Pentagon spokesman John Kirby acknowledged that the Afghan evacuees are living in inhuman conditions at a US airbase. He said “everybody’s focused on trying” to improve the situation.
Kirby was speaking to Axios on Tuesday after photos and video footage obtained by media outlets showed hundreds of Afghan refugees staying in an unsanitary hangar at al-Udeid airbase.
Staff at the US embassy in Kabul also decried how Afghan refugees were being treated at the facilities in Qatar, according to a State Department diplomatic cable obtained by the Middle East Eye.
According to the cable, the refugees were being kept in “un-airconditioned housing with too few lavatories – especially for women” at the US airbase.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera television network cited Afghan refugees as saying that they were being kept in the “sweltering heat where several people had fainted as they waited in long queues to use the toilet or receive food and water.”
According to the cable, the local staff at the US embassy in Afghanistan had concerns regarding Kabul’s airport.
After US President Joe Biden ordered a hasty withdrawal of American forces by September 1, the Taliban militants overran major cities.
They took over the Afghan capital on August 15.
Since then, there have been chaos and confusion. Thousands of Afghan civilians and diplomats have rushed to take evacuation flights from Kabul.
The difficulties at the airport were underlined on Monday, when one Afghan guard was killed and three others wounded in a “firefight” between Afghan security forces and “unknown attackers,” according to Germany’s military.
Some US embassy personnel have expressed “distrust in the US government” and a sense of betrayal.
Some also said they were “nearly separated from their small children, collapsed under the crush of people, or received injuries requiring hospitalization.”
One of them said, “It would be better to die under the Taliban’s bullet” than face the crowds again.
“We are human beings and considered as animals and abused.. Happy to die here but with dignity and pride,” the staff members said.
Since August 14, the US and its allies have evacuated over 70,000 people from Afghanistan, including their citizens, NATO personnel and Afghans who helped the US military during the war.