Happening now: Fear envelops Afghanistan as evacuation resumes, Biden defends troops’ pullout




Refugees scaling fence to escape

Evacuation flights from Afghanistan have resumed a day after the Taliban’s military takeover triggered panic in Kabul and thousands mobbed the city’s international airport in a desperate attempt to flee.

A Western security official told Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the Kabul airport’s tarmac and runway – which troops from the United States control – were now clear of crowds.

The official said military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan have started taking off.

At least seven people died in Monday’s chaos, included several people who clung to the sides of a jet as it took off.

In Washington DC, President Joe Biden said he stood “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and fired scorching criticism at the country’s former Western-backed leadership for failing to resist the Taliban.

“I stand squarely behind my decision,” he said in a televised address from the White House. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces.”

The Taliban have meanwhile declared the war in Afghanistan over and a senior leader said the group would wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.

China said it was ready for “friendly relations” with the Taliban, while both Russia and Iran also made diplomatic overtures.