Correspondent in New York
The evacuation of Afghanistan has turned into a dead end: the US president, Joe Biden, stands firm in its purpose of meet the August 31 deadline, which requires a huge exit rate for the last days of the operation; But, at the same time, reaching the Kabul airport, the only way out for the vast majority of Afghans and foreigners still in the country, has become an almost impossible mission.
It already was yesterday before the terrorist attack took place in the vicinity of the airport, with two explosions, one at the main access for Afghans who collaborated with the US and the other at a nearby hotel used by the UK to prosecute. refugee papers. Since the previous morning, the US Embassy had warned the Americans who were to be repatriated not to approach the airport and recommended “immediate departure” to anyone near the airfield.
After the bombs went off, the diplomatic office yesterday maintained the demand that no one go to the airport and for the whole world to move away from him, in the face of the threat of more attacks. In other words, while the US president maintains that they will no longer wait for the withdrawal of troops, his embassy asked that no one go to the airport. With all border regions controlled by the Taliban, the exit from Afghanistan was, in practice, blocked
Impact of explosions
The growing threat of an attack had been discussed by Biden and his senior officials in recent days as a reason to speed up the evacuation and get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. It remains to be seen if their plans change due to the impact that the explosions may have had on the operation. The pace of evacuation had already dropped even before the attack. Between Wednesday morning and yesterday morning, according to White House data, 13,400 people left Kabul – just over 5,000 in US military aircraft – well below the more than 20,000 in the period. previous. It is very likely that yesterday the traffic was even lower as a result of the attacks.
All of this makes it difficult for Biden’s main promise to leave Afghanistan: that all Americans who wish to return to their country do so. “We will get you out of there,” repeated the president many times. According to your Secretary of State, Antony BlinkenAs of Wednesday, there were about 1,500 Americans still in Afghanistan. Of these, 500 were localized citizens who were known to seek to leave the country. The rest are people whose American nationality or their desire to go out was unclear. According to a government source told CNN, there were 150 Americans left yesterday who had not yet been able to reach the airport. In recent days, the US Army has conducted several operations outside the perimeter of the airfield to transport nationals to evacuation.
That same source assured that the deadline for the evacuation was 36 hours, that is, that the exit of civilians would be closed on Friday night. From then until August 31, Efforts would focus on the withdrawal of the remaining troops in Kabul, some 5,800 American soldiers plus some members of the special forces of the Army of Afghanistan.
The Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, yesterday denied that information and assured that the evacuation “will not close in 36 hours” and that “we will continue to evacuate as many people as we can until the end of the mission.”
That may be a guarantee for the handful of Americans left in Afghanistan. But not for the more than 200,000 Afghans at risk under Taliban control, including the personnel who worked in his embassy and thousands of collaborators of his army, whom Washington promised to save them and who, with the countdown underway and in the midst of terrorist attacks, it is difficult for them to leave the country in time. .