As Kabul woke up to its second day under Taliban control on Tuesday, U.S. military planes were once again spotted taking off and landing from the city’s international airport as the urgent evacuation restarted.
Flights out of Kabul were suspended Monday after footage of the chaotic scenes—in which hundreds of desperate Afghans chased after and clung on to moving planes—shocked people around the world. The crowds had thinned out at the airport as of Tuesday morning, allowing U.S. jets to lift more diplomats and U.S. civilians out of the country to safety.
“Runway in Kabul international airport is open... I see airplanes landing and taking off,” Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO’s civilian representative, confirmed in an early morning Twitter post. Reuters reported that at least 12 military flights had departed from the airport since Tuesday’s reopening, and CBS News reported the U.S. has evacuated more than 700 people, including 150 American citizens, over the past 24 hours.
Operations restarted after thousands of troops from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division were posted to secure the airfield following Monday’s unruly scenes. The Washington Post reported 3,500 U.S. troops were expected on the ground in Kabul by the end of the day Tuesday, with thousands more expected to arrive by the end of the week.
As more people escape the danger in Kabul, those left behind are learning what life might be like under Taliban control. Taliban officials made several promises Tuesday that women have nothing to fear from them, saying that they will be allowed to work under their rule; and they conducted interviews with female reporters for Afghan networks who had briefly disappeared from news broadcasts after the Taliban takeover.
But, understandably, many women fear a return to the kind of ultraconservative policies under pre-9/11 Taliban rule. CNN’s Clarissa Ward reported Tuesday that she spoke to one Afghan woman who has worked with U.S. officials who now fears for her life. “She was saying, ‘I dreamt of a better future for my daughters, and that has been taken away from me in one moment,’” said Ward in her morning report.
Ward also reported that one burqa stall in Kabul is doing a booming business as “more and more women are afraid to walk down the street” in less conservative clothing. Ward said she’d spoken to the shopkeeper, who said that men are buying the burqas out of fear, saying, “They’re coming out, they’re buying them for their wives, their daughters... They feel that, from now on, this is the way for women to be safe on the street.”
Richard Engel from NBC News posted a clip of a group of Afghan women who gathered in Kabul to protest for their rights. They chanted, “Work, education, and political participation is every woman’s right.”
On top of its promises to women, the Taliban also claim that they’ve ordered their fighters not to enter anyone’s home—but Afghanistan’s U.N. ambassador, Ghulam Isaczai, said Monday that he’d heard reports that house-to-house searches by Taliban fighters have already begun.
“Kabul residents are reporting the Taliban have already started house-to-house searches in some neighborhoods, registering names and looking for people in their target list,” said the ambassador at an emergency U.N. meeting Monday. “There are already reports of target killings and looting in the city. Kabul residents are living in absolute fear right now.”
In the Taliban’s first official news conference since retaking control of Afghanistan, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid reiterated many of the group’s yet-to-be-proven promises and claims.
“The international community, if they have concerns, we would like to assure them that there’s not going to be any discrimination against women,” he said. “But of course within the frameworks that we have—our women are Muslim, they will be happy to be living within the framework of Sharia.”
Following a series of “consultations,” Mujahid said the Taliban will be forming “a strong Islamic and inclusive government,” claiming the Taliban is simply doing what’s best for the country.
“We do not want to see any kind of chaos or inconvenience in Kabul,” Mujahid continued. “Our plan was to stop at the gates of Kabul after capturing all other provinces so that the transition process is treated smoothly without us entering Kabul... But unfortunately, the previous government was so incompetent and as a result of their actions their security forces could not do anything... and we had to take responsibility.”
Mujahid insisted that the Taliban would be providing security to all Afghans, and that “we are not going to allow our territory to be used against anybody, any country in the world.” The Taliban will attempt to eradicate opium production, but will supposedly allow the media to remain “free and independent”—with one very important caveat: “Nothing should be against Islamic values when it comes to the activities of the media.”
The Associated Press reported that there were no major reports of fighting on the streets of Kabul as of Tuesday morning.