‘Appalling’: America’s monumental blunder
An “appalling” decision by the US in Kabul to hand over a list of names to the Taliban has sparked outrage – and could have deadly consequences.
A decision by US officials in Kabul to provide the Taliban with specific names of American citizens and Afghan allies, in a bid to grant them access to the city‘s airport, has been deemed “appalling”, prompting outrage from politicians and military officials alike.
In the days since the ferocious Taliban offensive seized control of the Afghan capital — toppling the existing government and driving tens of thousands of people to try to escape the country — much has been said of the “disastrous” manner in which the Biden administration has handled the withdrawal of its troops.
And in what’s been declared “an astonishing mistake, made after a series of other astonishing mistakes”, it’s been revealed that the joint US military and diplomatic co-ordination team at the airport handed the Taliban a list of people America wanted to evacuate.
Detailed to Politico by three US and congressional officials, the list contained the names of American citizens, lawful permanent residents, dual nationals and, to the horror of many, Afghans who had served alongside the US during the conflict — a group of people who the Taliban has a history of brutally murdering for their collaboration with coalition forces.
“Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list,” one defence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Politico.
“It’s just appalling and shocking and makes you feel unclean.”
‘It could very well have happened’
Asked about the list during a press conference on Thursday, President Joe Biden said he wasn’t sure that such a thing existed, but didn’t deny that his country sometimes hands names over to the Taliban.
“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,” he told reporters.
“So, yes there have been occasions like that. To the best of my knowledge, in those cases, the bulk of that has occurred and they have been let through.
“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.”
According to Politico, the list first came up during a classified briefing on Capitol Hill this week, which turned contentious after top Biden administration officials defended their close co-ordination with the Taliban — arguing that it was the best way to keep both Americans and Afghans safe and “prevent a shooting” between Taliban fighters and the US troops stationed at the airport.
“They had to [provide the list] because of the security situation the White House created by allowing the Taliban to control everything outside the airport,” one official told the publication.
After thousands of US visa applicants arrived at the airport — overwhelming the capacity of officials to process them — the State Department changed course, asking applicants not to come to the airport until they were cleared for entry, and removing Afghan names from the lists provided to the Taliban.
‘We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security’
Reporters Lara Seligman, Alexander Ward and Andrew Desiderio wrote the fact “that US officials handed over a list of Afghan allies and American citizens and residents shows the extent to which they outsourced security of the airport’s outer perimeter to the Taliban”.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters this week that US officials have been “in daily communication” with Taliban commanders about who to let in.
Representative for the state of Michigan, Republican Peter Meijer — who secretly flew to Kabul earlier this week on an unauthorised mission with Democrat Seth Moulton to witness the evacuation of Americans and Afghans — told The New York Times “it is utterly bizarre and baffling that we’re in this situation”.
“To go from having the Taliban as an adversary we’re seeking to kill, to relying upon them for security, co-ordinating to make sure things run smoothly,” he said.
“It’s a complicated situation that’s impossible to understand if you’re not on the ground and yet critical to saving the lives of tens of thousands.”
News of the list came hours after two Islamic State terrorist attacks in the area just outside the airport — which killed dozens of Afghan citizens and American troops — and makes one thing clear, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez wrote in a statement: “We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security.”
“The attacks throw into sharp relief the reality that we can‘t depend on the Taliban to bring stability and security to Afghanistan or help us keep a lid on other terrorist groups such as the Islamic State,” Josh Rogin wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
“Now that we’ve withdrawn virtually all of our troops from Afghanistan, our ability to monitor and stage operations against terrorists there is greatly diminished.”