'Terrified' American University Students in Kabul Feared U.S. Gave Names to Taliban

Students and alumni of the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul feared the U.S. had given their names to the Taliban, according to a report by The New York Times.

Hundreds of current and former students, their relatives and staff had gathered at a safe house on Sunday before boarding buses to Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport.

But they were told after seven hours of waiting for clearance that the airport gates were a security threat and that civilian evacuations would end on Monday, the eve of the deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan after the Taliban's takeover.

"I regret to inform you that the high command at HKIA in the airport has announced there will be no more rescue flights," the university administration told students in an email on Sunday afternoon, according to The Times.

Taliban fighters block a road with Humvee
Taliban fighters block a road with a Humvee vehicle near Kabul airport in Kabul on August 28, 2021. Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

The email told the group of 600 or so students and relatives to return to their homes.

It also sparked alarm because the group learned their names and passport information had been shared with the Taliban guarding airport checkpoints. The university's president, Dr. Ian Bickford, told the newspaper that the university had only given the names to the U.S. military.

"They told us: We have given your names to the Taliban. We are all terrified, there is no evacuation, there is no getting out," Hosay, a 24-year-old sophomore, added.

The AUAF was among the first sites captured by the Taliban when the group swept into Kabul earlier this month, according to TheTimes.

The campus shut down on August 14 while the Taliban were on the outskirts of the capital, and Bickford and other foreign staff fled Kabul for Qatar that evening.

Bickford told The Times that he was working with the U.S. State Department on evacuating about 1,200 current and former students. But he said that Thursday's terror attack at Kabul airport, which killed at least 160 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, had complicated the effort.

Bickford has been contacted for comment.

The State Department declined to comment when approached by Newsweek, citing privacy concerns.

The department released a statement on Sunday, signed by around 100 countries along with NATO and the European Union, saying they had received "assurances" from the Taliban that people with travel documents would still be able to leave Afghanistan after the evacuation ends.

Thousands of Afghans have been airlifted out of the country in the two weeks since it fell to the Taliban. Kabul's international airport has been a scene of chaos as people fearing persecution sought to flee before the August 31 deadline for ending the U.S.-led evacuation.

But the Taliban have tightened their security cordon around the airfield since last week's suicide bombing, which Islamic State's Afghanistan affiliate claimed responsibility for.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has warned Americans to stay away from the area due to a "specific, credible threat" of further attacks.

On Monday morning, several rockets were fired toward the airport, but were intercepted by the U.S. missile defense system.

The White House issued a statement saying President Joe Biden had been briefed on "the rocket attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport" in Kabul.

"The president was informed that operations continue uninterrupted at HKIA, and has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritize doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground," the statement said.

It followed another U.S. strike that targeted a suicide bomber in a vehicle loaded with explosives on Sunday. However, Afghans have claimed the strike killed up to nine civilians, including children, and the U.S. military is investigating.

Update 8/30/21, 7.30 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with a response from the State Department.

Correction 8/31/21, 7.15 a.m. ET: This article and its headline have been corrected to reflect that the university's president did not tell The New York Times that the U.S. military had shared the names of students trying to leave Afghanistan with the Taliban.