The Pentagon announced on Saturday 17,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since last week after the Taliban‘s growth in the region culminated in Sunday’s takeover of the capital city of Kabul.
Army Major Gen. William Taylor said that six U.S. C-17 aircraft and 32 charter planes departed Kabul “within the past 24 hours,” noting the passenger count on all of those flights was “approximately 3,800.”
“Since the end of July, we have relocated approximately 22,000 people. Since the beginning of this evacuation operation on Aug. 14, we’ve evacuated approximately 17,000,” Taylor said during a press conference Saturday.
The Army major general added that “a number of C-17s are moving between Qatar and Germany, providing critical relief that will increase our input to those intermediate staging bases, noting that “three flights landed at Dulles International Airport” between Friday and Saturday.
When asked about U.S. Embassy alerts on Saturday indicating “potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul” and “advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the “very, very fluid and dynamic” situation at the airport “changes almost by the hour, and it changes in locations around the airport.”
“So, what you’re seeing out of our State Department colleagues, I think, is prudent notification to make sure that whatever movement there is to the gates from outside the airport is done as safely as possible and that people have the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves going forward,” Kirby said in response to the alert, declining to provide specific information about security threats.
Pentagon officials did not specify how many of the 17,000 evacuated since last week were Afghan recipients of Special Immigrant Visas or other eligible persons for evacuation, but they estimated 2,500 U.S. citizens were included in that number. Kirby also said officials do not have a concrete number of U.S. citizens remaining in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon spokesman said defense officials are aware of a “small number of cases” in which some U.S. citizens and Afghans have been “harassed and in some cases, beaten,” adding that “we don’t believe it is a very large number.”
The scene at Kabul’s airport has been plagued by chaos throughout the week following a desperate rush from hundreds of Afghans to board evacuation flights on Sunday, with some people falling to their deaths after attempting to cling to the outside of the planes as they departed.
“Let me be clear: Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home,” Biden said.
In a departure from his previous efforts to withdraw all forces by Aug. 31, the president said on Aug. 14 he would send an additional 1,000 troops to Afghanistan to complement the 1,000 troops already in the country and the 3,000-troop surge he announced the week prior.