Scenes of chaos have been seen at Kabul’s airport as hundreds of desperate Afghans, foreign diplomats and officials attempt to flee the country.
Scuffles broke out in the terminal among some of those who were unable to get a seat on flights, with commercial departures abruptly halted on Sunday.
As night fell, multiple explosions were heard in Afghanistan’s capital – and local media reported that gunfire could be heard at the airport.
In an alert, the US embassy warned that “the security situation in Kabul is changing quickly” – and American citizens in the city were instructed to shelter in place.
The Pentagon has announced that it plans to deploy another 1,000 soldiers to assist with the evacuation of US citizens and the Afghans who worked for them, with thousands more on standby.
Hamid Karzai International Airport is now the main point of evacuations out of Afghanistan after the Taliban declared victory and seized the presidential palace.
However, a NATO official has said that only military aircraft are now allowed to operate on the runway.
In a joint statement, the US Department of State and the Department of Defence said they were “completing a series of steps” to secure the airport, and this will include taking over air traffic control.
A US official has since added “the majority of Western diplomatic staff is out of Kabul now”.
More than 60 countries have also issued a joint statement in which they said Afghans and international citizens who wish to leave the country must be allowed to do so.
Senior US officials believe deployed troops will be able to maintain security at the airport long enough to evacuate Americans and their allies, but the fate of those unable to get to the terminal is far from certain.