According to the White House, U.S. planes out of Kabul to evacuate Afghans escaping the Taliban were put on hold for many hours Friday after Qatar declared it was at capacity and refused to accept any more evacuees.
President Joe Biden said the break was necessary to “ensure we could handle the arriving evacuees at the transit hubs” at an update conference on Friday afternoon.
“This is one of the largest, most difficult air lifts in history, and the only country in the world capable of projecting this much power on the far side of the world with this degree of precision is the United States of America,” he said.
More than 200 employees of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal were among those evacuated, he added.
The suspension is expected to be lifted, according to an unnamed White House official, as the government investigates additional areas for relocating Afghans. Bahrain is set to begin receiving evacuees on Friday after making an air base available, according to CBS News.
Meanwhile, Colombian Ambassador to the United States Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno stated that the country will temporarily host Afghans while they await approval to come to the United States. He stated that the US government will cover all costs associated with the initiative.
According to one soldier, 10,000 people had been screened and were ready to go from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, but there was nowhere for them to go.
The White House announced earlier Friday that a few thousand U.S. workers, Afghan aides, and civilians were evacuated on Thursday, with nearly a dozen charter flights taking many more out of the country.
More than a dozen C-17 transport flights were used to evacuate nearly 3,000 individuals from Kabul, according to a White House official. Hundreds of Americans, special international visa applicants and their families, and vulnerable Afghans made up the total.
“Additionally, in the last 24 hours, the U.S. military facilitated the departure of 11 charter flights,” the official said.
“We have evacuated approximately 9,000 people since Aug. 14. Since the end of July, we have evacuated approximately 14,000 people.”
The new evacuations took place four days after the Taliban took control of Kabul and the Afghan government. As American soldiers withdrew and returned to the United States, the insurgent organization went on a fast run across Afghanistan, seizing practically all provincial capitals.
There have been allegations of violent skirmishes between the Taliban and civilians protesting their authority in recent days. The Taliban ordered women and girls to follow a rigid set of Islamic laws during its previous reign in the 1990s, and many fear the group will return to such oppressive authority.
Biden has defended his decision to pull US troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the month. However, in view of the Taliban’s quick takeover, Obama has stated that a presence of US troops will remain in Afghanistan until all American civilians have left. He also stated that everything possible would be done to assist Afghan relief workers and their families.
Since the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan on Sunday, a lot of people have died as a result of the mayhem. On the first day, several people died attempting to board US military flights out of the country. Some people even grabbed the planes as they took off. When one of the planes landed in Qatar, the remains of an Afghan civilian were discovered in the wheel well.
One of Afghanistan’s top young soccer players, Mohammad Zaki Anwari, was among the dead at the Kabul airport. Officials said he was clutching onto the wing of one of the evacuation planes when it departed.
Anwari, 19, and others went to the airport on Sunday when the Taliban entered Kabul.
“He was also a brilliant student and his dream was to be a world-class footballer and he dreamed of making Afghanistan a big name on the world stage,” teammate Rahil Abid told CBS News. “I wasn’t able to see his body or able to go to his funeral because of the current situation in Kabul, but apparently he is one of the Afghans who fell from the plane’s wing or tires after takeoff.”
Other civilians died this week during clashes with the Taliban when the group tried to shut down protests, including two in Jalalabad and Asadabad.
Taliban fighters have been patrolling across Kabul and in other provinces, mainly as a show of force and to quell any potential uprisings.
“We are united in our deep concern about the grave events in Afghanistan and call for an immediate end to the violence,” NATO said in a statement Friday.
“Our immediate task is now to meet our commitments to continue the safe evacuation of our citizens, partner country nationals, and at-risk Afghans, in particular those who have assisted our efforts.
“We will not allow any terrorists to threaten us.”
German news outlet Deutsche Welle reported Thursday that Taliban fighters killed a reporter’s relative during a house-to-house search. Another person was injured.
“The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban yesterday is inconceivably tragic and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families in Afghanistan find themselves,” Deutsche Welle Director General Peter Limbourg said.
“It is evident that the Taliban are already carrying out organized searches for journalists, both in Kabul and in the provinces. We are running.”
The Taliban in the past have cracked down on journalists they view as critical of Islam and severely restricted press freedoms in Afghanistan. They said at a news conference on Tuesday that they will allow a free press in Afghanistan. They also said women will be allowed to work and study and there will be no reprisals against former enemies.
Experts have been skeptical of the Taliban’s promises.
“There is little evidence to suggest the insurgents have changed their hard-line views in their 20 years of opposition,” Raffaello Pantucci, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, said, according to Voice of America.