Uproar in Washington: Did US share evacuee names with Taleban?
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Did the US military give the Taleban the names of Americans and Afghans waiting to be evacuated in order to facilitate the process? The idea, not entirely denied by President Joe Biden, had his opponents screaming in Washington on Friday (Aug 27).
The controversy arose from a Thursday report by the respected Politico news website. Pressed by journalists, Biden did not rule out the possibility of the names being provided to the Taleban.
“I can’t tell you with any certitude that there’s actually been a list of names,” Biden said. “I don’t – there may have been, but I know of no circumstance.”
He added, “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 also acknowledged that Pentagon officials have occasionally “contacted their military counterparts in the Taleban” to speed up the evacuation process.
That caused an uproar in the US capital.
“Never in the history of this nation would we have ever thought that our own government would give the names of Americans to the Taleban,” said top House Republican Kevin McCarthy. “Why wouldn’t we have created a situation of safe passage?”
Over 70 Afghans and 13 American troops were killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport on Thursday, highlighting the troubled and chaotic evacuation effort that has shaken the Biden administration.
The Pentagon defended the need to communicate with the Taleban in order to guarantee the safety of US troops overseeing the evacuation effort and of Afghans trying to access the airport.
“That is really important for us to ensure that the time that people are not in areas and just staying there for long periods of time, you know, the commanders on the ground are continuing to coordinate,” Major-General William Taylor told reporters on Friday.
At the State Department, officials denied that the US government was providing the Taleban with “lists of names” of those seeking to be evacuated, though information on vehicles or convoys, such as licence plates or their time of arrival at the airport, is sometimes shared.
The officials, however, did not rule out that some names may have occasionally been given in order to evacuate tens of thousands of people.