The surge in numbers trying to leave comes on top of the 2.2 million Afghan refugees already in neighboring countries and 3.5 million people forced to flee their homes within Afghanistan’s borders.
How many Afghans are leaving?
At the moment, the exact numbers are unclear – but we do have some detail on how many people have been airlifted out of the country.
On Thursday, the US said it had facilitated the evacuation of more than 95,000 people from Kabul airport, currently the only operational one in the country, since 14 August – although it’s not clear how many of those were Afghan nationals.
The UK Ministry of Defense says it has flown out more than 11,000 of those people and that nearly 7,000 of them were Afghan nationals.
The German government says 4,500 people have left the country on its flights out of Kabul. Around 3,700 of them were Afghans, including local journalists and human rights activists, and about half of that number were women and girls. The airlift operation has been stepped up in recent days but it has become more difficult for Afghans who have permits to fly to make it to the airport because the Taliban has said it doesn’t want citizens to leave.
It’s unclear how many Afghans currently have the necessary paperwork to be evacuated.
As many as 300,000 Afghans have been affiliated with US operations in the country since 2001, according to the International Rescue Committee, and tens of thousands of them are eligible to obtain a US visa. While the BBC has been told that some 2,000 Afghans eligible for the UK visa scheme are yet to be evacuated.
The BBC’s Secunder Kermani in Kabul saw crowds of Afghans outside the airport on Tuesday hoping to obtain visas but many of them are unlikely to make it on to flights before 31 August, the Taliban deadline for foreign troops to withdraw.Elsewhere around the country, the options for Afghans hoping to flee are limited.
The Taliban control all the main land crossing points with Afghanistan’s neighbors (shown on the map below) and the militants have said they do not want Afghans to leave the country. Reports suggest only traders or those with valid travel documents are being allowed to cross.
“The vast majority of Afghans are not able to leave the country through regular channels,” a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said last week. “As of today, those who may be in danger have no clear way out.”