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Kabul Carnage - What the Papers Say

August 17, 2021

Newspaper Headlines Spotlight via the BBC

The Taliban seizing control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, continues to dominate the front pages, with many featuring photos of a US plane being surrounded by a crowd at the city's airport.

The Metro says the sudden fall of the city "sparked a chaotic race" to escape the Taliban. It claims some teenage Afghans were so desperate that they clung to a US military plane as it took off.

The Guardian reports on "chaotic scenes" as civilians converged on Kabul airport - which it describes as the only route out of the city for people who were in fear of their lives. It says the airport was close to being overrun, with flights being grounded and several people dying.

The Financial Times claims at least five people were reported to have been killed in "desperation to escape". It quotes a foreign official as saying there was "absolute chaos" at Kabul airport. They said that only US military planes were taking off and landing, adding: "Afghans are clinging on to the tyres of the aircraft that are taking off."

"Desperate" exclaims the Daily Mirror's headline, alongside a photo which it says shows around 640 Afghans "crammed" onto a US plane leaving Kabul.

The i newspaper features an image of a group of people, including children, climbing over a wall at Kabul airport. "No way out" is the headline in the paper, which says all flights were grounded at the airport because of crowds on the runway "pleading for help".

Britain is racing to evacuate thousands of UK and Afghan citizens, according to the Times, which reports that British and US soldiers were trying to regain control of the airport. It adds that Britain is due to restart evacuation flights on Tuesday.

The Daily Express leads on an extra 200 British troops being flown into Kabul to "save thousands of Britons fleeing Taliban forces".

"Joke Biden" is the headline in the Sun, which suggests US President Joe Biden faced a "global backlash" over his handling of the Afghan crisis, which it called the US's "biggest foreign humiliation in almost 50 years". The paper says Mr Biden "finally" dashed back to Washington DC after being accused of hiding at Camp David as the crisis unfolded.

The Daily Telegraph focuses on the speech of the US president, who said he stood "squarely by his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan as he "partly blamed Donald Trump and the Afghan security services for the debacle". The paper describes it as a "defiant message" from Mr Biden, who admitted the Taliban's sweep to power happened more quickly than he had anticipated.

The same angle is the lead for the Daily Mail, which calls Mr Biden's defence "extraordinary" as he "blamed Afghan leaders and the country's military leaders for refusing to fight". The paper says the US president's speech came as "brave translators" hid in fear for their lives amid "scenes of carnage" at the airport.

Several front pages feature images of Monday's extraordinary attempts by dozens of Afghans to board a US Air Force plane rolling down the runway in Kabul.

The Financial Times describes scenes of "absolute chaos" as the airport was "overrun" - with some people falling to their deaths after clinging to aircraft as they took off. "The flight from hell", says the Metro. "Race to escape Kabul carnage" is the headline for the Times.

According to the FT, "the mayhem reflects the panic among many Afghans as they brace themselves for life under Taliban rule". The Daily Mirror has a single word headline - "desperate" - with a photograph of hundreds of Afghans standing packed like sardines inside a US cargo plane.

The Guardian thinks video footage of the crowd running alongside the American plane "is likely to haunt" President Joe Biden.

The Sun calls him "Joke Biden" - "humiliated and alone" facing a "global backlash" over his handling of the crisis.

The Daily Mail highlights what it calls the president's "blunt" and "extraordinary" response - "it's the Afghans' own fault" - in his address to the nation last night, while the Daily Telegraph argues the backlash in Washington "was matched with finger-pointing at Mr Biden in Westminster". It claims Ministry of Defence figures "repeatedly warned" their US counterparts that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was "too fast".

Crowds try to storm on to an Airbus A340

AFP via the BBC

In the USA:

Mr Biden's address is heavily criticised by the Wall Street Journal, which accuses him of effectively telling Afghanistan to "drop dead". He "refused to accept responsibility while blaming others", made false claims and "played to the sentiment of Americans tired of foreign military missions", its editorial says.

The Washington Post resorts to "searching the sorriest episodes of US foreign policy" for an analogy to the president's "blunders" - suggesting the Bay of Pigs and the fall of Saigon. "Worse", it says, "this was avoidable".

But the New York Times suggests Mr Biden's speech "stemmed some of the howls of criticism", with Democrats praising him for laying out the costs of America's involvement in Afghanistan.

And in other UK news, both the Times and the Telegraph warn that household energy bills are expected to rise as a result of the government's push for more hydrogen energy.

Energy minister, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, has told the Times it's "too early" to say how much the transition will cost households, but it's likely to be "very small".

The Telegraph thinks the government's plans show hydrogen will play a "niche" role in cutting carbon emissions, and it says experts have warned that bill payers could be locked into paying for the development of "pointless" technology.

Has the government embarked on what could be a hugely expensive course of action for ordinary household bill payers?

Getty Images via the BBC

Information via the BBC

© The BBC, 2021


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