Race to evacuate from Afghanistan: How many have left and where will evacuees go?

An evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Kabul on Aug 24, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - As the United States hastens efforts to airlift as many people as possible out of Afghanistan before its planned military pullout by Aug 31, thousands more are desperately trying to get into the airport in Kabul - the one area in the capital that the Taleban has not reclaimed.

Here is a look at the evacuation progress so far:

How many have left?

US President Joe Biden said the US and its allies evacuated around 70,700 people between Aug 14 - a day before the Taleban reclaimed Kabul - and Tuesday (Aug 24).

Who are those being evacuated?

Americans and US allies who may have settled in Afghanistan since 2001, when the US first attacked the country and removed the Taleban from power.

Others are Afghan civilians who helped foreign military forces and governments during their occupation, including in roles as translators, medical personnel, engineers and cooks.

Families with children have been seen in Kabul's airport, and an Afghan baby was even passed to soldiers over a barbed wire fence from the throngs of Afghans outside the airport.

The bulk of the US' troops left the main Bagram air base early last month, although more than 3,000 have been flown back. About 6,000 soldiers are aiding evacuations at Kabul's airport.

How many more need or want to leave?

This figure remains elusive. The Association of Wartime Allies, a refugee resettlement group, estimated that 250,000 Afghans who helped the US effort need to be evacuated, but only 62,000 have left since July.

It is increasingly unlikely that most of these people will manage to leave the country by the deadline.

At its fastest, the US evacuated 12,700 people a day between Monday and Tuesday morning. But even at this rate, thousands could be left behind.

Where will evacuees go?

The vast majority were airlifted to Qatar, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, before being put on flights to receiving countries.

Neighbouring Tajikistan said it was ready to take in 100,000 people.

Some 10,000 with Special Immigration Visas to resettle in the US will be temporarily sheltered elsewhere while they are vetted.

Countries like Britain, Germany and Australia have committed to take in those who collaborated with them in Afghanistan.

Afghan refugees at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia on Aug 24, 2021. PHOTO: NYTIMES

What could be the fate of the non-evacuees?

While the US State Department on Monday reiterated its "commitment" to at-risk Afghan individuals who want to leave after its troops are withdrawn, it remains unclear what aid may be offered.

The Taleban said on Tuesday it was "not in favour" of Afghans leaving the country, blocking roads to the airport.

Although the militant group has said it will respect women's rights within Islamic law, and not seek revenge against former Afghan government employees, some women and other civilians have already gone into hiding.

Human rights group Amnesty International reported that nine ethnic minority people were shot by Taleban forces in the Ghazni province last month. Those formerly at odds with the Taleban regime, including activists for women's and LGBT rights and journalists, also risk being targeted by the militant group after foreign forces leave.

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