PHOTO: US Marine Comforts Toddler Amid Chaos in Afghanistan

by Jennifer Shea

In a poignant new photo from the U.S. Marine Corps, a soldier comforted an Afghan toddler at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul during a brief moment of calm.

The soldier held the tyke to his shoulder while clutching a water bottle with his other hand. Temperatures in Afghanistan passed 90 degrees on Monday. And the throngs of people outside airport gates were growing increasingly desperate. Seven people died in a stampede on Sunday, including one 2-year-old girl.

See the photo of the soldier here:

Afghan Soldier Dies in Firefight At Increasingly Dangerous Airport Gates

On Monday morning, a firefight outside Karzai International Airport left one Afghan soldier dead. Navy Capt. William Urban told the Associated Press that an unknown assailant shot at Afghan security forces stationed at the airport’s north gate. Afghan, U.S. and allied troops fired back. Urban said that “several Afghans” suffered injuries in the exchange.

An Italian humanitarian group running hospitals in Afghanistan claimed it had treated six people with bullet wounds from the airport, the AP reports.

The Taliban have vowed to bring peace to Afghanistan. At the same time, they have put the Haqqani Network, a designated foreign terrorist organization, in charge of security in Kabul. The Haqqani Network has long-standing ties with al-Qaida, according to Voice of America. And their prominent role in security there raises the specter of Afghanistan becoming a safe haven for al-Qaida once again.

Marines Face Sea of Human Desperation

Meanwhile, about 6,000 Marines and paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division are at Karzai International Airport. They’re helping to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies there.

There have been reports of Afghan mothers handing their children over to soldiers in the hopes that they can make it out of the country. According to PBS, U.S. soldiers have been taking care of a group of young boys who got separated from their parents at the airport gates.

“There were so many people at the gate, and everyone was pushing,” one little boy told PBS.

Some of the boys have “USA” scrawled on the back of their hands, signaling that their parents have already boarded planes to America and they should be sent along after them.

As for the girls, who are particularly threatened by Taliban rule, a group of 111 school girls – still a tiny portion of the female population in a country of over 39 million – made it out of Kabul on a C-17 on Saturday night, CBS News reports. They then arrived in Qatar for processing.

As it looks increasingly unlikely that the Biden administration will meet its Aug. 31 deadline for evacuating Americans and Afghan allies, the Taliban have called it a “red line” and said the U.S. must leave. Biden has said an extension of the deadline is under consideration.