Taliban assisted US forces by escorting Americans to Kabul Airport: report

Taliban assisted US forces by escorting Americans to Kabul Airport: report
One US military official said the unprecedented arrangement - that reportedly involved Taliban fighters escorting Americans, Afghans and their families to the airport from 'muster points' - worked 'beautifully'.
2 min read
01 September, 2021
Americans were reportedly told to assemble at pre-set Taliban 'muster points' near the Hamid Karzai International Airport [Getty - file photo]

The Taliban allegedly assisted US forces in escorting people to Kabul Airport for Washington's evacuation mission, in an unprecedented level of tactical coordination between the former warring sides.

Defence officials disclosed the arrangement - praised by one military official for having worked "beautifully" - to broadcaster CNN.

The Americans were reportedly told to assemble at pre-set "muster points" near the Hamid Karzai International Airport, where Taliban militants would check their documents and escort them a short distance to a gate manned by US troops.

The soldiers would then allow the groups inside amid chaotic scenes at the airport as Afghans desperately tried to flee the country.

US-based contacts of the citizens who attempted to leave Kabul described their shock after being told the Taliban would give them safe passage.

The US defence officials who spoke to CNN had withheld the arrangement from international media due to concerns over the Taliban's reaction to the publicity, as well as threats of ISIS-K, Afghanistan’s Islamic State group affiliate which claimed a deadly blast outside the airport.

The Taliban escort missions took place "several times a day", one of the officials said. One "muster point" was allegedly an Afghan interior ministry building near the airport, where US forces could easily spot approaching entourages.

Live Story

However, Americans involved in an assistance network for Afghans and Americans seeking to flee the country said some American citizens and green card holders were turned away at the rendezvous point.

While it is unclear if they made it to the airport at least one US citizen and his Afghan family who were turned away at the muster point were able to gain entry on another night.

The evacuation process was initially fraught, according to one US-based network in touch with a green card holder, with hopeful evacuees made to wait several hours with the Taliban.

On one of the first nights of the arrangement, Taliban fighters seized US passports, green cards, and mobiles, prompting mass confusion among the 100 Americans and family members gathered at the muster point. The documents were later returned.

In a separate arrangement not disclosed until the evacuation operation was over, US special operations forces opened a secret gate at Kabul Airport, allowing the military to offer some protection to Americans by avoiding other gates to the last US stronghold in the city.