“It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, that here’s the names of 12 people, they’re coming, let them through. It could very well have happened”.
President Joe Biden said at a Thursday news briefing that despite the looming August 31 deadline for completing the evacuation mission in Afghanistan he had directed US personnel to “hunt down” the militants behind the terror attacks in Kabul that left scores dead and hundreds wounded.
In the chaos that has engulfed the approaches to Kabul airport amid the sweeping evacuation effort launched by Western nations, the joint US military and diplomatic coordination team in the capital provided the Taliban* with a list of names of those, whose entry into the hub was to be expedited, according to Politico.
American citizens, dual nationals, green card holders and Afghan allies who served alongside the US forces in the country and were seeking special immigrant visas to America were on the purported list.
‘It Could Well Have Happened’
President Joe Biden appeared to be unsure regarding the existence of such lists of names, when asked to comment on the Politico report on Thursday.
“I can’t tell you with any certitude that there’s actually been a list of names… There may have been. But I know of no circumstance. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, that here’s the names of 12 people, they’re coming, let them through. It could very well have happened,” said the POTUS during a Thursday news briefing.
“There have been occasions when our military has contacted their military counterparts in the Taliban and said this, for example, this bus is coming through with X number of people on it, made up of the following group of people. We want you to let that bus or that group through… To the best of my knowledge, in those cases, the bulk of that has occurred and they have been let through.”
‘Outsourcing Security to Taliban’
While US forces have been defending and running Hamid Karzai International Airport, they have outsourced security outside the airport to the Taliban, which set up a grid of checkpoints on the approaches to the airport.
The decision regarding Taliban was taken in the wake of the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, which has been accompanied by a swift offensive by the militants to reclaim control of the country from the Western-supported Kabul government.
Reports of intel-sharing with the Islamist group that now controls Afghanistan triggered controversy as Taliban has a history of hunting down and executing Afghans who collaborated with western forces deployed to the South Asian nation. The alleged move has triggered outrage from lawmakers and military officials, writes the outlet.
“Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list. It’s just appalling and shocking and makes you feel unclean,” a defence official speaking on condition of anonymity was cited as saying.
The decision regarding the list, details of which were shared with Politico by US and congressional sources, ostensibly sought to facilitate evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan. As the issue purportedly surfaced at a classified briefing on Capitol Hill this week, Biden administration officials defended their move, arguing that this was the best way to keep Americans and Afghans with worked or served with western forces safe.
“They had to do that because of the security situation the White House created by allowing the Taliban to control everything outside the airport,” a US official was cited as saying.
Thousands of visa applicants hoping to leave Kabul on US flights had swarmed the airport soon after the Taliban takeover. The chaos had resulted in the processing capacities of US forces being overwhelmed.
The State Department allegedly opted to try a different tactic and ask applicants to refrain from coming to the airport and instead wait until they were cleared for entry. From that point in time, however, the list shared with Taliban no longer included Afghan names. As of August 25, only US passport and green card holders were being accepted for evacuation, a defence official was cited as saying.
The Taliban have been referred to in written and verbal communications as “our Afghan partners” by Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, and Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, head of US forces on the ground in Afghanistan, according to defence officials.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby confirmed to reporters this week that officials have been “in daily communication” with Taliban commanders about who to let into the perimeter of the airport.
Update: in the past 12 hours roughly 7,500 people were evacuated from Kabul.
Since 8/14: approximately 100,100 people.
Since the end of July: roughly 105,700 people.
— Karine Jean-Pierre (@KJP46) August 26, 2021
In the past 12 hours roughly 7,500 people were evacuated from Kabul, according to the White House, with over 100,000 evacuated since the 14 of August.
National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson Emily Horne weighed in on the report, saying:
“It is unfortunate that the White House was not asked for comment or explanation on such a serious issue. Had Politico asked us we would have given the same answer the President shared with the nation today: that in limited cases we have shared information with the Taliban that has successfully facilitated evacuations from Kabul.”
Blasts Strike Kabul
The news comes just hours after a spate of terrorist attacks rocked the area outside the airport. Daesh Khorasan*, a regional affiliate of Daesh*, claimed responsibility for the blasts on Thursday that occurred near the hub amid the evacuation of the Western military contingent. According to reports, at least 103 people – 90 Afghan civilians and 13 US servicemen – have been killed in the attacks and 18 injured.
Approximately 140 people sustained injuries in Thursday’s events, an official with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health said. According to a cited Taliban official, at least 72 civilians were killed in the two explosions outside Kabul airport. In the wake of the attacks, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote in a statement:
“As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security.”
*A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.