The Pentagon’s top spokesman declined to say Thursday whether America’s military considered the Taliban to be an enemy of the US, as Washington’s forces struggle to get thousands of Americans and Afghans out of Kabul in a matter of days.
“We are focused right now — the thing we’re working against right now is time and space,” John Kirby told Fox News’ “Special Report” in response to the question from host Bret Baier, “and we want to get as many people out of Kabul as we can in as little amount of time as we can. We’ve had no hostile interactions right now between American forces and the Taliban and we want to keep it that way.”
Since the Islamic fundamentalist forces entered the Afghan capital Sunday, the Biden administration’s top military and security officials have portrayed the militants as a reasonable — if not equal — partner in the withdrawal of US troops from the war-torn country.
On Tuesday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House that the Taliban “have informed us that they are prepared to provide the safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we intend to hold them to that commitment.” When asked if he believed that assurance, Sullivan simply answered, “yes.”
Earlier in his interview Thursday, Kirby insisted that “we have not seen any great impediments to the safe passage that the Taliban have agreed to facilitate. Americans are getting through those checkpoints and they are getting onto the base — airfield, and they are being flown out of Kabul.”
However, reports from the Afghan capital indicate that Taliban fighters are assaulting and beating anyone who attempts to pass the checkpoints ringing Hamid Karzai International Airport. Meanwhile, the State Department has told US citizens in Kabul that it cannot guarantee their safety if they attempt to travel to the airport.
President Joe Biden estimated Wednesday that between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans remain in Taliban territory, along with between 50,000 and 65,000 Afghans who worked with US-led forces during the two-decade-long conflict and fear vengeance from the Taliban.
Rebecca Heller, the head of the US-based International Refugee Assistance Project, told the Associated Press Wednesday she had been told of five Afghan translators killed by the Taliban in the past two days for their past work with Americans.
However, it’s not just Afghans who are struggling to get inside the airport to catch evacuation flights. David Marshall Fox, an American who moved to Afghanistan in 2013, told The Post Thursday he had given up on getting onto an evacuation flight, saying the danger of his young son getting shot by the Taliban or trampled by the crowd isn’t worth it.
“I’m getting extremely frustrated — because no one is getting any Americans out until they can control the gates,” said Fox, who added that “for me to be 10 feet from US Marines with my 3-year-old son, with my US passport and not being able to get through — that’s problematic.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Tuesday that 6,000 people at the airport had already been processed and were expected to be on evacuation flights soon.
Pentagon officials have estimated that between 5,000 and 9,000 people can be flown out per day if airport operations are at full capacity. However, Price said that just 7,000 had been flown out in total since Saturday.
With Post wires
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