A memo sent last Friday, by a Special Agent to Pentagon and the State Department has been leaked to the press. The memo details the difficult conditions under which Afghan refugees are being housed at the Qatar Air Base. Evacuation flights have been temporarily suspended on Friday as the base is overcrowded.
According to Axios, who obtained the memo, supervisory special agent Colin Sullivan described the situation at the Qatar Air Base as a “life threatening humanitarian disaster.” He also noted that he was not downplaying the conditions in Kabul nor the conditions that the Afghanis had escaped from but said that the current conditions in Doha were “of our own doing.”
Colin Sullivan is a liaison to the U.S. Central Command. When contacted by Axios, he referred all questions about the email to a Defense Department spokesperson.
The Pentagon told Axios that it had taken necessary steps to improve the ground conditions by adding more than 100 toilets. It said that they were also providing 7,000 traditional Afghan meals, thrice a day.
A State Department spokesperson said that they were working expeditiously to remove bottlenecks, were increasing consular personnel in Qatar and were working to “alleviate current conditions.”
A U.S. official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said that the U.S. Central Command was doing all that they could considering the appalling conditions and “inadequate forethought and contingency planning.”
The Al Udeid base is a major military base in Qatar. It is situated in the middle of the desert, so it is extremely hot with temperatures at 103 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday and an expected 107 Fahrenheit on Wednesday. Along with Kuwait, it is one of the closest airbases that the U.S. can use to evacuate Afghans and Americans who need to leave Afghanistan at the earliest. It is not equipped to handle such large number of evacuees as it has a capacity of handling approximately 10,000 people.
The Daily Mail reported that about 21,600 people were evacuated from Kabul within 24 hours as of 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, according to the White House. Fifty-seven coalition flights and 37 U.S. military flights were also used in the evacuation process. About 58,700 people have been evacuated since August 14.