Human Rights First Urges U.S. Government to Prioritize Safety at and In Transit to Kabul Airport
WASHINGTON — Today, Human Rights First urged the Biden administration to take urgent action to protect allies, human rights defenders, women, and other at-risk evacuees at and in transit to the airport in Kabul. Amid reports of escalating violence against U.S. and civil society affiliated Afghans at the airport’s entrance and Taliban checkpoints, it is imperative that President Biden immediately empower U.S. forces to seize control of the airport’s entry and to escort evacuees to safety.
“The U.S. government’s handling of this evacuation is not befitting of the U.S. military in which I proudly served,” said Mike Breen, president and CEO at Human Rights First and veteran of the war in Afghanistan. “The very least, the U.S. government should be offering the men and women who risked their lives to serve alongside us a clear and safe system to enter the airport and be brought to safety. Instead, U.S. troops are directed to stand aside while innocent Afghans are attacked, allowing the situation outside the airport to devolve into chaos. This is a catastrophe of the administration’s own making. They must take swift action to rectify it – by retaking control of the airport’s entry, addressing and suppressing violence in crowds outside the airport and ensuring the safe passage of evacuees to the airport – so that we may uphold our promise to protect our allies.”
This morning, Army Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that aircrafts had departed with 2,000 evacuees over the past 24 hours. However, he added that the military now has enough aircraft capacity to get 5,000-9,000 people out a day. This briefing came as reports broke that several Afghans outside the airport in Kabul had been shot and killed by the Taliban after they shot into the crowds today, amid escalating chaos at the airport’s entry.
“It is completely unacceptable that the U.S. is evacuating 2,000 people each day when they have the capacity for over 5,000 daily. By failing to secure a humanitarian corridor to the airport in Kabul, allowing violence to go unchecked throughout crowds at the airport’s entrance, and refusing to ensure safe passage to the airport for allies, human rights defenders, and other at-risk groups, the U.S. government is directly responsible for falling so far short of their capacity to bring at-risk Afghans to safety,” said Jennifer Quigley, senior director of government affairs at Human Rights First. “There is no more time to waste. President Biden and his administration must immediately commit to ensuring safety at and in transit to the airport in Kabul.”