The Pentagon says it will continue to evacuate people from Afghanistan until the U.S. leaves next Tuesday, but during the final days it will need to prioritize getting U.S. troops and military equipment out of the country.
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Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday the military will preserve as much military capacity at the Kabul airport as possible to continue the evacuation in the coming days. He said if evacuees need to get out, the military will “continue to evacuate needed populations all the way to the end.” He added that in the final days and hours there will have to be a balance as the 5,400 troops in Kabul and critical systems also get on aircraft to leave.
Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor said flights were leaving the Kabul airport every 39 minutes over the last 24 hours, getting about 19,000 evacuees out. He also said the U.S. will maintain security at the airport until the end.
“We will have that ability to secure ourselves throughout multiple means to ensure flights are able to take off,” Taylor said.
Kirby and Taylor said that there was a helicopter flight into Kabul overnight to gather evacuees and take them to the airport. They said there were fewer than 20 people on the flight, but would not say if they were Americans or Afghans or others. They said this is just the third such helicopter flight done by the military during the evacuation.