Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) office told New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman that his office is receiving calls from United States citizens trapped behind Taliban checkpoints, even as the U.S. State Department is demanding the Taliban allow foreign nationals to leave the country.
Cotton’s office opened its phone lines to citizens in Kabul who need help, according to a tweet the Senator sent out earlier Sunday, asking anyone in need to make contact. Haberman tweeted Sunday night that Cotton’s office received calls from “multiple U.S. citizens” requiring help.
“If you’re an American stranded in Afghanistan, or know one who is, please contact my office immediately: (501) 223-9081 or [email protected] The situation is dire, but we’ll do everything in our power to help keep you informed and to help get you out,” Cotton’s office said Sunday.
“Cotton spokesman says that their office has heard from multiple US citizens in Kabul trapped behind Taliban checkpoints, who can’t safely reach the US perimeter and have no clear option for what to do,” Haberman noted.
It is not immediately clear what the Biden administration is doing to rescue perhaps thousands of Americans trapped in Kabul, though it was reported Sunday afternoon that the U.S. military is now handling air traffic control on several runways at Kabul airport, and the Biden administration is “prioritizing” the evacuation of American personnel.
“Biden admin has curtailed the number of flights to the US for Afghans who worked alongside the US as it prioritizes the evacuation of American personnel from the country, three sources familiar with the situation told CNN,” CNN’s State Department reporter Jennifer Hansler noted.
Those rescues come at the expense of Afghan translators and their families, whose evacuations are now stalled, per Hansler.
“The last flight for the time being of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and their families bound for Fort Lee, Virginia, has left Afghanistan,” Hansler tweeted Sunday afternoon. “It is unclear how long the pause in flights will last and the situation remains fluid. As of last week refugee resettlement agencies were preparing for a large influx of arrivals & Biden administration officials were discussing an uptick in SIV flights.”
The Department of Defense said Sunday night that they would work to “accelerate” the timeline for SIV evacuations.
The State Department, Sunday night, issued a demand to the Taliban to allow foreign nationals — and any Afghan citizen who so desires — to leave.
Given the deteriorating security situation, we support, are working to secure, and call on all parties to respect and facilitate, the safe and orderly departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country. Those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan bear responsibility—and accountability—for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order.
Afghans and international citizens who wish to depart must be allowed to do so; roads, airports and border crossing must remain open, and calm must be maintained.
The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them.
The Taliban has not yet said whether they will allow the United States the requested two weeks to remove its citizens, personnel, and allies from Kabul, but a specific deal is unlikely.
Demand to leave, however, is high. Chaotic, shocking footage from Kabul airport, posted to social media on Sunday, shows thousands of Afghans and allies rushing the tarmac, attempting to board flights out of the country. Commercial flights out of the country are stalled and flights into the country have been rerouted.
— ABC News (@ABC) August 15, 2021
— Wajahat Kazmi (@KazmiWajahat) August 15, 2021
President Joe Biden will not be appearing on Monday, according to the White House, which noted that there is a “lid” on press availability. He will have a “presidential briefing” Monday morning.