The situation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan is at a crisis point. It seems that no one in government has a handle on how many Americans remain to be evacuated. The number 5,000-10,000 has been bandied about; one person who alleges to be in the know claims the number is 40,000 (see Number of Americans Trapped in Afghanistan May Be Even Worse Than the Biden Team Is Telling Us). Yesterday, I saw one report where the upward range of US passport holders was put at 15,000. The number of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders is pegged at about 22,000, but who really knows?
Access to the airport is via a few gates, and the situation at those gates is perilous for evacuees and the security forces.
It doesn't look like the situation in Afghanistan has gotten any better as the crush of people are still trying to break through the barricades at Kabul airport. pic.twitter.com/5xv60WS7TP
— Ian Miles Cheong @ stillgray.substack.com (@stillgray) August 22, 2021
“Help! Taliban is coming. Taliban is coming.”
— Frud Bezhan فرود بيژن (@FrudBezhan) August 18, 2021
This is what it looks like outside the north gate at the airport in Kabul. I won't mention why this location is important. I will say that the @CENTCOM commander, who agreed to allow this airport to be the primary/only evacuation point, should be dismissed/replaced immediately. pic.twitter.com/yfvWRJaJ7n
— Bill Roggio (@billroggio) August 18, 2021
— Matt Zeller (@mattczeller) August 18, 2021
The routes to the airport are all controlled by the Taliban, who are, according to reports, turning back SIV holders and sometimes beating up American passport holders.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin: "Several Americans have been beaten by #Taliban."
The taliban confiscated American passports and beat up several Americans at some of the checkpoints. pic.twitter.com/zNv8MKDVte
— Terror Alarm (@terror_alarm) August 21, 2021
The situation is so out of control that senior Biden appointees directly contradict what Biden is saying contemporaneously with him speaking. This from the New York Post:
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told members of Congress on a conference call Friday that Americans attempting to evacuate Afghanistan have been beaten by the Taliban, directly contradicting President Biden's assertion that U.S. citizens were not being blocked from the airport, two lawmakers told The Post.
Striking a decidedly more concerned tone than the commander in chief, Austin called the abuse of Americans at the hands of the Taliban “unacceptable” as lawmakers sought answers on how the Biden Administration is attempting to get U.S. citizens and allies out of the country.
“Within 30 minutes of Biden saying it publicly, the Secretary of Defense directly contradicted him,” one senior GOP lawmaker told The Post.
Once you get into the airport, the situation is dire. This is from an Afghan national trying to get out sent to an online acquaintance. I'm heavily redacting it, but it speaks to what is happening in a way that none of the media are:
[They] received an email from the US State Dept to proceed to Camp Sullivan to be processed to get into the Kabul Airport. He was provided with a pass in the email. We contacted multiple charities, State Dept personnel, and was told by at least one senate staffer's office that it was legit and he was good to go. He arrived at Camp Sullivan in the morning yesterday to find it closed. Camp is, I think, referring to an area in which people are sleeping/resting/standing/living all day as they move in unmoving mob lines towards the hope of getting through the gate into the airport. …
As he got closer to the Taliban checkpoint, something sparked the Taliban to start beating those waiting in line. Well- the mob that was standing in a crowd, not really what you'd think of as a line. He and his wife were beaten. There was nowhere to run, however, as the crowd was too thick. They just stood there and took the beating- I'd imagine it was with some kind of stick. Later, as they pushed closer to the Nirvana of the Abbey Gate, the mob, for some reason, started to run. There was nowhere to go. His five year old was almost trampled. They pushed closer. Why was the mob running? Because, if you get to the gate and you don't have a visa, the US soldiers won't let you in, and then you have to go back through the Taliban checkpoint … and get beaten.
24 hours. No water. No food. Defecating and pissing where you are. Too crowded to do anything but stand. Oppressive heat. Your wife hides your cell phone in her clothes so that the Talibs don't steal your phone or see that you worked for the U.S. They won't search a woman. But, they'll beat her.
The US embassy, for its part, has told Americans to ‘shelter in place' despite the knowledge that no one, ever, will come to retrieve them. At the same time, the British and even the French are patrolling into Kabul to find and escort their passport holders and those Afghans who worked for them to the airport. Not so. In fact, the rumor I reported earlier in the week of a major breakdown in cooperation between US and British forces, though still not in the press, is being widely circulated in the Special Forces community (British Evacuation Commander Says He's Cut out of US-Taliban Discussions Plus the Best Rumor of the Day). I'm also getting rumors from troops inside of Afghanistan that US troopers have started slipping out of the airport perimeter to run unauthorized missions to rescue people trapped in Kabul. If so, this marks a total breakdown of discipline in the units there.
What's worse, there appears to be no sense of purpose directing the evacuation. Earlier in the week, Biden claimed that we would soon be evacuating 5,000 people per day. To give you a flavor, this is from Ron Klain's Attempt to Dunk on CNN on Evacuations Falls Flat on Its Face by Nick Arama:
The Biden Administration has been a train wreck when it comes to the whole Afghanistan situation.
Perhaps one of the most infuriating things about it is not just how they've failed so hard, but how they've lied about it and actually pretended like everything was going according to their carefully laid-out plans.
Listen now as President Ron Klain picks a fight with CNN and tries to dunk on their reporter, Clarissa Ward.
We evacuated 5700 people in the past 24 hours. The best military operation in the world is in charge. https://t.co/pTfaalv6YG
— Ronald Klain (@WHCOS) August 20, 2021
Ward said that there hadn't been a plane taking off from the airport, from the U.S. side, for eight hours.
Klain claimed, “We evacuated 5700 people in the past 24 hours. The best military operation in the world is in charge.”
The problem of course is that he's trying to dunk on the reporter that's actually at the airport on the ground and can see the truth of what flights are actually taking off. It wasn't the Biden team telling us of the pause in the evacuation flights. It was CNN. Only after CNN told us, did the Biden team admit it had happened.
Of that 5700, how many were Americans?
“These flights contained nearly 6,000 passengers including a couple hundred American citizens."
What the hell? Only 200? That’s 3% of the passengers. Not exactly prioritizing our citizens…pic.twitter.com/gdPOziLZXf
— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) August 21, 2021
Yesterday, the total number of evacuees was about half of that fat Ronnie was boasting about.
The facilities at Qatar are a almost full capacity so flights there are carrying less people. The US military footprint at HKIA is 5,800 and 3,800 people evacuated by US military in the last 24 hours. (as of 1100 EST 21 Aug 21). Pentagon says that C-17 flights may increase from an average of 12 a day to up to 30 a day very soon.
If you are trying to put “very soon” in perspective, we have nine days to find and evacuate some 40,000 people before the Taliban close Kabul airport for good.
Now we have this to add:
According to a State Department official, 300 people asked to leave the airport and go back into Kabul because of “unsatisfactory conditions” at the airport
— Ali Rogin (@AliRogin) August 22, 2021
The realization is dawning, even on someone as profoundly addled and stupid and Joe Biden and Jake Sullivan, that the odds of us evacuating American passport holders before the August 31 deadline is, in mathematical terms, about ?-1. Biden claims he will keep American troops in Kabul until all Americans are evacuated. That's pretty easy to do. In fact, if the Taliban rockets Kabul airport, the American troops there will be in grave danger of being cut off and defeated in detail, in essence reenacting the Battle of Gandamak. (Getting in is always than getting out and how anyone thinks a US force capable of defending itself, holding the airport, and extracting refugees could be resupplied by air in an environment where MANPADS are ubiquitous remains a mystery to me.)
We are on the brink of a catastrophe in Afghanistan unlike any experienced by American arms since the winter of 1950-51 during the Korean War. At a minimum, we face a hostage crisis that will make the Iranian Hostage Crisis seem trivial (Up to 10,000 Americans Remain Trapped in Afghanistan as We Face a Second Iran Hostage Crisis). There is no apparent direction. No visible plan. There is no sense of urgency. August 31 looms large, and if anyone cares, they are certainly hiding it well.