The U.S. military has secured the airport in Kabul and resumed flights evacuating civilians and diplomats after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
At a briefing in Washington, U.S. officials said that approximately 3,500 troops were on the ground at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport as of Tuesday morning, with 500 more expected by the end of the day.
Flights were halted Monday as thousands of people rushed the tarmac in desperate attempts to flee. Videos posted to social media showed Afghans clinging to a departing U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane. Others showed planes overloaded with Afghans, who flooded across the runway to board them.
Evacuation flights resumed overnight, officials said Tuesday, and the U.S. hopes to have flights depart hourly by Wednesday with the goal of evacuating between 5,000 and 9,000 people per day for the next two weeks.
The effort will continue until Aug. 31, the deadline for President Biden's full military withdrawal from Afghanistan. About 100,000 people, including American citizens and Afghans who qualify for so-called special immigrant visas, or SIVs, are believed to be seeking to leave the country.
A Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, said that U.S. commanders are in contact with the Taliban, which swept into Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Sunday.
Kirby would not comment on any arrangement that the United States may have with the Taliban, but Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor stressed that U.S. troops have had "no hostile interactions” with the Taliban during evacuation operations.
On Monday, State Department spokesman Ned Price cautioned that the United States would not necessarily trust assurances from the insurgents.
“When it comes to the Taliban, we are going to look to their actions, rather than listen to their words,” Price said.
Speaking at the White House on Monday, Biden defended his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, and sought to place blame for the chaotic drawdown on the administration of former President Donald Trump, the Afghan government and even on its army, which in a period of nearly 20 years the United States spent $88 billion to train and equip.
“American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight,” Biden said.
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