The US military has been sending troops to rescue Americans stuck outside the Kabul airport, Pentagon says

·3 min read
A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Helicopters are landing at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul as diplomatic vehicles leave the compound amid the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital.
A US Chinook helicopter near the US Embassy in Kabul, August 15, 2021. AP Photo/Rahmat Gul
  • The US military has conducted missions outside the Kabul airport to rescue Americans.

  • There have been at least two cases involving "rotary aircraft," the Pentagon said, hinting there were others.

  • The decision to carry out these missions is being made by commanders on the ground.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The US military has conducted multiple rescue missions outside the airport in Kabul to help Americans trapped in the city make it to the airfield where evacuation operations are ongoing, the Pentagon said Thursday.

President Joe Biden, who has faced sharp criticism for developments in Afghanistan, said publicly on Friday that the US military left the airport to rescue 169 Americans.

The Pentagon provided additional details, explaining that three CH-47 Chinook helicopters picked up the Americans at the Baron Hotel about 650 feet from the airport, CNN reported.

Talking to reporters on Monday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby revealed that there have been additional missions but declined to provide any significant details.

"On occasion, where there's a need and there's a capability to meet that need, our commanders on the ground are doing what they feel they need to do to help Americans reach the airport," Kirby said, noting that such missions are "not regular" and that US military personnel are not "patrolling the streets of Kabul."

"There has been at least one additional instance where rotary airlift was used to help Americans get from outside the airport into the airport," he said.

"We are going out as needed and helping Americans," the spokesman said, adding that while he only mentioned two missions, both of which involved helicopters, "that doesn't mean it's the sum total of what we're doing to go out and try to bring and assist Americans coming in."

Kirby explained that the US military is "using a variety of methods" to assist Americans trying to reach the airport through hard-to-reach gates, but he said he would not "detail all of them because the threat environment is so high."

The Pentagon spokesman said that there is "no coordination" with the Taliban during the airlift operations. It is unclear exactly when the missions Kirby mentioned took place.

The swift fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban after two decades of war has left the US and its NATO allies scrambling to evacuate not only their own people but also Afghan partners at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

People trying to reach the airport have encountered massive crowds, hostile Taliban militants, and sporadic bursts of violence.

Since August 14, just one day before a sweeping Taliban offensive reached the Afghan capital and triggered a rush to get tens of thousands of people out of the country, the US has helped evacuate roughly 37,000 people, but there are still thousands more in need of support.

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