Afghans working at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are reportedly "deeply disheartened" by evacuation efforts, with one writing it'd be better to "die under the Taliban’s bullet" than face the brutal chaos of trying to leave.
Citing a State Department diplomatic cable it obtained, NBC News reported the missive was written Saturday in the wake of memos that invited Afghan embassy workers to head to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, advising they take food and be ready to face difficult conditions.
"However, no one anticipated the brutal experience that occurred," the cable said, NBC News reported.
Staffers reported being jostled, hit, spat on, and cursed at by Taliban fighters at checkpoints near the airport, the cable recounted — and criminals were taking advantage of the chaos while the U.S. military attemped to maintain order "in an extremely physical situation," NBC reported.
Some staff members recounted they were almost separated from their children; others collapsed in a crush of people and had to be taken to hospitals with injuries, the cable said, NBC News reported.
"It would be better to die under the Taliban’s bullet" than face the crowds again, a staff member was quoted as saying in the cable.
"Happy to die here, but with dignity and pride," another said, while a third accused the United States of prioritizing Afghan government elites with contacts in America who already had the paperwork and means to flee.
A local embassy staff member reported his home was tagged with spray paint — a tactic the Taliban have used to identify places they wanted to revisit to question occupants — and that although the family fled, it couldn’t get to the airport, the cable said.
Others shared concerns about conditions in Qatar, where many refugees have been flown before they make their way to other locations.
A State Department spokesperson told NBC the United States has a "special commitment" to local embassy staff members who "have suffered hardship, pain and loss because of their dedication to working with us to build a better future for all Afghans."
The spokesperson added the United States has been "working tirelessly to improve access to the airport" and to assist people eligible for flights.
President Joe Biden on Sunday addressed the crisis, saying the evacuation was always "going to be hard and painful, no matter when it started."
"There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss and the heartbreaking images you see on television. It's just a fact," he said. "My heart aches for those people you see. We are proving that we can move, though, thousands of people a day out of Kabul."
The White House in a Facebook post stated from Aug. 21 to August 22, there were 23 U.S. military flights evacuating about 3,900 personnel from Afghanistan, and 35 coalition aircraft — including partners, foreign military, and commercial airlines — also evacuating some 3,900 personnel.
It added there’s been about 25,100 personnel on both military and coalitions flights evacuated since Aug. 14, and have been about 30,000 personnel on both military and coalition flights evacuated since the end of July.
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