The US officials in Afghanistan naively handed the Taliban a “kill list” to target Afghans who aided American forces in the country, according to a media report.
Following the Taliban takeover of Kabul earlier this month, US officials there gave the militant group a list of names of American citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies so they could be allowed to enter the Taliban-controlled perimeter around the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, according to Politico.
The decision was made despite the Taliban’s notorious reputation for brutally executing Afghans who helped the US military and other Western forces during the war and occupation that followed the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The move, detailed by three US and congressional officials, was designed to expedite the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan as chaos erupted in Afghanistan’s capital city after the Taliban seized control of the country, the report said.
It also came as the Biden administration has been relying on the Taliban for security outside the airport.
Since the fall of Kabul in mid-August, nearly 100,000 people have been evacuated, most of whom had to pass through the Taliban's many checkpoints.
But the decision to provide specific names to the Taliban has angered lawmakers and military officials.
“Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list,” said one defence official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic. “It’s just appalling and shocking and makes you feel unclean.”
Asked about the report, President Joe Biden said he was not sure there were such lists, but also didn't deny that sometimes the US hands over names to the Taliban.
"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," he said.
"So, yes there have been occasions like that. To the best of my knowledge, in those cases, the bulk of that has occurred and they have been let through.
"I can't tell you with any certitude that there's actually been a list of names," he added.
The revelation came just days after it was reported that Taliban death squads have been going “door-to-door” to hunt down suspected Afghan “collaborators,” with tens of thousands of American allies potentially at risk.
A spokesperson for US Central Command declined to comment.
The list issue came up during a classified briefing on Capitol Hill this week, which turned contentious after top Biden administration officials defended their close coordination with the Taliban.
Biden officials contended that it was the best way to keep Americans and Afghans safe and prevent a shooting war between Taliban fighters and the thousands of US troops stationed at the airport.
Critics argue it's putting Afghan allies in harm's way, the report said.
Following the fall of Kabul on August 15, the joint US military and the diplomatic team at the airport began giving the Taliban lists of people the US was seeking to evacuate, Politico said.
“They had to do that because of the security situation the White House created by allowing the Taliban to control everything outside the airport,” one US official said.
But after thousands of visa applicants started arriving at the airport, the State Department reportedly told those people to stay away until they were cleared for entry and the lists given to the Taliban no longer included the names of any Afghans.As of Wednesday, only people with US passports and green cards were being admitted to the airport and processed for evacuation, the defence official told Politico.