Afghan employees of the United States Embassy in Kabul have reportedly said that they are “losing faith” that they will be evacuated and say they would rather die “under the Taliban’s bullet” than risk the crush of fleeing people at the Kabul airport — a crush that has led to more than a dozen deaths in recent days as evacuations ramp up.
“Local staff members at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are ‘deeply disheartened’ by U.S. evacuation efforts and have expressed a sense of betrayal and distrust in the U.S. government, according to a State Department diplomatic cable,” NBC News reported Sunday. “The cable, which was sent Saturday, said memos were sent Wednesday inviting Afghan staff members at the embassy to head to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. It told them to take food and to prepare for difficult conditions.”
Over the weekend, the U.S. State Department advised that employees and their families should avoid the Kabul airport after the U.S. government received word of possible ISIS terror attacks targeting those fleeing the country.
The cable, received by NBC News, claimed that “no one anticipated the brutal experience that occurred” when Afghan employees — whom the U.S. has promised to evacuate alongside American citizens — showed up at Kabul’s airport.
“Staffers reported being jostled, hit, spat on and cursed at by Taliban fighters at checkpoints near the airport, it said, adding that criminals were taking advantage of the chaos while the U.S. military tried to maintain order ‘in an extremely physical situation,'” they said. “Some staff members reported that they were almost separated from their children, while others collapsed in a crush of people and had to be taken to hospitals with injuries, the cable said. Others said they had collapsed on the road because of heat exhaustion.”
At least one staffer was clear that there were two options: death by trampling at the airport or death by the Taliban.
“’It would be better to die under the Taliban’s bullet’ than face the crowds again,” the staffer said, per NBC.
The cable appears to be meant as a warning to the State Department and the Biden administration which, last week, claimed that there was “no indication” that individuals were having difficulty at the airport. Afghans who worked for coalition forces — and particularly for the U.S. government — face the threat of reprisals from the Taliban, who said Monday that American forces must evacuate all of their personnel by August 31st or face “consequences.”
The situation for Afghan partners worsened on Monday, following that announcement. As
The Daily Wire noted, faced with a tightened timeline and no indication the Taliban is willing to budge on the August 31st deadline, the U.S. said that it would prioritize American citizens, green card holders, and foreign nationals over Afghan residents for evacuation.
The U.S. managed to evacuate around 12,000 people overnight, and are expected to evacuate more on Monday, but there are “as many as 20,000 people at the airport in Kabul, all waiting to board flights on U.S. or NATO jets,” according to the Daily Mail. The United States has committed to taking around 20,000 Afghan refugees out of the country to safety elsewhere in the world.
This article has been revised for clarity.