After Taliban takeover, US steps up evacuation operations from Afghanistantext_fields
Washington: As the US military stepped up its airlift for Americans and Afghans fleeing the Islamist group, the White House on Tuesday said the Taliban had pledged that civilians could travel safely to the Kabul airport.
Including the evacuation of 1100 people on Tuesday alone, a White House official has said that so far, 3,200 people- US citizens, permanent residents and their families have been evacuated by the US military on 13 flights.
Earlier on Tuesday, the White House had said that 11,000 US nationals remain inside the country, including diplomats, contractors and others, most waiting to be evacuated after the Taliban takeover.
As per reports, Washington wants to complete the exodus before its August 31 withdrawal deadline, and thousands of US soldiers were at the airport as the Pentagon planned to ramp up flights of its huge C-17 transport jets to as many as two dozen a day.
"Now that we have established the flow, we expect those numbers to escalate," said the White House official who gave the updated evacuation figures Tuesday and who spoke on condition of anonymity.
US officials said they were in contact with Taliban commanders to ensure the flight operations at Hamid Karzai International Airport remained safe from attack and that citizens and Afghans seeking to leave had safe passage.
"We have had no hostile interactions, no attack and no threat by the Taliban," said Major General Hank Taylor said at the Pentagon.
But State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday that the United States could decide to keep its core diplomatic presence, now operating out of the airport after the US embassy was shuttered, after August 31.
"If it is safe and responsible for us to potentially stay longer, that is something we may be able to look at," Price said.
He also called on the Taliban to follow through on promises to respect the rights of citizens including women.
The US Department of Defense has poured troops into the airport since Saturday to protect the exodus as the Taliban insurgents entered Kabul after a lightning siege across the country and seized power.