Stranded Americans to be allowed to leave Afghanistan today... maybe?

AP Photo

As of last night, the charter jets full of Americans and at-risk Afghanis were still grounded and the Taliban wasn’t showing any signs of allowing the flights to proceed. In the hours since then, however, something may have changed. Multiple outlets are reporting this morning that the terrorist group has agreed to allow a couple of hundred people to depart the country. As with most news coming out of that country these days, the details are somewhat muddled. One report I saw claimed that two hundred people “including Americans” would be flying out. But another said “two hundred Americans and other foreigners.” And those aren’t the only details that seem to be cloudy and in conflict with statements being released by the Taliban’s spokesmen. I suppose we’ll have to wait for the planes to (hopefully) land somewhere safe before we know for sure. (Reuters)

Two hundred Americans and other foreigners who remain in Afghanistan are set to depart the war-ravaged country on charter flights from Kabul on Thursday after the new Taliban government agreed to their evacuation, a U.S. official said.

The departures will be among the first international flights to take off from Kabul airport since the Islamist militia seized the capital in mid-August, triggering the chaotic U.S.-led evacuation of 124,000 foreigners and at-risk Afghans…

The Taliban were pressed to allow the departures by U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. official said, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

There is apparently additional confusion as to which Americans we’re talking about here. Reuters was talking to an American official off the record who couldn’t provide much clarity when pressed for details. First of all, the travelers are supposed to depart from the airport in Kabul. So are these the same flights of Americans who were previously stranded in Mazar-i-Sharif when their charter planes weren’t allowed to take off? If so, how did they make the trip from there to Kabul? It doesn’t seem like they would have flown because once they were in the air why wouldn’t the pilot just bolt for free airspace to the north? The other choice was to ship them overland, I suppose, but that’s a risky trip to make these days.

But if it’s not the group from Mazar-i-Sharif, does that mean that we have at least two sets of stranded Americans numbering in the hundreds waiting to get out? We probably shouldn’t be too surprised if that’s the case because the Biden administration and the Secretary of State have been admitting for quite some time that they have no idea how many Americans were left behind. Maintaining communications with the ones outside of Kabul has been an ongoing challenge since many areas remain without power and some people probably don’t have any way to recharge their phones at this point.

All of this potentially hopeful news depends on the Taliban honoring their word, sadly. Even if a deal was struck with the newly established Taliban cabinet, we’ve seen in the past how those promises may not be reflected in the actions of their fighters around the country. Saying that the planes are allowed to take off doesn’t mean much if the fighters at the airport either don’t know or don’t care about the deal that was allegedly struck.

Speaking of deals, you should probably take note of the report that this agreement was reached after U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad “pressed” the Taliban to allow it. We don’t need a crystal ball to understand that this means yet another “agreement” was reached and the Taliban don’t give anything away for free. At some point, as we’ve been saying here repeatedly, there need to be public congressional hearings into exactly how this disaster unfolded and how many promises were made to the Taliban. How much cash have we shipped them? What other concessions were made during our humiliating exit from the country? And more to the point, how many Americans and green card holders, along with Taliban helpers are still in the country awaiting a path out and dodging the beheading squad? We’re coming up on two weeks since the last of our troops left. Hopefully, anyone left behind has had the opportunity to call an embassy by now and register both their location and their desire to escape. This information needs to eventually be made public.