The US military owns the Kabul airport, with some 6,000 troops there, but outside the walls, where thousands of people are clamoring to get in, the grounds and roads are controlled by the Taliban.
The Americans have enlisted hundreds of former Afghan government commandos to restrict access through some airport gates to prevent crowds from flooding the airport.
The Taliban also have limited access, enabling – intentionally or unintentionally – NATO operations within, while Taliban fighters are able to search for people to arrest among those attempting to flee.
According to US and former Afghan officials, the former NDS commandos will be among the last to leave the country during the evacuation.
“They are performing heroically,” said a US official.
“That’s an understatement,” another commented.
Even when there was a degree of calm in Kabul, the area around the airport remained dangerous. There are conflicting figures about how many people have died in the chaos this week. Afghans have suffered the brunt of the suffering, and many – including those with the appropriate papers – are prevented from reaching the airport.
But as a sign of how chaotic the situation is, even foreigners who want to leave the Taliban cannot always reach the facility safely. As thousands desperately try to flee Afghanistan, Taliban fighters have blocked entrances, fired rifles and beat some people in the crowd.
Most of the violence took place just outside the main entrance to the airport, where crowds trying to enter the airport met Taliban forces who beat them back. There have been volleys of gunfire, along with pushing, pulling and hitting with wooden sticks, Kalashnikovs and snakes.
A German civilian was shot during the trip, Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for the German government, said Friday.
She said the victim was in stable condition and was being treated for his injuries and would be evacuated as soon as possible.
Videos posted to social media featured heartbreaking images of adults lifting babies and children above the rising crowds, over concrete walls lined with barbed wire and into the waiting arms of American soldiers sitting above the blast walls.