Despite President Joe Biden’s promise to evacuate Afghan partners as quickly as possible, two female Afghan reporters in Kabul—who are on the Taliban’s “kill list” and have asked to not be named due to fear of reprisal—told The Daily Beast their window to escape is growing smaller by the hour.
That’s because, as the Taliban's terror-filled regime continues to take hold, ISIS threats appear to be gaining a foothold at Kabul’s airport, compounding an already dreadful evacuation crisis. According to a U.S. defense official who spoke to CNN, there’s a “strong possibility” that the ISIS terror group branch “ISIS-K” is planning an attack on the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
“Security is very bad. ISIS is going in. Anything can happen,” a female Afghan journalist in her 40s, who made a second failed attempt to evacuate Kabul with her sixteen family members on Saturday, told The Daily Beast. “We left our home without water or a washroom for twelve hours. We got to the back of the [airport] gate. My mom was getting worse and having trouble breathing. The crowd was very bad.”
The reporter described horrific scenes at the airport, including desperate parents trying to pass their children off to soldiers stationed at the airport. “The Taliban beat my cousin and my brother outside the gate. There is no reason why they beat them. They just do... I don't know how many times they will beat my brother. I cannot see these things anymore. Yesterday, I cried a lot. I will die rather than see this. My mental health is not good.”
Mike Wilson, a Marine veteran who served three tours in Afghanistan, tried to help his Kabul-based former interpreter, along with the interpreter’s wife and two young boys, navigate the chaotic airport via cell phone on Saturday. Wilson's interpreter used to work for a humanitarian aid organization, and served in combat with Wilson's Marine unit in 2010.
“It’s a complete shit show. The airport [was] shut down due to an ISIS-K threat. People were beaten and injured. They're enduring constant gun fire. There's no water. No food. No bathrooms. Their cell phones are dying. No communication means no hope,” Wilson told The Daily Beast. He explained that there are two gates that have been opened arbitrarily throughout the day, with 7,000 troops guarding them.
The former marine added: “They are grabbing people, beating people, and doing atrocious things to women, children, and the elderly. Then, once they get to the checkpoint at the gate they’re not being let in. They’d have more success if the Coachella organizers were in charge of access control versus this administration.”
A female reporter in her twenties told The Daily Beast she has decided to stay in her home, which is presently surrounded by Taliban fighters, rather than attempt going to the airport.
“It is not safe to go to the airport. We are not secure even in our home. Everything is impossible everywhere,” she said. “Nowhere is safe because they're searching homes and can catch me easily, especially at night. But the problem is getting into the airport.” She added: “The Taliban are everywhere, but I do not know how many checkpoints they have. There are hundreds of people with their documents still outside of the gates as well as those who don't have anything.”
The younger journalist said that there are “hundreds” of women currently sitting outside of the airport gates.
“I talked with one yesterday. She told me I have six daughters and my one boy is five years old. I know nobody's able to take care of my daughters. Their father worked with the army. I know if the Taliban gets him they'll not let him live,” she said. The woman reportedly told the journalist that she’s been sitting outside of the airport doors for four days now, and that the Taliban have been taking women who are there without a male companion “alone to an unknown place.”
“If she’s a single woman, she needs to go with a group. The point being, in her case or any other, once she navigates the threats, she may sit there for days without food, water or a bathroom,” Wilson explained. “So, people are now going back to their homes out of sheer basic human necessity, that deserve to be on flights, navigating those same dangers… they’re in a no win scenario.”
Afghan security forces have been cooperating with allies in hopes that they’ll get themselves and their families on guaranteed flights—but many aren’t putting stock in that promise. “You have limited escort capabilities. That’s why this is a lot larger than an individual case or even gender specific challenges, it’s a humanitarian crisis at large; people at the gate, especially the elderly will start dying out of the heat, their immobility, and lack of basic human needs,” said Wilson.
He added: “What’s the definition of allowing people to leave the country if they have checkpoints, are beating people almost to death... it will get worse before it gets better. We’ve been there for 20 years, these aren’t ‘other’ people at this point, they’re friends. I wouldn’t let my friend suffer if I could help it.”
Meanwhile, Wilson’s interpreter has been waiting at the airport gates for 14 hours since Monday morning. But the marines at the gate are reportedly only accepting those with U.S. visas, passports, or green cards.
“We just want the opportunity to leave. Why did you come to Afghanistan to educate our women and girls twenty years ago to leave us? ” the older journalist, who said that 12 people died at the airport after she left, told The Daily Beast.
Despite the threats, the female reporter said she would be making her third attempt at evacuating on Monday.
“I only want someone to help us get off through the gate,” she said. “I don't want anything [else] from anyone.”