Pentagon accelerates Afghanistan evacuation flights with 6 days left
Members of the British Armed Forces continue to participate in the evacuation of eligible personnel from Kabul Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 19-22. August 2021, in this handout picture Reuters received on August 23, 2021.
UKMOD | via Reuters
WASHINGTON – The U.S. military, along with coalition partners, increased emergency evacuation flights on Wednesday as foreign forces enter the final days of an immense humanitarian airlift.
In the past 24 hours, Western forces evacuated 19,000 people from Kabul on 90 military cargo plane flights, which, according to the Pentagon, corresponds to a departure frequency every 39 minutes.
Since the mass evacuations began on August 14, around 82,300 people have been flown out of Afghanistan. Around 87,900 people have been evacuated since the end of July, including around 4,400 US citizens and their families.
The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that 10,000 people are currently waiting for a flight at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. According to the State Department, several thousand Americans are still waiting to be evacuated.
The Biden administration has not disclosed the total number of Americans and Afghan nationals it plans to evacuate before President Joe Biden’s August 31 deadline.
Read more about developments in Afghanistan:
NATO allies and members of the president’s own party pushed for an extension of the exit period and expressed doubts that the coalition can evacuate all Afghans who are entitled to leave in such a short time.
However, Biden reaffirmed Tuesday to leaders of the G-7, NATO, the United Nations and the European Union that the United States will withdraw its military from Afghanistan by the end of the month.
“We are currently well on the way to being ready by August 31,” said Biden of the west wing of the White House in his third address on Afghanistan since the country fell to the Taliban.
“I also asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans in order to adjust the schedule should this be necessary,” said Biden.
At the Pentagon, spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. military was still working to complete the evacuation mission by the end of the month and would not develop any possible alternative plans.
When asked about reports from two lawmakers flying to Kabul to monitor evacuation efforts, Kirby said the US military was “unaware of the visit.”
“We are obviously not encouraging VIP visits in a very tense, dangerous and dynamic situation at this airport and in Kabul,” said Kirby, adding that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “would have appreciated the opportunity to meet before the visit.” . “
On Tuesday MPs Seth Moulton, D-Mass., And Peter Meijer, R-Mich. in a statement that they went to Kabul to collect first-hand reports to inform their role as lawmakers. Moulton and Meijer are Iraq war veterans.
“They had the opportunity to speak to commanders, I understand, they had the opportunity to speak to troops, but there was no need to give in and change the daily routine,” Kirby said. “You must have taken your time from what we had planned that day,” he added.
After the trip, House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi warned in a letter that such trips could hinder the evacuation of US citizens and vulnerable Afghans.
“Members’ trips to Afghanistan and surrounding countries would divert unnecessary resources from the priority mission of safely and quickly evacuating vulnerable Americans and Afghans from Afghanistan,” Pelosi told reporters on Tuesday.