Nearly 111,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since the start of evacuation operations on August 14, the Pentagon said on Friday.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan on August 15. Their sudden victory, which comes as the US withdraws from the country following a 20-year-war, has sparked chaos at Kabul’s airport, from where America and allied nations are trying to safely evacuate thousands of citizens and allies.
“Total eighty-nine flights yesterday flew out of Kabul, totalling approximately 12,500 evacuees now safely out of Afghanistan in a 24-hour period,” Maj Gen Hank Taylor, tasked with the responsibility of airlifting American citizens out of Afghanistan during the Taliban crisis, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.
“Yesterday, 35 US military aircraft, 29 C-17s, and six C-130s departed with approximately 8,500 personnel. Combined with a 54-coalition aircraft departure, an additional 4,000 personnel left Kabul for various intermediate staging bases,” he said.
In the past 24 hours, more than 300 American citizens were evacuated from Afghanistan, bringing an updated total to approximately 5,100.
“We continue to maximize our efficiency and since US and coalition forces began the evacuation, approximately 111,000 evacuees have departed safely. The State Department consular officers continue to screen and process people arriving at the gate around Kabul,” Taylor said.
Some gates have been closed as we reported, but American citizens, SIV applicants, and vulnerable Afghans, who have the designated and proper credentials, will continue to be processed for departure from the airfield. There are still approximately 5,400 individuals at the airport waiting for flights out of Afghanistan, he noted.
The United States, he said, has the ability to include evacuees on the US military airlift out of Afghanistan until the very end.
“The Department of Defence has the continued responsibility to support the State Department in the ongoing movement of evacuees through our intermediate staging bases and safe havens all the way to the United States in the coming days and weeks,” he added.
As directed by President Joe Biden, Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby said that the United States is still planning on ending this mission at the end of the month.
“As we get closer, and we are getting closer, you’re going to see us begin to make those muscle movements to pull out our troops and some of our equipment as appropriate with any retrograde. What we want to do is preserve as much capability for as long as we can, both in terms of the security footprint, but also in terms of the ability, as the general alluded in his opening statement, to moving out evacuees,” Kirby said.