US reaches deal with Taliban on evacuations: report
The U.S. has reached a deal with the Taliban to ensure that evacuations from Kabul’s airport can take place without interference from the group, according to a report by The Associated Press.
The deal was reached in talks in Doha, Qatar, between senior Taliban officials and Gen. Frank McKenzie.
The two sides apparently agreed to a “deconfliction mechanism” in which operations at the airport in Kabul are permitted to continue without interference from the Taliban.
McKenzie reportedly told the Taliban that any interference would be met with force from the U.S. military, who would move to defend the airport if necessary.
Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday that he would not discuss the specifics of McKenzie’s conversation.
“But I can tell you that the general was very clear and firm in his discussions with Taliban leaders that any attack on our people or on our operations at the airport would be met swiftly with a very forceful response, and I think I’ll leave it at that,” Kirby added.
At least seven people are believed to have died at the Kabul airport since the Afghan government fell and hundreds of Afghans rushed to evacuate the country.
The American flag at the U.S. Embassy has been taken down and all U.S. personnel have reportedly been evacuated to the airport.
Video from the airport showed desperate Afghans running alongside and clinging to planes as they taxied.
Crowds of people desperate to escape Afghanistan stormed Kabul’s international airport, rushing onto the tarmac.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 16, 2021
The U.S. military temporarily suspended operations at the Kabul airport due to Afghans rushing on to the airfield. Around 3,500 U.S. Embassy personnel are still waiting to be evacuated at the airport, CNN reports.
“Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals,” the Department of Defense and the State Department said in a joint statement.
“And we will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks.”
–Rebecca Kheel contributed to this report, which was updated at 12:03 p.m.