After initially telling remaining Americans in Afghanistan to shelter in place and wait for them to tell them to come to the airport, the State Department issued a statement Wednesday telling the more than 10,000 US Citizens to make their way to the airport in Kabul and claims the Taliban will let them through, despite people on the ground reporting that they are being stopped on their way there.
At a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin admitted that the US military does not have enough people on the ground to go and retrieve US citizens to bring them to the airport and guard it from the Taliban at the same time.
“We don’t have the capability to go out and collect up large numbers of people,” he said.
Those on the ground are terrified to leave their homes. Taliban fighters are reportedly going door to door looking for enemies – many of whom may include American journalists, diplomats or Afghan translators or interpreters who helped in the war – and some are being stopped by roadblocks and checkpoints.
Overnight it was reported that 2,000 people were flown out, putting 100 people on planes that can take 600, the Daily Mail reports.
Overnight, 18 C-17 US Air Force jets left Kabul carrying 2,000 people in total including 365 Americans. One of them that was filmed by a CBS journalist on board was carrying around 300 people including translators, women and children. It leaves 1,700 that were removed on the remaining 17 jets – an average of 100 per flight.
The planes are fitted to take 150 soldiers and heavy cargo loads but in disaster situations like the one unfolding in Afghanistan, they can be used take 600 people without surpassing weight limits.
On Wednesday afternoon, Dept. Secretary of State Wendy Ruth Sherman suggested that Americans shouldn’t have a problem getting to the airport because so many Afghans have managed to, and the Taliban has been letting Americans through.
“So far the track record is quite good for Americans getting to the airport it appears the commitment has been solid. I don’t know every case but so far the experience seems to be one that has worked.”
“The Taliban has said that the roads are open, that people can move. We’ve heard all of the stories about checkpoints, harassment, difficulties, jammed traffic, we’re trying to work through those issues. I will say, in spite of the obstacles, many, many afghans in all of the categories are finding their way to the airport,” she said.
On Sunday, one of the jets took 640 Afghans out of Kabul and in 2013, a different ones as used to remove 670 people from a typhoon in the Philippines. And while the near-empty flights took off on Sunday, thousands of people were at the gates of the airport in Kabul, screaming, crying and begging to be saved from the Taliban.
Flights bound for Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, France and Italy also took off on Wednesday with just a few dozen people on board despite having capacity to take hundreds. In one shocking case, a German plane with room for 150 departed Kabul on Tuesday with just seven on board.
Taliban are controlling all of the streets surrounding the airport and the US – and other countries – are relying on its fighters to let people through, including westerners who could become hostages if caught, and Afghan interpreters, translators or diplomats who could face persecution if the Taliban finds out who they are.
Already, the the terrorist group – which had vowed peace as part of a revamped image – has abandoned its promise by parading thieves with ropes round their necks, beating children and relentlessly shooting bullets in the air.
At a conference call briefing with journalists on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby talked about the ongoing ‘processing’ issues and delays in getting people their necessary paperwork.
He admitted that he didn’t know how many Americans were still stuck in Kabul and said he “couldn’t predict” how many would leave overnight.
“I cant tell you the numbers of people coming and going. Our force flow gets smaller as we get more troops on the field. I cant predict how many people will be evacuated,” he said.
“We’re still working on the processing here…We’re not unaware that there has been issues out in town and harassment of individuals, that’s one of the reasons we’re in touch with the Taliban to try to make sure that doesn’t happen.”