Could the U.S. Evacuation List Become a Taliban Kill List if All Allies Don't Leave?

The Taliban now possesses a list of U.S. citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies after U.S. officials in Kabul provided the information to allow the militant group to identify individuals authorized to permeate the security perimeter surrounding Hamid Karzai International Airport, Politico reported yesterday.

Hoping to evacuate as many people as possible, officials moved to expedite the airport entry process, Politico reported, which now faces added security precautions following yesterday's bombing outside the airport by the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS. Despite the intentions behind this move, a number of lawmakers and military officials are condemning the action.

Along with an anonymous defense official who spoke with Politico and Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) who spoke with The New York Times, Will Hurd, a former CIA officer and former Republican U.S. Representative for Texas, spoke with Newsweek about his displeasure over the move.

"The Biden administration approving the sharing of names of anyone associated with the U.S. government is the kind of incompetence that gets people killed," he told Newsweek. "It's a further sign that the Biden administration fails to recognize who are our friends and who are our enemies and shows they have no real plan to get Americans and our allies out of this quagmire of their own creation. If you want to keep people being targeted by hostile actors safe, then you don't share the list of targeted individuals to the people trying to target them."

Some fear the Taliban could use the list a list of U.S. citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies provided by U.S. officials to conduct targeted killings. Above, Taliban fighters on a pick-up truck move around a market area in Kabul on August 17, after Taliban seized control of the capital following the collapse of the Afghan government. Photo by HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP via Getty Images

"We are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Tuesday, adding, "we are not going to allow that."

This announcement sparked fear and concern for the thousands of allies attempting to make their way out of the country through Hamid Karzai airport. A current and former Army official who both continue to support Afghan allies attempting to evacuate told Newsweek that they would fear for the lives of these individuals if the U.S. did not facilitate their safe exit from the country.

Despite Taliban leadership in Kabul stating that the group would not conduct retribution killings, an unconfirmed video shared through The Times of India, an Indian English-language newspaper, showed alleged Taliban members carrying out executions on Afghan soldiers in a sports stadium in the city of Kandahar. Since news of these killings spread through the country, feelings of confusion and desperation have only heightened outside the airport.

In wake of these intense conditions, Kristofer Goldsmith, president of High Ground Veterans Advocacy, said the sharing of the list only adds pressure to the Biden administration as it nears the end of its evacuation effort.

"News of this list being shared shows that once the military-led evacuation effort concludes, America has a responsibility to use all of its available resources to rescue our allies by every other available method," he told Newsweek. However, he stopped short of condemning the move.

US Defence Force Assists In Ongoing Evacuations
A circulating list of U.S. citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies has sparked fear and criticism of the Biden administration. Above, U.S. Air Force loadmasters and pilots assist passengers boarding a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III evacuating Afghanistan at Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 24 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen/U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa via Getty Images

Some within the military and counterterrorism community see little wrong with the sharing of the list, viewing it as a necessity. While the Taliban continues to face scrutiny for their mixed messaging and past repression of women and dissenters, there is reason to believe that the group has changed from since it last ruled the country in 2001.

Newsweek previously reported that the group faces an internal power struggle among its more moderate faction stationed in Kabul and its extremist allies in areas that include Kandahar. Mujahid declared that "there will be no discrimination against women" and "difference when it comes to the actions we are going to take" compared with 20 years ago. With the Kabul faction committed to ending heroin production in the country, the group could very well split apart, given the extreme wing's reliance on its annual $400 million revenue from heroin poppy production in the southern region of the country near Kandahar.

"From my perspective, although the list may look to be valuable to the Taliban to hunt enemies, that's really superficial," Malcolm Nance, the executive director of the counterterrorism think tank Tapstri, told Newsweek. "The Taliban have all the resources they want to acquire granular detail information of any individual in the Ministry of the Interior, the intelligence apparatus, or the Armed Forces by just looking at the Afghan government payroll database."

Nance continued, "If people are going back to work and the Taliban wants to maintain the bureaucracy and social structure of the country, that database has to be maintained. They will use this and tribal knowledge of families to find who they really want. Where we err is to get apoplectic over this list while they quietly acquire all the knowledge they'll ever need from the national IT systems we helped put into place."

Some within the military and counterterrorism community see little wrong with the sharing of the list of U.S. citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies. Above, Taliban fighters stand guard along a roadside in Kabul on August 16, after the end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport. Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

Adam Silverman, who has served as a cultural adviser to the U.S. Army and provided analytical support to deployed units in Afghanistan and Iraq, sided similarly with Nance. He questioned the merits of Politico's report on the grounds of its reliance on anonymous sources. He said not knowing the specific position of the source involved leaves him concerned over how much insight they truly possess on the matter and their motive for sharing its.

Beyond that, he sees sharing the of names as being the only feasible solution for a security force looking to protect evacuees from attacks all the while attempting to get them out of the country as fast as possible. Ultimately, he sees the report as having the intention not "too inform, but to inflame."

"Who, exactly, would all these concerned and angry anonymous sources want the U.S. to give the list of people to be let through the checkpoints too?" he asked Newsweek. "The Taliban are the de facto rulers of Afghanistan right now whether we like it or not. They control Kabul and everything outside of where the U.S. military has control over Hamid Karzai International Airport."

He added: "If the expectation is that only Afghans who are specifically designated to be eligible to leave are to be let through to the airport, then at some point the list of those Afghans has to be shared with the people who control Kabul and, as a result, control access to the airport. And that, right now, is the Taliban. Is it concerning? Sure, a bit. But given that the Taliban have let well over 40,000 to 50,000 Afghans through their checkpoints so that the U.S. and our allies could evacuate them over the past 10 days to two weeks, I'm not sure that this is the problem that Politico's reporting is framing it to be."

One observer of the situation says he sees the report as having the intention not "too inform, but to inflame." The Taliban controls the perimeter of the airport and the city of Kabul, putting the U.S. in a position where it must work with the group. Above, a boy carries Taliban flags to sell in the Karte Mamorin area of Kabul on August 22. Photo by HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP via Getty Images