Satellites Photos of Kabul Airport Reveal Scale of Enormous Crowds Fleeing Taliban

The crowds at Afghanistan's Kabul airport of people fleeing Taliban rule as the U.S. evacuation deadline looms are so big they're visible to satellites.

The country has been thrown into turmoil since the Taliban takeover on August 15, with thousands attempt to leave the country.

At least five people were reportedly killed at the airport, which descended into pandemonium as Afghans tried to escape impending Taliban rule.

Chaotic scenes at the Hamid Karzai International Airport saw last-ditch attempts from Afghans to board moving planes, as they crowded runways and scrambled up air bridges.

It took two days for the U.S. military to regain control of the airport, with mobs at the gates resulting in panicked crushes as desperate citizens tried to evacuate the country.

New satellite images, collected by Maxar Technologies, show the extent of the crowds gathered at the entrance and checkpoints, as President Joe Biden's August 31 evacuation deadline approaches.

American citizens, foreign nationals and Afghans who worked for western organizations or assisted in the war effort are desperately waiting to be airlifted out, a process beleaguered by security issues.

One photo captures the gate at the northern perimeter of the airport and crowds along the eastern edge. Others show throngs moving through checkpoints, as well as waiting on the tarmac.

Another image shows queues preparing to board a C-17 transport aircraft, the same type which transported hundreds of Afghans to safety last week.

Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan.
Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan. Groups of people waiting on tarmac at Kabul airport, taken August 23, 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.
Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan.
Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan. Crowds and traffic at entrance to Kabul airport, taken August 23, 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.

Dozens chased a C-17 U.S. military aircraft as it taxied on the runway, with people seen clinging to the exterior as it took off on August 16. Harrowing clips shared online showed shapes thought to be bodies falling from the plane, as the three men are believed to have lost their grip.

The Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transported 640 Afghans to safety inside the craft, the Department of Defense (DOD) confirmed to Newsweek. An image, since released by the DOD and first published by Defense One, showed the packed passengers sitting on the floor of the cargo plane.

Referring to the satellite images, Maxar said: "Maxar collected new high-resolution satellite imagery yesterday (23 August) of Kabul that helps to convey visually the ongoing situation in and around Hamid Karzai International Airport.

"Large crowds of people can be seen at multiple checkpoints and security gates along the perimeter of the airport while several groups of people gather on the tarmac and wait to board military transport aircraft to be evacuated from the country."

Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan.
Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan. Large crowds at gate at the northern edge of Kabul airport, taken August 23, 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.
Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan.
Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan. Closer view of groups of people waiting on tarmac at Kabul airport, taken August 23, 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.

Biden is sticking with the August 31 withdrawal date and now faces a race against time to get all personnel safely out of the country.

He defended the decision not to extend the deadline, following a meeting with G7 leaders to discuss the situation in Kabul.

"Every day we're on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both U.S. and allied forces and innocent civilians," Biden told White House reporters on Tuesday.

An official spokesperson for the militant group, Suhail Shaheen, called the date a "red line" for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. He told Sky News: "President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So, if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that."

Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan.
Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan. Close up of people preparing to load on C-17 transport aircraft Kabul airport, taken August 23, 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.
Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan.
Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan. Crowds at northern gate of Kabul airport, taken August 23, 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.

While fellow Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid emphasized after that date the militant group "won't let Afghans be taken out" of the country.

The president announced around 70,000 people have been evacuated from the capital since the takeover.

Some 21,600 people were airlifted out of the country in the 24 hours leading up to Tuesday, the White House said, compared to 16,000 the previous day.

Around 12,700 people were evacuated by 37 U.S. military flights, with an additional 8,900 people aboard 57 flights by U.S. allies.

Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan.
Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan. People moving through checkpoints at Kabul airport, taken August 23, 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.
Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan.
Satellite image of Kabul Airport, Afghanistan. Large crowds along eastern edge of Kabul airport, taken August 23, 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.