The United States and Taliban insist on travel documents that are not possible to obtain in Afghanistan. This is putting President Joe Biden's promise to America's allies test.
The Gulf state of Qatar ran Thursday's evacuation flight from Kabul. This was the first such flight since the U.S.-led military evacuates ended Aug. 30. It focused on U.S. passport holders and green card holders, as well as other foreigners.
The relaunched evacuation flights didn't alleviate fears that the U.S. might abandon many Afghan allies, as U.S. lawmakers, veterans organizations, and others have been trying to get ex-military interpreters and at-risk Afghans out on charter flights.
Particular concern is those whose U.S. special immigration visas, meant for Afghans who aided Americans during the 20 year war, were still in use when the Taliban took Kabul in an attack on Aug. 15. That weekend, the U.S. also abandoned its embassy building.
Matt Zeller, a veteran of the Afghan war, founded No One Left Behind. It is one of dozens U.S. grassroots groups that work to expel Afghan translators and other Americans who supported them.
With the help of the Taliban, around 200 foreigners including Americans left Afghanistan on Thursday's commercial flight from Kabul. Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department, said that Thursday's flight was made by ten U.S. citizens as well as 11 green-card holders. Americans who organized charter evacuation flights claimed that they knew of additional U.S. passport holders and green-card holders in Mazar-e-Sharif, and other areas that were awaiting flights.
The spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council Emily Horne stated that Thursday's flight was the outcome of "careful, hard diplomacy, engagement" and that the Taliban had shown flexibility. She also said that they were professional and businesslike in their dealings with them during this effort.
Many doubt that the Taliban will be as accommodating to Afghans who voted for the U.S. Many are unsure that the Taliban will be as accommodating for Afghans who voted for the U.S. in Mazar-e-Sharif. A more than week-long standoff at Mazar-e-Sharif's airport has left hundreds of people stranded -- mostly Afghans but some with American green cards and passports -- waiting for Taliban permission.
According to Afghans and their American allies, the Taliban have prevented passengers from Mazar-e Sharif from boarding waiting charter flights. This includes those with valid travel papers.
Zeller mentioned the appointment of a Taliban government this week. It also includes Sirajuddin Haiqani, who is listed on the FBI's most wanted list with a $5million bounty for alleged attacks or kidnappings. He serves as interior minister and is responsible for granting passports.
In its last months, the Trump administration almost stopped approval of SIVs for Afghan special immigrant visas. Biden's administration was also criticised for not moving faster to evacuate Afghans before Kabul fell under the Taliban.
Some visa-seekers were required to travel outside of the country by the U.S., which became more dangerous after the Taliban tookover.
Betsy Fisher, International Refugee Assistance Project's legal representative for SIV applicants, stated that "there are all of these major logistical hurdles." "How will people leave Afghanistan?"
She stated that the U.S. government could encourage people to take risky trips if it doesn't have a clear plan.
Biden had welcomed the first Afghan airlift home in July. He made it clear that the U.S. would assist even those Afghans who have pending visa applications to leave Afghanistan, "so they can wait safely while they complete their visa applications."
The Taliban and the Biden administration have stressed that Afghans need passports and visas since the end of the military airlifts on Aug. 30. Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department, said that Thursday's announcement indicated that the administration was considering electronic visas.
Many hundreds of Afghans fearing Taliban reprisals are waiting in Mazar-e-Sharif for over a week, awaiting permission to board U.S.-chartered evacuation flights.
One of them was an Afghan, who had been working as a U.S. military translator for 15 years. As he waited for permission from the Taliban, he was moving from Mazar-e-Sharif hotel to hotel with his eight children and wife.
The man said that he was afraid he would be left behind. "I don’t know what the issue – is it a political issue or don’t care about us?"
Although the interpreter's visa had been approved several weeks before the last U.S. troops left, he was unable to get it stamped in his passport due to the closure of the U.S Embassy.
Thursday's statement by the Taliban said he didn't believe their assurances about not taking revenge on Afghans who worked for them.
Biden is already being criticized for his handling the evacuation. Democrats are pushing him, as well as Republicans on both sides. Some say he's not doing enough in helping America's former allies, while others claim he's not doing enough in keeping potential threats from the U.S.
Both Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican) and Rep. Mike Waltz (Republican) stated in a statement that hundreds more at-risk Afghans as well as U.S. residents are "trapped behind enemy line" and called for Congress to provide a plan to move them out of Afghanistan.
According to the Association of War Time Allies, there are still tens of thousands of applicants for special immigrant visas in Afghanistan.
A New York American citizen is trying to expel two of her cousins from the country. They applied for SIVs last year, but were still waiting for approval after the U.S. Embassy closed down. Both cousins worked in a U.S. humanitarian group for eight years, and she is afraid the Taliban will find them.
They feel abandoned and scared. They risked their lives and were told by the U.S. that they would be able to leave. Fahima, an American who is being kept anonymous due to the identity of the aid group, said, "They're scared, they feel abandoned." "Where is the help?"