Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, thousands of refugees are flooding out of the nation, but the Biden administration is finding it difficult to house and process them.
According to US Central Command emails obtained by Axios, the living conditions for Afghan evacuees at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base are “awash with loose feces and urine and a rat infestation.”
“We recognize this is a challenging and difficult situation for these vulnerable individuals and families, and we remain committed to providing a secure, safe and sanitary environment,” Navy Capt. William Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told Axios. “It has been challenging to keep up with the flow, but we have made progress in caring for and safeguarding these vulnerable individuals and in getting them moving onward.”
Supervisory special agent Colin Sullivan, a State Department-U.S. Central Command liaison, called it a “life-threatening humanitarian disaster” in an email to colleagues at the State Department.
“While not in any way downplaying the conditions in Kabul nor the conditions the Afghanis [sic] are escaping from, the current conditions in Doha are of our own doing,” Sullivan wrote.
According to a Pentagon official, the government is striving to improve refugee conditions while expediting processing and redistributing them across several United States locations with additional capacity.
“We are working quickly to alleviate bottlenecks and are surging consular personnel in Qatar, in addition to expediting manifesting, to alleviate current conditions,” the spokesperson said. “More than 3,700 individuals were transported to follow-on destinations in the United States, Germany and Italy” on Monday.
“Our goal is to process them for onward destinations within a few days of arrival,” the spokesperson added.
The disclosures about Al Udeid Air Base’s conditions come as President Joe Biden continues to defend his decision to withdraw US forces. Biden has attempted to quell outrage and deflect criticism for his management of the withdrawal, blaming both former President Donald Trump and the deposed Afghan government at times. Additionally, he has maintained that much of the continuing operation’s disarray was unavoidable.
Along with tens of thousands of Afghan allies and refugees, the US is evacuating thousands of American citizens who are trapped behind Taliban checkpoints and unable to reach US forces at Kabul’s Karzai International Airport, which the US is using to stage evacuation operations and flights out of the country. Biden has swarmed the country with thousands of troops to aid the evacuation.