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Pentagon ‘doesn’t know’ how many Americans are in Afghanistan

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Thursday admitted he “doesn’t know” how numerous Us residents continue being in Afghanistan as the Biden administration scrambles to evacuate American citizens and Afghans at possibility of Taliban reprisals from the country. 

Kirby and Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor explained that 7,000 people today had been flown out of Hamid Karzai International Airport because the evacuations commenced on Saturday — 2,000 in the past 24 hours.

But Kirby stated he was unable to split down how lots of People in america had been on the flights, compared to Afghans and folks from other countries. 

Kirby was asked specifically how numerous Us citizens are in Afghanistan.

“I never know,” he mentioned. 

Afghans sit inside a US army aircraft as they put together to go away Afghanistan on Aug. 19, 2021.
AFP through Getty Photographs

The reporter pressed him on the figures, questioning why, as the US is carrying out the frantic functions, there isn’t an account of how lots of Individuals are in harm’s way or even now needing to be evacuated.

“I consider as you most likely know, 1st of all, the Point out Section would be a improved position to go for an estimate of how quite a few Us residents are in Afghanistan or in and all over Kabul. That is not a figure that the United States navy would know, and I think you also know not each and every American citizen in one more state that there is no obligation that they sign up their presence. And that you can have a fantastic correct depend,” Kirby said defensively at a Pentagon briefing.

“But I really do not have that determine, and I’m referring to my Point out Department colleagues for the very best estimate on that,” he additional.

The Pentagon said it would like to evacuate up to 9,000 folks every single working day from the Kabul airport, but Taylor acknowledged that a lot of of the flights are taking off with out a complete load of travellers thanks to a blend of sluggish processing and the tangle of Taliban roadblocks to get to the airport.

Afghan people line up to board a US military aircraft to leave Afghanistan on Aug. 19, 2021.
Afghan men and women line up to board a US army plane to go away Afghanistan on Aug. 19, 2021.
AFP by way of Getty Photos

“We’re completely ready to maximize throughput and have scheduled plane departures accordingly. We intend to increase just about every plane’s potential, we’re prioritizing men and women previously mentioned all else. And we’re focused on performing this as securely as feasible with complete urgency,” he reported, noting that 13 C-17 US transport planes arrived in Kabul with troops and tools and 12 C-17 planes experienced departed. 

Kirby and Taylor stated the armed service experienced managed to open additional gates at the airport and the Point out Department furnished more staffers to look at the special immigration visas some Afghans are eligible for and to support People get on flights. 

“We have witnessed by opening up an additional gate, by including consular officers now, we imagine that we will quickly begin to see an opening up of the aperture and we’re hopeful that that indicates a far more constant increase in the flow,” Kirby explained.

“We’ve received extra consular officers at these added gates with more troops supporting the consular officers so I consider we’re poised to see an boost but I want to be careful right before I make predictions,” he explained. “What we’re hoping to do, what we want to generate, is an maximize. That is quite a lot on everybody’s thoughts.”

Two civilians during processing through an Evacuee Control Checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 18, 2021.
US Marines method civilians via an Evacuee Control Checkpoint at Hamid Karzai Global Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 18, 2021.
U.S. Maritime Corps by way of AP

But he wouldn’t ensure that the gates have been continuously obtainable and that the Taliban is not blocking entry at moments.

“I can’t tell you with perfect clarity that there haven’t been situations in excess of the previous 72 several hours when quickly mainly because of possibly protection incidents that they’ve had to near. I suspect that that is genuine. I never have a firm solution for you on that. Our intention is naturally to preserve them as open up as probable and to raise the movement as considerably as we can,” Kirby stated.

The US evacuation operation has been punctuated by chaos considering that it began as panicked Afghans fearing the Taliban built a desperate dash to the airport to try to escape the place — many managing together with and even clinging to a US Air Power airplane as it taxied down the runway.

Other illustrations or photos confirmed hundreds of Afghans crammed inside a US armed forces aircraft as it ready to just take off.  

A US Marine processes an evacuee at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 15, 2021.
A US Marine processes an evacuee at Hamid Karzai Intercontinental Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 15, 2021.
Action Press/Shutterstock

On the streets outside the global airport, Taliban checkpoints make it complicated and even deadly for Afghans to get as a result of.

The US Embassy in Kabul on Wednesday alerted Us citizens that they couldn’t assure harmless passage to the airport. 

Involving 10,000 and 15,000 Americans continue being in Afghanistan, President Biden instructed ABC News in an interview.

The president additional that the administration estimates that concerning 50,000 and 65,000 Afghans who labored with Western forces are continue to in the state, a number that incorporates their family members.

A Marine escorts Department of State personnel to be processed for evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 15, 2021.
A Maritime escorts Office of Point out staff to be processed for evacuation at Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport on Aug. 15, 2021.

The two Pentagon officials were being also grilled about F-18 fighter jets flying above Kabul the earlier couple of times.  

Taylor said the jets were being dispatched from the Ronald Reagan Provider group and had been traveling “armed overwatch flights” above the cash city “to make sure protection.”

“We retain a watchful higher and are consistently conducting in-depth assessments to protect the safety of Americans. We’ll use all of the applications in our arsenal to attain this goal. I want to strengthen that we are absolutely targeted on this mission of countrywide worth. We are fully commited to the safe evacuation of as a lot of individuals as quickly and as properly as possible,” Taylor reported.

Kirby mentioned the fighters are “at altitude” and denied that they ended up earning “low pass” flights. 

He was questioned if the planes have authorization to fireplace on the Taliban if they attack US troops and claimed they do. “As normally, we have the appropriate to defend ourselves and our folks and our operations,” he affirmed. 

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