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Taliban now says they’ll let Americans, Afghans leave after beating, blocking evacuees

A Taliban fighter (right) searches the bags of people coming out of the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
August 17, 2021

The Taliban claimed on Tuesday they are committed to stop blocking people from getting to the Hamid Karzai International Airport — where U.S. troops are evacuating Americans and Afghans from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan — after reports that they set up checkpoints around the airport, turned people back, and in some cases beat and whipped those attempting to get through.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal initially reported thousands of Afghans who had worked for the U.S. Embassy and various international aid organizations have been unable to reach the airport for evacuation flights because of Taliban checkpoints around the airport entrances. The Wall Street Journal reported the Taliban were whipping and beating Afghans who attempted to cross those checkpoints.

The Biden administration said the Kabul airport remains open for both military and commercial flights on Tuesday and that the Taliban had pledged to once again let civilians through to reach the airport after initially denying them passage.

Fox News reported having reviewed footage of a Taliban fighter kicking a man in the face and another whipping people walking by. An Afghan individual who previously worked as a State Department contractor told Fox News that a Taliban guard let him through a checkpoint but warned him not to leave the country: “You can go, don’t run away,” he said.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed reports of Taliban checkpoints during a White House press briefing on Tuesday.

“There have been instances where we’ve received reports of people being turned away or pushed back, or even beaten,” Sullivan said. “We are taking that up in a channel with the Taliban to try and resolve those issues, and we are concerned about whether that will continue to unfold in the coming days. As it stands right now, we are getting people through the gate, we are getting them lined up, and we are getting them on the planes.”

Videos circulating social media on Sunday showed thousands of civilians crowding runways and even clinging to U.S. military aircraft as they took off. At least two Afghan civilians fell to their death after clinging to an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III after take off. Another Afghan’s body was found stuck in the landing gear of a C-17 that left Afghanistan.

By Tuesday, with Taliban checkpoints slowing the flow of crowds into the airport, few people were even boarding some evacuation flights. The Wall Street Journal reported a German military A400M Airbus, with room for more than 100 passengers, left the Kabul airport with just seven passengers.

On Tuesday, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said the U.S. should stick to the withdrawal timeline set forth by President Joe Biden to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. Shaheen said the Taliban remained committed to not attacking U.S. troops currently in the country.

“Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen says the US should ‘withdraw all their forces’ by 11 September, but adds ‘we are committed not to attack them.’ Read the latest on the situation in Afghanistan here,” Sky News tweeted.

It’s not yet clear what actions the Taliban make take if any Americans are present in the country beyond September 11.