British Evacuation Commander Says He's Cut out of US-Taliban Discussions Plus the Best Rumor of the Day

AP Photo/Jafar Khan

The conditions remain chaotic around Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. This is the general situation. The Taliban control the terminal and the civil aviation side of the airport. The US controls the military side of the field. There is an indeterminate number of Americans isolated in Kabul and the surrounding area. The numbers range from 5,000 to as many as 40,000. In addition, there are potentially tens of thousands of Afghans who are qualified for evacuation. The Taliban control all points of entry into the airport.

They have given the United States until August 31 to finish evacuation operations. Keep in mind that a single RPG round fired at the military side of the airport will close the airport to all traffic. As best I can tell, the 82d Airborne Division’s ready brigade (about 4,500 with more on the way), the British 2d Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (aka 2 Para) consisting of about 600 men, some Spanish special forces, and a small number of Afghan National Army soldiers are providing security.

This is via The Times (UK):

[British evacuation commander Vice Admiral Ben] Key said that with the Taliban in control across the capital, the security situation may make it “untenable” for the military to continue to evacuate people. In a briefing on the situation he said that how long UK troops would remain in the country was a “64,000-dollar question”. The task was dependent on “recognising that the Taliban are providing the security tapestry across Kabul now”.

“Currently they are respecting the agreement they have with the United States … they are allowing us to go about our business but we have to be pragmatic and honest, the Taliban are controlling how and what we can achieve, and at some point they may remove their consent,” Key said.

“At the moment they have been quite clear, for as long as we are withdrawing, then they are happy for us to go about our business.”

He said there was capacity to airlift as many as 1,000 people a day, but that was dependent on processing and those people being able to get to the airport. Key also said that the UK was not party to the details of any discussions between the US and Taliban so it did not know whether a fresh deadline had been agreed for a withdrawal. He said that he was working to get people out by August 31 but he had “no idea what credibility is still attached to that, recognising events have moved on considerably”.

If you read the last paragraph carefully, you can see that Admiral Key is cut out of the planning of the operation and is not involved in discussions between the US and the Taliban. He doesn’t seem to be alone in his displeasure Devastating House of Commons Speech on Biden’s ‘Shameful’ Actions: ‘This Is What Defeat Looks Like’.

According to some reports, conflict is developing between US forces, who seem to be content to let potential evacuees make their own way through Taliban checkpoints to the airport (we are literally referring them to a web form Up to 10,000 Americans Remain Trapped in Afghanistan as We Face a Second Iran Hostage Crisis) and the British forces who are going out to bring in evacuees. This is from a freelancer inside Kabul Airport.

There are also unconfirmed reports that 2 Para has exchanged shots with the Taliban on some patrols.

Some thoughts on all of this.

The tweets from the freelancer mesh with the frustration expressed by the British commander on the scene. I don’t know anything about the journalist’s background, but bashing the American Army and puffing the British Army up as superheroes is an accepted journalism genre in Britain; keep that in mind. [I have some personal experience with 2 Para; they were the partnership battalion with my battalion in Berlin. The troops are tough…I might even say sort of thuggish. One of my friends was chatting up a German girl outside the Irish Harp in Charlottenburg. The last thing he heard before getting his ass kicked was, “F***, it’s a Yank!” He knew it was 2 Para because the people stomping him wore jump boots with their civvies.] There is no doubt that they are aggressive, and if their vision of evacuation is pulling people in while ours is waiting for them to walk through Taliban checkpoints, I have no doubt that there have been several frank and open exchanges of views. The cascading tragedy at Kabul probably hasn’t helped the working relationship, either. As with any terrific story, there are caveats. The actual veracity of the report of conflict between British paras and American airborne is being challenged.

The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin retweeted a similar report.

https://twitter.com/joshrogin/status/1428057569529106435

The tweet Rogin circulated has been deleted, and some people are warning everyone off the story.

That said, just because someone wants you to ignore a report, particularly one that sounds more plausible by the minute, is not a good reason to do so. Unverified and uncorroborated (by who? The Verification and Corroboration Police?) does not mean false and unreliable. Likewise, not liking someone (for instance, Julian Assange) does not make them unreliable. So put whatever weight you wish on the report in question, but read it all in the context of what we know is happening in Kabul.

Links to more of our coverage of the unfolding disaster in Kabul are below.

The Situation for Americans in Afghanistan Deteriorates Further as Biden’s ‘Plan’ Collapses

Biden Team Admits There Are No Plans to Rescue Americans Trapped Outside of Kabul

WATCH: Shots Fired in Crowd of People Trying to Flee Taliban at Gate Into Kabul Airport

Media Matters CEO Mocks Americans Trapped in Afghanistan

Horror at the Kabul Airport