Afghan staffers at the American embassy in Kabul are “deeply disheartened” by the U.S. evacuation operations, NBC News reported Sunday.
According to a State Department cable sent on Saturday and obtained by NBC, the staffers reported being harassed, including being hit, spat on and cursed at by Taliban fighters at checkpoints. They also said they were separated from their children, crushed in crowds and forced to go to the hospital after being injured.
“It would be better to die under the Taliban’s bullet” the cable quoted one staffer as saying.
NBC reported that memos were sent to staffers instructing them to make their way to the Kabul airport, to bring food and to prepare for difficult conditions.
The network reported that one staffer accused the U.S. government of prioritizing high-ranking Afghan government officials who had U.S. contacts and already held multiple avenues of escape from Afghanistan. Another said that his home had been tagged for the Taliban to identify people wanted for further questioning.
“We recognize that embassy local staff and others had difficulty entering the Hamid Karzai International Airport for evacuation flights. As we have seen, the situation at the airport is chaotic, and we are working tirelessly to assist people eligible for flights," a State Department spokesperson told The Hill on Monday when reached for comment.
"Our local staff and their families have suffered hardship, pain and loss because of their dedication to working with us to build a better future for all Afghans. We have a special commitment to them because of that," the spokesperson added, while declining to provide details on what actions U.S. forces are taking to help local staffers reach the airport.
Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBiden tries to tamp down tensions with Putin call Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill Biden's 'Democracy Summit' meets the African paradox MORE said on Sunday that around 8,000 people had been evacuated in the preceding 24 hours.
Although the Taliban has pledged to offer amnesty to all fighters and those who worked for Western-backed governments, reports have circulated of Taliban fighters going door-to-door looking for U.S. allies. The militant group reportedly has a "priority list" of individuals they wish to arrest and are threatening their family members' lives they do not give themselves up.
Taliban officials have denied these reports, with spokesperson Suhail Shaheen calling them "all fake news" in an interview released Monday.
Updated at 1:19 p.m.