The head of U.S. Central Command met face-to-face with senior Taliban leaders Sunday to plead with the Islamist militants for non-interference with the U.S. military's evacuation efforts at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported.
According to an anonymous defense official, Gen. Frank McKenzie met with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, and won their agreement to establish a "deconfliction mechanism" — an agreement to permit evacuation operations at the airport without interference from the new Taliban government in Kabul.
McKenzie reportedly told the Taliban that the U.S. military would respond forcefully to defend the airport should the Islamist militants interfere with evacuation efforts.
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan Sunday after taking control of the capital in Kabul and overthrowing the Western-backed government there. President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and the U.S.-trained Afghani security forces collapsed.
Desperate Afghani citizens have rushed to the Hamid Karzai International Airport seeking to board international flights and flee the country. Videos posted to social media show the airport in utter chaos, with people clinging to a departing U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane and the tarmac severely overcrowded.
The mass confusion forced U.S. troops to temporarily suspended evacuations until the tarmac could be cleared. According to Reuters, U.S. troops fired into the air to deter people from attempting to force their way onto a military flight evacuating U.S. diplomats and embassy staff.
The Pentagon said Monday that an additional 1,000 troops would be sent to join the 5,000 troops already stationed in Afghanistan to protect evacuation efforts and defend the airport. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that American forces killed two armed individuals at the airport during the evacuation.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul was evacuated Sunday and diplomats were relocated to the airport. Ambassador Ross Wilson is still in Afghanistan, according to ABC News. He will remain in the country with the "core" team of diplomats to continue the embassy's work as evacuation efforts proceed.
The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban follows President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw U.S. forces before the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that led to the U.S. war on terror. Over two decades, the U.S. spent billions of dollars on counter-insurgency strategies against Taliban fighters and training for the Afghani military to secure their country.
Biden administration officials were reportedly stunned by the speed with which the Taliban gained control of the country.