by Zia Sarhadi (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 7, Muharram, 1443)
Compassion, coordination and order are not words that immediately come to mind when describing the situation at Kabul International Airport. Under US military occupation until August 30, there was absolute pandemonium and chaos. Afghans trying to enter the airport clutching proper documents—passports, visa to the US or any other western country—were shot at and killed, not by the Taliban but by the Americans.
In the one-week period since August 16, at least 20 Afghans died, many of them shot and killed by American occupation forces. Seven fell to their death from a US military aircraft they were clinging to when it took off.
What were the US occupation troops doing when the plane was taxi-ing? Why they didn’t stop the plane or get the Afghans off its fuselage before take-off? Let us remember, these were Afghans that had helped the US and other Western occupation forces during the 20-year war. If they treated the Afghans collaborators with such disdain, one can imagine the horrors they must have inflicted on those that opposed them.
The ever-deceitful Western corporate media—CNN, BBC and others—mentioned the killing of Afghans but in an elliptical manner. They referred to them as “deaths”, as if these people died of natural causes. They were shot and killed by the Americans, plain and simple. Yet, their coverage was focused on alleged Taliban atrocities. The movement has not killed anyone since their peaceful take-over of Kabul on August 15, notwithstanding the scandalous allegations hurled against them based on unspecified “reports”.
The common phrase used is, “there are reports that the Taliban have killed people.” Where, when and how are not questions the Western media and regimes are interested in. Their aim is to divert attention away from US crimes at Kabul Airport as well as the horrendous killings during the 20-year war while trying to tarnish the Taliban’s reputation.
One need not subscribe to the Taliban’s worldview but that is not the issue. So far, they have conducted themselves well and not harmed anyone. In fact, their spokespersons have repeatedly announced they will not exact revenge and have granted general amnesty. They have also appealed to Afghans to stay and help in the country’s reconstruction.
Just a few kilometres from the airport, life has largely returned to normal. A Taliban spokesman pointed out that there was chaos at the airport under US control while the rest of Kabul is calm. People are returning to work and businesses are opening up.
Contrary to Western propaganda, girls have not been prevented from attending school. The Russian ambassador to Afghanistan, Dmitry Zhirnov confirmed in an interview with Izvestia that there is a girls’ school opposite the embassy and it is functioning normally. He had stated in an earlier interview with Echo of Moscow radio station – “Kabul is much more stable under the ‘terrorists’, [Russian legal system considers the Taliban a terrorist organization, a legal formality likely to change] than Ashraf Ghani’s government.”
That was not the case at the airport while US occupation forces were present. “The crowds have grown so big that several square kilometres of the area between the Ministry of Interior and the airport’s entrance gates have started to resemble refugee camps,” Al Jazeera reported from Kabul.
The Americans were forced to seek help of the much-maligned Taliban to control the flow of people to the airport. The Taliban set up checkpoints several kilometres away on the road leading to the airport. They only allowed people with proper documents as requested by the Americans.
Immediately outside the airport perimeter, the Americans deployed members of the CIA-backed Afghan intelligence forces that took orders from their US masters. The Americans controlled the north gate—the only entry to the airport. The entire airport is ringed by huge concrete walls topped by barbed wire.
The thuggish Afghan intelligence forces were no help to the people trying to get inside the airport. When Afghans with proper papers asked where to go, they were ordered: “Keep going to the gate.” Al Jazeera reported these Afghans as saying, “We did, they told us to come back here.” There was total chaos, confusion and disorganisation. Many Canadian citizens as well as permanent residents or Afghans with valid Canadian visas were barred entry to the airport by US troops.
People were shuffled from one location to another and subjected to physical abuse. In summer heat and dust, people were camped outside the airport for days. These included men and women of all ages as well as children. In the crush, some families even became separated from their children causing great distress.
The ordeal of the Afghans did not end even when they made it inside the airport. The Americans stuffed one C-17 globemaster cargo plane with 823 people: men, women and children. There were no seats; people had to sit on the metal floor or on their luggage. Had cats and dogs been subjected to such treatment, there would be outcry from animal rights activists.
Those Afghans that made it out of Kabul especially to Qatar’s al-Udaid US military base were hardly better. The conditions, according to an email leaked to Axios, are appalling. The Middle East Eye quoted Axios: “The email, sent by a liaison for the US Central Command (Centcom), said the situation for Afghans in the air base is ‘a life-threatening humanitarian disaster’ and the ‘current conditions in Doha are of our own doing’.
‘A humid day today. Where the Afghans are housed is a living hell. Trash, urine, fecal matter, spilled liquids and vomit cover the floors,’ read an excerpt from the email.
‘These human beings are in a living nightmare … We’re in the middle of humanitarian crises [sic] that compounds itself with every flight that lands in Doha’.”
Despite such horrors, US President Joe Biden on August 22 called the efforts to evacuate people from Kabul “an incredible operation”, citing the threat of possible ISIL (ISIS) attack near the airport. Two suicide bombers carried out a dastardly crime on August 26 that killed 170 Afghans including Taliban security personnel.
One Taliban source accurately captured the reality when he told Al Jazeera: “They [Afghans] are going because they were told tales that they can go to the US and Europe with no papers, no visas, no passports. They’re being lied to and degrading themselves for that fiction.”
While the US treatment of Afghans who helped them is appalling, we can look forward to a Hollywood movie that would depict “heroic” American efforts to “rescue Afghans from the clutches of the wicked Taliban.”