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DOD Officials Say U.S. Could Evacuate Up to 9,000 a Day From Afghanistan

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Air operations at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, continued through the night, getting between 700 and 800 people out of the country, said Army Maj. Gen. William D. "Hank" Taylor, the Joint Staff's deputy director for regional operations. 

Taylor spoke alongside DOD Press Secretary John F. Kirby at the Pentagon. The men said the airport is under U.S. control, and there are about 4,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Kabul.


The evacuation operation is ramping up, and Kirby and Taylor said the U.S. effort could be airlifting between 5,000 and 9,000 people a day. Taylor said he anticipates one aircraft in and out of the airport each hour.

Throughout the night, nine C-17s arrived at the airport delivering equipment and about 1,000 U.S. troops. Seven C-17s departed with between 700 and 800 passengers including 165 Americans. 

The airport is open to military aircraft and limited commercial flights, Taylor said. 

American troops have worked with Turkish forces to secure the airport. They are aided by some Afghan security forces. Outside the airport is the Taliban. "We've had no hostile interactions, no attack and no threat by the Taliban," Taylor said. "We remain vigilant. I want to reinforce that we are focused on the present mission to facilitate the safe evacuation of U.S. citizens, [special immigrant visa personnel] and Afghans at risk -- to get these personnel out of Afghanistan as quickly and as safely as possible."

U.S. commanders in Kabul are in contact with Taliban commanders outside the airport, Kirby said. "There is communication between them and us," Kirby said. "And I would just let the results speak for themselves: … There's been no hostile interactions from the Taliban to our operations at the airport."

A Marine and a sailor shake hands outside an airport.
Airport Meeting
Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, meets with Navy Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan Forward, at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, Aug. 17, 2021.
Photo By: Navy Capt. William Urban
VIRIN: 210817-D-D0477-210R
Two Marines look at a map.
Directing Operations
Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, directs operations with Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Farrell J. Sullivan, commander of the Naval Amphibious Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, Aug. 17, 2021.
Photo By: Navy Capt. William Urban
VIRIN: 210817-D-D0477-110R

This is a dynamic situation, and many things could change — security, availability of aircraft, even just the weather, Taylor said. Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Donohue, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, is going to Kabul to take command of the airport. The overall mission remains under Navy Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan-Forward.

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