The U.S. military evacuated about 1,100 Americans, permanent residents of the United States, and their families from Afghanistan on Tuesday, a White House official said – raising questions as to how they will manage the massive airlift needed to get all U.S. citizens to safety.
President Joe Biden’s team said that they were optimistic that the pace of evacuations would increase.
‘Now that we have established the flow, we expect those numbers to escalate,’ the White House official said in a statement.
The evacuees were flown out on 13 flights – 12 with C-17 sorties and one with a C-130.
Joe Biden, seen on Monday addressing the nation about the situation in Afghanistan, has been strongly criticized for the chaotic scenes as the country’s government collapsed and the Taliban took over
An A-400M transport aircraft evacuating people from Afghanistan arrives at Tashkent International Airport in Uzbekistan on Tuesday
U.S. Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, directs operations with U.S. Marine Brigadier General Farrell J. Sullivan, the commander of the Naval Amphibious Task Force, at Kabul airport on Monday
Indian citizens sit aboard an Indian military aircraft at the airport in Kabul on Tuesday, awaiting evacuation
Asked how many C-17 transport aircraft were being utilized to fly people out of Afghanistan, one senior defense official told Voice of America: ‘every one that’s available.’
The U.S. has approved about 6,000 troops to assist with security and evacuations on the ground, more than double the number of American troops in Afghanistan when the withdrawal was announced in May.
Washington said on Tuesday night that more than 3,200 people have been evacuated from Kabul so far.
‘In addition to these more than 3,200 total evacuated, we have relocated nearly 2,000 Afghan special immigrants to the United States,’ said the White House official.
Yet there was confusion on Tuesday night as to even how many eligible Americans and residents remained in Afghanistan.
The State Department confirmed on Sunday that the evacuation of personnel from its embassy in Kabul was complete, and that the staff were now in the airport – just hours after the U.S. started pulling staff from the consulate amid the Taliban’s takeover of the capital city.
Biden is seen on Tuesday arriving at Camp David with a military attache
‘We can confirm that the safe evacuation of all Embassy personnel is now complete,’ said Ned Price, State Department spokesman, in a statement.
‘All Embassy personnel are located on the premises of Hamid Karzai International Airport, whose perimeter is secured by the U.S. Military.’
He did not say how many were there.
Thousands of Afghans on Tuesday lined up at Kabul airport to try and secure a place on a plane out of the country
An Afghan man who worked for the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan show his documents as he waits outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport to flee the country on Tuesday
On Tuesday, John Kirby, the press secretary for the Department of Defense, told CNN’s New Day host John Berman that there could be anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 U.S. citizens near Afghanistan’s capital.
‘We think there are certainly thousands of Americans,’ Kirby said. ‘We don’t have an exact count.’
He said that once full operations at the airport are up and running, there would be the potential to remove between 5,000 and 9,000 people per day.
One former official, Robert Charles, who was assistant secretary of state for President George W. Bush, said on Tuesday he had been told there were around 40,000 Americans and permanent residents awaiting evacuation.
‘There is a document in the embassy called the F77 and that describes how many Americans are in the country,’ he told Fox News.
‘I was told that there are 15,000, possibly as many as 40,000 Americans waiting to get out.’
He said it was ‘Dunkirk with a bad ending’.
Robert Charles said he believed there could be as many as 40,000 Americans awaiting evacuation in Afghanistan
David Petraeus, the former CIA director, agreed.
‘This is a Dunkirk moment and our decisions created it,’ he told The Cipher Brief.
‘We need to acknowledge that. And we should now act as if we do recognize the catastrophe that we have created for Afghans who supported us.
‘We should ensure that the Taliban knows that we will not tolerate their efforts to impede the movement of individuals to get to the airport and get out of the country. And we should demonstrate that if need be.
‘That is the only way to discharge our moral obligation to those who supported and served with us and who are now marked men and women in their own country because of that.’
On Monday the airport was temporarily closed after chaotic scenes, which saw thousands flood the airport and cling to planes as they were taking off. Human remains were found in the fuselage, it was confirmed on Tuesday by the U.S. Air Force.
Pandemonium unfolded at Kabul airport on Monday as thousands of people ran on to the runway in a desperate attempt to escape Taliban rule, fearing bloody reprisals by the Islamists
Thousands of Afghanis had raced on to the tarmac at Kabul airport before some jumped on the side of a US C-17 jet which was flying hundreds of diplomatic staff and visa holders out of the country
New video footage has emerged showing a dozen men clinging to the landing gear of a US evacuation jet flying out of Kabul airport on Monday as pandemonium unfolded after the Taliban seized the capital
The remains were found in the wheel well once the aircraft landed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
The Air Force is impounding the plane to collect the remains and to inspect the plane.
Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, said: ‘We have been working, engaging, coordinating with Taliban elements on the ground to ensure safe passage.
‘We will continue to work that issue, day by day, until we’ve completed our mission.’