August 18, 2021

Afghanistan Evacuation Continues

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“The Taliban have agreed to allow ‘safe passage’ from Afghanistan for civilians struggling to join a U.S.-directed airlift from the capital, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser said, although a timetable for completing the evacuation of Americans, Afghan allies and others has yet to be worked out with the country’s new rulers.” AP News

“The Taliban vowed Tuesday to respect women’s rights, forgive those who fought them and ensure Afghanistan does not become a haven for terrorists… But many Afghans remain skeptical — and thousands have raced to the airport, desperate to flee the country. Older generations remember the Taliban’s previous rule, when they largely confined women to their homes, banned television and music, and held public executions.” AP News

Many on both sides are critical of current evacuation efforts and also worry about the treatment of women under the Taliban:

“Both Jake Sullivan and Jen Psaki declined to offer any assurance that all Americans will be successfully extracted from Afghanistan. The fact is that the fate of Americans stranded in that country is out of our control. For now, the Taliban is taking the position that as long as foreigners are leaving, they will not interfere with them. Maybe that policy will continue… Maybe all of the trapped American civilians will be ‘allowed’ to flee Afghanistan by the Taliban. But we will never know this for sure, since our government admits that it has little idea how many Americans are currently there.”
John Hinderaker, Power Line Blog

“The State Department's current system for evacuation involves emailing Americans who registered to leave Afghanistan when they're due to fly out of the Kabul airport. But despite Pentagon press secretary John Kirby's assertions they've secured the airport itself, no system has been put in place to get those Americans to the airport. But not to worry, Sullivan says — the Taliban pinky-swore they'll ensure the ‘safe passage’ of Americans en route to the airport…

“This is not a small issue. Kirby has told CNN there are 10,000 Americans stranded in Afghanistan… All of that is ignoring the 80,000 visa applications from Afghans who ‘worked with the U.S. government or find themselves at risk,’ according to Josh Rogin at the Washington Post. All in all, we could be leaving the fates of over 100,000 Americans and our allies in the hands of the Taliban based on the sheer trust they won't do what they've spent the entirety of their existence doing.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

“‘This is not Saigon,’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on CNN on Sunday—and he was right. By the time helicopters took off from Saigon rooftops in April 1975, the evacuation of endangered South Vietnamese had been going on for several weeks. The first stage was unofficial, and often illegal, as American diplomats, intelligence and military officers, veterans, and private citizens scrambled to get their Vietnamese associates onto CIA black flights without passenger manifests, or rickety naval vessels out to the South China Sea. The official evacuation began only in the last days, when American leaders finally faced that the situation was hopeless. By the time the last helicopter left the U.S. embassy, on April 30, 135,000 Vietnamese had been rescued…

“What’s happening in Kabul right now will mark the U.S. in history. At this stage, even the most successful evacuation will still leave behind more vulnerable Afghans than can be thought of without feeling sick with shame. But tens of thousands of Afghans can still get out. It’s up to us.”
George Packer, The Atlantic

“Crowds of mostly Afghan men have swarmed the airport’s tarmac, some frantically clinging to the side of U.S. military planes as they prepared to take off, some falling to their deaths. The streets are overrun with thousands of thieves and assailants recently released from prison. Desperately trying to depart from that same airport is a group of young Afghan girls in grave danger: the Afghan Girls Robotics Team. There are reports of not only violence, but also that water has been running out at the airport. These girls and their coaches have been turned away from ticketed flights, and are waiting, now, for a breakthrough…

“In recent years, everyone from senators and Trump administration leaders to the Council on Foreign Relations has hosted them and celebrated their achievements. The girls’ faces were even painted on the walls of the U.S. Embassy gates in Kabul. But that very visibility and celebration by U.S. aid and diplomatic agencies is what puts many members of the team in danger today… If White House leaders can’t even find seats on a humanitarian airlift for a small group of girls and teachers that the United States held up as examples of the progress made possible by U.S. support, it will prove that Afghan women were simply expendable collateral in a political game.”
Kimberley Motley and Meighan Stone, Washington Post

“You’ve probably heard by now that the Taliban has turned over a new leaf. Instead of the old, ultraconservative Taliban, this new lot is open to having women work in public service. Why, they’re practically moderates. But despite these assurances, CNN reports that something has changed on the busy streets of Kabul. There are almost no women visible in public…

“For obvious reasons, the women in Kabul are terrified. Last week, many of them were living relatively modern lives with jobs and uncovered faces. Now they are aware they could be beaten or worse just for their past transgressions not to mention anything they might do in the present moment…

“Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the face by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan in 2012 said, ‘I am deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan right now, especially about the safety of women and girls there.’ ‘Biden has a lot to do,’ she adds. But Biden just got done telling us he’s not doing anything else for the Afghans. He can’t even guarantee the safety of American citizens in the country right now so Afghan women are on their own.”
John Sexton, Hot Air

The reports coming out of Afghanistan, so far, have been ominous. There are reports of the Taliban going door to door in Kabul, seeking out women who worked for the government and media. In Kabul, store owners reportedly took down signs with women models. Some TV channels changed from soap operas to Islamic programming. Afghans who worked with US or international forces are terrified, and in hiding, for fear of reprisal. The Taliban may have attempted to remake their image. But many in Afghanistan have no illusions about who they really are.”
Jen Kirby, Vox

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