It's been nearly a month since the last US military plane departed Kabul international airport with the last American troops and civilians. But as many international correspondents on the ground in the Afghan capital have made clear, US citizens are still there, having been trapped for weeks amid charges that President Biden abandoned them to uncertain fates under hardline Taliban rule.
The State Department announced Monday that according to its count, about 100 American citizens and lawful permanent residents are currently seeking to leave Kabul. This number could likely be significantly higher, given in the same statements a US official admitted the number is not precise and changes daily. "About 100 US citizens and lawful permanent residents are ready to leave Kabul, Afghanistan," an official was cited in The Hill as saying.
Crucially, there was no mention of precisely when they will actually depart or indication that any concrete plans have been put in place, only that "We’re also going to continue working closely with other governments and with a range of outside advocates to support Afghans wanting to leave the country," as the US official explained.
Within two weeks of the US pullout the Taliban had announced Kabul's airport was fully operational with the help of Qatari and Turkish technicians, and domestic flights quickly resumed. However, foreign airlines have not returned to the country, making it effectively impossible for trapped Americans to fly out of the country, despite "assurances" recently given by the Taliban that any foreign nationals wishing to leave would be given safe passage.
The Taliban on Monday began urging foreign airlines to return to the country:
Afghanistan’s Taliban government Sunday asked foreign airlines to resume commercial flights to and from Kabul, saying problems at the capital city’s airport had been resolved and the facility "is fully operational."
The newly established Taliban foreign ministry said "As the problems at Kabul International Airport have been resolved and the airport is fully operational for domestic and international flights, the IEA assures all airlines of its full cooperation."
US lawful permanent resident trapped in Afghanistan with family: 'I don't believe I'm getting out safe'https://t.co/eKJVbCz8kP— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 24, 2021
Meanwhile the Biden administration is coming under increased pressure to rescue the tens of thousands of Afghans who had worked with US-NATO forces as translators and local staff during the two-decade occupation (commonly estimated at 100,000 or more people). As one Fox report underscores, lawmakers are demanding that the US cut through red tape and fast-track local Afghan allies' legal path to enter to the United States.
John Sifton, the Asia Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch, said in a Fox interview, "They are operating in a sense of incredible fear because nobody knows what the Taliban are going to do. And separately Michigan Republican Rep. Peter Meijer said "Many are hiding in safe houses or are constantly changing locations."
The Congressman and Army Reserve veteran described: "There's already been a significant amount of retributive killings," adding that "Folks are getting dragged out of their house and killed."