U.S. soldiers deployed at the Kabul airport have been shot at and were forced to return fire, killing two, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Aug. 16.
Two “armed individuals” were shot and killed in separate incidents at the airport, Kirby told reporters in an off-camera briefing, coming as thousands of people crowd around the facility to try to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country and declared victory on Aug. 15. About 2,500 troops are currently at the airport, Kirby said.
There are “preliminary indications” that one U.S. soldier may have been wounded.
The United States will now focus on securing the Kabul airport, deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told reporters on Aug. 16, adding that additional U.S. troops were being sent to the airport.
Images and videos uploaded online showed Afghan citizens attempting to cling to U.S. military planes that were performing evacuations. At least two fell hundreds of feet from the military planes to their deaths, the footage showed.
There were unconfirmed reports citing U.S. military officials that stated at least seven people died amid the Kabul airport chaos.
As of Aug. 16, U.S. forces were working with Turkish and other international troops to clear the Kabul airport to allow international evacuation flights to continue, Kirby told reporters. He said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin authorized the deployment of another battalion to the airport.
The Taliban swept into Kabul on Aug. 15 after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, bringing an end to a two-decade campaign in which the United States and its allies had tried to transform Afghanistan.
The country’s Western-trained security forces collapsed or fled ahead of the planned withdrawal of the last U.S. troops at the end of the month.
Residents raced to Kabul’s international airport, where the “civilian side” was closed until further notice, according to Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority. The U.S. military and other Western forces continued to organize evacuations.