What is Taliban kill list? Joe Biden hints US handed over names of Afghan allies

Officials confirm the US coordinated with the Taliban to evacuate Afghan allies, but fears mount that list will be used to punish those that helped

                            What is Taliban kill list? Joe Biden hints US handed over names of Afghan allies
Displaced Afghans reach out for aid from a local Muslim organization at a makeshift IDP camp on August 10, 2021, in Kabul (Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)

As the US' chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan continues, we learn more and more each day about the major missteps made by the Biden administration. On August 26, POLITICO unearthed another -  a "kill list" of Afghan allies who helped the US during its 20-year war. The names were handed over to the Taliban to help facilitate their evacuation, but now some fear it could be used for reprisals by the organization.

The list adds to the already mounting criticism President Joe Biden is facing, as America's withdrawal gets worse with each passing day. Hours before the story broke, 13 US Marines were killed in a bomb blast outside the airport. A day prior, we reported that the US could be leaving the nation days before its August 31 deadline, effectively abandoning American citizens and allies in Afghanistan. 


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Amidst the chaos, Department of Defense officials confirmed that the withdrawal was indeed reliant on Taliban support. General Frank McKenzie Jr of US Central Command told reporters that the US was "reaching out to the Taliban" to coordinate security outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport. As part of those efforts, it appears the US has also identified who exactly will get to fly out, a list that has now been handed over to the Taliban.

Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants crowd into the Herat Kabul Internet cafe seeking help applying for the SIV program on August 8, 2021, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)


Taliban handed list of Afghan allies

POLITICO learned from US and Congressional officials that a list of names was "designed to expedite the evacuation." As part of the evacuation, the US and its allies have been airlifting only nationals, and those with Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), obtained because they helped the US during the Afghan war. "Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list," one defense official said. The revelation of the list was made earlier this week, during a classified briefing on Capitol Hill. 

"Biden officials contended that it was the best way to keep Americans and Afghans safe and prevent a shooting war," POLITICO reported. Reportedly, the names were handed over to the Taliban on August 15, because the US had no actual control outside the airport. Everything outside was being controlled entirely by the Taliban, including who all could enter the airport premises. However, the State Department was forced to change course after thousands of people flocked to the airport, overwhelming the capacity of US officials and military personnel. 

After August 25, the names fed to the Taliban did not include any Afghan nationals, as the US asked them to stop coming to the airport. The State Department announced it would be evacuating only US nationals, leaving thousands of those with legitimate visas stranded. And between August 15 and August 25, the Taliban were fed the names of thousands of Afghan allies, which has now sparked fears of being used for more nefarious purposes.

U.S. Soldiers and Marines assist with security at Hamid Karzai International Airport, August 19, 2021, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla / U.S. Marine Corps)

Biden acknowledges existence

According to reports from Kabul, the Taliban has been going door to door and hunting for any Afghans that worked for the US, despite initially assuring citizens that they would not be in danger. Now with an exact list of names, it means the Taliban has an easy way to hunt US allies, as many of them will be forced to remain in the country. The President has hinted that such a list could exist, in his controversial press conference on August 26.

"There have been occasions when our military has contacted their military counterparts in the Taliban and said this, for example, this bus is coming through with X number of people on it, made up of the following group of people. We want you to let that bus or that group through. So, yes there have been occasions like that," Biden said. However, he was careful to deny his knowledge of the list. "I can't tell you with any certitude that there's actually been a list of names. There may have been. But I know of no circumstance... It could very well have happened," he added. 

So far, the reliance on the Taliban doesn't appear to have paid off. For one, hundreds of American citizens are still stuck in Afghanistan, unable to make their way to the airport. There have also been reports of Taliban attacks, even on foreign nationals. The security situation has deteriorated to such an extent, that an ISIS suicide bomber was able to sneak past the Taliban check posts and detonate a bomb outside the airport. In the words of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez, "As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security." 

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