The blasts in Kabul amplify the urgency to get vulnerable Afghans out of the country.
The international community is determined to continue the evacuation process both for non-Afghans and Afghan nationals. Two explosions at Kabul airport have not deterred the evacuation resolve despite the emotional setback of so many horrifying casualties—at least 85 killed including 13 US personnel.
In the haphazard conditions imposed on the evacuation process it is vital that the Afghan nationals are not left behind as the August 31 withdrawal deadline draws close.
The attacks perhaps had several motives but the very clear target was the hundreds of Afghans who had gathered at the airport to leave Afghanistan, and the US soldiers who were helping them out. The attack aimed to break that bond.
The Islamic State-Khorasan (Daesh) has claimed the blasts and the relationship between the group and the Taliban is complex - but the attack does fly in the face of the image that the Taliban has been trying to project about bringing peace and stability to the country.
On paper, the groups are opposed to each other but that doesn't mean the Taliban cannot manipulate the situation in their favour; whether that means using it to justify their rigidity on the evacuation deadline, or seeking to ingratiate themselves with the international community in asking for assistance to fight Daesh. Above all, the Taliban does not want people to leave Afghanistan – and the fear the blast spreads may deter Afghans from trying to reach the airport.
“We will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down,” said US President Joe Biden. A Pentagon spokesman at the briefing last night revealed that the US is working in cooperation with the Taliban, even exchanging security information. That may be another action the US will live to regret.
With so little time left before the evacuation deadline, Afghan nationals who have worked for international organisations face an imminent danger of retribution and that is why a special case needs to be made about them in view of the recent restrictions by the Taliban on their departure.
The international community needs to use all the influence it has on the Taliban and those who support them, such as Pakistan, to make sure Afghans who worked with the international organisations can leave.
On Tuesday, the Taliban already barred Afghan nationals from leaving. Their spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahed criticised the US government for causing a brain drain in Afghanistan.
“We need our doctors and engineers” he said. “We are not going to allow Afghans to leave and we will not extend the deadline,” he added, referring to the possible extension beyond the end of August.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the international community's efforts for releasing their staff with Afghan passports were frustrated by these calls and by blocks around the airport.
“I have all the paper work, I have around 700 Afghans who have paper work - they are eligible for evacuation and SIV, they belong to all over Afghanistan but I can’t get them to the airport,” a US military contractor told independent journalist Bilal Sarwary “as he breaks down on the phone.”
“There was deadly silence in Kabul all day yesterday,” one journalist told me in a message. “It is clear that they want to block the Afghans so that they can take revenge on us,” he said. Afghan journalists, who shall remain nameless in the interest of their safety, told me the Taliban want to keep Afghan nationals who have worked for international organisations as bargaining chips for future negotiations with the West over recognising their Emirate and releasing Afghanistan’s funds from the IMF.
It may be speculation but it is a credible based on the knowledge of the way the Taliban operates.
The political and military ramifications of the latest developments are hard to predict. US President Joe Biden, who is under increasing criticism now after 13 US fatalities, said in his farcical speech in defence of his withdrawal plan that if there were terrorist attacks he will deal with them swiftly and forcefully.
“We conduct effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have a permanent military presence,” he said. “We will act quickly and decisively if needed,” he added.
The problem is that President Biden has lost credibility. There are rising concerns about how the Taliban would proceed after evacuation process is completed. There are strong possibilities of a developing hostage crisis and the kidnapping of US and Afghan nationals who have worked for international organisations.
It is of paramount urgency that the political leaders in the US, Britain and the UN and NATO act fast and forcefully with a view of putting pressure on the Taliban to allow those who have worked with the international community to leave together with the internationals. They must not be left stranded after twenty years of service. International operations would not have been possible without these brave men and women.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.
We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please send them via email, to email@example.com