An Afghan soldier was killed and three others were wounded after a firefight erupted at Kabul's international airport on Monday amid ongoing evacuation efforts by the U.S. military.
Germany's military said Monday that U.S. forces were involved in the exchange of gunfire with "unknown attackers." The incident happened as thousands of Afghans and foreigners including U.S. citizens sought entrance to the airport to flee the new Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
The U.S. military later confirmed to NBC News that no American or NATO coalition forces members were injured after the brief firefight. Navy Capt. William Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the incident "appeared to begin when an unknown hostile actor fired upon Afghan security forces."
The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan on Saturday advised U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport because of "security threats outside the gates."
President Joe Biden's administration faces mounting criticism for failing to guarantee the safe passage of American citizens and Afghan allies of the U.S. to the airport and out of the country following the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
The administration was surprised when the Taliban seized control of Kabul on Aug. 15, triggering a humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands of people in the city sought to flee the country through the airport. According to Reuters, at least 20 people have been killed in shootings and stampedes as U.S. forces work to evacuate their citizens and Afghans who may be targeted by the Taliban in retribution for assisting the U.S.
President Joe Biden said Sunday that 28,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, but an unknown number of Americans are still in the country. Evacuation efforts have a "long way to go and a lot could still go wrong," Biden told reporters at the White House.
""The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful no matter when it started, when we began," he added.
U.S. troops are being assisted by some 600 Afghan security forces soldiers who are providing security around the airport. Monday's firefight, as described by Urban, exemplifies the dangers they face.
"The Afghans returned fire, and in keeping with their right of self-defense, so too did U.S. and coalition troops," he said, adding that one Afghan soldier was killed by the unknown assailants and several Afghans were wounded during the violence.
"The wounded are being treated at an airfield hospital and are reported to be in stable condition. Our condolences go out to the teammates and loved ones of the fallen Afghan soldier," Urban said.
Biden had initially insisted that U.S. forces complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by August 31, regardless of the evacuation effort, but he said Sunday he is reconsidering that decision. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ask Biden to extend the evacuation deadline when they speak at a virtual G7 Summit Tuesday, and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has also called for the deadline to be extended, according to France 24.
The Taliban has warned Western nations against extending the deadline to evacuate their citizens from Afghanistan.
"If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences," Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News on Monday.