On Thursday, the United States struggled to accelerate the evacuations of Afghans and Americans at Kabul airport because of obstacles ranging from documented issues and armed Taliban checkpoints. With an approaching 31st August deadline, tens of thousands of people remained to be evacuated from Afghanistan.
Taliban insurgents and checkpoints ringed the airport – key barriers for Afghan people who fear that their previous work with Westerners makes them significant targets for vengeance. Several Afghans who lacked clearance and documents for evacuation also assembled outside the Kabul airport, which prevented even some Afghan people who have proper documentation and promises of evacuation flights from getting through.
US struggles to speed Kabul airlift despite Taliban, chaos.
WASHINGTON — The US is struggling to pick up the pace of American and Afghan evacuations at Kabul airport, constrained by obstacles ranging from armed Taliban checkpoints to paperwork problems.
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— KABUUBI MEDIA AFRICA (@KabuubiMedia) August 20, 2021
It did not help that several Taliban troops are unable to read the documents. Moreover, in a hopeful sign, Ned Price, the spokesperson of the State Department, stated in Washington that the department cleared around six thousand people for evacuation on Thursday and expected to board military flights in coming hours. According to the spokesperson of Pentagon John Kirby, approximately two thousand Afghans and Americans flew out during the last two days.
What is the deadline for the Evacuation?
Kirby said that the United States military has passenger aircraft available to evacuate five thousand to nine thousand people daily, but until yesterday, the military was just able to evacuate fewer people. Kirby told reporters that efforts were in progress to accelerate processing, including adding the U.S. Statement consular officers to authenticate paperwork of Afghans and Americans who managed to proceed towards the airport. The officials also opened additional entry gates to overcome chaos and crowd at the airport.
At the current rate of evacuation, it would still be difficult for the American military to evacuate all eligible Afghans and Americans by the deadline date 31st August. On Wednesday, Joe Biden, the President of the United States, announced that he would ensure no American was left behind in Afghanistan, even if that means staying beyond this month-end, a random deadline that the president set weeks before the insurgents group topped a splendid victory by taking control of the Afghan capital Kabul last weekend.
It was not clear if the president might consider changing the deadline for the evacuation process for those people who are not Americans. At the Kabul airport, U.S. military evacuation flights continued, but access for several people remained difficult. Yesterday, Taliban fighters fired into the airport air in an effort to control the crowds gathered at the blast walls of the airport. There is no precise figure of the total number of Afghans, Americans (men, women, or children) who require evacuation from Afghanistan as the process is approximately entirely self-selecting.
Coronavirus and Evacuations
The U.S. States Department stated that when it ordered nonessential embassy staff members to leave the country in April after the president’s withdrawal announcement, less than four thousand American nationals registered for security updates. Furthermore, the real number, including dual United States-Afghan citizens along with family members, is possibly much higher, with approximates ranging from eleven thousand to fifteen thousand. On the other side, tens of thousands of Afghans are also seeking evacuation.
According to Kirby, in the twenty-four hours ended Wednesday morning, around two thousand people airlifted from the airport; approximately three hundred were Americans. In addition, according to two congressional aides, the military briefed the United States lawmakers, 6741 people evacuated since 14th August, including seventeen hundred and sixty-two American nationals and Green Card holders.
Previously, Afghanistan declared as a hotspot for the COVID-19 pandemic, and the U.S. State Department said Thursday that there is no compulsion on the evacuees to show negative coronavirus results. The department said it implemented a blanket humanitarian waiver for pandemic testing for all people; the American administration is relocating from Afghanistan. However, COVID-19 testing had been required for evacuees before the Afghan militants’ takeover of Kabul.