Taliban agreed to allow “safe passage” from Afghanistan for US civilians

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One-liner: According to President Joe Biden's national security adviser, the Taliban have agreed to allow civilians attempting to join a US-directed airlift from the capital "safe passage," though a timetable for completing the evacuation of Americans, Afghan allies, and others has yet to be worked out with the country's new rulers.

Relevance: Following the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, a number of countries attempted to remove their representatives from the country as soon as possible.

Chaos at the airport: On Tuesday, Jake Sullivan reported that some civilians were being turned away, pushed back, or even attacked as they tried to enter Kabul International Airport.

  • However, he claimed that “very significant numbers” were arriving at the airport and that the matter of the others was being discussed with the Taliban, whose stunningly rapid takeover of the country on Sunday plunged the US evacuation operation into confusion, uncertainty, and bloodshed

Evacuation underway: Following a delay on Monday, Pentagon officials claimed that the airlift was back on schedule and was being hastened despite weather issues and that they were in contact with Taliban commanders. More US troops had landed and more were on their way, with over 6,000 anticipated to assist with airport security.

  • According to the White House, 13 planes evacuated 1,100 US citizens, permanent residents, and their families from Kabul International Airport on Tuesday, with more flights planned on Wednesday and throughout the week. Taylor and Kirby stated that the objective is to increase to one evacuation flight per hour by Wednesday, with 5,000 to 9,000 evacuees leaving each day. According to Taylor, about 4,000 US troops have arrived at the airport
  • The State Department has tasked former Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass with overseeing the evacuation operation in Kabul, while the Pentagon has tasked Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Donohue, a special operations officer and current commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, overseeing airport security operations

Talks with Taliban: According to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, US soldiers were speaking with Taliban commanders "many times a day" about avoiding a confrontation at the airport. This signaled that Afghanistan's new rulers, who seized power after a 20-year conflict with the US-backed Kabul govt, have no intention of halting the departure.

  • Kirby refused to provide the Taliban agreement in full, and Sullivan stated that the issue of how much time the Taliban will allow for the evacuation is still being worked out. According to Biden, the evacuation must be completed by Aug 31. Sullivan would not indicate whether or not that deadline will be fulfilled

Protecting US civilians: On Tuesday, General Frank McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command and overall commander of US forces in Kabul, paid an unannounced visit to the Afghan capital. In a written statement, he said that he observed military air traffic controllers and ground handlers “rapidly scaling up” airlift operations.

  • McKenzie negotiated the safe passage deal with Taliban commanders in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday.  “I cautioned them against interference in our evacuation and made it clear to them that any attack would be met with overwhelming force in the defense of our forces.” - McKenzie
  • At the WH, Sullivan said US officials were engaged in an “hour by hour” process of holding the Taliban to their commitment to allow safe passage for civilians wishing to leave the country. “The protection of US civilians and our partners is my highest priority and we will take all necessary action to ensure a safe and efficient withdrawal.” - McKenzie

The US on Taliban: When asked if the Biden administration recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate authority, Sullivan said it was too early to tell and that the Taliban's record of adhering to international human rights rules "has not been good."

  • According to Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor at a Pentagon news briefing, nine Air Force C-17 cargo flights landed overnight at the airport with supplies and about 1,000 troops, while seven C-17s took off with 700-800 civilian evacuees, including 165 Americans. According to him, the total included both Afghans who had applied for Special Immigrant Visas and third-country nationals

Looking forward: That figure is projected to rise to 6,000 in the coming days, more than twice the amount in Afghanistan when Biden declared in April that the US would finish the war and withdraw all soldiers.

Behind the scenes: On Monday, the airlift was momentarily halted when Afghans fleeing the country broke security and surged onto the tarmac. Several incidents resulted in the deaths of seven persons. The Air Force's Office of Special Investigations stated Tuesday that it is looking into an event Monday in which a C-17 transport jet taking off from Kabul airport was besieged by desperate Afghan civilians, some of whom perished.

  • Human remains were discovered in the plane's wheel well after it landed in Qatar, according to the Air Force. To minimize security problems, US commanders inside the airport are in close contact with Taliban commanders outside, according to Kirby. He said that the Taliban did not use punitive measures and that many troops from Afghanistan's now-defeated army assisted with the airport evacuation

Claims rejected: On Tuesday night, Biden returned to the White House from the presidential retreat at Camp David. On Monday, following the Taliban's easy triumph over the Afghan force, Biden had denied the fault of images of Afghans clinging to US military aviation in Kabul in frantic anxiety about fleeing their own country.

  • The Taliban had reached a far speedier takeover of the nation than his govt had planned, he termed the besieged Afghan citizens an agonising. The US raced to safeguard its own diplomats at Kabul Airport and others 
  • But the president expressed no second thoughts about his decision to stick by the US commitment, formulated during the Trump administration, to end America's longest war, no matter what. “I stand squarely behind my decision” to finally withdraw US combat forces, Biden said

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