US says its working to secure Kabul airport, evacuate Americans and Afghans
The Pentagon and State Department announced on Sunday that the U.S. has the airport in Kabul to help evacuate Americans and Afghans from Afghanistan, hours after the Taliban captured the capital city.
The departments said in a joint statement that the U.S. has expanded its security personnel in Afghanistan to roughly 6,000 troops to help facilitate the evacuation of Americans and Afghans, and that they are making efforts to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
They also said they plan to “accelerate the evacuation” of thousands of Afghan citizens who are eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). Almost 2,000 Afghanis who had SIVs have already arrived in the U.S. over the past two weeks, according to the departments.
The statement added that Afghans who have already completed security screenings will be transferred to the U.S., and that the departments will “find additional locations” for those who have not yet cleared their screenings.
“Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals,” the joint statement reads.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price announced later on Sunday night that the “safe evacuation” of embassy staff from the consulate in Kabul was complete, adding that all personnel “are located on the premises of Hamid Karzai International Airport, whose perimeter is secured by the U.S. Military.”
The increased efforts from the Pentagon and State Department come as the situation in Afghanistan rapidly deteriorates amid the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul.
The insurgent group seized control of the capital city overnight on Sunday, which led to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to flee the country and the U.S. to begin withdrawing personnel from its embassy.
The pivotal turning point in the Taliban’s efforts comes after the group captured several key provincial capitals in recent weeks, which led to a rapidly deteriorating security situation and grave concerns regarding the stability of the Afghani government.
The Taliban’s efforts ramped up as the U.S. inched closer to completing its troop withdrawal from the region, which was set to finish at the end of this month.
The Biden administration is receiving criticism for its decision to pull military personnel from the region, with a number of Republican lawmakers slamming the president for the collapse of Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, however, is defending the administration’s decision to withdraw troops from the region, arguing on Sunday that the Taliban would have continued its offensive even if U.S. forces remained on the ground.
“The idea that the status quo could have been maintained by keeping our forces there, I think, is simply wrong,” Blinken told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“The fact of the matter is, had the president decided to keep forces in Afghanistan beyond May 1, attacks would have resumed on our forces. The Taliban had not been attacking our forces or NATO during the period from which the agreement was reached to May 1. The offensive you’re seeing across the country now to take these provincial capitals would have commenced,” Blinken continued.
“And we would have been back at war with the Taliban. And I would probably be on this program today explaining why we were sending tens of thousands of American forces back into Afghanistan and back to war, something the American people simply don’t support. That is the — that is the reality. That’s the context that we’re dealing with,” he added.
Updated at 10:57 p.m.
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