August 23, 2021
Efforts continue to rescue scholars, students and higher education personnel in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover and the collapse of the Afghan government eight days ago.
President Joe Biden provided an update Friday on efforts to evacuate American citizens, third-country civilians, Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans.
“We’ve secured the airport, enabling flights to resume, not just military flights but civilian charters from the other countries and the NGOs taking out civilians and vulnerable Afghans,” Biden said. “Now we have almost 6,000 troops on the ground … providing airport security. We’re going to do everything, everything that we can to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies, partners and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States.”
Leslie Schweitzer, a member of the Board of Trustees for the American University of Afghanistan and president of Friends of AUAF, a Washington, D.C.-based nongovernmental organization, said the university is “constantly in the process of arranging flights to get our students out of the country. It seems the most feasible timeline will be to get the majority of them out … after all Americans are evacuated, and then we can have access to the military flights, although we’re continuing to try to arrange private charter flights.”
Schweitzer said Friday that only a few students have gotten out so far. The biggest challenge, she said, is safely getting them from their homes to the side of the airport controlled by U.S. military personnel.
“We don’t want them coming to the airport until we know we have a plane,” she said. “The difficulty is the vulnerability of people going to these various gates to try to get through with the Taliban in control. It’s dangerous and it’s unpredictable, and we don’t want to put our students into those kinds of positions of danger until we are assured that there will be a plane.”
Schweitzer said the evacuation efforts have been frustrating.
“We were expecting a plane today to get more out, and they have not been granted the ability to land,” she said Friday. “This is not unusual. This is the way we’ve been spending our week.”