Afghans flee the Taliban: in pictures

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Afghanistan updates

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.

A woman who lost her husband in Baghlan to fighting by the Taliban sits with her children who are aged 5 and 2.
The fighting has separated some families © Paula Bronstein/Getty
Families from northern provinces who fled from their homes take shelter in a public park in Kabul.
The Taliban’s push in Afghanistan’s northern provinces prompted many to seek refuge in Kabul © Stringer/Reuters

Large numbers have fled to neighbouring Iran in recent months. with some passing through it and continuing westwards on to Turkey.

A man at the Iran-Afghanistan border between Afghanistan and the southeastern Iranian Sistan and Baluchestan province.
Afghans have tried to enter Iran across its Southeastern frontier into the province of Sistan and Baluchestan © Iranian red Crescent/AFP/Getty

Afghan migrants leaving a truck in Van, Turkey
The crisis has sparked fears of a large influx of Afghan refugees into Turkey © Chris McGrath/Getty

Afghan migrants leave a smuggler’s safe house in Turkey after a raid by police © Chris McGrath/Getty

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.

Young men who say they deserted the Afghan military and fled to Turkey through Iran walking in Bitlis Province in eastern Turkey
Most of Afghanistan’s US-equipped and trained army units offered little resistance in the face of the Taliban advance © Emrah Gurel/AP

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.

People arriving from Afghanistan in the border town of Chaman, in Pakistan
A stream of Afghan arrivals has reached border towns in Pakistan in recent months © Abdul Khaliq Achakzai//Reuters

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.

Afghan passengers sit as they wait to leave the international airport in Kabul on August 16
The international airport in Kabul has became a focal point for people seeking to escape the country © Wakil Kohsari/AFP/Getty
Hundreds of people run beside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane, some of whom climb on the plane as it moves down a runway of the international airport, in Kabul
Videos circulated widely on social media showed people trying to cling to a US Air Force plane © Verfied UGC/AP

Some desperate parents passed their babies to US soldiers over barbed wire along the perimeter wall at the airport.

A baby is handed over to US soldiers over the perimeter wall of the airport for it to be evacuated, in Kabul
Images of babies being passed to soldiers indicate the desperation of people to allow their children to escape Taliban rule © Omar Haidari/Reuters

A lucky few made it on to planes that evacuated them.

People sit in a German Bundeswehr airplane at the airport in Kabul.
Some Afghans who braved the chaos at Kabul’s airport were able to fly out © Bundeswehr/AP

Evacuees pose in front of a German Bundeswehr plane after arriving in Uzbekistan © Bundeswehr/AP

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