Tuesday, December 7

Afghanistan: Thousands stranded in Kabul as Taliban go door to door | Afghanistan


Tens of thousands of Americans and Afghans who collaborated with US forces remain stranded in Kabul as the US government grappled with an overwhelming backlog of visas and Taliban checkpoints preventing people from safely reaching the airport.

With the August 31 deadline looming, tens of thousands of people eligible for evacuation had yet to be airlifted, many of whom were among the crowd gathered around the Kabul airport brandishing their papers or evidence of who had worked on American bases.

The urgency to evacuate those allied with US and NATO forces, and Western media organizations, was compounded by growing reports of Taliban fighters going door-to-door searching for those who had worked with the previous regime. and threatened them to join. the Taliban.

A German broadcaster said that a family member of one of its reporters had been shot and killed by the Taliban when they came looking for the journalist, who had already fled the country.

This persecution was carried out despite the fact that the Taliban promised a few days ago that “they would not seek revenge” and that “no one will come to their doors to ask them why they helped.”

Taliban fighters and their checkpoints continued to blockade the airport on Thursday, constituting a major barrier for Afghans who fear their previous work with Westerners would make them the main targets of retaliation. Before Afghanistan fell under the control of the Taliban, more than 300 Afghan interpreters and their families were killed by militants because of their ties to the United States, according to the nonprofit No One Left Behind.

Hundreds of Afghans who lacked papers or evacuation clearance also gathered outside the airport, adding to the chaos that has prevented even some Afghans who do have papers and promises of flights from passing.

The White House said early Friday that some 9,000 people had been evacuated since Aug. 14. Earlier, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in Washington that 6,000 people were cleared for evacuation Thursday and were expected to board military flights in the next few hours. That would mark a major increase over the past few days, but it was not yet in the evacuation capacity of 5,000 to 9,000 per day that the United States said was possible with available military aircraft.

Only about 2,000 passengers have left the United States in each of the past two days, due to obstructions around the airport. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said efforts are underway to speed up processing, including bringing in more staff to vet visa applications and opening additional entry gates at the airport.

Even before Afghanistan came under full control of the Taliban, the US had been dealing with a long delay in processing special immigrant visas for those who had assisted the US military in Afghanistan, due in part to the fact that the coronavirus stopped operations for months. At the beginning of this year, 18,000 Afghan allies and 53,000 family members were still in arrears.

There is no exact figure for the number of people (Americans, Afghans or others) who need evacuation, as the process is almost entirely self-selected. There are an estimated 11,000-15,000 US citizens and Afghan citizens with dual US citizenship along with family members, as well as tens of thousands of Afghans who may also be at risk.

To compound the uncertainty, the US government has no way of tracking how many registered Americans may have already left Afghanistan. Some may have returned to the United States, but others may have gone to third countries.

Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, a former Marine who served four tours in Iraq, called the Biden administration’s efforts to evacuate US citizens and Afghan allies from the country the “biggest foreign policy disaster we’ve seen in a long time.” .

Fears for the safety of the stranded were mounting. A report by a Norwegian intelligence group said the Taliban had begun knocking on doors and rallying Afghans on a blacklist of people who had collaborated with the previous regime.

German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle said the Taliban shot and killed a family member of one of their reporters in Afghanistan and seriously wounded a second family member.

The broadcaster said in a statement Thursday that Taliban fighters were searching for the Deutsche Welle reporter and searching houses in western Afghanistan. He said other family members managed to escape. Deutsche Welle said the reporter himself, whose identity was not disclosed, was already based in Germany.

Complaints from some Afghan journalists have also cast doubt on assurances that independent media would be allowed.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is facing mounting pressure to resign over his handling of the crisis, as the opposition Labor Party warned there had been an “unforgivable leadership failure” by the British government.

The party has drawn up a list of 18 urgent questions for the Foreign Secretary to answer about his trip and his department’s handling of the crisis.

Raab, who rejected the resignation requests on Thursday, was reportedly “unavailable” when his department officials suggested that he call “urgently” Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar on August 13, two days before the Taliban will march on Kabul, to organize aid for those who supported the British troops.

On Thursday it was reported that the Afghan Foreign Ministry refused to arrange a call with a junior minister, postponing it to the following day. It has since emerged that a call was never made.


www.theguardian.com

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