Pentagon says 17,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan in one week
The Pentagon said Saturday that approximately 17,000 people have been evacuated by the U.S. from Afghanistan in the past week as the administration seeks to ramp up evacuation efforts.
Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Joint Staff said there have been around 22,000 people total evacuated from Afghanistan since the end of July, including approximately 2,500 Americans. The majority of the evacuations have taken place since Aug. 14.
Evacuation efforts have become exceedingly difficult since the Taliban took over, as U.S. citizens and Afghan allies have scrambled to get to the airport in Kabul. The Taliban seized control of the capital city Sunday.
The Taliban have set up checkpoints leading to the airport, and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Saturday warned of “potential security threats” facing Americans outside the airport gates.
There have been 38 flights out of the country in the past 24 hours through six military C-17s and 32 charters, Taylor said. The flights were able to get 3,800 people out of the country.
President Biden in a speech on Friday touted the speed of the evacuations, highlighting the 6,000 troops on the ground to help with the proceedings.
“This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history,” Biden said.
“Make no mistake, this evacuation mission is dangerous. It involves risks to our armed forces, and it’s being conducted under difficult circumstances,” Biden added. “I cannot promise what the final outcome will be or … that it will be without risk of loss. But as commander in chief, I can assure you that I will mobilize every resource necessary.”
Biden has come under harsh criticism by Democrats and Republicans for not evacuating individuals sooner, and his administration has faced scrutiny over its misjudgment on the Taliban’s ability to quickly take control of the country.
The administration has faced growing calls to step up efforts to help Americans get to the airport in Kabul for a flight out of the country. Thousands more Americans and Afghan civilians who helped the U.S. during the 20-year conflict have yet to be evacuated.
Biden has pushed to have U.S. troops withdraw from the country by Aug. 31, though he indicated this week that the deadline could be extended for troops to further assist with evacuations.