Taliban plot next steps as U.S. retreat accelerates

THE WASHINGTON TIMES — A surge of American troops restored order and evacuation flights resumed from Afghanistan’s main international airport Tuesday, while Taliban representatives now ruling Kabul began a publicity blitz to plead for calm and convince the world the militant group has changed its ways since ruling over the Afghan capital with an iron Islamist fist two decades ago.

A top Taliban leader issued a statement ordering the group’s fighters not to enter the homes of ordinary Afghans, while spokesmen claimed they’ll honor women’s rights, as long as those rights fit within the group’s definition of Islamic law — an assurance that fell largely on deaf ears as men, women and children tied to the fallen U.S.-backed government continued to scramble for the exits in Kabul.

The scene at Hamid Karzai International Airport was, however, notably calmer Tuesday than it had been a day earlier when chaos reigned as throngs of people rushed the tarmac and seven Afghans were killed, including several who fell from the wheel well of an American military transport plane after it had left the runway.

Biden administration officials said more than 4,000 U.S. troops are now at the airport, arriving via waves of C-17 transport planes, several of which were later used to ferry U.S. citizens home. Thousands of Afghans are also being housed in third countries or in temporary holding facilities at American military bases.

Pentagon officials said the goal is to move as many as 9,000 passengers a day out of Kabul. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Biden administration had set a deadline of Aug. 31 to complete the evacuation amid uncertainty over the extent to which the Taliban may seek to violently halt the operation.