Seven C-17s left Kabul on Monday carrying between 700 and 800 people, including 165 U.S. citizens, Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Joint Staff told reporters on Tuesday as flights resumed out of Kabul’s international airport
The remainder of those evacuated were Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and third-country nationals.
The Biden administration is working to evacuate thousands of Americans and at-risk Afghans as quickly as possible after the Taliban overran Afghanistan and took Kabul, the country’s capital and largest city, on Sunday amid the U.S. withdrawal from the war-torn country.
American citizens, Afghans at risk of retaliation from the Taliban and their families are stranded in Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country much sooner than officials anticipated.
President BidenJoe BidenManchin lays down demands for child tax credit: report Abrams targets Black churchgoers during campaign stops for McAuliffe in Virginia Pentagon, State Department square off on Afghanistan accountability MORE has come under criticism for his handling of the withdrawal, with members of Congress and others urging the administration to swiftly evacuate Americans and Afghans to protect them from the Taliban.
In a speech from the White House on Monday afternoon, Biden acknowledged that the country fell to the Taliban quicker than anticipated. He also responded to criticism that his administration should have evacuated Afghans sooner.
“I know that there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating Afghans — civilians sooner. Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier — still hopeful for their country,” Biden said. “And part of it was because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, ‘a crisis of confidence.’”
Biden also said the U.S. military mission is currently focused on two objectives: “Get our people and our allies to safety as quickly as possible.”
“As we carry out this departure, we have made it clear to the Taliban: If they attack our personnel or disrupt our operation, the U.S. presence will be swift and the response will be swift and forceful,” Biden said. “We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary.”
Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseInvoking 'Big Tech' as an accusation can endanger American security Biden slips further back to failed China policies The Memo: Generals' testimony on Afghanistan hurts Biden's credibility MORE (R-Neb.) in a statement Tuesday pressed the administration to move faster by cutting the “red tape” surrounding evacuations.
“We can get folks out of hell and into Kuwait where we have the capacity to sort them out. The Biden Administration is making our people show paperwork to get evacuated, but those papers are a death sentence if the Taliban finds them,” Sasse said. “The Taliban has check points around the Kabul airport, women and children are begging for their lives outside the wire, and the Biden Administration is worried about getting the right paperwork notarized. It’s morally repugnant.”
The scenes from Hamid Karzai International Airport were chaotic following the Taliban takeover as people scrambled to leave Afghanistan. Evacuation flights were paused as officials worked to secure the airport on Monday, but had resumed by early Tuesday morning.
The U.S. is sending a total of 6,000 troops into Kabul to help assist with the evacuation. Currently, about 3,500 forces are on the ground, the White House official said, with more expected to arrive on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on CNN Tuesday that officials could move between 5,000 and 9,000 people per day using military aircraft alone. That doesn’t include civilian aircraft.
“We have the capacity to literally move thousands per day once we get everybody on the ground, all the security troops that we need there,” Kirby said.
Taylor told reporters later Tuesday morning that officials intend to have one aircraft leaving each hour within the next 24 hours.
Rebecca Kheel contributed. Updated at 10:53 a.m.