Report: Taliban seizing U.S. passports and identification from Americans, others while Kabul airport gates closed

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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – According to reports, the entrance gates at the Kabul airport were closed on August 21st due to what the New York Times described as a “dangerous situation”, with other reports of the Taliban attempting to seize passports and identification documents to hinder people fleeing from Afghanistan.

On August 21st, the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan released the following warning on their website about “potential security threats”, which the warning urges American citizens to avoid venturing to the airport in Kabul:

“Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.”

In a report from the New York Times, it was stated that the gates appeared to be closed, but Pentagon officials are letting select individual through:

“While all of the entrance gates to the airport appeared to be closed on Saturday morning, the Pentagon said later that military commanders were allowing some Americans and Afghans through with proper credentials for scheduled flights.”

The leader of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, has reportedly also arrived in Kabul.

Ahmadullah Waseq, deputy of the Taliban’s cultural affairs committee, confirmed the Taliban leader’s arrival in Afghanistan’s capital, saying that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is conferring with other Taliban officials and will then begin talks with other Afghanistan officials:

“Then we will talk with other parties to form an inclusive government acceptable to all Afghans. It is not clear when will we have a new government, but we are trying to announce it as soon as we can.”

Speaking to the New York Post, one Afghan American over in Kabul claimed that the Taliban are actively trying to seize passports outside of the airport:

“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. I was lucky a U.S. marine was right there and forced him to give it back.”

Ephraim Mattos, a former Navy SEAL who is actively involved with helping people evacuate Afghanistan, confirmed that scenarios like the aforementioned are playing out:

“U.S. passports, driver’s licenses — they are confiscating those pieces of documentation from American citizens. They lose proof of who they are, and this has happened on multiple occasions in multiple places.”

These on the ground reports come just one day after President Joe Biden claimed during a press conference that the Taliban are “letting” people through their checkpoints if they have documentation:

“To the best of our knowledge – Taliban checkpoints – they are letting through people showing American passports. Now it’s a different question when they get in the rush and crowd of all the folks just outside the wall near the airport.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin effectively contradicted President Biden’s remarks minutes after he made them during that August 20th press conference, saying that even American citizens are being “harassed” and even “beaten” by the Taliban:

“We’re also aware that some people, including Americans, have been harassed and even beaten by the Taliban. This is unacceptable and [we] made it clear to the designated Taliban leader.”

Current reports suggest that there could be anywhere between 10,000 to 40,000 American citizens still within Afghanistan, with only 10 days remaining until the American military need to be completely removed from the country.

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Oliver North says Taliban has names, addresses, and phone numbers of those who worked with U.S. in Afghanistan

(Originally published August 21st, 2021)

During a recent appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity”, retired Lt. Col. Oliver North proclaimed that the Taliban has managed to gain access to identifying information of those who helped the U.S. while America was present in Afghanistan.

During North’s appearance on the show, he dove into the sorts of information that has fallen into the hands of the Taliban:

“They’ve got lists. They’ve got the names and phone numbers of every one of the folks who worked with our country for the last 20 years. They’ve got the banks records; they’ve got it all – thanks to the embassy. That’s the number one issue.”

The reference to “the embassy” that North made was of course referring to the U.S. Embassy located in Kabul that was hurriedly evacuated earlier in August.

NPR previously reported on August 13th that embassy staff in Kabul were instructed to destroy any and all “sensitive material” – everything from computers to physical documents.

However, from what North says, the Taliban were able to retrieve copious amounts of information from the abandoned embassy:

“It’s been reported that the Taliban has captured the payroll data in the American embassy and the Kabul banks, showing the names, addresses, and phone numbers for locals now being hunted down.”

“Sean, I’ve been in touch over the course of the last several days with folks who are now – got at least 1,000 Afghan nationals who worked very closely with us. Some of them were my interpreters when I was on the air with you from Afghanistan.”

“We’re trying to get them out before they’re hunted down. And now, the enemy has got the addresses and phone numbers – and they’re calling them up, trying to entice them to come on over. They come over, they’re dead.”

During the interview, North also aired out concerns on whether there’s truth to rumors about Russian, Chinese, and Pakistani intelligence officials working with the Taliban regarding weapons that they acquired from various military bases in Afghanistan:

“Is it true that the Taliban are using captured U.S. drones, like the Switchblade and others seized at the Bagram airbase and other U.S. bases, that are now being reverse engineered by Russian, Chinese, and Pakistani intelligence officers? Because that’s a major hazard going forward.”

North then questioned “if anyone in the U.S. government” is listening to the cries for help coming from resistance groups opposed to the Taliban in Afghanistan:

“The armed resistance units forming in the Pandur Valley are appealing for help. I’m wondering, is anyone in the U.S. government answering the phone. If not, why not? Call me, I’ve got their numbers. They’ve called me.”

Based upon the ongoings in Afghanistan, North says that President Joe Biden should “step down” if he doesn’t know how to address the matter, but also noted that who would be taking his place if he does is equally concerning:

“Here’s the bottom line, nobody seems to remember the lessons learned from the capture of our embassy in Saigon in April of ’75 or Tehran in ’79.

If Biden can’t figure out how to deal with these problems, he ought to step down. The scary part of that Sean is in every case of a president not finishing his term, you know who becomes the president. That’s a scary prospect, too.”

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‘They seem friendly’, says CNN reporter – shortly before Taliban fighters pull out rifles and charge at them

(Originally published August 20th, 2021)

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – While delivering on the ground reporting from Kabul, CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward and hew crew were charged at by an armed Taliban fighter who seemed ready to strike crew members with the butt of his rifle.

The incident, which was caught on camera, serves as a vivid portrayal of how unsafe the region is – especially for American journalists.

On August 18th, CNN’s chief international correspondent Ward shared a report that featured her venturing through the area outside of Kabul’s airport to get a better understanding of what it’s like for Afghans trying to fly out of the country.

While walking through the crowded streets, Ward turned to the camera noting the frequent sounds of gunfire:

“You can hear gunshots every couple minutes.”

In Ward’s report, she said that she and her crew were suddenly “accosted by an angry Taliban fighter” where Ward can then be seen on camera trying to speak with the Taliban fighter. An interpreter present stated that the Taliban fighter wouldn’t speak with Ward until she covers her face.

While this exchange is ongoing, gunfire can be heard going off in the background of the footage.

The Taliban fighter briefly spoke with the interpreter, who then relayed to the CNN crew that the Taliban fighter expressed anger at America “lying” to Afghans with promises to be flown to America and for the period in which America had occupied the country.

The Taliban fighter then walked away, but later reappears running past the CNN crew while they’re trying to leave the area, taking the safety off of his rifle.

It was at this point that Ward and the news crew were rushed by another two Taliban fighters, one of which has the butt of his rifle raised in a manner that shows he’s ready to attack the crew.

Ward, narrating that portion of the video, stated:

“Suddenly, two other Taliban charge towards us. You can see their rifle butt, raised to strike producer Brent Swails. When the fighters are told we have permission to report, they lower their weapons and let us pass.”

When later discussing the footage with Jake Tapper on his show, Ward spoke about the grim realities of the area:

“And you can imagine, Jake, I mean, this is us. We are a news crew. We are clearly Western. And still, we were exposed to all sorts of insanity.”

Ward stated that she doesn’t see how any of the Afghan locals will be able to gain access to the airport in Kabul, short of having “a connection” or some other arrangement worked out with the Taliban:

“If you’re an ordinary Afghan trying to get past those Taliban guards and trying to get into the airport, I mean, I just don’t see how you’re able to do it. I don’t see how you’re able to really get in unless you have some kind of a contact or a connection or you’re able to arrange something somehow.”

“Frankly, Jake, there’s no real hope.”

While on the ground reports in Afghanistan are certainly invaluable, the dangers posed for American journalists – and female ones, at that – are very real. This incident could have gone far worse, and thankfully it didn’t.

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