, Ahsan Khan, 56, was busy taking out his luggage from a taxi. He was off to the Afghan city of Jalalabad. “I have been travelling from this border since I was in school. There was a time when my father would take us directly to Jalalabad without any checks,” Khan says.
Owaid Ali owns a small food stall. He says he hasn’t seen any Afghan refugees in the market since the Taliban took over the border. “A few days ago when the Taliban were rapidly taking control of cities, Afghans who came here told me how worried they are at the prospect of living under Taliban rule. But I don’t know how will they escape that life now,” Mr Ali says.
Almost three million Afghan refugees, half of them unregistered, have been living in Pakistan for decades.
The United Nations Security Council cannot afford to be complacent about the activities of terror groups active in Afghanistan, including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Haqqani Network, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said today. Jaishankar made the remarks while chairing a UN Security Council briefing on the theme, “Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts”, against the backdrop of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan over the weekend. India holds the rotating presidency of the UN’s top body for August.
The Indian foreign minister reiterated an eight-point action plan to counter terrorism that he first proposed while addressing the Security Council in January. The plan envisages greater political will to tackle terrorism, getting rid of double standards on terrorism, not placing blocks and holds on requests for sanctioning terrorist individuals and groups without reason, and backing and strengthening the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Turning to terrorist threats in India’s immediate neighbourhood, Jaishankar said the Islamic State-Khorasan has “become more energetic and is constantly seeking to expand its footprint”.