U.S. officials reportedly conducted a weeks-long mission last month that evacuated hundreds of American citizens, Afghan special forces and their family members through a secret CIA base outside of Kabul.
The New York Times first reported Wednesday that the CIA base was used in the U.S. military’s ongoing evacuations last month, and Politico reported that based on documents and conversations with a senior administration official, a defense official and a congressional official, the mission included U.S. citizens and at-risk Afghans, including Afghan commandos.
A U.S. official, who like the others spoke to Politico on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, confirmed that the CIA was involved and “worked closely with other agencies to facilitate in various ways access to the airport for American citizens and Afghans at risk.”
In total, at least 1,000 Afghan commandos and their families were evacuated by the U.S., according to Politico.
Some of those evacuated were reportedly transported by air from the secret CIA compound, called Eagle Base, to the Kabul airport in order to get past crowds that had gathered in the area as thousands of people desperately attempted to flee following the Taliban takeover.
Flight data obtained by Politico showed several helicopter flights traveling from the area around Eagle Base to the Kabul airport starting Aug. 15, the same day the Taliban officially seized control over the capital city.
U.S. diplomats who had been relocated to the Kabul airport from the U.S. Embassy reportedly helped with the efforts, as did the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, according to Politico.
Two sources noted that the House Intelligence Committee was briefed about the secret mission in August.
The Hill has reached out to the CIA for comment.
The reports come as the Biden administration has faced bipartisan criticism from lawmakers and advocates over the roughly 100 to 200 U.S. citizens, as well as 150,000 vulnerable Afghan allies, who remain in Afghanistan following the U.S. military’s complete withdrawal from the country.
The Afghan allies, including those who assisted the U.S. military in its 20 years of operations in Afghanistan, have expressed concerns about being targeted by the Taliban as retribution for their work, prompting many to go into hiding.
The Biden administration has said that it has evacuated more than 124,000 people from Afghanistan, though many have continued to press President BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE over how he plans to help out those who remain in the country.
Biden continued to stand by his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan this week, explaining that his national security and defense advisers unanimously recommended that continued evacuations would be much safer if done through diplomatic means.