The US military negotiated a secret arrangement with the Taliban that facilitated the process of terrorists of the Taliban escorting groups of Americans to the gates of the Kabul airport as they tried to escape Afghanistan, according to a couple of defence officials. One of the officials said that US special operations forces set up a “secret gate” at the airport and established “call centres” to guide Americans through the evacuation process.
The officials said Americans had been asked to assemble at pre-set “muster points” close to the airport where the Taliban would gather the Americans, check their credentials and take them a short distance to a gate secured by American forces who were standing by to let them inside amid huge crowds of Afghans seeking to flee.
The US troops were able to see the American civilians approach their Taliban escorts in most cases in an attempt to ensure their safety.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the arrangements. The US administration has not disclosed the deal until now. The Joe Biden dispensation was concerned about Taliban reaction to any publicity as well as the threat of attacks from Isis-K if its operatives had come to know that the Taliban was escorting Americans in groups, the officials said.
Throughout the evacuation, Biden administration officials stressed that the Taliban was cooperating and senior officials stated they were committed to providing “safe passage” for Americans.
The Taliban escort missions happened “several times a day” according to one of the officials. One of the key muster points was an Afghanistan Ministry of Interior building just outside one of the gates of the airport. In the vicinity, US forces were readily able to monitor the Americans approach. Messages at different points in time notified Americans about the locations where they ought to gather.
“It worked, it worked beautifully,” an official said about the deal. As of 30 August when the US completed its withdrawal, the US had airlifted more than 1,22,000 people in total from the Hamid Karzai International Airport since July and evacuated more than 6,000 American civilians.
However, Isis-K killed 13 American service members and more than 170 Afghans in a suicide blast at the airport last week.
It is not clear whether the Taliban terrorists, who were checking credentials during these efforts, turned away any of the Americans. But earlier, reports said that the Taliban did turn away some Americans with passports and US green cards from places close to the airport.
In another separate and secret arrangement the US has not disclosed until the operation was over, troops from the elite Joint Special Operations Command and other special operations units were on the ground helping Americans escape by contacting them through “call centres”, an official said. Special operations forces set up their own “secret gate” at the airport and were at times in direct communication with Americans telling them exactly where to walk to find the gate and be able to get inside the airport.
Commander of US Central Command Gen Frank McKenzie first shared information about the involvement of special operations forces at a Monday press conference saying those forces helped evacuate more than 1,000 American citizens and more than 2,000 Afghans “via phone calls, vectors, and escorting.”
Special operations forces “reached out to help bring in more than 1,064 American citizens and 2,017 SIVs or Afghans at risk, and 127 third-country nationals all via phone calls, vectors, and escorting,” he said. But in public comments, McKenzie did not specify the involvement of JSOC which includes forces that carry out the most dangerous counterterrorism missions such as the Army’s Delta Force and Navy SEALS.