The US is seeking to rapidly increase the number of people it is evacuating from the Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport to 9,000 per day, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Flights resumed overnight after the facility was consumed by widespread chaos as Afghans seeking to flee the Taliban’s rule overran the airport.
Between 700 and 800 passengers were flown out of the airport late Monday, including 165 US citizens, Gen. Hank Taylor, a deputy director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters at the Pentagon. The remainder of the passengers are Afghans seeking refugee status with the US, and third-country nationals.
Taylor said the US is hoping to evacuate up to 9,000 passengers per day within the next 24 hours.
US President Joe Biden has warned the Taliban that “devastating” force will be used if the hardline group attacks American personnel, or seeks to interfere with ongoing evacuation operations.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed that US military commanders on site are in communication with Taliban commanders “on the ground outside the airport.”
Some 500 – 600 Afghan troops are at the airport helping to secure the facility, and Kirby said it would be up to them to decide if they wanted to apply for a visa that could bring them to the US after the withdraw is complete.
Turkish forces at the airport “remain absolutely linked in to the security mission,” Taylor said, noting “they are continuing to assist in the security and the running of HKIA,” he added, using an acronym to refer to the airport.
The war between the Taliban and Afghan forces intensified as foreign troops announced their withdrawal from the country by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the US invasion.
The Taliban made rapid military advances in recent weeks and took control of the capital on Sunday as Afghan government forces fled or surrendered. Former President Ashraf Ghani also left the country.