Amid the chaos and confusion at the airport, the United States said it had taken at least one step to ease requirements for those seeking to leave: COVID-19 tests.
Although Afghanistan had been a hotspot for the coronavirus pandemic, the State Department said Thursday that evacuees are not required to get a negative COVID-19 result to travel.
“A blanket humanitarian waiver has been implemented for COVID testing for all persons the U.S. government is relocating from Afghanistan,” the department said.
It referred questions about how the matter would be handled once evacuees arrive in the United States to the Department of Health and Human Services. Medical exams, including coronavirus tests, had been required for evacuees prior to Taliban’s weekend takeover of Kabul, which added extra urgency to efforts to get at-risk Afghans out of the country.
German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle says the Taliban shot and killed a family member of one of their reporters in Afghanistan and severely injured a second family member.
The broadcaster said in a statement on Thursday that Taliban fighters were looking for the Deutsche Welle reporter and searching homes in western Afghanistan. It said other family members managed to escape.
Deutsche Well says the reporter himself, whose identity was not revealed, is already based in Germany where he is also working. Deutsche Welle didn’t give further details on the killed and injured family members or say where and when exactly in Afghanistan the killing took place.
The director of Deutsche Welle, Peter Limbourg, sharply condemned the killing saying that, “the killing of a close family member of one of our journalists by the Taliban is incredible tragic and a proof for the imminent danger that all of our workers and their families are exposed to in Afghanistan.”
He added: “The Taliban are obviously conducting organized searches for journalists in Kabul and the provinces. Time is running out.”
Limbourg added that the homes of at least three other Deutsche Welle reporters were searched by the Taliban in Afghanistan in recent days and weeks.
The head of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies is calling on the U.N. Security Council to seriously and urgently consider declaring Kabul “a safe zone” and sending a U.N. peacekeeping force to protect it.
Davood Moradian said in a briefing to the council on Thursday that this would allow Afghanistan’s rival factions to come to an inclusive political settlement “while working to mitigate the unfolding catastrophe.”
He told members by video from an undisclosed location outside Afghanistan that he was at Kabul airport 48 hours ago watching the chaos and “the unfolding catastrophe” as he and others tried to get flights out of Afghanistan and people were racing down the runway trying to get on a U.S. military plane.
“It was shared human desperation, helplessness and fear,” Moradian said. He said one passenger who fell to the ground from the plane “was reportedly a member of Afghanistan’s national football team.”
Moradian said the Taliban takeover is not the end of the military and political crisis in Afghanistan. The past four decades have shown, he said, that “a military solution is just a brief pause to the next phase of the war.”
Canada’s prime minister says Canadian Armed Forces assets and personnel have arrived on the ground in Afghanistan to co-ordinate at the tactical level with the United States and other allied partners.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that this will help get Canadians, Afghans and their families to safety. Trudeau says two CAF C-17s will make regular flights into Kabul to support evacuation efforts.