Thousands of relieved Afghans are continuing to arrive in the United States – as the US accelerated efforts to evacuate those stranded in Kabul after the Taliban demanded all foreign troops be out of the country by Aug. 31.
A steady stream of evacuees were spotted arriving at Virginia’s Dulles International Airport on Monday and Tuesday, with looks of both exhaustion and relief on many of their faces.
After arriving in Virginia, the evacuees are transported to the Dulles Expo Center where they are housed before being sent on to various US military facilities.
Footage of evacuees getting off a bus at the expo center on Monday showed a number of women clutching their young children.
Many arrived carrying just their purses or a plastic bag filled with their belongings given the scramble to evacuate. Some left Kabul empty-handed.
“We are safe,” one man said after being asked how it felt to be in the US.
Military bases in New Jersey, Virginia, Texas and Wisconsin are all prepared to temporarily house arriving Afghans.
Those bases can collectively house up to 25,000 evacuees, US officials have said.
There were already 1,200 Afghans at those bases as of late Monday.
Their arrival came as the Taliban announced on Tuesday they would no longer allow Afghans to enter Kabul airport to board evacuation flights.
The group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a press conference that only foreigners will be allowed into the airport from now on as the US and its allies ramp up evacuations.
“The road to Kabul airport is closed for locals and open to foreigners,” he said.
“We are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave.”
Mujahid said the Taliban will not extend the Aug. 31 deadline — originally set by President Joe Biden — despite thousands of Americans and Afghans still trying to flee.
“It was the American plan,” Mujahid said. “They have the opportunity. They have all the resources. They can take all the people that belong to them.”
The Taliban warned they would take over airport security in Kabul, which the US currently controls, after the deadline.
Mujahid said the crowds of desperate Afghans trying to get on evacuation flights at Kabul airport should return to their homes because the Taliban “guarantee their security.”
He also claimed there was no list of people they were targeting for helping the US during the war.
“We have forgotten everything in the past,” Mujahid said.
With Post wires