Hundreds of Afghans desperate to flee Taliban rule have once again gathered outside Kabul’s international airport, undeterred by twin suicide attacks that left at least 100 people dead the day before—including 13 American troops—and fresh warnings of further destruction.
They know the risks, but have been left with no choice. Kabul resident Ali Hassani, 28, told The Daily Beast that he would be returning to the airport Friday having decided that the threat of being caught up in the violence was worth it for the chance to save his three sisters from Taliban rule.
“Taliban are cruel without any mercy, they just enjoy killing women and girls,” he said. “I will never stop my trying to get out of this hell, and help my family and sisters to move to [a] safe and secure zone in the world.”
Inside the fortified airport walls, the U.S. flag was lowered to half-staff Friday as the final evacuations continued under bolstered security. Military officials warned that attackers are plotting further destruction, but there have been no reports of fresh bloodshed during the day so far.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden vowed revenge against those who carried out the attacks earlier in the day. The suicide bombings were claimed by the ultra-radical Islamic State offshoot known as ISIS-K. World leaders have condemned the carnage and lamented what now seems to be a lost cause in rescuing the thousands of Afghan allies at the airport.
The Taliban, which had previously insisted ISIS operatives were not in the country, also condemned the deadly attacks on Thursday.
Hassani told The Daily Beast that the attacks outside the airport only made him more determined to flee the country.
“Under the control of Taliban you can’t live your real life, you live here with fear and broken soul, you live here with no hopes and loud laughs, your body is always but your soul is destroyed and broken,” he said. “That’s why I want to get out and I will try more and more, because I am scared about [the] future which is waiting for my generation and my sisters.”
While many are still attempting to penetrate the Taliban’s outer perimeter checkpoints and then pass airport security despite renewed warnings that another attack could easily happen, others have given up hope and resolved to find another way out of the country—likely by land to the Pakistan border.
Nangialay, a 34-year-old, expressed his frustration to The Daily Beast. “I will not return to the airport even if they [U.S. and U.K.] request it,” he said, underscoring the dire situation many feel they are in.
U.S. Central Command chief Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie warned on Thursday that intelligence suggested more attacks were imminent. “We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks,” he told reporters still working in Kabul. “And we expect those attacks to continue.”
The U.S. military confirmed that 5,000 people are waiting on the airfield for the last flights out of Kabul. At least 1,000 Americans and thousands of Afghans are still waiting for what seems like an impossible escape.
A 45-year-old resident of Kabul who was waiting for a flight to take his family out when the attacks took place on Thursday described the mayhem to The Daily Beast, and said his hopes of escape are fading fast.
“The human blood and brain stuck to my clothes after the blast,” said the Kabul resident. “It was an outright carnage. Destitute women, kids and men awaiting a foothold on a flight to run away from their own home had pieces of their body thrown hundreds of meters away.”
He added: “I am shocked. My family is shocked. When will this [killing] end? Those who thought the Taliban victory was the end of the ‘great game’ may now be on page one of the return of the ‘great game.’”