US Turns Away 500 Afghan Interpreters and Other Allies Who Made It to Kabul Airport

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

We’ve heard the stories about the Taliban and the other desperate Afghans making it tough for Americans and SIV/allies to get into the airport.

But now there are more troubling stories that it’s not just the Taliban — it’s the United States making it hard for people to escape.

Former CIA officer Matt Zeller helped to get a group of 500 Afghan interpreters to the airport. They’re some of the folks highest on the list to be saved and they miraculously made it to the airport with private help. But the State Department turned them away, according to the New York Times.

After they were turned away by the State Department, the Afghans were then approached by the Taliban outside the airport, who took their paperwork and told the visa holders they would not be allowed to enter. So that one decision by the State Department after the Afghans were actually in the airport, may now doom those 500 interpreters.

The reasoning that they’re concentrating on U.S. passport holders doesn’t make sense. They still need to get the interpreters out, why would you boot them from the airport? Plus, they’re not actually getting out a lot of Americans, although, yes, they should be. They’ve only gotten out about 4500 total when they’re saying that they’re getting out thousands every day, most of whom aren’t Americans. So why they turned down the interpreters’ group seems inexplicable.

As Zeller says, how do you turn away the interpreters when you have planes going out like this? It makes no sense.

This flight was a chartered flight trying to get out 1000 Afghans to Uganda. Not only the Taliban but the U.S. also gave them trouble that’s why the plane went out mostly empty.

From Wall Street Journal:

“It’s a combination of tragic, surreal and apocalyptic,” said Stacia George, director of the Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program, who has been working round-the-clock to get people out of Kabul. “It’s so frustrating to get high-risk people up to the gate and have them risking their lives to go there and you still can’t get them through. It’s a disaster in slow- and fast-motion.”

Last week, Sayara International, a Washington-based development firm that has long worked in Afghanistan, lined up plans to take 1,000 Afghan refugees to Uganda, whose government has offered sanctuary. Sayara chartered three planes for the operation, said George Abi-Habib, one of the company’s co-founders. Then it ran into a series of obstacles. Marines at the airport gates refused to allow Afghans with seats on the plane to get inside. At one point, Sayara started charging some passengers for seats to fill a cash shortfall it needed to plug before they could fly out of the country, Mr. Abi-Habib said. One Ugandan woman had to crawl through a sewage pipe to get into the airport, he added.

The same thing happened on Sunday to a charter flight heading for Ukraine. Activists brought 40 vulnerable Afghan women to the chaotic airport gates where they carried balloons that said “Ukraine” on them so they could be easily identified. But U.S. soldiers wouldn’t let them through, Ms. George said. The flight, which had been waiting for two days to try to get the women on board, took off without them. In all, said Ms. George, 70 of the 240 seats were empty.