How News Organizations Got Colleagues Out of Kabul, Afghanistan

As the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated in recent days, the publishers of The Times, The Journal and The Post banded together on their evacuation efforts. Security personnel and editors shared information on morning calls. The publishers called on the Biden administration to help facilitate the passage of their Afghan colleagues, and discussions ensued with officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department.

By Sunday, bureaus had been closed and Kabul’s streets had grown chaotic. As American troops, contractors and security teams left the country, newsroom officials had less and less visibility into the situation on the ground. Some Afghan employees feared that Taliban forces would go door to door, intimidating or even kidnapping journalists known to have worked with American outlets.

The American military had secured a portion of Hamid Karzai International Airport, just a few kilometers from the center of Kabul, but getting there, and then gaining access to the terminal, became nearly impossible. On Sunday, the group of more than 200 people connected to the three papers, including employees and their relatives, traveled to the airport’s tarmac, hoping to make contact with the American military, according to three people briefed on the events, some of whom requested anonymity to describe sensitive discussions.

Instead, they found a scene of mass confusion, with hundreds of other panicked Afghans seeking refuge. When Taliban forces arrived, the situation grew more dangerous; members of the group left dehydrated, hungry and dispirited, with no clear idea of what would happen next, the people said.

Back in New York and Washington, the papers’ leaders reached out to diplomatic contacts in countries with embassies in Afghanistan, chasing leads that could result in safe harbor and transportation for their employees. “There were many plans and many efforts that either failed or fell apart,” said Michael Slackman, an assistant managing editor for international for The Times. “You’d have a plan at night and two hours later the circumstances on the ground would have shifted.”