How the United States Aided and Hindered the Flight of Afghan Journalists

On August 20, Joel Simon, the head of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Mr. De Dora met via Zoom Uzra Zeya, the Under-Secretary of State for Civil Security, Democracy and Human Rights. man. They said they left the meeting convinced that the United States would do nothing to help them.

They sought help elsewhere and the same day met the deputy director of the Qatari government’s communications office, Sheikh Thamer bin Hamad Al Thani. Al Thani asked for a list of Afghan journalists he considered most at risk, then said a convoy should assemble in a safe place near Kabul airport. On August 23, the Qatari ambassador to Afghanistan drove 16 journalists and their families from the safe house to the airport. They flew to Doha the next day. Many of the other journalists on the list are still in Afghanistan.

“We didn’t see any policies here,” Mr. Simon said of the US government’s role in the evacuation. “Our experience has shown that powerful media organizations are able to leverage their own connections and use their own resources,” he said.

Others involved in the rescue efforts have had similar experiences, finding official U.S. government channels unnecessary at best and a hindrance at worst.

The leader of a rescue effort spoke to me on condition of anonymity to reveal details of sensitive relations with the State Department. On August 29, this group leader emailed a State Department official telling him he was ready to send 181 people, including Afghan journalists, out of Mazar-i-Sharif, a town in northern Afghanistan.

The group, whose charter was paid for by the Facebook Journalism Project, according to the email and a Facebook official, had obtained approval from the airline operating the flight, Kam Air, as well as the United Arab Emirates, where the plane would land. , and Mexico, the ultimate flight destination.

The group had also gotten the nod from the Taliban, according to the email, which was shared to me, but that approval came on condition that the US government approve the plan.

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