US accelerates evacuation of thousands of people from Afghanistan as chaos persists at Kabul airport
The Pentagon reported that in the last 24 hours, some 16,000 people were withdrawn from the country, including US citizens and Afghans who collaborated with Washington.
The U.S.-coordinated evacuation of Americans and others from the chaotic Kabul airport is accelerating, with the number of people being flown out of the country doubling in one day , although President Joe Biden does not rule out extending the mission beyond the August 31 deadline that he established before the Taliban regime took power.
During a 24-hour period ending early Monday, 28 US military flights evacuated nearly 10,400 people from Kabul, according to a White House official . In addition, 61 coalition flights took approximately 5,900 people out of the country. The total figure represents more than twice the number of people airlifted during the previous 24-hour period, 3,900 aboard US military aircraft and 3,900 on coalition aircraft.
Speaking from the White House on Sunday, a week after the Taliban achieved their victory by capturing Kabul, Biden defended his decision to end the war, insisting that getting all Americans out of the country would have been difficult even under the better circumstances. However, critics have lashed out at the US president for the grave error of judgment in taking too long to start organizing the evacuation, which has been seized by fear and panic unleashed by the sudden collapse of the Afghan government.
“The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be difficult and painful, no matter when it started, when we started,” Biden said. “It would have been true if we had started a month ago, or a month from now. There is no way to evacuate so many people without the pain and loss of the heartbreaking images that one sees on television.
Biden added that military discussions are ongoing to potentially extend the transfers beyond their Aug. 31 deadline.
In line with what was reported by the White House, the Pentagon reported this Monday that some 16,000 people were evacuated in the last 24 hours from Afghanistan through the Kabul airport , as international air transport operations accelerated.
General Hank Taylor told reporters that 61 military, commercial and charter flights, involving several countries, departed from Hamid Karzai International Airport in the previous 24 hours at 3:00 am Monday (0700 GMT) carrying escaping people. of the country after the Taliban seized power.
Of the day’s total, 11,000 were evacuated through US Army airlift operations , Taylor said.
The general added that the number of people transferred from Afghanistan since July on US flights amounted to 42,000, of which 37,000 were evacuated since the intense airlift operations began on August 14, when the Taliban mobilized to take Kabul.
This figure includes “several thousand” US citizens and thousands of Afghans who worked for US forces , and who had applied for or received special immigrant visas, as well as Afghans considered at risk of Taliban attack because of their work in non-governmental organizations. , media and other jobs, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
Kirby added that attention remains focused on US evacuation operations being carried out by Aug. 31, despite the possibility of extension raised by Biden.
This would require the withdrawal of the 5,800 US soldiers who have basically directed airport operations and maintained security since August 14 , as well as large amounts of equipment brought in to support their mission.
German, British and French officials said Monday that their evacuations could continue after Aug. 31, and said they wanted the United States force to remain in place to assist international air travel.
In recent days, departures have been slowed down by the chaos at the airport, where for a week thousands of people have gathered at its entrances to try to access one of the evacuation flights, causing the death of at least seven civilians. , the British government reported on Sunday.
Despite the West’s announcements, one of the Taliban spokesmen, Suhail Shahin , warned this Monday that there will be “consequences” if the United States and other foreign countries do not complete the withdrawal and evacuations from Afghanistan by August 31 , the deadline set by US President Joe Biden .
In an interview with Sky News , Shahin warned that August 31 “is a red line” , a date that is approaching as countries try to evacuate by forced marches and when Biden considers that US troops leave the Asian country later of that date.
“Biden announced that on August 31 he would withdraw all his military forces,” said Shahin, who remarked that if the president extends the term “it means that there is an extension of the occupation when there is no need for it .” “If the United States or the United Kingdom seek more time to continue evacuations, the answer is no. Or there will be consequences, ”he added.