Emirates Flight Forced To Turn Around As US Military Takes Over Kabul Airport

As the Afghan government falls to the Taliban, after a twenty year effective occupation of the country by U.S. forces draws to a close, the Kabul airport is quickly being used for evacuation. Events on the ground have been so fast-developing that Emirates was operating its usual flight into Kabul when it was forced to turn around due to events on the ground.

People have been flocking to the airport, hoping to get out, although most won’t be privileged enough to do so.

Current Afghan leadership, however, are better-positioned than most. (Mel Brooks said it best.)

Meanwhile those who can flee over land are trying to do so.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. US should have left that miserable place long ago. After 9/11 should have sufficed with a strong military action and leave that land. They did neither – G.W.Bush and his “nation building” was set up to fail – you can’t build a nation where the population is set up by tribalism + a culture that doesn’t see democracy or human rights (or life itself) as a high value.
    The only way to keep such a “nation” in tact is by strong authoratarianism, and that’s why it works in places like China and Iran. It’s an iron fist over there, just as the Taliban will enforce (with it’s own demonic version…)

    Still – sad to see America’s haters rejoice over this, and more dangerously, emboldened by this. Could have actual consequences such as a rise of ISIS inspired terror waves.

  2. I’m really shocked how US opinion changed on this… roughly half the US thinks it was a mistake to invade Afghanistan.

    Iraq was a mistake based on faulty intelligence.

    Afghanistan was harboring Osama bin Laden.

    I only pray the Taliban at least take the right lessons from 20 years of fighting against the world’s greatest military power. Don’t provoke the bear, folks.

  3. @Dude26

    Not could have actual consequences but will have and for decades to come.

    America has said to countries around the world that, when it says it will support them, it doesn’t mean it. Asian countries preferring to stand up to China will now conclude that they will be abandoned when it suits the USA to do so. They will therefore take China’s coin instead.

    Sadly the US withdrawal/ defeat/ surrender will make the prosecution of the second world war much more difficult, dangerous and expensive.

  4. That’s very strange – I looked at the website of the US Embassy in Kabul and it was advising people to take a commercial flight out of the country because evacuation flights might nit be available.
    “The Embassy cannot guarantee how many or if charter flights will be available and continues to urge all U.S. citizens in Afghanistan to take advantage of commercial flight options while they are still available as airports could experience unexpected closures with little to no warning.”

  5. @jamesb2147 – “I only pray the Taliban at least take the right lessons from 20 years of fighting against the world’s greatest military power.” ha ha ha ha, Is that the same military force that couldn’t win after 20 years??? oh yeah, the taliban must be shaking in their boots. I gotta get me some of that ‘merican kool-aid. it must be really good. this looks like a re-run of hanoi, another war where they were so afraid of the world’s greatest military power.

  6. As the Afghan government falls to the Taliban, after a twenty year INEFFECTIVE occupation of the country by U.S. forces draws to a close, the Kabul airport continues to be used for evacuation.

    Turkey wants to control and operate the Kabul airport even after the Taliban takeover of Kabul too.

    In 2019 and in 2020, Trump made a deal with the Taliban — and even the Haqqani terrorist network — about getting the US out of Afghanistan. It was going to get messy no matter how we were to get out of Afghanistan, as Afghanistan never had a national army able and willing to fight for the Afghan government despite all the money and efforts of the US and US allies to stand it up and fund it like crazy.

    The poor Afghans are going to again be under the foot of the brutal Taliban and wondering where it all went wrong. It went wrong when the Soviets invaded it and the US decided to fund the charge to flood the country with weapons via religious extremists convinced by the US and allies to believe they were waging a holy war against the “godless Soviets”. Nearly 50 years later, the US is still facing the negative byproducts of that phase in the Cold War, and the Afghan people continue to pay a price for that and being the violent playground for proxy wars.

    It’s is notable that China has been hosting senior Taliban figures and promising them money. Let’s see when the Chinese finally also learn from the following saying: “You can buy an Afghan, but you can’t buy an Afghan forever.”

    Turkish-operated Kabul airport with multiple flights a day to China’s stooge Pakistan and Pakistan? That seems to have been part of Turkey’s cards.

  7. @Robert – it’s not so strange when you realize that the administration actually believed it would take the Taliban 3 months to get to Kabul. I’m not sure if who is the faulty part here (the generals, or the administration itself) but this is an unforced error on part of President Biden’s administration, which will have consequences unfortunately (and for Americans on the homeland too I’m afraid, not just somewhere “far away”…)

  8. @ GUWonder – I agree with what you said, except perhaps for China’s approach now. The regime is clever enough to be wary of getting knee-deep involved into Afghanistan. They will spread cash around massively for sure, and try to make sure there is no risk of the Taliban connecting with the Uighur muslim insurgency in west China. But – I think they will know how to manage walking on a tight rope with the Taliban.

  9. The US is not the great occupier. Time to learn that the US cannot build the government it wants in other countries by military power, when it has not perfected democracy at home. Of Course, the military industrial complex has never missed at opportunities to raid the US Treasury and steal from the American public, the funds that should’ve gone to domestic infrastructure.

  10. Voices on the left and right have clamored for troop withdrawal.

    Other voices on the left and right have said withdrawal is a mistake…I have yet to hear any politician facing voters say exactly how many more years we need to be there and how many more troops we are willing to sacrifice. Just silence…

  11. I’m with Paul on this one.
    There are 300,000 Afghan Govt military.
    There are 50,000 Taliban
    The fact that they would rather live on their knees than stand and fight on their feet, evidenced by their surrendering without shots fired, leads me to believe that those 300,000 Afghan troops we American taxpayers were paying for, never had their heart in it at all, it was simply a US jobs program for them. It was a steady paycheck, nothing more.
    What Obama said, (paraphrasing) “All around the world there are many countries that do not live under democracy. We can’t go save the world, we can give advice, we can exchange information, but for democracy to succeed it must come from within those countries, we can’t force it on them.”

    With all the surrendering going on, the President of Afghanistan fled his country a few hours ago, dare is say it, Trump was right and Biden is right. Like Biden said, “20 years is long enough, this war has gone through 4 US Presidents, I will not pass it to a 5th.” I feel sorry for the women and girls, sure I do, but if their men won’t stand and fight for them, why should American soldiers do it?

  12. There will be extreme negative consequences from this situation. The Chinese will benefit from a loss of faith within Asian countries in the U.S. as an ally. China will recognize the Taliban as the government and provide enough investment to insure they have access to military bases within Afghanistan. Human rights within Afghanistan will revert to Stone Age levels. Women and girls will be denied education and basic rights. Anyone who had ties to the U.S. or EU forces will be slaughtered. Terrorist will once again have an expanded safe haven from which to operate and strike the U.S. and EU.
    Very similar to Vietnam the military won the battles but the war was lost by the politicians.
    Of course the exit was botched by Biden and the Joint Chiefs. Woke Général Milley and Biden have been saying all along the Afghan army could stand up to the Taliban when even the average person knew this was an absurd joke. This is what happens when the Chairman of the Jojnt Chiefs decides advancing the social agenda of the Democrats within the military is more important than maintaining a military capable of protecting the U.S. and our interests around the globe. Milley ought to be forced to resign but he is the darling of the left so it won’t happen.

  13. Our guy Karzai and his band of American made multi- millionaires are fleeing like cockroaches and fleas off a dead dog. It would be a fitting end if the Tally captured the bastage and his family.
    This POC contributed absolutely nothing while grossly befitting from thousands of American & coalition deaths while lining his and his supporters foreign bank accounts with American TAX payer funding.
    THREE TRILLION American TAX $$$ – 6,300 American Deaths, 20 years of of training , equipment & support we gave these cowards only to see them fold their tent in weeks.
    Prong Karzi, Afghanistan, Pakastan & Iran.

  14. The US should have nuked Afghanistan days after 9/11. But Bush didn’t have the courage. An eye for an eye! It would have taught all of enemies not to attack the US. Instead, the military industrial complex, egotistical politicians, and the rich sent our young people and billions of our tax dollars to fight for a country that had no desire for freedom.

    This is another of Trump’s incompetent moves that the country pays for, forever!

  15. John B blaming Trump for this mess is like the pot calling the kettle black. You are so misguided. Biden is the current Democrat president in office not Trump. If Biden wanted to stop or slow down the withdrawal he could have done so. Also regarding other the other American hater “John Miller” on this site, the Taliban lost far more men than did the US army so therefore perhaps they may think twice before making an attack on US soil again!

  16. JohnB, you’re crazy to think that nuking Afghanistan would do any country or anyone any good. The vast majority of Afghans had long been just innocent collateral damage to the brutality of other countries’ power games and their use of violent proxies and yet you wanted the US to commit one massive novel war crime in Afghanistan that even the Soviets didn’t do? It’s people with your kind of war crime-wanting mentality that populated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda before, during and after 9/11, and yet you want to make the US less distinguishable a fighting force than those you would claim to hate? Shame on all those who would lower themselves to being less distinguishable from the criminals they proclaim to detest.

    Another sad day for Afghans. And sadly the Afghan general public will face many more years of fear and suffering at the hands of the Taliban and its allies. They never had much of a chance, and they had even less of a little chance as the focus became the counterproductive 2003 invasion of Iraq.

  17. @Cmorgan – “perhaps they may think twice before making an attack on US soil again!”

    I really hope so. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t count on them not providing material support and a safe haven for other sunni jihadis. They may sway from this at first in order to try and stabalize domestically, but jihadis gonna do what jihadis gonna do eventually.
    Truly vile group of people.

  18. Cmorgan,

    Trump in 2019 and 2020 was making deals with the Taliban — even with the Haqqani terrorists. He had already more or less agreed to hand over Afghanistan to the Taliban. He drew down the troop levels to such low levels that there were only bad options left for Biden. Either way, Trump or Biden, this would be an eventual mess either way. After all, Afghanistan hasn’t had any chance — and definitely not the capacity — to be even a marginally functional unitary state since at least the Soviet invasion of it ran head into the US’s Cold War jihadi-supporting strategy. And even before that, Afghanistan was more or less a buffer state creation.

    Given Afghanistan’s history — even from before the creation of the “modern” Afghan state in the nation-state era — the country has a history of being not only the graveyard of invaders but also of exporting threats to foreign lands. This time too it was unlikely to be any different, and unfortunately it’s almost inevitable that Afghanistan will be a launching pad for yet more international extremist adventures. Even the Pakistanis can’t put the Taliban genie back in the bottle after wishing for that get genie to serve the interests of Pakistan and its American and Saudi masters.

  19. Unfortunately we now have “leaders” that either did not study history or choose to ignore it and the consequences.
    The First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842) was a stunning defeat for British forces. They were almost completely annihilated during the 1842 retreat from Kabul.
    As a Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam, the lesson I learned was we were not there to save the country, we were there to get as many of our soldiers safely back home as we could. Democracy cannot be exported.
    It’s China’s turn now. The Taliban may find a different negotiating tactic from Chinese military. They have a history of war experience and 1.4 billion people to back it up.

  20. The US embassy in Afghanistan is now at least de facto at Kabul airport. Seriously.

    I’m trying to find out which other countries have also de facto moved their embassies to the Kabul airport. And Turkey wants to be in charge of the airport. How do you say: “Welcome to Kabul Airport, home to multiple embassies” in Turkish?

  21. Biden just gave the Republicans the House and Senate in 2022. I like him but this is a truly pathetic and humiliating way to end our Afghanistan venture.

  22. Afghanistan-where Empires go to die. Thank W and Cheney, and as always Rethuglican war mongering, for creating this black hole which swallowed enough trillions to provide a free education and healthcare to each and every American citizen. SOS DD. How to know when politicians are lying? When they tell you we don’t have the money for literally anything.

  23. Why didn’t that loser Bush invade Saudi Arabia as well??? The Saudis gave just as much support to Osama Bin Laden!!!

  24. did we fail to recognize the first invaders (BRITISH IMPERIALISTS); never has HEROIN been so good thanks to OLD GLORY !!!

  25. At least under the Taliban the people of Afghanistan don’t have to worry about their society being ruined with “LGBT diversity” like what’s happened in the west

  26. I feel extremely bad for some beautiful girls who are distantly related to Europeans due to the Macedonian and other empires which were crippled by the Ottoman and Persian empires as well as others subsequently. My heart weeps for our distant people.

    Basically Afghanistan is where it was after it defeated the soviets in the 1980s. I blame Bush, Cheney, Obama, Biden, Hillary, and nearly every single Republican and Democrat politician who support the concept of military intervention. The anti war movement during the Bush era was all a political ploy. These same people were silent during the Obama era. Only libertarians and now the populist/nationalist Right wing are against military intervention and the industrial war complex.

    Instead of deporting all non European ancestry illegals, deploying the military to the border as a national security matter outside of court purview, and ending non European immigration that oversupplies the labor market and leads to overpopulation that is a huge environmental threat, trillions were wasted on stupid wars and freedoms of citizens and tourists were destroyed with things like nsa spying and the patriot act.

    Democracy just means 51% enslaving the other 49%. That’s what we have here and which conservatives ought to oppose, speak out against, and mobilize against. It certainly shouldn’t be forced on us nor other lands 6000 miles away.

  27. As VPOTUS in Obama’s first term, Biden was against the Obama troop build-up in Afghanistan and wanted a draw down instead then.

    Obama knew Afghanistan was a lost cause but he didn’t want to have the political turmoil and legacy of being the one to de facto acknowledge and let Afghanistan again be Afghanistan by exiting.

    Trump wanted to put on a show of being a deal-maker and he made a deal with the Taliban and other regional extremists to get the US out of Afghanistan but ultimately Trump left the last part of implementing on that deal with the Taliban and some other terrorists to whomever would have been POTUS in May 2021.

    Biden is doing the thing that would have been inevitable for some US President, with an inevitable mess to follow as Afghanistan will go back to being the Afghanistan that is a legacy of Afghanistan as a Cold War playground and proxy war battlefield otherwise too.

    Playing colonizer has always been risky, and it doesn’t suit modern America.

    Some scuttlebutt says that the July and August talk about Kabul having months to stay out of Taliban hands was nothing but a way to help countries buy time to try to limit Afghan refugee flows by trying to convince Afghans they would be fine in Kabul and need not rush out of the country in each and every direction possible. And then the chances for exit plummeted except to whatever miserable faith awaits them in Iran and Pakistan, both poor homes to many millions of Afghan refugees.

  28. The First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842) was a stunning defeat for British forces. They were almost completely annihilated during the 1842 retreat from Kabul.
    As a Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam, the lesson I learned was we were not there to save the country, we were there to get as many of our soldiers safely back home as we could. Democracy cannot be exported.
    Unfortunately we now have “leaders” that either did not study history or choose to ignore it and the consequences.
    It’s China’s turn now. The Taliban may find a different negotiating tactic from Chinese military. They have a history of war experience and 1.4 billion people to back it up.

  29. @GUWonder

    The Bush administration allowed to 2 months to go by before anything was done to find Bin Laden. By then he left for Pakistan. Bombing of any type, since the NSA had strong intelligence of Bin Laden’s whereabouts, was the only solution. Instead we were drawn into blood and money pit where the USA had no chance of succeeding. You can preach all you want, but the attack on the USA, should have been met with proper counter response. It wasn’t! Because there was no proper response in 2001, we now have what we have. It is what it is!

    While you play the “novel war crime” BS, Americans DIED. I am glad you are not in charge because you are worse than Bush and Cheney.

  30. For years and years after October 2001, the NSA had squat on OBL’s whereabouts. For years after October 2001, all that they had on his location were unreliable “leads” and guessing games about where he may be based.

    The US and allied violent response to 9/11 resulted in the deaths of no less than hundreds of thousands of the people you would love to see subjected to non-stop war crimes and then some; and all the while, it destroyed and harmed a lot of American lives and ran up the national expenses by so many trillions of dollars that Biden’s multi-trillion dollar infrastructure+ plan seems cheap in comparison.

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