Staff at the US Embassy in Kabul are “deeply disheartened” by the botched evacuation efforts in Afghanistan — with at least one saying they’d rather “die under the Taliban’s bullet” than be crushed to death at the airport, according to a report.
The staffers accused the US of betrayal after they were advised to head to the airport — but instead suffered a “brutal experience” without protection, according to a diplomatic cable obtained by NBC News.
They complained to the State Department about being attacked and spat on by Taliban fighters at checkpoints near the airport and also targeted by criminals, NBC said.
Others said they almost lost their children in the stampede to flee the Taliban’s brutal rule, while some were hospitalized after collapsing in a crush of people. Others said they had collapsed on the road because of heat exhaustion, NBC said.
“It would be better to die under the Taliban’s bullet” than face the crowds again, one staff member was quoted as saying in the cable.
Another said, “Happy to die here, but with dignity and pride.”
At least one staffer also said his home had been tagged with spray paint — a Taliban tactic to mark homes with people needing to be questioned, the cable reportedly said. That family fled and was unable to get to the airport, NBC said.
The cable was sent Saturday, according to the network — a day before at least seven people, including a young child, were crushed to death in some of the most heartbreaking scenes from the attempted mass exodus.
On Monday, an Afghan guard was shot dead and several others injured when a gun battle broke out, reportedly after an attack by snipers amid fears that ISIS will also try to take advantage of the chaos. Others have fallen to their deaths while clinging onto outbound US military planes.
A State Department spokesperson insisted to NBC that the US has a “special commitment” to local embassy staff members who “have suffered hardship, pain and loss because of their dedication to working with us to build a better future for all Afghans.”
The US has been “working tirelessly to improve access to the airport” and to assist people eligible for flights, the spokesperson said.
President Biden on Sunday tried to deflect international outrage at the humanitarian crisis, saying the evacuation was always “going to be hard and painful, no matter when it started.”
“It would have been true if we’d started a month ago, or a month from now. There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss of heartbreaking images you see on television,” he said.
The White House said that since Aug. 14, the US has helped evacuate approximately 37,000 people.
With Post wires