The basic situation in Kabul is that there are still thousands of Americans who need to get out of the country and the only way to do that is to get to Kabul airport where the American military is holding ground. There’s a ticking clock aspect to this because we were supposed to be completely out by August 31 and the White House has sent some mixed messages on whether that’s a firm deadline or not.
Meanwhile, as CNN’s Clarissa Ward has demonstrated for the past several days, getting to Kabul airport is a dangerous and harrowing experience. The area outside the airport is full of Taliban checkpoints and they may or may not care if you have a US passport. Some Americans have turned to lawmakers for help because the US government has made it clear it cannot guarantee your safety getting to the airport. One California Democrat made it explicit during an interview with CNN, “There is no way the American military should use military force to go to someone’s house or some building somewhere to extract people.” He added, “To provide safe passage from parts of a huge city? No way—not sensible.”
But it turns out the British and the French are doing exactly that. Both have sent in troops that are going out into the city to get their citizens and escort them back to the safety of the airport:
The Daily Mail reported that London deployed an additional 300 troops to Kabul specifically to extract trapped British nationals earlier in the week. Within hours of touching down in Kabul, the British troops retrieved some 200 British nationals from around Kabul, the Telegraph reported. Prompting the mission were reports of Taliban hunting down former Afghan government officials, along with Britons stuck behind a web of Taliban checkpoints lining the route to the airport.
Additionally, France 24 reports that the French military has been conducting similar operations since Monday. French President Emmanuel Macron thanked French security forces on Twitter for executing a ‘sensitive operation’ which evacuated more than 200 French and Afghans.
Here’s the tweet from President Macron which reads: “Nearly 200 Afghans who worked for France or who are threatened have just been evacuated from Kabul. As well as French and foreign nationals. To our armies, police and diplomatic teams who organize these sensitive operations, thank you. We continue.”
Près de 200 Afghans qui ont travaillé pour la France ou qui sont menacés viennent d’être évacués de Kaboul. Ainsi que des Français et des ressortissants étrangers. À nos armées, policiers et équipes diplomatiques qui organisent ces opérations sensibles, merci. On continue. pic.twitter.com/xHSreTLOLI
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 18, 2021
There’s a story in the London Times today about the British effort which suggests it is limited to British citizens:
Britain’s special forces have carried out rescue missions in Kabul to take stranded UK citizens and others to the airport. Small teams have been deployed to find individuals struggling to make RAF flights, sources confirmed.
However, Afghan interpreters were still finding it hard to get past Taliban checkpoints. One spoke of British troops turning him away without even looking at his papers.
The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Germany is doing the same: “Germany will send two light helicopters to Kabul to evacuate Germans at risk or situated in remote regions, a defense ministry’s spokesperson in Berlin said on Friday.”
There was a report about this on Fox News. As you’ll see, Maj. General Taylor was asked about it and simply said the US mission was to hold the airport.
The U.K. and France are rescuing their citizens who are outside the Kabul airport.
But U.S. “forces are under strict orders not to leave the airport. Instead, they rely on the Taliban for safe passage" pic.twitter.com/DSoda0WEPD
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) August 20, 2021
Why is it that the French, British and Germans can manage this but the US cannot? Granted we have more people to get out than they do but we also have a much larger military to draw on. And it really sounds like the number of soldiers involved in these operations wouldn’t need to be huge. Granted there is a risk involved but shouldn’t that risk be on our troops, rather than on the individual Americans who need to get out? At the moment, there has been at least one report that in fact the US military have been ordered not to leave the airport.
— John Cooper (@thejcoop) August 20, 2021
It really appears that other countries are going the extra mile to ensure the safety of their people and, possibly because we don’t have enough troops in place, we are just not able to do that. This is a decision that could really come back to bite the Biden administration. If any American is kidnapped, killed or left behind because of this current policy, the polling on this is going to take a major turn against the White House. Why not send in enough people to make sure every American gets out safely? I really don’t understand the thinking behind the current policy.
Update: The Washington Examiner reports a US general complained to a British counterpart that the British operations outside the airport were making the US look bad.
I understand that the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division has told the commander of the British special forces at the Kabul airport to cease operations beyond the airport perimeter.
Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue has told his British Army counterpart, a high-ranking field-grade officer of the British army’s 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, that British operations were embarrassing the United States military in the absence of similar U.S. military operations. I understand that the British officer firmly rejected the request.
Let’s see if someone can confirm this but, if it’s accurate, it really is embarrassing.