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Tag: afghan refugees

Echoes Of Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre In Carlson's Slander Of Soros

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

After the Anti-Defamation League again called for Fox News host Tucker Carlson's firing due to his promotion of the white nationalist "great replacement" conspiracy theory, Carlson's first response was to tell a podcast interviewer, "Fuck them." His second was to use his prime-time show to blame a Jew for the resettlement of Afghan refugees in "your" neighborhood, echoing the apparent motivation of the alleged perpetrator of the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.

Carlson is the nation's most prominent advocate for the "great replacement" conspiracy theory, which posits that elites are trying to gain and entrench their power by using mass immigration to systematically replace white people with people of color in the U.S. and other Western countries. This noxious viewpoint was once limited to internet fever swamps, but Carlson has helped make it increasingly mainstream in the Republican Party.

On Thursday, Carlson drew cheers from white nationalists with his most unambiguous endorsement of the theory yet. He explicitly referenced "great replacement," while alleging that President Joe Biden wants to "change the racial mix of the country" by replacing "legacy Americans with more obedient people from far-away countries" for political gain.

The next night, just hours after ADL called for his firing, Carlson singled out Jewish financier and philanthropist George Soros for his role in promoting the resettlement of Afghans "without the consent of the people who live there," through the group Welcome.US. According to Carlson, Soros' motivation is that he "hate[s] this country and want[s] to destroy it."

"It doesn't matter what you want, you're just a citizen," Carlson spat. "Shut up. George Soros is richer than you, he decides what you get."

Carlson added that Soros and the Clintons, Bushes, and Obamas, who are honorary co-chairs of the group, "have no idea who we are because they know nothing about the country." He concluded by promising more reporting in the future about what he learned in Hungary, where Viktor Orbán, the country's autocratic leader touted by Carlson, has waged a years-long war on Soros and his organizations.

Soros has long been a focus of right-wing media attacks for his role in funding progressive political candidates and organizations (including Media Matters). Those attacks often feature anti-Semitic overtones.

Carlson's chyron described Welcome.US as "Soros' Afghan Resettlement Org," and his commentary suggested that Soros is playing a lead role. But in reality, Soros' Open Society Foundations is one of more than 250 "organizations, leaders, and businesses" involved in the group. Other partners include such notorious America-hating radical organizations as the American Red Cross, Save the Children, the Episcopal Migration Ministries, and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and charities from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are also helping with the effort to resettle Afghan refugees.

But Carlson isn't focusing his fire on any of those myriad nonprofit and faith groups involved in resettling Afghans. He chose to focus his fire very specifically on Soros, while portraying refugee resettlement as part of a plot to destroy the country. There's a very dark history to that brand of attack.

Carlson feigned confusion as to why the ADL would concern itself with his "great replacement" commentary in his initial comments to the podcaster. But as the group's initial letter calling for Carlson's firing explains, that conspiracy theory provided motivations for a series of hate-fueled mass shootings -- including the 2018 attack on worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people. The alleged gunman, a white nationalist, had accused the Jewish refugee resettlement organization HIAS shortly before the attack of bringing Central American "invaders" into the U.S, and he claimed that Jews were "committing genocide" against his people after being captured at the scene.

Now Carlson is offering virtually the same claim from Fox's 8 p.m. hour, simply swapping Soros in for HIAS and leaving references to Jews implicit.

In 2018, Fox executives at least pretended to care about the network serving as a platform for vile rhetoric that echoed the alleged shooter. After Fox Business triggered a firestorm shortly after the attack by rebroadcasting Judicial Watch research director Chris Farrell's false claim that Soros had masterminded a caravan of Central American migrants headed for the U.S. border, Farrell was permanently banned from Fox News and Fox Business.

But there were no repercussions for more prominent Fox personalities who propagated that same lie. And Fox executives all the way up to Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch have since become even more invested in and supportive of Carlson using his platform to spew blood-soaked conspiracy theories.

Correction (9/27/21): This piece originally included the wrong name for the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

U.N. Seeks $600 Million Aid As Taliban  Afghanistan Plunges Into Humanitarian Crisis

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations is convening an aid conference in Geneva on Monday in an effort to raise more than $600 million for Afghanistan, warning of a humanitarian crisis there following the Taliban takeover.

Even before the Taliban's seizure of Kabul last month, half the population - or 18 million people - was dependent on aid. That figure looks set to increase due to drought and shortages of cash and food, U.N. officials and aid groups warn.

An abrupt end to billions of dollars in foreign donations following the collapse of Afghanistan's Western-backed government and the ensuing victory of the Taliban has heaped more pressure on U.N. programs.

Yet U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says his organization is struggling financially: "At the present moment the U.N. is not even able to pay its salaries to its own workers," he told reporters on Friday.

The Geneva conference, due to begin on Monday afternoon, will be attended by top U.N. officials including Guterres, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer, as well as dozens of government representatives including German foreign minister Heiko Maas.

About a third of the $606 million being sought would be used by the U.N. World Food Program, which found that 93 percent of the 1,600 Afghans it surveyed in August and September were not consuming sufficient foods, mostly because they could not get access to cash to pay for it.

"It's now a race against time and the snow to deliver life-saving assistance to the Afghan people who need it most," said WFP deputy regional director Anthea Webb. "We are quite literally begging and borrowing to avoid food stocks running out."

The World Health Organization, another U.N. agency that's part of the appeal, is seeking to shore up hundreds of health facilities at risk of closure after donors backed out.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Pravin Char)

Tom Cotton Can't Decide Whether US Should Abandon Or Protect Afghan Refugees

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

In a Tuesday appearance on Fox News, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) slammed the U.S. military's effort to help Afghan refugees, complaining that service members are being used as "nannies and babysitters and daycare operators" while they "should be" focusing on military training.

In mid-July, the Department of Defense announced Operation Allies Refuge, an effort "to support the relocations of interested and eligible Afghan nationals and their immediate families who supported the U.S. Government and applied for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)."

The department said at the end of August that it was approved to help up to 50,000 people as part of that mission, "providing essential support at secure locations, where these Afghan citizens and their families can safely complete the necessary steps for residing in the United States."

Conservatives began attacking the operation as reports surfaced this weekend that military bases were preparing for thousands of refugees.

"I've been to the border earlier this year. We saw Border Patrol officers who signed up to be law enforcement actually having to work as nannies and babysitters and daycare operators, watching out for all of the children who are showing up at the border," Cotton said, prompted by Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade, who expressed opposition to the ongoing effort to help refugees. "Now we're impressing soldiers into doing the same thing, when you're right, they should be training."

Cotton also implied that the mission to help refugees is harming U.S. military preparedness. "They should be focusing on the mission of deterring our adversaries, to say nothing of the billions of dollars this is going to cost American taxpayers," he said.

But Cotton and other Republicans have simultaneously criticized Biden for not evacuating enough people. On Thursday, Cotton and other GOP senators sent a letter to the administration demanding accountability for those left behind in Afghanistan, noting, "Our immediate priority is the safety and well-being of American citizens, permanent residents, and allies who were left behind in Afghanistan."

They have also in recent days sought to frame Afghan refugees as potentially dangerous terrorist threats. However, several federal-level and local fficials have confirmed that refugees seeking resettlement in the United States will undergo background checks as well as health screenings.

American military bases have been used as temporary housing for refugees at several points in history. They were used to house anti-communist refugees from Hungary during the Cold War, as well as for over 100,000 Vietnamese who fled Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War.

Members of the military have expressed their support for the current mission.

"It's an opportunity to make a difference in a situation where it really is necessary: working directly with displaced nationals, helping them settle, and keeping them safe," Lt. Col. Lisa Weaver of the Washington National Guard toldthe Army's official online publication.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Facebook Permits Racist Attacks On Afghan Refugees

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

As Afghan refugees flee the country following the Taliban takeover, xenophobic narratives are spreading widely on Facebook. Despite the platforms' claim to "prohibit the use of harmful stereotypes" and to protect refugees from "the most severe attacks," racist rhetoric that seemingly violates Facebook's policy is rampant in both public and private groups.

These attacks on Afghan refugees come amid the American military's withdrawal from the country and the Taliban's rapid advance, which has resulted in a humanitarian crisis for more than half a million people displaced from their homes since January. With the United States' final withdrawal from the country completed on August 31, numbers show that "approximately 116,700 people have been airlifted out of Afghanistan" in recent weeks, many of whom allied with the United States over the previous two decades of war.

Now, as the U.S. occupation officially ends, users have taken to Facebook to promote xenophobic conspiracy theories and racist stereotypes about Afghan refugees as potential terrorists bent on harming the U.S. In reality, though much information has not been publicly released, government officials say they are conducting a thorough vetting process of refugees coming into the country from Afghanistan.

Some Facebook posts assert that terrorists will attempt to sneak in alongside Afghans seeking asylum. In "Back Boris," a public group with over 41,000 members, one user wrote, "The Taliban will definitely send some of their supporters to the West posing as refugees. They will fight us in our own country." (This post received over 1,000 reactions and more than 500 comments.) This narrative has also spread to right-wing media including Breitbart, where an article titled "Report: Up to 100 Afghans Seeking Resettlement in U.S. 'Flagged' by Terrorism Watch Lists" has received over 13,000 interactions on Facebook, according to the social media analytics tool CrowdTangle.

The Taliban will definitely send some of their supporters to the West posing as refugees. They will fight us in our own country.racist rhetoric about Afghan refugees

Other Facebook users claimed that Biden "surrendered Afghanistan to terrorists" and that only a small portion of people who were evacuated were U.S. citizens, claiming there was "NO VETTING. How many terrorists will Joe Biden bring to America?" Right-wing outlets like The Federalist have shared similar narratives which then spread on Facebook, with one such article accumulating over 1,700 interactions (reactions, comments, and shares) across both public and private posts on the platform.

Racist rhetoric against Afghan Refugees

Users are also leveraging xenophobic conspiracy theories to promote other misinformedright-wing narratives, especially those surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations and the U.S.- Mexico border policy. And some have even threatened violence, suggesting that users should arm themselves to "defend" their communities against Afghan refugees.

Racist rhetoric about Afghan refugeesArticle about Greece building a wall

Though the platform allows discussion of immigration policies, the consistent attacks in which a whole population of people are smeared with dangerous stereotypes seemingly violate Facebook's hate speech policy, which prohibits attacks based on national origin.

Disregarding its own policies on anti-immigrant rhetoric is not new for the platform, as a 2019 study in the European Journal of Communication found:

In short, commercial platforms such as Facebook provide spaces for xenophobic, racist and nationalistic discourse online, and they shape antagonistic (Farkas et al., 2018) attitudes towards immigrants. Moreover, through their large size, they affect mainstream discourses on immigration and refugees, and contribute to a normalization of previously marginalized types of utterances, attitudes and opinions. Anti-immigration groups and publics on commercial social networking services (SNSs) also seem to amplify xenophobic and racist attitudes among their participants.

Facebook is facing no accountability for the malicious content about Afghan refugees that is circulating on its platform, once again showing the company's failure to stem the spread of misinformation, even in times of crisis.

Carlson Accuses Biden Of Importing Afghan Rapist — But Border Officials Flagged Perp

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

On Monday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has a history of making racist and xenophobic comments, attacked the effort to rescue Afghan refugees and bring them to America as a program to "import some rapists." He also threw in a white supremacist talking point to suggest that the Biden administration was using the refugee crisis as part of a plan to "change our country."

Carlson's smear was based on an article published in the Washington Times earlier that day.

Discussing the U.S. evacuation of Afghan refugees from Kabul, Carlson said during a segment of his program Tucker Carlson Tonight, "So they look around and they say, Hmm, how can we make this a little bit worse? I have an idea, let's import some rapists. That would make it worse than we've already made it. And they have."

Carlson said "that a previously deported rapist was among the Afghan refugees that just landed at Dulles Airport" in Virginia. "Of course, let's import rapists, 'cause it's not bad enough," Carlson repeated.

But according to the story Carlson cited, the existing process of screening would-be refugees worked to identify the person.

The Washington Times reported that Ghader Heydari, a convicted rapist, was flagged by border officials at Dulles, noting they "spotted his criminal and immigration history and derailed his entry."

The paper said, "Heydari's exact path to entry is not clear, though it's unlikely he holds a Special Immigrant Visa. Those were reserved for Afghans who provided significant support for the U.S. in the war effort. It's also not likely he is a refugee, given his immigration history."

Carlson's guest during the segment, Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI), offered no rebuttal as Carlson continued to smear refugees.

Tiffany said that refugees currently staying at U.S. Army Garrison Fort McCoy in Wisconsin were not being vetted, did not hold the Special Immigrant Visas allocated to those who had assisted the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and were there "on parole" on the authority of the secretary of homeland security, "and he can just wave people in. They have circumvented, the Biden administration has circumvented the SIV process and they're just bringing people in on parole." Tiffany added that people were able to leave the base without the authority of the general who oversees it.

Carlson said, "If we're going to import thousands of unvetted Afghan Pashtun tribesmen, why aren't we moving them to the places where the people who make these decisions live?" specifically the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Tiffany answered, "Well, that would really be a good idea," before saying that refugees need to be vetted in a "safe third country like Qatar, someplace like that."

But the refugees at Fort McCoy are being vetted, despite the accusations from both men.

At a briefing on August 23, White House officials told reporters that refugees brought to the facility are subject to multiple screenings — biometric, biographic, and health screenings — before they reach the base.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that the Fort McCoy arrivals include people in the middle of the Special Immigrant Visa process, green card holders, and vulnerable populations that include professors, female journalists, and female students.

Carlson concluded the segment by invoking the white supremacist "great replacement" conspiracy theory, alleging that Afghan refugees are being brought to America by Democrats who "are just using a crisis to change our country — they'll never lose another election, that's the point, as you know."

Tiffany nodded.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Chef Andrés Mobilizing Relief For Ida And Afghan Evacuees

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

World-famous chef and humanitarian José Andrés says that his World Central Kitchen organization has three kitchens set up in Louisiana and is prepared to distribute 100,000 meals in Ida's aftermath. The hurricane—one of the strongest to ever hit the mainland U.S.—has left more than one million residents without power.

"Tomorrow morning as soon as it is safe our teams will go out, will start making meals, will start delivering to the different places that will be in need to do that," the chef told CNN on Sunday evening. "But more important: we need to be planning ahead, not only for days, but for weeks." The chef said a focus of World Central Kitchen would be to ensure both residents in New Orleans and across the state are fed.

A tweet from World Central Kitchen early Sunday morning showed relief workers and volunteers preparing hundreds of sandwiches at the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute. "Entering the storm with more supplies," replied Kyle Pounders, chef and owner of Excaliburger in Arkansas. That same morning, José Andrés said that "after the storm passes, we can do what we always do: go to other cities and very quickly fire up the kitchens that we have in position there."

The chef traveled to New Orleans following humanitarian efforts in Haiti, where an Aug. 14 earthquake killed 2,000 people and left thousands more homeless. "WCK's roots began in Haiti in 2010," the group's website said. "In January of that year, the country was hit with an absolutely devastating earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people—and a decade later communities in Haiti are still recovering."

Much of that sentence could have easily have been written today, as the nation struggles to recover from both political instability following President Jovenel Moïse's assassination in July, and the 7.2 earthquake last month. "With a team already in Haiti, additional WCK relief workers began arriving in the country the day after the quake," the Miami Herald reports. A kitchen set up in Les Cayes has been feeding more than 10,000 people daily. The report said the organization hopes to soon double that number.

"This is really tough; it's tough in a different way than from the 2010 earthquake, which caused such massive devastation in Port-au-Prince," World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook told the Miami Herald. "Here, the impact is spread so far out in these rural communities that are very hard to reach with small pockets of people in need … But we are going to be here as long as we're needed."

World Central Kitchen has also been providing meals to newly arrived Afghan refugees at Dulles Airport in Virginia. Mook told WJLA on Friday that some refugees evacuated from Afghanistan haven't eaten for as long as two days. "It's a very long journey as they've gone from a number of bases, getting processed and then finally arriving at Dulles Airport," he said in the report. In a tweet, José Andrés said that "[w]hat's happening in Afghanistan breaks my heart … but the outpouring of support from people across America helps glue it back."

Afghans Who Won Visa Lottery Left Behind By Trump Policy

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Fakhruddin Akbari is allowing his full name to be published because he is certain he is going to die. Akbari, his wife and his 3-year-old daughter fled their home in Kabul, Afghanistan, two weeks ago. They've been hiding with friends in the city, living on bread and water.

He should be among the lucky ones.

Instead, Akbari fears the very thing he was hoping would be his salvation will now make him a target.

Two years ago, Akbari won a rare spot in the United States' "visa lottery." He was chosen at random from a pool of 23 million to get the chance to apply for one of 55,000 visas to immigrate to the U.S. The U.S. was supposed to have finished his case by last fall. The instructions when he registered promised as much. Either he would be safely en route to the U.S., or he would lose his chance and move on.

But with the final U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan just days away — and as Thursday's bombings have added even more chaos at Kabul's airport — Akbari has almost certainly lost his chance to get out.

He has already burned the letters of commendation his relatives received for their work with American contractors or allied militaries. The Taliban already know, he says, that he's part of a pro-American family. His neighbors have told him they've been visited by strangers asking about him.

A March 2020 ban signed by President Donald Trump, citing a need to protect the American economy, prevented Akbari and visa lottery winners from entering the U.S. In response to a lawsuit by immigration lawyers, a federal judge ruled earlier this month that the government has to move ahead on processing thousands of last year's lottery winners. But the U.S. has told the judge it can't even start until fall 2022 at the earliest.

Several hundred Afghans are in the group. They may be the unluckiest winners in the visa lottery's 30-year history.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

The lottery isn't open to everyone. Winners must come from a country that hasn't had much recent immigration to the U.S. Applicants for the visas must also submit biometric information, pass an interview and medical screening, and complete several security checks.

Nouman, an Afghan lottery winner who asked that his full name not be used over fear of the Taliban, spent months tracking down police documents from the Chinese town where he'd worked for a few years, to prove he had a clean record.

Those requirements are still far less restrictive than other ways to legally immigrate to the U.S., which generally require being closely related to a citizen or green-card holder or having a job offer from an American company. In Afghanistan, interest in the lottery is so great that Nouman said it took him two days to successfully log onto the swamped website where lottery results were posted.

But unlike other visas, diversity visas — the type lottery winners become eligible to receive — are on a tight and unvarying schedule.

Lottery winners are notified in the early summer. After submitting their full application, they can only be interviewed at the nearest U.S. consulate once the federal fiscal year begins on October 1. Then the whole process has to be completed within a year. Eligibility for the visa doesn't roll over.

Usually, most of the annual 55,000 visas have been handed out by that time. But last year, two things happened. First, in mid-March, consulates around the world shut down because of the pandemic. Two weeks later, Trump declared that letting in immigrants would hamper the recovery of the economy, and he signed the order barring most types of immigrants — including diversity visa holders.

When U.S. embassies and consulates began to reopen last summer, a State Department cable disclosed as part of the lawsuit shows they were instructed to handle diversity visas last, even if they met the narrow exemptions to the ban.

Giving someone a visa is legally distinct from letting them enter the U.S., and critics of Trump's actions — including a group of lawyers who filed lawsuits over the bans — argued that even if the ban were legal, consulates could still prepare visas so that recipients could come after the ban was rescinded, which President Joe Biden did this February.

In early September last year, Judge Amit Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with the argument and ordered the government to make up for lost time, prioritizing diversity visa applicants ahead of everyone else for the last 26 days of the fiscal year.

The State Department's bureaucracy took a few days to get into gear. Then it began a process that turned out to be far from efficient.

Officials compiled a spreadsheet of applicants who had joined the now-consolidated suit and were supposed to be prioritized, but it was riddled with misspelled names and incorrect case numbers. In a court declaration, a State Department official from a different office said the spreadsheet took "many queries" from his team to fix.

Once consulates and embassies got the correct names, they rushed appointments, often giving applicants little notice. The Kabul embassy wasn't participating at all, so any Afghan appointments were set up in different countries — or continents.

At least three Afghan immigrants, including Nouman, were scheduled for interviews in Cameroon. All three were given one day's notice to get there. (Nouman, at least, was able to get a later appointment in Islamabad, Pakistan.)

Many more weren't given interviews at all. According to court filings, some State Department employees told applicants who called the office handling the cases that if they hadn't officially joined the lawsuit, "you lost your chance" — which wasn't true. When a COVID-19 outbreak hit the office and workers went remote, the help line shut down entirely.

When the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, 2020, more than 40,000 of the 55,000 diversity visas were still unused — and several hundred Afghans were still waiting. Less than 20% of the Afghan lottery winners had gotten visas by the deadline.

That day, Mehta had ordered the State Department to reserve 9,505 slots, based on his estimate of how many diversity visas could have been processed if COVID-19 had existed but the ban didn't. When the case finally concluded this month, he declared that the government would indeed have to process those visas.

That opinion came down on August 17, two days after Kabul fell.

In a response filed to Mehta on Thursday, the government offered to start processing last year's visas in October 2022. One reason given for the proposed delay was that processing older visas is "an unprecedented computing demand that will require the Department to implement wide-ranging hardware and software modifications." Another was that processing diversity visas would take resources away from dealing with the crisis in Afghanistan.

It went unmentioned that some people are affected by both.

Lawyers for the affected immigrants made an emergency filing this week, with testimony from several Afghans worried that they would be targeted by the Taliban precisely because they had sought to immigrate to the U.S. They're hoping the court will order expedited consideration for Afghan lottery winners.

The lawyers are moving to appeal for the court to order that Afghans get priority in the visa process. The plaintiffs' lawyers had asked the government to consent to their filing the request. The government's response — after several days of silence, delaying the filing — was to call it an "unnecessary distraction."

In a meeting by phone on Monday, according to two people on the call, another government attorney complained that he'd been getting emails from applicants "all over the world" and blamed their lawyers for posting his address online. One of those emails was a desperate cry for help from Akbari. "We are totally hopeless and every knock of the door seems like a call to death for us," Akbari wrote. "Please help us."

In the time since sending that email, Akbari and his family have made two attempts to get to Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport. The first time, he says, they were beaten back by the Taliban. The second time he was stopped by the United States. The Marines guarding the airport said they couldn't enter. The reason? They did not have visas.

Over 70,000 Evacuated From Kabul As CIA Chief Meets With Taliban Leader

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

On Tuesday morning, the Pentagon provided an update on the number of people who have been airlifted out of Kabul since the U.S. began evacuations in the last week of July. In that time, 63,900 people have left Afghanistan on U.S. military flights. However, the more impressive number might be what's happened in the last few days. As the Taliban moved in, the U.S. and allies have accelerated operations.

The media may be focused on claims of "chaos," but what the numbers show is a military evacuation flight leaving Kabul every 45 minutes and a flight coming in or out every two minutes. In just the last 24 hours before the morning briefing, 37 U.S. military evacuation flights carried 12,700 away from Kabul. Another 57 flights involving allies, commercial, and charter aircraft carried out 8,900. That's 21,600 people flying out in a day.

The previous day military spokesmen reported over 10,000 evacuations. It may not match the kind of traffic seen in many major U.S. airports, but then, Kabul's airport has, along with other difficulties, only a single runway. The Pentagon describes it as "an exhausting pace" that involves over 200 aircraft and 6,000 troops from the U.S. along with allied forces. With a week to go before the current "red line" for U.S. forces to leave the country, Army Gen. Stephen Lyons said he was confident that the military can keep up, or even increase, the pace of people coming out.

On Tuesday morning, NBC News reported that Kabul International is now an "extremely busy airfield" where departures were "orderly" with no one cutting lines, bags being searched, and "even candy for the kids." They also reported that "the Taliban are helping make it go smoothly by providing security outside the airport." But while that segment ran on the Today show, it would be hard to find anything equivalent on any news site, including NBC's, where all the headlines are of "chaos," "pressure," and how how this supposed failure is crashing approval ratings for President Biden.

In a Tuesday afternoon press conference, President Biden noted that 50 flights have left Kabul in the last 12 hours. That included 19 U.S. military evacuation flights and 31 other flights from coalition partners. In total, 70,700 people have now been evacuated. Biden said that he had held extensive discussions with G7 partners, praised allies for the evacuees they were taking in, and explained that Afghan coming to America will have undergone background checks. Biden also took a moment to mention that Trump had destroyed the SIV program, causing some delays in clearing Afghan evacuees.

Biden also mentioned, as had previously been discussed, that he has asked the military and State Department to prepare contingencies if the U.S. is unable to evacuate those who want to get out by August 31. However, he acknowledge that the longer the U.S. is present on the ground, the more inviting a target Kabul's airport comes for militants who want to strike a blow against both the U.S. and the Taliban.

On Tuesday morning The Washington Post reported that CIA Director William Burns held a covert meeting on Monday with the Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar—the same man that Donald Trump pressured Pakistan to release from jail. Baradar not only led the negotiations with Trump that created an agreement which excluded the existing Afghan government, he is now expected to take over as the new president when the Taliban leadership settles in.

That meeting likely means the U.S. has informed Baradar that, despite previous announcement that the U.S. would be out by August 31, that deadline may be extended if necessary to get Americans and Afghans who worked with the American military out of the country. Even though it was Biden who gave the August 31 date for when he expected operations to be complete, he has been definitive in saying that those Americans and Afghan allies who want to leave will get that opportunity. Despite the accelerating pace of evacuations, that may require staying more than the week that remains.

On Tuesday morning, military advisers stated that the U.S. should attempt to stick with the August 31 date, and anonymous sources told Politico that Biden agrees with that decision. There is absolutely no doubt that the U.S. will attempt to get everyone out in that time. There's also no doubt that, no matter what date the U.S. leaves, there will still be reports of Americans or others who got left behind. That's inevitable. But no matter what's being said publicly, the meeting between Burns and Barador is a good indicator that in private the Taliban is being informed that, in spite of threats, the U.S. will remain at the Kabul airport if there are still lines of people attempting to leave.

That meeting might also serve another purpose: getting the Taliban to provide more assistance in getting people out of the country. In fact, there might be a direct relationship between that meeting between Burns and Baradar, and NBC reports that Taliban forces are helping evacuations run "smoothly."

That's because, no matter how quickly the Taliban rolled over the U.S.-trained Afghan forces, the last thing they want is to actually reengage with the U.S. military. Baradar doesn't want to give the U.S. any excuse to take actions such as bombing military bases now occupied by the Taliban, or pushing U.S military forces back toward the heart of Kabul to provide an expanded corridor. More than anything, Baradar simply wants the U.S. to be gone. So hearing that the U.S. might need to extend their departure date should light at least as big a fire under Baradar as it is for leaders at the Pentagon.

Staying around past the end of this month is a contingency that no one wants to deal with. The increasing pace of departures from Kabul International Airport make that contingency less likely. And the best thing about the meeting between Burns and Baradar may have been that it reminded the Taliban to save their gloating until after the U.S. military is not around.

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2021 · 12:45:00 PM EDT · Mark Sumner

This is a big deal.