Expats and Western allies are struggling to reach evacuation flights out of Kabul airport because thousands of panicked Afghans who are trying to flee are blocking their access.
Footage taken near the Hamid Karzai airport on Wednesday showed members of the military firing warning shots into the air as crowds of people tried to gain access to the airport.
Many of those gathered outside the airport could be seen waving papers that prove they helped the US during the decades-long war.
The US has at least 4,500 troops stationed at the airport to help evacuate Americans and the thousands of Afghans who helped during the war. The Taliban have been checking papers outside the airport perimeter before allowing Afghans to enter the US-controlled space.
But hundreds of Afghans without papers or promises of flights are also congregating at the airport, adding to the chaos.
Ex-British marine Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing told the Daily Mail the scene outside the airport was a “clusterf–k.”
“Two ex-pats – one British and one Norwegian – have already been forced to turn back this morning because they can’t get through,” he said.
“Last night a UN convoy carrying various foreign nationals who had been working in Afghanistan for NGOs had to turn round because of the sheer volume of people on the street.”
An American citizen named Haroon told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday that he had repeatedly been to the airport to try and leave but the crowds were too large.
The evacuation has been marked by scenes of violence and chaos as thousands try to flee, with reports emerging that women are now passing their children over the razor wire fences to soldiers in a bid to get them to safety.
Up to 15,000 Americans are believed to remain in Afghanistan since the Taliban took full control of the country last weekend.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday the US military doesn’t have the forces and firepower to expand its current mission from securing the airport to collecting Americans and at-risk Afghans and escorting them for evacuation.
It comes amid reports that Taliban checkpoints have stopped some designated evacuees.
“I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul,” Austin said.
“And where do you take that? How far do you extend into Kabul, and how long does it take to flow those forces in to be able to do that?”
US officials insist the Taliban has agreed to allow a “safe passage” for civilians struggling to get to the airport in Kabul.
But the US Embassy in Kabul on Wednesday warned that it “cannot ensure safe passage” to the airport for people attempting to flee.
“The security situation in Kabul continues to change quickly, including at the airport,” the alert said.
“Please be advised that a significant number of individuals have registered and space on these flights is available on a first come, first serve basis. You may be required to wait at the airport for a significant amount of time until space is available.”
President Biden vowed later on Wednesday to keep US troops there until every American is evacuated — even if that means maintaining a military presence there beyond his Aug. 31 deadline.
Biden told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos the US will do “everything in our power” to evacuate Americans and US allies from Afghanistan before the deadline.
“If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay till we get them all out,” Biden said when pressed on how the administration would help Americans left in the nation after the deadline.