The Biden administration on Thursday struggled to speed up evacuations of as many as 80,000 Americans and Afghan allies — with the suddenly pressing effort being marred by obstacles ranging from red tape and visa paperwork problems to massive crowds and often violent Taliban checkpoints that barred entry.
Even American citizens with valid passports fear making the perilous journey to the airport for fear of the armed Taliban fighters who surround the Kabul airport.
David Marshall Fox, an American who moved to Afghanistan in 2013, told The Post on Thursday that he’s abandoned hope of getting onto an evacuation flight, saying the danger of his young son getting shot by the Taliban or trampled by the crowd isn’t worth it.
“My position now, is I’m getting extremely frustrated — because no one is getting any Americans out until they can control the gates,” Fox said.
He went to the airport Wednesday but couldn’t get close enough to US forces to even show his passport.
“For me to be 10 feet from US Marines with my 3-year-old son, with my US passport and not being able to get through — that’s problematic,” Fox said. “If I was by myself, I could have pushed my way through… but anyone with young kids, there is no way they’re getting in.”
And it’s a major barrier for Afghans who fear their past work for the US military or government make them prime targets for the Taliban.
Those who do make it past the insurgents, then have to push through mobs of desperate people — many of whom lack any papers or clearance for evacuation — to reach some of the 4,500 US troops in temporary control.
The State Department has urged citizens, green card holders and their families to come to the airport, though the US Embassy in Kabul has warned that it “cannot ensure safe passage” there.
The embassy on Thursday also sent out “visas” to people in an attempt to help them get past the checkpoints, where Taliban fighters have been beating back people with rifles and sticks.
The US military has enough aircraft to evacuate 5,000 to 9,000 people per day, but, until Thursday, far fewer numbers were even able to reach and then enter the airport.
About 2,000 passengers were flown out on each of the past two days — though that increased Thursday to 6,000 people who were cleared for evacuation and expected to board military flights, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
The US has now added extra State Department consular officers to help verify paperwork of Americans and Afghans who get to the airport, and an additional secure entrance to the airport has also been opened in a bid to get more people through.
But at that rate, it would be difficult for the US to evacuate all Americans and Afghan allies by Aug. 31, President Biden’s deadline for the withdrawal of troops from the country, set weeks before the Taliban’s military victory over the weekend. Biden on Wednesday said he would ensure no American was left behind, even if it meant staying beyond the end of the month.
The estimated number of US-Afghan citizens and family members ranges between 10,000 and 15,000.
The Pentagon has said it is also aiming to evacuate up to 22,000 Special Immigrant Visa applicants, their families and other at-risk people. However, advocates say there are at least 80,000 applicants to SIV — the program created to protect Afghan allies who risked their lives helping US troops — who need to be evacuated.
People have been stuck waiting for visas for years, according to the International Refugee Assistance Project.
The head of the US-based organization, Rebecca Heller, told The Associated Press that an Afghan client told her of five Afghan translators killed by the Taliban in the past two days for their past work with Americans.
Former US military translators, educated young women and other at-risk Afghans and their advocates are pleading with Washington to cut the red tape.
“If we don’t sort this out, we’ll literally be condemning people to death,” said Marina Kielpinski LeGree, the American head of a nonprofit, Ascend.
With Post wires