Live Updates: Biden says he stands “squarely behind” decision to leave Afghanistan amid Taliban takeover

President Biden announced he would address Americans about the situation as the Taliban consolidated control over Afghanistan and Americans fled, prompting comparisons to the infamous evacuation of Saigon in 1975. Chaos at the airport earlier Monday led to at least two deaths and gunfire rang out as Afghans  flooded the tarmac in hopes of fleeing the country in the wake of the Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover. 

U.S. troops opened fire as they tried to control the crowd, but all evacuation flights were halted as the situation deteriorated, with desperate Afghan civilians swarming planes as they took off.  

A U.S. military official later told CBS News’ David Martin that U.S. troops had killed two armed Afghans who were part of the huge crowd that breached the airport perimeter. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed two people died, although the Associated Press reported as many as seven died.  While the cause of the other deaths was not immediately clear, at least one person was seen falling off an aircraft after it took off.  

Kirby preliminary reports indicated a U.S. soldier was injured. 

Sunday saw the culmination of the Taliban’s stunningly rapid return to power as the U.S. was withdrawing its forces after the 20-year U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. Taliban fighters took control of the presidential palace. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan for years prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, imposing a strict brand of Islamic Sharia law that kept women under the control of male family members and girls out of school. It remained unclear on Monday whether the group intended to reintroduce such a harsh version of Islamic rule in Afghanistan, or whether it might moderate to gain international legitimacy.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul was completely evacuated as of Sunday night, and State Department spokesperson Ned Price said all personnel had been relocated to the Kabul airport. Price said on Sunday that the airport’s perimeter had been secured by the U.S. military, but the scenes on Monday showed little semblance of order outside the airport buildings. 

A Defense Department official said Sunday that 1,000 more U.S. troops were being sent to Afghanistan to assist in the evacuation of Americans, bringing the total to 6,000, with 3,000 on the ground now.

A horde of people run towards the Kabul Airport Terminal, after Taliban insurgents took control of the presidential palace in Kabul
Still image from video obtained from social media shows a horde of people running toward the Kabul Airport terminal on August 16, 2021 in the wake of Taliban insurgents regaining power in Afghanistan. JAWAD SUKHANYAR / Reuters