US president Joe Biden on Thursday said he was not aware of the US military sharing with the Taliban, a list of names of Americans and local allies who want to leave Afghanistan from the Kabul airport, but said he could not rule this out either.
US officials in Kabul reportedly gave the Taliban a list of names of American citizens, green card holders, and Afghan allies as well, to grant them entry into the city’s airport, reported Politico.
The move reportedly led to behind-the-scenes outrage among lawmakers and US defense officials, who believe the Taliban could not be trusted.
The alleged sharing of the names showed the extent to which the US has “outsourced” the security of the airport’s outer perimeter to the Taliban, said the report.
The decision to do so is particularly concerning as there have been reports of the Taliban knocking on the doors of Afghan allies, including interpreters, who helped western countries.
“Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list,” one unnamed defense official was quoted by Politico as saying. “It’s just appalling and shocking and makes you feel unclean,” the official added.
The move, as told to the outlet by three US and congressional officials, was meant to “expedite the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan” after the Afghan government fell as a result of the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
Mr Biden, in the Thursday press conference, said “there have been occasions when our military has contacted their military counterparts in the Taliban and said this, for example, this bus is coming through with X number of people on it, made up of the following group of people. We want you to let that bus or that group through.”
He added: “So, yes there have been occasions like that. To the best of my knowledge, in those cases, the bulk of that has occurred and they have been let through.”
Mr Biden continued: “I can’t tell you with any certitude that there’s actually been a list of names. There may have been. But I know of no circumstance. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, that here’s the names of 12 people, they’re coming, let them through. It could very well have happened.”
White House officials defended the alleged sharing of the list. They said giving the Taliban the list “was the best way to keep Americans and Afghans safe and prevent a shooting war between Taliban fighters and the thousands of US troops stationed at the airport.”
“To go from having the Taliban as an adversary we’re seeking to kill, to relying upon them for security, coordinating to make sure things run smoothly,” Peter Meijer, a Republican representative, told the New York Times.
“It is utterly bizarre and baffling that we’re in this position.”