Flights are once again operating out of the airport on Tuesday in Kabul, Afghanistan after being shut down yesterday as a result of the total chaos that erupted when thousands of Afghans rushed the tarmac, trying to get onto airplanes headed out of the country.
The Pentagon warned of a swift response to any attack that may occur as a result of the Taliban coming into power in the city — while it acknowledged that there were between 5,000-10,000 Americans still “near Kabul” on Tuesday.
A White House official said today that the US has transported more than 700 people out of Afghanistan in the past 24 hours.
New mandate for US forces — “Short in time, limited in scope”
The updated scope of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan was announced by President Biden yesterday, who described it as “short in time, limited in scope and focused on our objectives: get our people and our allies as quickly and as safely as possible.”
An anonymous White House official told Fox News that over the last 24 hours, the U.S. has been able to move 150 American citizens out of harm’s way and out of Afghanistan, while transporting another 550 foreign citizens out of the country.
The official said that the State Department has contacted some American citizens in Afghanistan, telling them how to safely assemble at the airport to catch a flight out.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby spoke to CNN on Tuesday, stating that the U.S. has been able to bring in approximately 1,000 more U.S. troops to the embattled country, bringing the total contingent there to about 3,500.
Kirby stated that, after the chaos of Monday, when at least seven people were killed, wither as a result of threatening soldiers at the airport or falling from a departing aircraft, “Things are back up and running” at Muhammad Karzai International Airport.
“We’re going to keep flowing forces to make sure that we can ensure a safe and secure environment for operations at the airport,” he added.
Horror on Monday as thousands try to flee Afghanistan
There will be other troops coming to the country to help facilitate a more orderly evacuation on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to information provided by a White House official to Fox News.
Flights had to be temporarily suspended at the airport on Monday as U.S. forces were forced to deal with surging crowds that forced their way onto the tarmac in a desperate attempt to flee the country. U.S. officials admitted on Monday that the runway was “not secure” after hundreds, if not thousands, of Afghans breached the airport walls and swarmed over the runway, running alongside and in front of aircraft as they were attempting to take off.
Officials at the the Pentagon estimate that the US can move between 5,000 and 9,000 people out of Kabul every day, using military aircraft such as the warhorse C-17 cargo plane. Kirby stated that the Pentagon would like the civilian side of the airport to be able to remain open so that commercial and charter flights can operate as well, as scores of other countries are now evacuating their personnel.
US may try to evacuate more than 22,000 from Afghanistan
Kirby told interviewers that the U.S. has “three bases for (evacuating) up to 22,000 people in the next couple of weeks” but that “If we have to go more, higher than that, we will certainly do that,”
Kirby was referring to not only Afghan special immigrant visa applicants but their families as well in this group.
Meanwhile, he stated that “We think there are certainly thousands of Americans (left Afghanistan.) We don’t have an exact count. I would say somewhere between 5,00- 10,000 near Kabul,” Kirby stated.
However, he added that there is no longer a need for Americans to shelter in place, as they had been told to do before, with the State department “advising those Americans about how to queue up and get to the airport,” Kirby pointed out.
Warning adversaries about any possible attack on US forces, its dependents or the airport itself, the Pentagon reiterated that retaliation would be swift.
“If we are attacked by the Taliban or about by else in our mission in Afghanistan, we’re going to respond accordingly and appropriately, swiftly and, as the president said, forcefully,” Kirby said. “We have capabilities there at the airport to do that. We are flowing in additional capabilities to provide for the defense of the airport and for the operations there.
“I’m not going to speculate or hypothesize about wherever individual operations might be, but we certainly had the capabilities on hand and we’re gaining more of those capabilities, more combat power, over the coming couple of days,” Kirby noted.
Taliban has established “ring” around airport
“Any attack on our people, or on our operations at the airport, will be met with a swift and forceful, an unambiguous response,” Kirby declared. “And I think I’m just gonna leave it at that.”
Fox News reports that former senior defense officials who have been in contact with commanders on the scene in Kabul have stated that the Taliban has “a ring outside of the airport and won’t let anyone inside it.”
“The big issue here is that no people outside of the Taliban ring will get in,” one of the officials told reporters.
An Afghan who was a State Department contractor told reporters that Taliban fighters have such control over the city that they have established checkpoints throughout Kabul, including around the airport. He stated that some of them have been beating people who are trying to make their way to the airport.
When he found himself at a checkpoint, the Taliban member who was guarding it let him go but then warned him not to leave Afghanistan, saying “You can go, don’t run away.”
“Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves”
The former contractor described a scene from Monday that was eerily reminiscent of what happened in 1974 in Saigon. “There was kids, women, babies, old women, they could barely walk,” he related.
“They were very very bad situation, I’m telling you. At the end, I was thinking that there was like 10,000 or more than 10,000 people and they’re running into the airport … The Taliban (were) beating people and the people were jumping from the fence, the concertina wire, and also the wall.”
He added that Taliban members are now going through neighborhoods, searching for oriole just like him, who have been working with Western forces. Some of them had already asked his neighbors about him.
US President Joe Biden made a speech on Monday afternoon in a White House visit before he returned to Camp David, saying that he continues to stand “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan after having been there for two decades.
He did, however, admit that the Taliban’s takeover of the country “did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”
Despite tens of millions of dollars and many years of training, the Afghan armed forces appeared to have given very little resistance to the Taliban as it made its way across the country in the past week. Biden blames the Afghan leadership for what has happened in the country, charging that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had refused the advice he had been given to negotiate.
It was he who had insisted that the Afghan forces would fight in case of a Taliban insurgency.
“American troops cannot, and should not, be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves,” Biden declared, adding that America has given the Afghans “every tool they could need.
“We gave them the chance to determine their own future,” the President stated. “What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.”
Now, the Taliban is attempting to restore the name of the country to the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” – the phrase they had given it under the previous Taliban rule before the militants were ousted by U.S.-led forces shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The attacks, which occurred almost exactly twenty years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, were coordinated by al Qaeda while it was being sheltered by the Taliban inside Afghanistan.