WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The United States is hurrying to evacuate as many American citizens and vulnerable Afghans from Taliban control.
The Pentagon says its goal is to get up to 9,000 people on flights and out of Afghanistan each day.
“Right now, we’re looking at one aircraft per hour in and out,” U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor said in a Tuesday press conference.
He expected to have 4,000 troops at the airport by the end of the day to ensure the safe exit and relocation of refugees.
“Right now, we are doing everything we can to allow civilians to be able to transit to the airport,” U.S. Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said.
Questions are still swirling over whether the Taliban, which over the weekend retook the capital city of Kabul, will allow the exodus without a fight. Many people have reported Taliban fighters sometimes blocking access to the Kabul airport.
The State Department warned those trying to flee to seek shelter until felt it was safe to move, with Price calling it a “challenging security environment.”
“Safety needs to be their top priority,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. is in talks with Taliban fighters to ensure safe access to the airport.
“There is communication between them and us and I would just let the results speak for themselves,” he said.
In Washington, congressional Republicans and Democrats alike remain leery that the Taliban will cooperate. On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of 46 senators penned a letter to the Biden administration demanding safety for Afghan women left behind. The White House has promised aid.
“We will attempt to use every measure of tool and influence we have, along with our international allies and partners, to alleviate the burden that those women and girls will face,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.
The Taliban has declared “amnesty” for U.S. allies in its first press conference and said it would uphold women’s rights under Sharia Law. But given the group’s brutal past, those promises are being met with skepticism in Afghanistan and abroad.
The White House says it will closely monitor for human rights violations in the days and weeks ahead. In the meantime, it is still facing criticism for its withdrawal strategy, with both Republicans and Democrats demanding an investigation.