One of the officials also revealed that US special operations forces had set up a “secret door” at the airport and established “call centers” to guide Americans through the evacuation process.
Officials said the Americans were told to congregate at predefined “assembly points” near the airport where the Taliban would round up the Americans, verify their credentials and drive them a short distance to a door held by US forces who stood next to let inside amid huge crowds of Afghans seeking to flee.
American troops could see the Americans approaching with their Taliban escorts in most cases in an attempt to ensure their safety.
Officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the arrangements, which have so far not been disclosed because the United States was concerned about the Taliban’s reaction to any publicity as well as the threat. attacks by ISIS-K if its operatives were aware of it. The Americans were being escorted in groups, officials said.
Throughout the evacuation, officials in the Biden administration stressed that the Taliban was cooperating, and senior officials said they were committed to providing “safe passage” for Americans.
Taliban escort missions took place “several times a day” according to one of the officials. One of the main assembly points was an Interior Department building just outside the airport gates where nearby US forces could easily observe the US approach. The Americans were informed by various messages as to where to assemble.
“It worked, it worked wonderfully,” one official said of the arrangement. On Monday, when the United States completed its withdrawal, more than 122,000 people in total had been airlifted from Hamid Karzai International Airport since July and more than 6,000 American civilians had been evacuated. However, 13 US servicemen and more than 170 Afghans were killed in a suicide bombing at the airport last week.
It is not clear whether the Taliban who verified credentials during these efforts pushed back any of the Americans. There have been numerous reports that some Americans with passports and US green card holders have been turned away from Taliban checkpoints near the airport.
In another separate secret arrangement not disclosed before the end of the operation, elite troops from the Joint Special Operations Command and other special operations units were also on the ground to help the Americans escape in contacting them through “call centers,” one of the officials said. Special operations forces set up their own “secret door” at the airport and were sometimes in direct communication with the Americans telling them exactly where to walk to find the door and be able to get inside the airport.
U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Frank McKenzie first publicly revealed the involvement of special operations forces at a press conference on Monday, saying the forces helped evacuate more than 1,000 citizens Americans and more than 2,000 Afghans “via phone calls, vectors and escorts.”
Special operations forces “have reached out to help bring in more than 1,064 US citizens and 2,017 SIVs or Afghans at risk, and 127 third-country nationals, all via phone calls, vectors and escorts.” , did he declare. But in the public comments, McKenzie did not specify the involvement of the JSOC, which includes forces that carry out the most dangerous counterterrorism missions such as the Army’s Delta Force and Navy SEALS.