US officials provided the Taliban with the names of Americans and Afghan allies to evacuate
“Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list,” said a defense official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue. “It’s just awful and shocking and it makes you feel unclean.”
When asked about POLITICO’s reports during a press conference Thursday, President Joe Biden said he was not sure such lists existed, but he also did not deny that the United States sometimes gives names to the Taliban.
“There have been times when our military has contacted their military counterparts in the Taliban and told them that, for example, this bus comes with X number of people on it, made up of the following group of people. bus or that group through, “he said. “So yeah, there have been times like that. As far as I know, in those cases, most of that has happened and they have been passed up.
“I can’t tell you for sure that there has actually been a list of names,” he added. “There may have been. But I do not know of any circumstances. It does not mean that it does not exist, that here are the names of 12 people, they are going to come, let them pass. It could well have happened.”
NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne added: “It is regrettable that the White House has not been asked for comments or explanations on such a serious issue. If Politico had asked us, we would have given the same answer that the president shared with the nation today: that in limited cases we have shared information with the Taliban that has successfully facilitated evacuations from Kabul. “
A spokesman for the United States Central Command declined to comment.
The topic of the list came up during a classified briefing on Capitol Hill this week, which turned controversial after senior officials in the Biden administration defended its close coordination with the Taliban. Biden officials argued that it was the best way to keep Americans and Afghans safe and avoid a gun battle between Taliban fighters and the thousands of American soldiers stationed at the airport.
After the fall of Kabul, in the first days of the evacuation, the joint US military and diplomatic coordination team at the airport provided the Taliban with a list of people the US intended to evacuate. Those names included Afghans who served alongside the United States during the 20-year war and applied for special immigrant visas to the United States. US citizens, dual citizens, and lawful permanent residents were also included.
“They had to do it because of the security situation that the White House created by allowing the Taliban to control everything outside the airport,” said a US official.
But after thousands of visa applicants arrived at the airport, surpassing the United States’ capacity to process them, the State Department changed course: it asked applicants not to come to the airport and instead asked them to wait until that were authorized to enter. Thereafter, the list that was sent to the Taliban did not include those Afghan names.
Until Aug. 25, only US passport and green card holders were accepted as eligible for evacuation, the defense official said.
Still, the fact that US officials handed over a list of Afghan allies and US citizens and residents shows the extent to which they outsourced the airport’s outer perimeter security to the Taliban. The Taliban are gone door to door looking for Afghan interpreters and others who assisted US and Western forces.
In written and verbal communications, Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command, and Rear Admiral Peter Vasely, chief of US forces on the ground in Afghanistan, have referred to the Taliban as “our Afghan partners.” , according to two official defenders.
The Biden administration has been coordinating the evacuation effort and airport security with the Taliban, who control checkpoints outside the airport’s outer perimeter. Officials have been “in daily communication” with Taliban commanders about who to let in, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters this week.
The news comes just hours after two Islamic State terror attacks rocked the area outside the airport, killing at least four US Marines and wounding dozens more. Several Afghans were also killed in the attacks.
Following the attacks, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menéndez (DN.J.) appeared to criticize the Biden administration’s strategy of coordinating with the Taliban and wrote in a statement: “While we wait for more details to come One thing is clear: We cannot trust the Taliban with the safety of the Americans. “