Lara Seligman of Politico first reported the bombshell news that the United States now relies on the Taliban to grant entry into the outer perimeter of the Kabul international airport. American officials provided the Taliban with a list of names of American citizens, green card holders, and potential Afghan refugees.
This episode summarizes the chaos unfolding in Afghanistan. Poor planning for the withdrawal created a situation in which the United States has to rely on our enemy, the Taliban, to screen those leaving the country. Former Trump administration official Stephen Miller tweeted that “The Taliban are the gatekeepers to U.S. admission. Think about that.”
Miller’s characterization is the unfortunate and ugly truth. The same group that we fought for 20 years is now dictating who enters the Kabul airport and who can access U.S. and western-bound flights. Worse, they have a list of Americans and Afghan allies still in Afghanistan. Seligman quoted a defense official who said that “Basically, [the U.S. officials]just put all those Afghans on a kill list.” The Washington Post reported that there are as many as 1,500 American citizens still trying to leave Afghanistan.
In related news, the Taliban announced that they would bar all Afghans from leaving the country after August 31, the deadline that the group also expects the United States to leave Afghanistan permanently. A spokesman told Western media that “The way to the airport has been closed now. Afghans are not allowed to go there now. Foreigners are allowed to go, but we have stopped Afghan nationals.”
Despite the Taliban’s statement, the U.S. evacuated more than 100,000 people from Afghanistan, including 5,000 American citizens and 7,000 Afghans in the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program available to translators, drivers, and those who worked with our military. The remaining 88,000 are unvetted, unknown, and could be anybody. The Taliban allowed these individuals to pass through the checkpoints on their way to the Kabul airport. Who are they?
The Taliban’s acting as gatekeepers of Afghan travel to the United States is a humiliating fact as Americans reflect on the conclusion of our country’s longest war. In light of these developing facts on the ground, the U.S. faces a choice. Already, lawmakers are calling for the resettlement of as many as 200,000 Afghan refugees in the United States. This would be a mistake given the administration’s catastrophic failure to execute a safe and orderly withdrawal, and an organized evacuation of the people who needed to get out.
Policies must also account for real world realities. Currently, the United States and other Western nations are grappling with unprecedented migration crises that are stretching resources and vetting capabilities to the breaking point. For the cost of resettling a single refugee in the United States, we could resettle 12 refugees abroad in regional arrangements with neighboring countries in the Middle East. If the United States is serious about helping as many people as possible, regional resettlement must be the first priority.