Congress members and their staff who raced to assist American citizens and Afghan allies get out of the country ahead of a Taliban-imposed Aug. 31 evacuation deadline have disclosed several messages they were sent by people frantic to escape.
The messages, revealed by the Washington Examiner, reveal how desperate the situation had become for many Americans trying to get out before the last flight left the war-torn country earlier this week.
“From being on the phone with individuals dodging gunfire to messages describing Taliban beating U.S. citizens, lives are on the line as an ever-changing security landscape hamstrings staff members working long hours to assist those stranded,” the outlet reported Thursday.
The outlet noted that one of the messages shared — which wasn’t directly quoted in order to protect the identities of people still trapped inside the country — described an incident in which several American citizens attempted to get to the airport after arranging for transportation. Taliban fighters only allowed a few of them through, however, while beating the remainder and firing shots over their heads to scatter them.
And now that the Biden administration has pulled all U.S. military forces and diplomats out of the country, those left behind are in limbo and face an uncertain future, the Examiner noted.
Felix Ungerman, a retired Air Force colonel currently serving as deputy chief of staff for Nebraska GOP Rep. Don Bacon, said he has been working to get Americans out of the country since Kabul fell completely to the Taliban. He told the Examiner of a harrowing incident that occurred earlier this week while he was on the phone with an American citizen in the Afghan capital.
Ungerman said that the citizen had tried to get to an access point for days and had finally done so when Taliban fighters opened fire.
“He goes, ‘Oh my god, he’s shooting.’ And I said, ‘Please get away from there, go get to safety,’” Ungerman told the outlet.
“His phone cut off while I could hear gunshots going off, and I couldn’t get in touch with him again,” Ungerman continued. “I tried calling his cellphone every couple of hours to see if I could get him, tried an email, sent him a text message.
“And it wasn’t until [Tuesday] morning that he actually texted me back and said, ‘Yeah, I’m OK, but now what do I do?’ I’m like, ‘You get to somewhere safe, and you stay there until we can — our government can offer some solutions to help you,'” the deputy chief of staff added.
He also related the story of a woman who took the advice of the U.S. Embassy earlier this year to make plans to leave the country. The woman booked a flight for early September, thinking that it would be okay and the Afghan government would still be in power by then. But after the Taliban took over so quickly, she’s stranded and is not certain what she will do next.
Another Afghan-American citizen who was working with Bacon’s office to get out of the country told staffers that Taliban fighters “were creating as much problem as they could” for U.S. citizens and others trying to leave.
He said the State Department told him to go to the Afghan Interior Ministry, and when he explained that to a Taliban checkpoint guard, his response was, “Go and tell the State Department to f*** themselves.”
Eventually, the man got into the international airport in Kabul after apparently risking his life outside the gate as Taliban guards shot at the crowd’s feet to disperse them.
“Everybody run away,” he said, according to the Examiner, noting that was the day that an ISIS-K suicide bomber attacked U.S. forces at Abbey Gate.
“I know it was stupid, but I took just my chance. I ran towards the soldiers. I had my passport in my hand — shouting that I’m an American citizen,” he said.
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