Afghan-Americans hoping that their U.S. passports would help them flee Kabul are facing a new tactic from the Taliban, as security guards are reportedly trying to confiscate passports at checkpoints leading to the airport that is the sole hope for thousands trying to flee Afghanistan.
Panic flared further Saturday when U.S. officials urged Americans not to go to the airport, after a reported threat from the Islamic State terrorist group, according to The New York Times.
But if many Americans hung back, desperate Afghan citizens jammed the airport, leading to a stampede outside the gate in which a 2-year-old child was trampled.
“My heart is bleeding,” said the mother of the child, a former employee of an American organization, according to the Times. “It was like drowning and trying to hold your baby above the water.”
The scene at Kabul airport several hours ago per source from an NGO who is trying to get people out. Main problem is that it's impossible to pass the gates and get to the planes even if you are on an evacuees list pic.twitter.com/b3bZn5B34Z
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) August 21, 2021
Amid other reports of beatings and intimidation of those trying to leave, an Afghan-American who now lives in the U.S. said the Taliban wanted to deprive him of his passport.
“I got to the gates and was about to show my passport, but the Taliban got it, and he said you are not allowed to go through and wouldn’t give it back,” he said, according to the New York Post, which held back the man’s name.
“I was lucky a U.S. Marine was right there and forced him to give it back.”
Afghan babies passed over the wall at Kabul airport now being transported to Europe.
Here a Norwegian soldier cradles a baby on its way to Oslo in a military transport plane. pic.twitter.com/qHNXvq4Tuv
— Nick🇬🇧🇪🇺🇺🇦 (@nicktolhurst) August 21, 2021
Others have not been as fortunate.
“U.S. passports, driver’s licenses — they are confiscating those pieces of documentation from American citizens,” Ephraim Mattos, a former Navy SEAL and founder of Stronghold Rescue and Relief, told the Post.
Mattos’ group is trying to help evacuate Afghan interpreters and others who helped the U.S.
“They lose proof of who they are, and this has happened on multiple occasions in multiple places,” he said.
Mattos said he feels anguish for those who will be left behind.
“These people are our allies; we fought shoulder-to-shoulder with them. I saw them fight just as bravely as any American soldier, and they deserve our support. What our country is doing to them now is a complete disgrace,” Mattos said. “What is happening is significantly worse than Saigon.”
For some Afghans, AmericanEmbassy personnel are to blame for destroying their passports, according to CNN.
According to @AndyKimNJ’s congressional office, Afghan passports that were submitted to the US embassy for visa processing have been destroyed. (Remember all that sensitive document burning? H/t to @kgilsinan for the info) pic.twitter.com/KneVItxVVb
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) August 17, 2021
CNN reported that the documents were destroyed amid a mass burning of documents before diplomats fled the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey said the United States needs to find another way to help those whose passports were destroyed document their identity so they can escape Afghanistan.
“We are going to have to take people without passports and vet them in other ways, like with their phone numbers for example. In many cases we know their contact information and their phone numbers and that is how we will have to identify them,” he said.
“Any Afghans braving the trip to the airport will not have wanted to go there with identifying documents, anyway.”