John wondered a couple days ago whether we’d see a repeat of the 1979-80 Iranian hostage crisis. This is one of those instances where the apocryphal Mark Twain line applies: history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.
Keeping hostages, as we learned again in Lebanon in the 1980s, is a time-honored practice in the Middle East and Asia. But it is not necessary right now for the Taliban to take Americans into physical custody as the Iranians did at the embassy in 1979 to keep Americans hostage. All they need do is block or restrict access to the airport. If I was the Taliban, I’d discretely communicate to Biden that the flow of Americans to the airport will be constricted until all American military personnel are out of the country. And given that our government doesn’t seem to know exactly how many Americans are still in Afghanistan, the Taliban might just think it worth keeping a number of Americans around for a long time. (Where is Chuck Norris when we really need him?)
I speculated about this possibility on email this morning to a couple friends, and then there appeared this report from National Review:
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Tuesday sidestepped questions about how the U.S. plans to respond to reports that the Taliban is blocking people from accessing the airport in Kabul, where the U.S. military is facilitating evacuations from Afghanistan in the wake of a Taliban takeover.
Kirby said during a press briefing that U.S. military commanders at the Kabul international airport are in communication with Taliban commanders on the ground outside the airport. He declined to further detail those discussions, saying only that he would “let the results speak for themselves.”
Asked by a reporter if those discussions include talk of allowing Americans and Afghans through Taliban checkpoints or expanding the perimeter around the airport so more people can arrive at the airport safely, Kirby declined to get into the “sausage-making of communications.”
But since the Taliban don’t eat pork sausage. . .