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Thousands of Afghans have fled from the Taliban this year during the Islamist group’s push to take over the country.
The Taliban launched a big attack in southern Helmand and six other provinces in May, three weeks after President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of US troops from the country.
The impact was swift. In late July, US officials estimated that the militant group controlled half of Afghanistan’s 420 rural districts, up from just a fifth a month earlier. The group seized control of the country after a rapid onslaught last week.
About 400,000 Afghans have been internally displaced within the country this year, the UN estimates.
Some who fled the fighting will recall the Taliban’s time in power in the 1990s when it used violence to punish dissenters and suppress women’s rights.
Many families have sought refuge in makeshift camps that sprung up as waves of people fled their homes. Others, such as those who fled northern provinces in early August to seek safety in Kabul, took shelter in open spaces such as public parks.
Large numbers have fled to neighbouring Iran in recent months. with some passing through it and continuing westwards on to Turkey.
The Taliban faced little resistance from Afghanistan’s army. Young Afghan men who spoke to the Associated Press on August 17 in the town of Tatvan, eastern Turkey, said they had deserted the army.
Pakistan to the east has also experienced an influx of migrants arriving on foot. The Taliban’s return to power after a 20-year hiatus risks triggering a flood of such refugees and a resurgence of domestic terrorism linked to the insurgents, warn analysts.
Kabul’s international airport was overrun by desperate Afghans trying to escape hours after the city fell to the Taliban. Images from the airport showed hundreds of people running alongside a US military transport plane filled with US and foreign nationals. Some climbed on as it moved down the runway.
Some desperate parents passed their babies to US soldiers over barbed wire along the perimeter wall at the airport.
A lucky few made it on to planes that evacuated them.