The Taliban have agreed to let “200 Americans and other civilians” leave Afghanistan from the Kabul Airport on Thursday on a flight to Qatar, according to a U.S. official.
The U.S. official said that this came after pressure from US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad who had been appointed a special envoy by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo but kept on by current Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The official did not clarify if this group of people included the people being kept from leaving by the Taliban in Mazar-i-Sharif. That group involved about 1,000 people including at least 142 Americans. One would have to think it's from that group but then it's not clear why they wouldn't just allow them to fly out of Mazar-i-Sharif if they're letting the planes that are there leave. We'll have to see as more information emerges today.
There were at least six planes waiting to leave out of Mazar-i-Sharif for over a week. Initially, the planes were held up by the stupidity of the State Department refusing to clear people fast enough, to the great dismay of the private organizations trying to get the people out and to safety. Then the Taliban stepped in and prevented them from leaving, amid reports that the Taliban was asking for things from the United States in exchange.
The Biden Administration received a lot of fire for not doing more to get them out and for basically creating the situation, to begin with. They wouldn't even acknowledge that the planes were essentially being held hostage by the Taliban until yesterday.
“As of now, the Taliban are not permitting the charter flights to depart. They claim that some of the passengers do not have the required documentation,” Blinken told reporters at the US air base in Ramstein, Germany.
“While there are limits to what we can do without personnel on the ground, without an airport with normal security procedures in place, we are working to do everything in our power to support those flights, and to get them off the ground,” Blinken said.
So that's good news. But one has to wonder what deals were being struck behind the scenes with the Taliban to allow this to happen. If there were “pallets of cash” or something else we had to do to grovel to the Taliban. One also has to wonder if this includes everyone in that group that needed to leave.
Notice also that if that's “200 Americans” it's already more than the lowball estimates of Americans stranded in all of Afghanistan than the Biden Administration was trying to foist on us, so you know their number was just full of it. You have to wonder how many more there still are. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca) had indicated that based on his contacts he believed it was about 500.