Aug 17, 2021 - World

Pentagon says Kabul airport is secure, evacuation flights have resumed

Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021

Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport Monday. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. military has secured the international airport in Kabul and flights evacuating civilians and diplomats in Afghanistan have resumed, officials said Tuesday.

Why it matters: Operations were suspended Monday after thousands of Afghan civilians stormed the airport's runway in a desperate attempt to flee the Taliban. Seven people were killed during the chaos, including several who attempted to climb onto departing U.S. military planes.

State of play: Approximately 3,500 troops are on the ground at Kabul's airport as of Tuesday morning, with 4,000 expected to be there by the end of the day, according to officials.

  • Approximately 700 to 800 people were evacuated on seven flights overnight, including 165 American citizens. The rest are a mix of special immigrant visa (SIV) applicants and foreign nationals.
  • The Pentagon is aiming to have at least one flight per hour take off from Hamid Karzai International Airport when operations are fully running, with the expectation that 5,000 to 9,000 people can be evacuated per day.
  • U.S. troops have experienced "no hostile interactions, no attack, no threat by the Taliban" during the evacuation operations, Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, a Pentagon logistics expert, said during a press briefing Tuesday.

What to watch: The evacuation effort will continue until Aug. 31, the deadline for President Biden's full military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Asked why the U.S. couldn't keep evacuating Afghans into September if the airport is still secure, a Pentagon spokesman said that's a decision for the president.

Go deeper: Pentagon defends Kabul evacuation chaos: "No plan is perfect"

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