The Taliban are now preventing Westerners from getting to Kabul airport, according to reports Wednesday morning, expanding their airport blockade, despite assuring coalition forces that foreigners would be allowed access to evacuation flights.
Private flights, being organized to bypass the Biden administration’s pullout, are also facing “growing obstacles,” according to The Wall Street Journal, and chartered planes, designed to rescue Americans and their allies trapped in Kabul are “flying out of Kabul with hundreds of empty seats.”
On Tuesday, the Taliban “issued an edict saying only foreigners will be able to access the airport for evacuation,” the Daily Mail reported. “A spokesperson for the group ordered locals to return home. Roads in the city have been blocked in a bid to stop Afghans from leaving.”
Those blockades, the Mail noted, based on a Politico report, are catching not just Afghans “but American citizens,” and halting evacuation efforts. Groups coordinating evacuations have found themselves needing to redirect people “on the fly.”
“New Taliban checkpoints on the road to Pakistan have made driving out of the country increasingly risky,” the Wall Street Journal continued. “Confusing bureaucratic hurdles have prevented countless people from leaving Afghanistan.”
The Washington Post’s editorial board noted Wednesday that “there may be only three or four days left for the gigantic airlift currently underway, because time must be left to fly out U.S. and other troops securing the airport themselves. Indeed, some troops have started leaving already.”
“Meanwhile,” however, the Post said, “the Taliban set up a new blockade of the airport road in Kabul to prevent more Afghans from leaving.”
“If Mr. Biden opposes that, he did not say so in his speech,” The Washington Post editorial board pointed out. “Mr. Biden, in short, has accepted a series of conditions that seems to make it much more difficult to keep the promises of evacuation he has made or strongly implied.”
“It’s a combination of tragic, surreal and apocalyptic,” the Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s so frustrating to get high-risk people up to the gate and have them risking their lives to go there and you still can’t get them through. It’s a disaster in slow- and fast-motion.”
Private charities and groups like the Nazarene Fund have tried to step in to assist those in need of swift evacuation, but those efforts are proving more difficult as the deadline for withdrawal nears.
“There’s been an outpouring,” an official told NBC News. “It’s inspiring, but on the other hand, it is a damning reflection on the failure of the U.S. that private citizens are having to step in to do what the government with all its billions and trillions has failed to do.”
The blockade has complicated an already dangerous mission: getting remaining Americans out of Kabul. Although the administration has rescued an estimated 4,400 U.S. passport holders and their families, “U.S. officials believe that thousands of Americans remain in Afghanistan, including some far beyond Kabul, without a safe or fast way to get to the airport. Tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the U.S. government over the last 20 years, and are eligible for special visas, are desperate to leave,” The New York Times said.