Officials at Washington reportedly handed over a list to the Taliban that contained the names of Americans and Afghan allies in the country who are to be allowed entry into the outer perimeter of the Kabul airport. The incident has attracted widespread criticism.
The decision to give the list was apparently taken with the hope that it would expedite the evacuation process. But with reports of the Taliban attacking Afghan citizens who have a history of working with foreigners, the decision might cause more harm than good. “Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list… It’s just appalling and shocking and makes you feel unclean,” a defense official said to POLITICO.
A recently issued confidential document by RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, which provides intelligence to the UN, states that the Taliban has stepped up their search for people who worked for NATO or the previous Washington-backed Afghan government. Militants are searching door-to-door for targets and threatening family members despite the Taliban’s promise to not seek revenge.
“There are a high number of individuals that are currently being targeted by the Taliban and the threat is crystal clear… It is in writing that, unless they give themselves in, the Taliban will arrest and prosecute, interrogate and punish family members on behalf of those individuals,” Christian Nellemann, who heads the group behind the report, said to the BBC.
Nellemann added that anyone on the Taliban blacklist is in severe danger and that the insurgent group could carry out mass executions.
When President Joe Biden was asked about the list at a news conference, he admitted that “there have been occasions” when the U.S. military asked the Taliban to allow certain groups of people into the airport.
“And to the best of my knowledge, in those cases, the bulk of that has occurred — they’ve been let through. But I can’t tell you with any certitude that there’s actually been a list of names. I don’t — there may have been, but I know of no circumstance. It doesn’t mean it’s not — it didn’t exist, that, ‘Here’s the names of 12 people; they’re coming. Let them through’. It could very well have happened,” Biden said.
The issue of the list popped up during a classified briefing at Capitol Hill that quickly turned argumentative as Biden officials defended the administration’s policy to closely work with the Taliban in the evacuation process. Officials argued that this was the best way to avoid conflict between Taliban and American forces at the airport while also making sure that U.S. citizens and Afghan aides are protected.
However, the ISIS attack on Kabul airport has cast serious doubts over the cooperation policy. The suicide bombing attack killed 85 people, including 13 U.S. soldiers. “As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security,” said Democrat Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn asked to impeach Biden officials for handing over the list. “Absolutely reckless and horrific. The Biden Administration gave the Taliban a kill list while lying to us, saying they didn’t have details on every name and whereabouts. Every single person involved must resign or be impeached,” she said in a tweet.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse called anyone who would share the list of names to Taliban an “utter fool.”
“The Senate Intelligence Committee needs to investigate who came up with this brain-dead idea, whether our intelligence agencies were given a chance to warn against it, and who decided to hand over the list to the Taliban,” he said.
Meanwhile, the evacuation of Americans, Afghans, and other foreign nationals is proceeding at a furious pace as the Aug. 31 deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal comes close. Despite calls for extending the deadline, the Biden administration has indicated that it plans on sticking to the Aug. 31 exit date.
According to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, there were roughly 6,000 Americans looking to leave Afghanistan when evacuation efforts began on Aug. 14, out of which 4,500 have been pulled out. Roughly 500 Americans have been informed about when and how to get to Kabul airport. This leaves around 1,000 Americans. Washington is apparently in the process of establishing contact with them.
The evacuation of Afghan nationals has hit a roadblock as the Taliban is preventing their escape. The group’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that the road to Kabul airport is only open for foreigners and that Afghans are not allowed to take the road. There have been reports of the Taliban turning back Afghans at checkpoints despite the fact that they had approval from Western nations to join the evacuation.
The Taliban has insisted that experts like doctors and engineers cannot be evacuated. “We ask [the Americans] to stop this process… This country needs their expertise. They should not be taken to other countries,” they said.