In all, some 13 people, including an American correspondent, were able to board a U.S. military transport for a flight to safe haven in Doha, Qatar. (The Post is withholding the names of the evacuees for security reasons.)
The Post group was part of a contingent of 204 people who have worked in Afghanistan for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Post and have been seeking to flee the country since Sunday. The fate of most of this group was unknown as of Tuesday afternoon, Eastern time. A Times spokesman said, “This is an extremely fluid and sensitive situation so we are unable to comment on specifics at this time.” The Journal did not respond to requests for comment.
The 204 Afghans were among thousands of people who had rushed to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in hopes of securing a flight out of the country. They were met by scenes of chaos, as desperate people mobbed runways and even clung to the fuselages of departing planes. At least half a dozen Afghans were killed during the scramble, according to the Times, including several from falls from airplanes.
The White House said Tuesday that the airport had been secured by American troops, enabling some flights to depart and land. But with Taliban militiamen erecting checkpoints leading to the airport, it was unclear whether anyone who wasn’t already inside the airport could reach it.
The publishers of the three news organizations on Monday issued a joint plea to President Biden for help. “For the past 20 years, brave Afghan colleagues have worked tirelessly to help The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal share news and information from the region with the global public,” they wrote. “Now those colleagues and their families are trapped in Kabul, their lives in peril.”
The publishers asked for “facilitated and protected access” to a U.S.-controlled airport, “safe passage through a protected access gate” to that airport, and “facilitated air movement out of the country.”
Post publisher Fred Ryan sent a separate email on behalf of the three organizations to national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday, seeking an evacuation flight. He wrote that the group was “currently in danger” and needed the U.S. government’s help for safe passage.
U.S. military officials apparently helped facilitate the departure of The Post employees, although details weren’t available.
A number of non-Afghan journalists remain in Kabul and have continued to report on the Taliban’s takeover. But given Taliban pledges not to harm foreign nationals, they may be in a less precarious position than Afghans who helped news organizations report in the country since the U.S. military occupation began in 2001.
The evacuation of The Post’s employees and their families left uncertain the fate of other Afghan nationals who have acted as “fixers” for Western organizations, including news outlets and the military. Fixers provide local contacts and act as advisers and interpreters for foreigners.
In addition to these advisers, international aid groups have been working for years to secure visas for activists, women’s rights advocates and others who assisted American and allied nationals. The aid groups have said these individuals could be targeted for reprisal by the Taliban.
The chaos at Kabul’s airport on Monday delayed a flight from Qatar that had been organized by The Post, Times and Journal to pick up the news organizations’ Afghan staff and families. The delay prompted Ryan’s email to Sullivan. He sought government permission to move the group from the civilian to the military side of the airport, where they could await the chartered flight or get on a military flight out of the country.
The Post has said it plans to help its Afghan employees and their families apply for U.S. visas.
“We are thankful that many of our journalists, support staff and their families were able to safely leave Kabul on Tuesday,” said Sally Buzbee, The Post’s executive editor, in a statement. “There are still a great number of journalists who remain, and we are committed to supporting our colleagues as they work to get their staff to safety.”