September 24 2021 03:30 pm

US aims to secure Kabul airport for departures

National and World News

Smoke rises next to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Taliban fighters entered the outskirts of the Afghan capital on Sunday, further tightening their grip on the country as panicked workers fled government offices and helicopters landed at the embassy. Wisps of smoke could be seen near the embassy’s roof as diplomats urgently destroyed sensitive documents, according to two American military officials. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

U.S. officials say they are taking steps to secure Kabul’s international airport to enable the safe departure of thousands of U.S. and allied personnel from Afghanistan by way of civilian and military flights.

In a joint statement Sunday night, the State Department and the Pentagon say the U.S. security presence will have expanded to nearly 6,000 troops over the next two days. Those forces will take over air traffic control and focus on civilian and military departures.

The officials say those leaving include American citizens who have been living in Afghanistan, locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families, and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals.

Also part of the departure plan are thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. special immigrant visas. Nearly 2,000 of those with special visas have arrived in the United States over the past two weeks.

A State Department official tells The Associated Press that almost all U.S. Embassy personnel have relocated to a facility at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

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