The State Department was preparing Friday to ramp up the evacuation of U.S. citizens and vulnerable Afghans from Kabul as thousands of terrified men, women and children remained trapped at the city’s main airport amid a growing humanitarian crisis.
For at least eight hours, no rescue flights have been able to take off from Hamid Karzai International Airport. Qatar, where the first batch of evacuees were taken, does not have the capacity to take any more, sources told NBC News.
The U.S. has been working with its NATO allies to find other locations in Europe as well as Asia that have the capability to take in and start processing the evacuees, the sources said.
President Joe Biden, under fire for failing to anticipate the quick Taliban takeover of Afghanistan after the U.S. began pulling its troops out of the country, was expected to provide more details later Friday about what steps his administration is taking to restore order to the increasingly chaotic evacuation.
With the Taliban patrolling the perimeter of the airport and trying to stymie the exodus by blocking access roads and forcing escapees to present their papers at checkpoints, NATO called on Afghanistan’s new leaders to “respect and facilitate their safe and orderly departure, including through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.”
“Our immediate task is now to meet our commitments to continue the safe evacuation of our citizens, partner country nationals, and at-risk Afghans, in particular those who have assisted our efforts,” NATO said in a communique.
But a former U.S. Army interpreter, whom NBC News is not identifying, said he hasn’t even tried to get to the airport with his wife and children because even venturing out in his neighborhood has gotten increasingly dangerous.