A British soldier involved in the evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan has described chaotic scenes as people tried desperately to flee the country.
WW2 soldier Jake Howarth
The revelations come amid reports of Taliban shooting in the Afghan capital on Tuesday as hundreds protested against Pakistan’s alleged role in the conflict.
Footage of Taliban fighters firing into the air to disperse protesters demonstrating outside the Pakistani embassy in Kabul surfaced on social media on Tuesday.
The predominantly female protesters angrily chanted slogans about the neighboring country, accusing it of supporting the Taliban. Pakistan denies these claims.
Commenting on the role he played on the rescue mission, Private Howarth said, “When we got there there was quite a fear factor and obviously it was dark at night so no one knew what was going on.
“They had barbed wire in one place and loads of civilians, the population there, just waiting to get on a flight.
“You saw soldiers walking around (and) guns and everything.
“It looked like it wasn’t organized at all. When we went through, you could only hear constant gunshots at the time.
“When you look at people’s faces, we were all pretty shocked. We didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know whether it was the Taliban or whether it was coalition forces firing their rounds. “
Private Howarth said the scenes made him “pretty sad,” adding, “I’ve never seen people jump over fences because they’re so desperate to get away.
“There were children who were hurt and scared and didn’t know what was going on.
“It’s pretty sad to say that when you grew up in a completely different country, you grow up differently, you think about the children who come into this world and that’s the first thing they see.”
Private Howarth, who said a sergeant major gave the soldiers a perk to keep them at work, added, “If you find that your chain of command is nervous too, you don’t seem quite as bad.”
He was involved in a task called “Guardian Angel”, which took care of people who were authorized to leave the country and who were in progress.
He recalled that, given the constant gunfire, it was important to reassure people – some of them were “quite nervous” and “many of them very scared” – that they would soon be on the run.
Captain David Kellett, 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, said the scenes he saw after landing at Kabul airport were “drastically different” than last year.
He added that showing compassion was “the big thing” for soldiers on the ground.
He said, “It was difficult because obviously there was a lot of risk and a lot of angry people. For us it was about reaching out to these people and giving them basic things like food and water – once you did that and reassured them that they were going to fly out of the airport that night, they calmed down a lot.
“The friendly manner of the soldiers really helped.”
British Operation Pitting saved more than 15,000 people when the last plane left the airport.
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