The Taliban will help America get US citizens and Afghans at risk out of Kabul as evacuation flights are set to resume before the end of the year
- Kabul airport was the scene of a chaotic and deadly evacuation in August
- Over 124,000 civilians, including Americans and Afghans were able to escape
- It came after the Taliban took control the Afghanistan in a lighting offensive
- The rabid Taliban assault was sparked by the U.S. withdrawal from the country
The Taliban will help Washington to evacuate US citizens and Afghans on flights out of Kabul before the end of the year, according to a senior source at the State Department.
The airport was the scene of utter despair in August after the US-backed government fell to the Taliban, with desperate Afghans plunging to their deaths as they clung to moving planes, while some 200 others were killed in a suicide blast outside the gates.
More than 124,000 civilians, including Americans, Afghans and others were able to escape but a small number of US citizens, as well as thousands of other US-allied Afghans, were unable to make it out.
The airport remains closed to regular commercial flights and it is not clear who will manage air-traffic control and ground staff.
Since the last US troops left on August 31, a small number of planes have evacuated Americans, Afghans and other foreign nationals from Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.
Pictured: Passengers board a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), Afghanistan, August 24, 2021
Washington has yet to set a start date for the resumption of evacuation flights because it must reach agreements with the Taliban, as well as neighbouring countries, the State Department source told The Wall Street Journal.
‘As soon as we have the right combination of documentation and logistics, we will get going again,’ the senior official told the paper.
Qatar, where many of flights land as their first stop, requires all passengers to have valid travel documents. There have also been concerns over stowaways.
‘We haven’t been able to get a flight out in a couple of weeks,’ the official told the WSJ.
State Department spokesman Ned Price hit out at the claims, saying that there were no plans to resume evacuation flights ‘à la what we had prior to August 31.’
‘The charter flights have been routine,’ Price said. ‘Our goal is to make them even more routine to lend a degree of automaticity to these operations so that we can facilitate the departure of Americans, of lawful permanent residents and others.’
At the end of the September, it was reported that the United States was aware of around 100 American citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs) who were still in Afghanistan after the bulk of the evacuations had been completed.
At the time, the State Department said it was working on getting those people onto flights our of the country.
‘Our highest priority in Afghanistan, of course, remains helping those American citizens who wish to leave the country now to do so,’ an official said.
Since U.S. forces departed and handed over the airport on August 31, 85 American citizens and 79 LPRs have left Afghanistan on sporadic flights, the official added.
However, some of the American citizens who were still there did not want to leave Afghanistan without family members who did not have the required travel documents to enter the U.S.
Evacuees wait to board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 30, 2021. Picture taken August 30, 2021
The official said the United States would intensify its efforts to get the necessary documentation to the immediate family of American citizens who did not have it.
However, such documentation would not be given to their ‘extended’ families.
‘I entirely understand how painful that choice may be for them, but for matters of law and policy, up to this point, we have not extended support for expedited departure and resettlement in the U.S. for extended family members of U.S. citizens,’ the official said.
News that the Taliban would assist the US with evacuations came after The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing on a Shiite mosque in southern Afghanistan that killed 47 people and wounded scores more.
In a statement posted late Friday on social media, IS said two of the group’s members shot and killed security guards manning the entrance of the Fatimiya mosque in Kandahar province.
Friday’s attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the dramatic U.S. exit from the country, which allowed the Taliban to seize control of the Afghan capital. It was also the first major attack by the group in the country’s south.
IS carries out frequent attacks in its eastern stronghold, but recently has shown signs of expansion, with attacks in the north and Kabul.
The attacks have brought into question the Taliban’s ability to counter the growing IS threat.
The Taliban have pledged to restore peace and security after decades of war and have also given the U.S. assurances that they will not allow the country to be used as a base for launching extremist attacks on other countries.
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