US Evacuations in Afghanistan
The US has been recently withdrawing its troops out of Afghanistan. This has led to the Taliban, an extreme Islamist movement and organization, retaking control of the country and entering Kabul, the capital, after the government fell. Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country, and the US has evacuated its embassy.
The evacuation process has been full of turmoil. Already, two Taliban fighters have been killed, and a third injured, after an incident in which Taliban fighters appeared at the airport entrance of the Hamid Karzai International Airport as multiple foreign and US vehicles were trying to enter. A witness accounts that the Taliban fired in the air to attempt to clear the gate, and the US military fired back. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has stated that the mission at the airport was not offensive, although US troops have the right of self-defense. Crowds of people continue to appear at the airport in hopes of leaving Afghanistan to escape the Taliban as well. Afghans have swarmed towards departing planes, attempting to climb on as they take off. As a result, air operations had to be temporarily halted. Flights have begun again, but the military is anticipating the need for further clearing operations.
At the same time, the Taliban have reportedly almost taken over Kabul. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that the group has almost full control of the situation in Kabul, with most people involved in violence in the capital after the Taliban takeover arrested. The Taliban has promised not to go door-to-door searching for former government officials, as Mujahid restated.
As of 16 August 2021, 2,500 US troops are at the airport, with more expected to arrive over the next 24 hours. Additional troops are also expected to arrive at the airport in two to three days, totaling the number of US troops at 6,000. These troops will secure the perimeter of the airport.
The US has met with Taliban officials to express that their goal was to get people out safely. The foreign ministers of Australia, France, Germany, and Norway have been met by Secretary of the State Antony Blinken to discuss the security situation and efforts to bring the respective citizens and vulnerable Afghans to safety. Blinken has also met with Chinese and Russian foreign ministers to discuss the situation, agreeing with Russia to continue consultations with China, the UN, Pakistan, and other interested countries.
A warning has been issued by the US not to interfere with Afghans attempting to get to the airport for potential evacuations. These Afghans are being asked to wait for their flight to be called to avoid pandemonium. However, the evacuation of US personnel has been prioritized, limiting the number of government-sponsored evacuations for individuals that worked with the US. Nevertheless, efforts are being made to evacuate Afghans as fast as possible. The rate of evacuation will be accelerated for Afghans qualifying for US Special Immigrant Visas, all Afghans that have passed security clearance will be transferred directly to the US, and additional locations for those awaiting security clearance will be found.