CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward delivered harrowing reporting Wednesday from the ground in Kabul, where she said Taliban fighters have taken control of the area outside the city's airport, leaving "no way" for Afghans looking to escape the country.
"It's very hectic, we're about 200 yards from the entrance to the Kabul airport," Ward said with gunshots ringing out in the background of her live report. "There are Taliban protesters around ... we have seen them and heard them firing on the crowds to try and disperse them."
Ward said there are lines snaking for miles outside the airport filled with people "waiting, trying desperately to get out of the country."
Ward, who has covered multiple international crises over the course of her career, said the events in Kabul over the last several days since the city fell have been unlike anything she has ever seen.
"This was mayhem, this was nuts," she said. "This was impossible for an ordinary citizen, even if they have their paperwork ... no way they're running that gauntlet, no way they're going to be able to navigate that. It's very dicey, it's very dangerous and it's completely unpredictable."
.@clarissaward on the scene just outside Kabul airport: "I've covered all sorts of crazy situations. This was mayhem. This was nuts. This was impossible for an ordinary civilian, even if they had their paperwork...There's no coherent system for processing people." pic.twitter.com/hbg82Md4ZZ— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) August 18, 2021
Shots ring out behind @clarissaward - as she stands less than 200 yards from the entrance of the Kabul airport.— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) August 18, 2021
"It's definitely chaotic, she says. "It's definitely dangerous." pic.twitter.com/3iNgULO0fO
Thousands of U.S. troops have arrived in Kabul to secure the city's civilian airport and allow flights to resume as the Biden administration seeks to evacuate some 10,000 Americans as well as tens of thousands of Afghan nationals who assisted the U.S. over the years and who remain in the country.
A top U.S. commander said Tuesday that he had cautioned the Taliban against interfering in the United States' evacuation efforts, warning that "any attack would be met with overwhelming force in the defense of our forces."
However, it's unclear how exactly those seeking to leave can make their way to the airport for a flight out of Kabul. The State Department has urged Americans to shelter in place until they can secure a flight as the Taliban establishes control over the city.
"Our message remains for American citizens and for others who have expressed interest in relocation out of Afghanistan: Shelter in place until and unless you receive a communication from the U.S. Embassy," State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday.
CNN's Ward noted in her report Wednesday that several Afghans have approached her and her crew in Kabul and begged them to help find a way out of the country or broadcast their story.
When a producer covering the events in Kabul tried to take video on an iPhone, Ward said two Taliban fighters came up to him "and were ready to pistol whip him."
"And we had to intervene and scream," she said. "And it was actually another Taliban fighter who came in and said, 'No, no, no, don't do that, they're journalists.'"