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Thousands Of Afghans Jam Streets Near Kabul Airport; U.S. Orders Commercial Airlines To Help Evacuation


People waiting outside Kabul airport on August 22.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have again jammed the roads leading to Kabul's airport, as Taliban fighters fired weapons in the air and sought to control the crowds trying to flee the country.

With the Taliban trying to consolidate its control over Kabul and establish law and order, the group faced a new challenge in a northern district from fighters who refuse to recognize the Taliban’s claim to power.

The Al-Arabiya TV channel on August 22 quoted the son of Ahmad Shah Masud, who was one of the main leaders of the country’s anti-Soviet resistance in the 1980s, as saying he will not surrender areas under his control to the Taliban.

Ahmad Masud also called on the formation of a comprehensive government to rule the country with the participation of the Taliban. And he warned that war will be "unavoidable" if the insurgents refuse dialogue, the TV channel reported.

The chaos outside the Kabul airport over the past week has resulted in the deaths of seven Afghans, the British military said August 22 -- a figure that is believed to be a major undercount. The British statement did not specify when or how exactly the deaths occurred.

A NATO official said that at least 20 people have died in the past seven days in and around the airport. Some were shot and others died in stampedes.

Thousands of U.S. Marines have secured part of the airport, and struggled to keep crowds at bay and away from the tarmac as military and civilian aircraft take off carrying foreigners and Afghans alike.

Jake Sullivan, the White House national-security adviser, told CNN on August 22 that 3,900 people had been flown out of Kabul on U.S. flights over the previous 24 hours. According to the U.S. Defense Department, U.S. planes have ferried 17,000 people out of the country since the evacuation effort began a week ago.

The British Defense Ministry said nearly 4,000 people had been evacuated on U.K. flights from Afghanistan since August 13.

WATCH: Deadly Stampede At Kabul Airport As People Try To Flee

Deadly Stampede At Kabul Airport As People Try To Flee
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The Afghan Civil Aviation Authority asked people not to travel to the facility.

"There [are] no civilian and commercial flights in Hamid Karzai International Airport," it advised on its Facebook account on August 21.

Britain, the United States, and other countries have struggled to expand evacuation efforts of their own citizens, as well as Afghans who have worked for foreign embassies, NGOs, NATO forces, or other organizations and might put them at risk of retribution by Taliban fighters.

Growing security threats have prompted U.S. military planes to do rapid, diving, combat landings at the Kabul airport and other aircraft have been seen shooting off flares on takeoff, apparently in an attempt to confuse possible heat-seeking missiles.

The U.S. Embassy issued a new security alert, warning citizens not to travel to the Kabul airport without individual instruction from a U.S. government representative.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, ordered six commercial airlines to help transport people after their evacuation -- a further sign of Washington's struggles to speed up the process. In total, 18 commercial aircraft from major carriers like United, American, and Delta will be used to ferry people from temporary locations after arriving from Afghanistan.

The planes will not travel to Kabul itself.

Evacuees are currently being sent to a dozen countries, including across Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

Officials have expressed frustration with slow paperwork processing by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the State Department.

The Spanish government announced that the United States and Spain have agreed to use two military bases in Spain to receive Afghans who worked for the U.S. government.

Under the agreement, the bases -- one near Seville, the other near Cadiz -- will be used to process refugees from Afghanistan until their travel to other countries is arranged.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU had "complained" to U.S. officials that their security at Kabul airport was overly strict and was hampering attempts by Afghans who worked for the Europeans to enter.

Bahrain has said it will open up its airports to flights evacuating people from Afghanistan, and the United Arab Emirates announced it would temporarily host Afghan refugees as the United States faced overcrowding at facilities processing evacuees in Qatar.

Afghan officials familiar with talks held in the capital say the Taliban will not make announcements on their government until the August 31 deadline for the U.S. troop withdrawal passes.

With reporting by Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, dpa, AP, and AFP
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