Tensions are on the rise at Kabul airport as the United States and the rest of the world race to evacuate citizens and vulnerable Afghans. Reports have begun to surface of troops from England and other nations moving off of Hamid Karzai International Airport to bring their citizens there directly. Allegedly, some non-US commanders have criticized America’s refusal to leave the airport to rescue US citizens, leading to heated verbal exchanges between US and foreign forces.
President Joe Biden also said Thursday, Aug. 19, that the US was prepared to stay past his Aug. 31 deadline, should the evacuation operation require it.
Another source of tension may be the concern among allies that the US intends to pull out quickly. The Guardian reported Wednesday that the UK fears the United States will pack up shop and pull some 6,000 troops out of the airport in a matter of days, well before evacuation efforts have concluded.
This weekend Embassy Staff and Afghan civilians departed Kabul on Royal Air Force flights.
The UK Armed Forces are in Kabul to enable the withdrawal of British Nationals and those eligible under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy. pic.twitter.com/YV2hz3dLB1
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) August 18, 2021
Exact details of non-US rescue efforts are murky, but a source on the ground in Kabul told Coffee or Die Magazine that UK troops are moving outside the perimeter far enough to confront Taliban checkpoints that are preventing many from reaching the gates. Both British paratroopers and SAS commandos are reportedly in Kabul, though it was unclear which units may be outside the compound. The source said it was unlikely that UK troops were deploying beyond the Taliban checkpoints — which are close by — but photos and videos are circulating on social platforms that claim to show special forces units from the UK, Australia, France, Canada, and Germany going door to door in Kabul, trying to rescue citizens.
A tweet from the French Embassy in Kabul reads, according to Google Translate: “A few hours after the announcements of the President of the Republic on #Afghanistan, a first #A400M bringing in special forces leaves Kabul with French nationals.”
Quelques heures après les annonces du Président de la République sur l’#Afghanistan, un premier #A400M qui amenait des forces spéciales repart de Kaboul avec des ressortissants français. pic.twitter.com/7mf03KjaGa
— FrenchEmbassyKabul (@AmbassadeKaboul) August 16, 2021
On the US side, Pentagon officials stumbled Wednesday when reporters asked whether the US was able to rescue American citizens trapped in Kabul.
“We don’t have the capability to go out and collect up large numbers of people,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.
On Monday, an Afghan National Army officer speaking on the condition of anonymity told Coffee or Die that the Taliban are searching house to house for those who formerly stood with the United States. Multiple media outlets have since reported the same.