DESPERATE Afghan mothers threw their young babies over barbed wire fences at Kabul airport, begging western soldiers to take them with them.
"The mothers were desperate, they were getting beaten by the Taliban. They shouted, 'save my baby' and threw the babies at us; some of the babies fell on the barbed wire. It was awful what happened. By the end of the night there wasn't one man among us who was not crying," said a British Parachute Regiment officer.
The scenes of brutal violence unfolded at one of the routes into the military side of Kabul's airport from where thousands of people, in danger from the jihadists, are being airlifted to safety by the US, Britain and other foreign governments.
Britain’s defence secretary said however that his country is unable to evacuate unaccompanied children from Afghanistan, when asked about footage which showed a young child being handed over a wall to Western soldiers.
"We can't just take a minor on their own," Ben Wallace told Sky News when asked about the footage.
However, Britain has pledged to take in 20,000 Afghan refugees, prioritising women and children.
A total of 12 people have been killed in and around the airport in the Afghan capital, Taliban and NATO officials said, since the Taliban seized the city on Sunday, triggering a rush of fearful people trying to leave.
The deaths were caused either by gun shots or in stampedes, the Taliban official said on Thursday, and he urged people still crowded at the gates of the facility to go home if they did not have the legal right to travel.
"We don't want to hurt anyone at the airport," said the Taliban official.
It comes as 33 Irish people, including eight children, wait to get out of the country.
Former Afghan leaders including ex-president Hamid Karzai, have been holding talks with the Taliban as they put together a new government.
The Taliban government may take the form of a ruling council with supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada in overall charge, said Waheedullah Hashimi, a senior member of the group.
Afghanistan would not be a democracy. "It is sharia law and that is it," he said.
The head of the UN food agency in Afghanistan says a humanitarian crisis is unfolding with 14 million people facing severe hunger following the Taliban takeover of the country.
Mary Ellen McGroarty, the World Food Programme’s country director has said that the conflict in Afghanistan, the nation’s second severe drought in three years, and the social and economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic have pushed an already dire situation into a “catastrophe.”
Ms McGroarty said over 40pc of crops have been lost and livestock devastated by the drought, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced as the Taliban advanced, and winter is fast approaching.
“Really the race is on to get food where it’s most needed,” she said.
WFP reached 4 million people in May and plans to scale up to reach 9 million “over the next couple of months, but there are many, many challenges,” she said.
Ms McGroarty called for a halt to the conflict and urged donors to provide the $200 million needed to get food into the country so it can get to communities before winter sets in and roads are blocked.
The United Nations says it’s sending about a third of its 300 international staff in Afghanistan to Kazakhstan to work remotely on a temporary basis in light of “the volatile situation in the country.”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the US military doesn’t have the capacity at this point to extend security forces beyond the perimeter of the Kabul airport in order to get more civilians safely evacuated out of Afghanistan.
Afghans and aid organizations have said that citizens are having a hard time getting past the Taliban and into the airport, in a mass exodus triggered by the insurgents’ rapid takeover of the country and its capital on Sunday.
Austin told reporters at a Pentagon press conference on Wednesday that the US is working to get as many people through the evacuation process and out of the country as quickly as possible, but “we’re not close to where we want to be.”
The Pentagon says that about 5,000 civilians have been taken out of Afghanistan so far, but officials have said they want to get to a goal of getting a maximum of 5,000 to 9,000 people out a day.
Austin said that securing the airport is the paramount mission right now and he doesn’t want to do anything to detract from that. He said the US military doesn’t have the capability to go out and collect large numbers of citizens and get them to the airport.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani defended his decision to flee Kabul in the face of the Taliban advance, describing it as the only way to prevent bloodshed. He also denied claims by his country’s ambassador to Tajikistan that he had stolen millions of dollars from state funds.
Ghani posted a video on his Facebok page late on Wednesday, confirming that he was in the United Arab Emirates. He thanked Afghan security forces in his message, but also said that the “failure of the peace process” led to the Taliban snatching power.
He also indirectly tried to quash an accusation by Afghanistan’s ambassador to Tajikistan that he had stolen $169 million from state funds.
He claimed that he was “forced to leave Afghanistan with one set of traditional clothes, a vest and the sandals I was wearing.”
“Accusations were charged in these days that money was transferred, these accusations are fully baseless.” he said.
Ghani left Afghanistan on Sunday just as the Taliban approached Kabul.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone on Wednesday with US President Joe Biden about the situation in Afghanistan, her office said.
During the call, Merkel stressed the importance of enabling as many Afghans as possible who supported German military and civilian efforts in the country to leave. The two leaders “agreed to fly out as many people in need of protection as possible,” her office said.
Germany’s foreign minister said his country’s ambassador in Kabul has begun talks in Doha with Taliban representatives to ensure they allow Afghans to reach the airport.
Heiko Maas said Germany has flown more than 500 people out of Afghanistan, including about 200 Afghan citizens, since Sunday “and we want to continue doing so in this quantity in the coming days.”
Maas said the assumption is that the window for evacuation flights will be limited “but all those in positions of responsibility on the ground, in particular the United States, are trying to use this time as best as possible.”
He added that according to his information there are currently hundreds, if not thousands of people massed outside the gates of the airport, and sporadic outburst of violence.
Maas said Germany is also trying to bring supplies of food to Kabul to provide for those waiting to be evacuated, and has a Medevac plane in the region.
Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Germany would “do everything to get as many local staff out of Kabul as possible.”
Slovenia’s foreign minister says the small Alpine state is ready to accept “up to five” Afghan staff who had worked for the European Union mission in Afghanistan.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has discussed the situation in Afghanistan with his Chinese and Russian counterparts.
The Iranian president’s website, president.ir, reported on Wednesday that he talked on the phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping and told him Iran was ready to cooperate with China in establishing security, stability and peace in Afghanistan, as well as on issues regarding the development, progress and prosperity for Afghans.
Raisi said: “We believe that the departure of foreigners, as well as past experiences in this country, has highlighted the need for the support and participation of all Afghans to ensure the security and development of Afghanistan more than ever.”
Raisi separately spoke with Vladimir Putin and was quoted by the website as saying that stability must be established in Afghanistan as soon as possible.
Britain’s ambassador to Kabul says his team has got “days, not weeks” to speed up the evacuation of British nationals and Afghans who worked with UK forces.
Laurie Bristow said his team helped 700 people fly out on military flights on Tuesday, and the goal is to help 1,000 people each day.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will chair an emergency meeting of foreign ministers from the 30-nation military alliance on Friday to discuss developments in Afghanistan.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Denmark had set up an “air bridge” between Kabul and Copenhagen via Islamabad in Pakistan, and has evacuated 84 people, including local Afghan employees and interpreters.
She said that the Taliban takeover means “the rules of the game were changed in a short time and the situation is very chaotic.”
Frederiksen also said: “This was not the way we wanted to leave Afghanistan.”
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said “a base” had been established in Islamabad for the airlifts. ”The operation is in full swing. We do everything we can,” he added.
The Scandinavian country’s Defense Minister Trine Bramsen said Denmark also has been able to evacuate Danes, Norwegians and Americans
Turkey says at least 62 evacuation flights were made from Kabul’s international airport in the past two days, after security was restored at the airfield.