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Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: Good morning, everybody. I'm going to turn it over real quickly to General Taylor, who you all know, and the General's going to give you an operational update of where things sit in Kabul, as well as an operational update on our support to the people of Haiti after the earthquake, then I'll come back. I've got a couple of schedule items to talk to and then we'll take questions.


MAJOR GENERAL TAYLOR: Mr. Kirby, thank you. Good morning, everybody, it's good to be here to continue giving you an - an operational update. As you know, we're getting into a rhythm here, so I'll continue to try to focus on the key operational highlights, our focus and our priorities.

We've been providing details through the past and 24 hour snapshots and I'll provide those details with respect to - to a few areas today. Further, I'm prepared to give a cumulative update on the total number of people evacuated from Afghanistan so far.

First, the U.S. military footprint in Kabul has now more than 5,200 total troops on the ground. Kabul Airport remains secure and open for flight operations. There are now multiple gates that have access for entry into the airfield, which will help expedite processing in a safe and orderly manner.

In the past 24 hours, 13 C-17s arrived with additional troops and equipment. Also, 12 C-17s departed. These flights contain more than 2,000 passengers. These flights left Kabul and arrived at designated safe havens and staging areas in the CENTCOM area of operation.

Since the start of evacuation operations on August 14th, we have airlifted approximately 7,000 total evacuees. This increase is reflective of both a ramp-up of aircraft and airlift capability, faster processing of evacuees, and greater information and fidelity in reporting.

If we go back to the - when the Department of Defense began supporting the State Department with movement of SIVs at the end of July, the cumulative number of people moved out of Afghanistan is somewhere near 12,000. That number includes American citizens, U.S. embassy personnel, individuals designated by the State Department as SIV applicants, and other evacuees, in coordination with the State Department.

We're ready to increase throughput and have scheduled aircraft departures accordingly. We intend to maximize each plane's capacity, we're prioritizing people above all else and we're focused on doing this as safely as possible with absolute urgency.

We have not experienced any security incidents, nor interference since my last update. We continue to recognize the inherent danger of operating in this environment but our service members in Kabul remain agile, professional and are postured to continue mission and to respond if required.

On this topic, as we look at the last 24 hours, F-18s from the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group flew armed overwatch flights over Kabul to ensure enhanced security. We maintain a watchful eye and are continuously conducting in-depth assessments to protect the safety of Americans. We will use all of the tools in our arsenal to achieve this goal. I want to reinforce that we are absolutely focused on this mission of national importance. We are committed to the safe evacuation of as many people as quickly and as safely as possible. 

In Haiti yesterday, eight United States Army helicopters - three CH-47 Chinooks and five UH-60 Black Hawks from SOUTHCOM's JTF-Bravo out of Honduras - repositioned to launch and support operations in support of Haiti earthquake operations. 

Those assets have already started moving disaster relief personnel and supplies and supported JTF-Haiti's assessment of airfields and roads throughout the area. A CH-47 completed a partial move of about 60 percent of a field hospital, which we believe the rest of the field hospital will be airlifted today. 

The U.S. Coast Guard continues its light - lifesaving missions, and again, all of the helicopters involved will be on airlift missions to ease the suffering and to get people and capabilities where they need to be. As you know, the USS Arlington is now underway and expected to arrive later this week to provide additional lift and medical capabilities and serve as another resource for the people of Haiti.

Finally, Special Tactics Airmen assigned to the Special Operations Wing are currently augmenting the lifesaving and humanitarian aid efforts in Haiti and are responsible for conducting various airfield surveys to determine suitability for bringing in follow-on humanitarian aid via airlift.

Thank you very much.

MR. KIRBY: Just got a couple of schedule items to - to go over. So here in Washington, Secretary Austin did - held a phone conversation this morning with his counterpart in Bahrain, his Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Deputy Supreme Commander and Prime Minister.

And this afternoon, the Secretary will be welcoming - welcoming him - welcoming His Excellency Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State of Defense Affairs for the state of Qatar here in the building. They - we'll issue a readout for each of those events later today.

And with that, we'll start taking questions. I think, Bob, you're on the phone, yeah?

Q: Yes, thank you, John. General Taylor said that there were 12 C-17 aircraft departed with evacuees over the past 24 hours, which is a smaller number than the previous 24 hours, I believe. My question is regarding - with the - the clock running down on - toward August 31st, does Secretary Austin believe that it will be necessary to extend the deadline? I know that it's not his call but has he recommended that the deadline of August 31st be extended?

MR. KIRBY: Bob, you heard the Secretary yesterday say that we're - we're very focused on making sure we get as many people out as possible and as fast as possible. And - and we're working on that very diligently, as you heard the General's update.

It - it - and you also heard the - the President say that - that - that if he believes that there's a need to alter the timeline, that - you know, that - that he would revisit that at the appropriate time. What we're focused on right now, Bob, is head down, shoulder to the wheel, trying to get as many people out as possible, as quickly as possible, and I think - I think I'll leave it at that. Tara?

Q: Thank you. A follow up to Bob’s question - since the President has left the door open to troops possibly staying past August 31st, has Admiral Vasely begun conversations with his Taliban counterpart to make sure that if troops do stay, they will not come under attack?

MR. KIRBY: I - I don't know, with that level of detail, what conversations Admiral Vasely's having with his counterpart out in town. Again, our focus right now - there has been no decision to change the deadline, and we are focused on doing everything we can inside that deadline to move as many people out as possible.

And if and when there's a decision to change that, then obviously that would require additional conversations with the Taliban, as well, but I don't believe that those conversations have happened at this point.

Q: And as a follow up on the low pass flights by the F-18s, do they have authorization to fire if U.S. troops or allies come under attack?

MR. KIRBY: These are not low pass flights, Tara, they're at altitude. As the General briefed, they're overwatch. And - and in this case, the General briefed F-18 flights but there are other aircraft that General McKenzie and Admiral Vasely have at their disposal to provide this kind of overwatch. So they're not low passes.

And I would only - to your second question, I would simply say, as always, we have the right to defend ourselves, our people and our operations.


Q: How many F-18s are there? And I guess was - were they - was there a specific reason or did you see something that led you to move them, or was it just "well, we have them, so why not?"

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: A good question. Just going back, these were not low passes. So these are providing air support and this isn't anything new. The - as we know, the - the Ronald Reagan has been there providing support. So these F-18s are flying more than just yesterday. These were continuously in support and part of the assets that I briefed early on that were always available to the CENTCOM Commander.

Q: And they've been providing overwatch since?


Q: But you mentioned them today because?

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: Just to give an update to - of specifically the type of capability that the commanders on the ground continue to have to do - just Mr. Kirby, to ensure that we can provide that self-defense and assets to the Commander.

MR. KIRBY: Also, Idrees, you know, there had been some reporting out there that there were low passes and that - and that there was some sort of shows of force and I think we felt it was important for the General to provide some context about what is happening in the air and why, and that's why we mentioned it today. I don't think you're going to get a daily update from us about every aircraft and every flight plan but we felt that given the context of some of the erroneous reporting out there yesterday, that we wanted to clear that up.


Q: John, are you receiving credible threats against U.S. forces at the airport, that if you don't leave by a certain date, that Al-Qaeda or other groups will begin attacking the airport?

MR. KIRBY: I - I won't speak to intelligence assessments one way or the other, Jen. Obviously force protection is a high priority - you heard that in the General's opening comments as well - we're always evaluating the threat. It's a - it's not only a day by day thing, it's an hour by hour thing.

We know that this is a - a - still a perilous environment and all I can tell you is that we're going to do everything that we can to make sure that we can protect our force, protect the people that we're trying to move on to the airport and protect their movement out of Kabul, as well as protect the entire operation that the Air Force - you heard the Secretary talk about the need to be able to defend the airport. So it's something we're looking at literally hour by hour.

Q: And General Taylor, British paratroopers are leaving the airport, going into Kabul to rescue and evacuate some of their citizens who are trapped, can't get to the airport because of the Taliban. Why isn't the U.S. doing that?

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: At this time, as I said, our main mission continues to be to secure HKIA to allow those American citizens and other SIVs to come in and be processed at the airfield.

Q: And just a follow up - how are you fueling your planes, the C-17s that are going out? Are you now in a position that you have to buy fuel from the Taliban?

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: The assets on HKIA, on the airfield are what we need to maintain the operations - all operations to support the mission.

Q: So that's a no, you're not buying fuel from the Taliban?

MR. KIRBY: There - there is - there is plenty of fuel, sustainment capability at Hamid Karzai Airport. And as you know, Jen, we also have the ability of our - on our own, our logistics ability to - to fuel our aircraft as needed.


Q: I - I'm still a little unclear about the F-18s. I mean, why do you have armed F-18 - what - what did - can you explain a little bit more about - about ... 

MR. KIRBY: Sure.

Q: ... what the - what "overwatch" means, what exactly is it they're doing or providing?

MR. KIRBY: Sure. I'll let the General talk to that, but sure.

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: The ability to provide close air support is something that needs to be immediate, if they - condition on the ground ever required that. So as prudent military operations, we ensure there are always assets available so that the Commander, if required, can ensure the time and space of reaction is as little as possible. So... 

Q: ... to prepare if you need to do airstrikes in - over Kabul - in Kabul?

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: We're there to - there to ensure that they can support the Commander on the ground.

Q: And then also, you've - you mentioned that there have been about 7,000 people taken out since the 14th and - and you're hoping to increase that - or, I'm sorry, 12,000 total out since the end of July. You - you - how many more do you anticipate having to move?

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: So as I said, the military capacity, it continues to be 5 to 9,000 a day, and we are ready to do that. And - and as Mr. Kirby said, our increased interactions with Department of State will allow that to - that - as you've seen, the ability to increase more flights a day.

Q: And Kirby, could I ask you just one quick one? Is there - has - is there any update to any efforts or talks with the Taliban about allowing Afghans to get through some of these checkpoints and get to the airport safely?

MR. KIRBY: There's no update, Court. I think you heard the Secretary talk about this yesterday. We are in communication, obviously, with the local Taliban Commander about making sure that those at risk Afghans, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and, you know, additional Afghan citizens that we want to -- to move through are able to move through.

And -- and it -- it comes down a lot to the -- the credentialing and -- and making sure that they can prove and we can prove that -- that these are appropriate people to move through. And we have indications this morning that that process is working. Yes, Barbara?

Q: I'm so confused about the F-18s as well. First of all, this is the first time I recall you telling us of overwatch flights...


Q: ...since U.S. troops arrived. So, are these the first armed flights over Kabul since U.S. troops arrived?

MR. KIRBY: No. No, and Barb, I think what you have to remember is before we began a non-combatant evacuation operation we had been in the midst of drawing down our forces...

Q: I'm sorry, I'm asking specifically since operations with U.S. forces began at the airport...

MR. KIRBY: Since the non-combatant evacuation...

Q: ...since it began at the airport?

MR. KIRBY: No, these are not.

Q: Are these the first armed overwatch over Kabul?

MR. KIRBY: They are not.

Q: And you say close air support but to be clear, what you are saying is you are prepared now to conduct airstrikes over Kabul?

MR. KIRBY: Barbara, I'm not going to talk about potential future operations. So, I do think it's important to level-set here that even throughout the drawdown we had overwatch capabilities. Throughout -- throughout the drawdown, we had overwatch capabilities.

So, the fact that we are flying overwatch missions now, and have been since the 14th, we were actually doing it before the 14th as you would think we would. And -- and to my previous answer, force protection is a high priority. And we're going to have at our disposal all the assets and resources necessary to make sure we can accomplish this mission safely and efficiently.

Just like we were accomplishing the previous mission of drawdown safely and efficiently. So, this is a continuum, it's not something new. The reason we decided to talk about it today, and I don't think you're going to expect to see us talk about it every day.

But we felt it was important today given that there had been some reporting out there that we were, you know, flying low passes over the city or some kind of shows of force. That's not what this is. This is just an added layer of force protection. It's the prudent and responsible thing to do.

Q: Can I just follow up on another? On your discussions with the Taliban, now that the potential is in public for staying does the U.S. military -- does the Defense Department feel it would at least -- at least need Taliban acquiescence if you were to stay beyond the 15th? Do you want if not their agreement, at least their acquiescence to stay?

MR. KIRBY: I think it is just a fundamental fact of the reality of where we are. That communications and a certain measure of agreement with the Taliban on what we're trying to accomplish has to continue to occur. And, again, I'm not going to speculate past August 31st. I haven't gotten to anybody on the phone so if you'll just forgive me. Carla Babb?

Q: Hey, thanks for doing this, John. Can you just briefly kind of update us on the policy of nationals who are trying to get into the airport for evacuations by other countries? I know they mentioned what the Brits were doing but we also heard from Sylvie about that Dutch plane that left without any Afghan nationals.

How exactly is that process being done? And how are the U.S. troops helping with that process? And then, one other question quickly if I may. There's been reports of resistance outside in the -- in past year and possible in Panjshir and possibly in Parwan. Is the U.S doing anything to support these Afghan troops that are trying to make a resistance and trying to -- to push back? 

MR. KIRBY: Carla, on your first question, we obviously are -- and you heard the Secretary talk about this yesterday, willing to support the movement, safe movement of citizens of our allies and partners. In fact, we -- we have already done that, and -- and some of the numbers that the General briefed that got out of the country, were obviously citizens of other countries, allies, and partners. So we are doing that; we'll continue to do that. As for the exact process, I'm afraid I'm not qualified to speak to that. That's really a better question put to our State Department colleagues in terms of how -- how it works from a process perspective. We are in full support of that. But again, our main mission at the airport is security, safe operation of -- of the airfield, and continuing to get people out. 

On your second question, we've seen reports of the same as you, of -- of potential pockets of resistance. But I would just again stress that our military mission in Afghanistan right now is to conduct this noncombatant evacuation in a safe and orderly way. And -- and that's what we're doing. Yeah.

Q: Thank you, John. So, you mentioned the phone call between the Secretary today and his Bahraini counterpart and that he's going to meet the Qatari defense minister later today. 

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. 

Q: Can you talk about the role these nations, Gulf nations in general, are playing in facilitating this -- this operation? And are they putting assets in this operation to evacuate some of the Afghani or U.S. citizens?

MR. KIRBY: I think I’d let those nation-states speak for themselves and what they're doing. And as I said, we'll have a readout of both -- both conversations later today. So I don't want to get ahead of that. But obviously, both countries are -- are key partners in the region. As you know, Bahrain hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet headquarters and is a key partner, maritime partner, particularly in the Gulf region, and -- and Qatar as well, in many different ways. And we're always, always interested in having good conversations with these key partners in the region. But I don't think I'm going to speak to specifics with respect to Afghanistan. I'll let those nation-states speak for themselves. Yeah? 

Q: Thank you so much, Mr. Kirby. Kelly Myer with NexStar Media Group. The question is, is there any behavior by the Taliban towards U.S. citizens or Afghans trying to reach the airport? That would mean U.S. troops would have to protect them. Have any been -- red lines been communicated to the Taliban?

MR. KIRBY: We've made it very clear to the Taliban that any attack upon our people and our operations at the airport will be met with a forceful response. There has been, as the General noted in his opening statement, there has been no hostile interactions between the Taliban and our forces or of American citizens getting through. Now we have seen reports of the Taliban harassing, and physically so, some Afghans that were trying to move to the airport. We are in constant communication with them, as my answer to Courtney indicated, to make sure that -- that they have the same visibility on the people that we want to see get through, as we do. And some of that has to do with a common sight picture on the credentialing. And so that -- those conversations continue. 

Q: What about Americans outside the airport? 

MR. KIRBY: No, I said, we haven't seen any -- any hostile interactions between the Taliban and our people, and we certainly -- and we haven't seen them impede or harass or obstruct the movement of American citizens from the environs into the airport. And obviously, we want to see that continue. Yeah? 

Q: I have two things. General Taylor, could you discuss the non-American flights going in and out of the airport? How many? How many people have been evacuated? And what countries are still seeking to take people out? And I have a follow-up on the Taliban? 

MR. KIRBY: OK, I'll let the general take it. 

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: So what I -- what I will say is that when we talk about all flights going in and out of Kabul airport, are being synchronized and worked through -- through CENTCOM there. So that coordination is being done. And so when I talk is -- is the numbers that we are starting to include those numbers of everybody that is leaving from other countries. I don't have the details right now of which countries left within the last 24. But all of those types of flights, anything coming in and out of Kabul airport, is being coordinated through the (inaudible) there with the CENTCOM. 

Q: Then can we get any details of who and later? And then I have a -- I have a follow up on -- on the Taliban. So is there anything the Taliban is -- in this -- this cooperation is there -- is there anything they aren't doing? Is there anything the U.S. is not happy with in terms of how they are involved in the airport operations? And have they asked or demanded access to the airport?

MR. KIRBY: I know of no requests or interest by Taliban commanders to access the airport now. It's our understanding that they understand why we're there and what we're doing. And -- and again, as the Secretary said, we've been able to -- to have that kind of communication with them. I won't detail every conversation that we're having with the Taliban. Again, I -- I think it's important to -- to let the results speak for themselves. And -- and as you and I are talking here today, we -- we have an understanding, and -- and they are helping to facilitate safe passage for those that we're trying to get into the airport. I think I'd just leave it at that. Let me go back to the phones again. Paul Shinkman, U.S. News?

Q: Hi, John. Has U.S. competence in the ability to carry out counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan, either now or in the future, changed at all since the fall of Kabul, particularly given the apparent coordination between the Taliban and Pakistan, whose airspace presumably the U.S. needs to access? 

MR. KIRBY: No. The short answer to your answer -- the short answer to your question is no. We still maintain robust over-the-horizon counterterrorism capability in the region, and we will still have the authority and capability to use that counterterrorism capability should we need it. Meghann? 

Q: I just want to verify that the evacuation capacity has reached the 5000 to 9000 goal. And I wanted to ask whether the limiting factor is the State Department's ability to process people or the ability of people to physically get inside the airport as we understand they're lined up outside.

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: So the -- let's talk first about the -- the movement, the air capacity. It's set. And as I briefed a couple of times before -- so that ability to air move up to 5000 to 9000 a day has been set and continues. As I think you've seen in the report today of the increased numbers, we continue to see the ability to build those ready to fly on Kabul airport to -- to increase, to allow us to fly those out. With the ability to continue, obviously, as Mr. Kirby said, we want that to continue to increase as we continue to bring more people, more American citizens, SIVs and those, on to the airfield so that they can be processed and ready to fly.

Q: And have there been any requests from DOD officials to maybe expand the perimeter around the airport so that there's more of a safe zone for people while they're waiting in line? And if there have been, what was the Taliban's response?

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: So the commander on the ground, I think you've seen is the -- the airfield is secure. And every day in security operations, commanders are always -- of what we can -- improving the security environment. So as the commander on the ground, at every level, finds those things that need to be improved to increase the security to allow mission success, they're going to do those things that they have those authorities to do on a daily basis. So I think, as you saw today, the ability to continue State Department's ability to bring more people on and to continue those, that's what we will continue to look at over the next few days.

Q: Do they have the ability to expand the perimeter around the airport? 

MR. KIRBY: There's been -- I don't want to get ahead of where we are. The mission remains security at the airport and inside the perimeter of the airport, and that's what we're doing. There are -- as we speak, there's -- there are no plans to expand beyond that. And I think we'd leave it at that. 

The other thing I want to just touch on your first question, what the General's talking about is capacity. And as I said from very early on, what we want to make sure is that airlift is not a limiting factor. And it -- and it hasn't been. That doesn't mean that at this point in time, every single seat on every single plane is going to be filled. We are working hard to get there. 

But we want to build out to that capacity, and we continue to do that. There are lots of factors that go into the throughput, including the situation out in town, including the checkpoints that the Taliban have set up, including processing at the gates where we have set up. And the general mentioned, we've got additional gates that are available to us. So that's -- that's helping flesh out some of this capacity. Weather is a factor. 

And, of course, security at the airport is a factor. And we are not taking either of those last two -- actually, we're not taking any of them. But we're certainly not taking weather or security at the airport for granted. It changes, you know, every day-the -- the security environment changes, and of course, the weather. So there's lots of -- there are lots of tick points on the way to the -- getting to throughput. 

What we want to make sure is that one limiting factor is not airlift capacity. And as the general said, we're confident that -- that it is not now and going forward, it will not be. But that doesn't mean that there aren't going to be -- that doesn't mean that you can -- just because you have 5000 seats that you can automatically fill 5000 seats every day. Now, that's what we want to get to. We want to, as the Secretary said, move as many people as fast and as safely as possible. 

But there are lots of steps in the process. Not all of them do we control. And we understand that.

Q: Can I just have some clarification on that. So you're -- are you saying that you're -- you're at that capacity right now? That with these flights these 13 C-17s that have come in, you would have the capacity to take 5000 people out in 24 hours right -- right now, but you -- but you're only -- you've only taken 2000 out?

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: So, like I said, within the CENTCOM commander's capabilities and assets available, we have the appropriate air assets to fly the 5000 to 9000 a day. Depending upon the ability, meaning the queue, right? Those ready to fly. We bring in assets to fly them out. So yes, we have assets available throughout CENTCOM and available to reach those numbers today. And we have had those.

Q: But you're not -- but -- but what's physically flying in right now in these 24 hours, is that enough? I mean, I guess we can do the math and see how many people we'd get on...

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: It's not about the math; it's about what's ready to fly. You know, who's on the airfield, ready to leave a holding area and get on the aircraft. And as those numbers increase, which you've seen, they have in the last 24, 48. The CENTCOM command team will continue to bring in the airflow required to fly out those people.


Mr. Kirby: Sure. 

Q: Is ISIS and Al-Qaeda a factor in this, among your many other factors, and is the U.S. now dependent upon the Taliban to keep those terrorist groups in check during this operation?

MR. KIRBY: ISIS and Al Qaeda is absolutely a planning factor; you wouldn't expect it to be otherwise. And I'm not going to talk about specific force protection measures against terrorist threats. I think -- I think -- but clearly, we're -- we're -- we're mindful that -- that that threat could persist. 

Q: Is that part of the reason for the -- the overhead flights? 

MR. KIRBY: The overwatch flights, again, have been in the air since before the noncombatant evacuation operation. It's prudent force protection measures in the air to make sure that we can protect our people and our operations against any threat, any threat. 

Q: Can I just -- so I still want to be clear, you're nowhere near -- you're nowhere near the demand for getting people out. It's nowhere near that 5000 to 9000 that you're -- you have established and maintained as its capacity to do, right? One question, two is, what's the best estimate? If American citizens are the first priority, what's the best estimate that you guys have that you'll work through those, and then you can turn kind of full time as it were to SIVs, Afghans, or whatever? You know, am I not thinking about...

MR. KIRBY: So, a couple of points on this. I mean, as the General said, we have the capacity now. There's certainly enough airframes to meet the capacity we'd like to have of 5000 to 9000. But that doesn't mean that -- that that number of airframes are just landing at -- at Kabul, and then we're just taking them off, empty. We're trying to make maximum use of the ramp space, of the aircraft, and of the queue. And we're going to adjust that every day. The -- the demand will drive -- the demand and the queue will drive what kind of -- how many sorties we fly. And I'm sorry, your second question was? 

Q: Like, what's the best estimate of when you...

MR. KIRBY: Oh, the -- yeah, and you asked about American citizens. So I think as the general briefed, I mean, just in -- just in the last 24 hours of the -- the 2000 that got out, it was -- it was a mix of American citizens and family members, as well as special immigrant visa applicants and other at-risk Afghans. And I think you're going to see that every day. I mean, obviously, we want to take care of our fellow Americans, and -- and the Secretary and the chairman were clear about that. But we also want to take care of at-risk Afghans and special immigrant visa applicants. And so we're not -- you know, we're not holding up a plane just to fill it with Americans and then sending it off. We are -- we are processing people as fast as we can and getting them on to their onward stations. It's -- it's -- it's a balance, and we're trying to strike that balance every single day. 

Q: So what proportion of the 2000 are American citizens versus SIVs? What proportion are women as well?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have a gender breakdown, Jen. Of the 2000, over the last 24 hours, I think nearly 300 of them were Americans, and that includes legal permanent residents, it includes -- it includes obviously American citizens as well as family members. And that's going to -- every day, it's going to change. But I don't have a gender breakdown and what the manifests are on a daily basis. 

Q: And does the U.S. government recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan now? 

MR. KIRBY: That's a question for the State Department. The Defense Department is focused on conducting this noncombatant evacuation. 

Q: I have a question and a clarification. Are you seeing more throughput of individuals who are able to access the airport? Are you seeing more people being able to access the airport over the last 24 hours?

MR. KIRBY: We have seen -- by opening up another gate, by adding consular officers now, we believe that we will soon begin to see an opening up of the aperture. And we're hopeful that that means a more consistent increase in the flow. But I can't tell you right as we speak here that there's been some dramatic rise. I mean, we've got additional consular officers now at the additional gates with additional troops helping the consular officers. And so, I think we're poised to see an increase, but I want to be careful before I make predictions. What we're trying to do -- what we want to drive is an increase. That's very much on everybody's minds.

Q: And the clarification is you were talking about American citizens, about Afghans, SIVs. The 7000 number that was presented earlier, the general had said that you're now including other countries' evacuations in those numbers. Is that accurate? Or is the 7000 exclusively U.S... 

MR. KIRBY: It's -- it's -- it's others. It has always -- every -- every time since the 14th, when we've given you numbers, they have included some measure of third-country nationals. 

Q: I'm sorry... 


MR. KIRBY: Hang on. Please, one at a time. Jen?

Q: I mean this confusing. How many people has the U.S. government flown out on U.S. military planes? Because 7000, if you're including other countries, if you're including civilian flights, that seems like you're...

MR. KIRBY: We're giving you the total number of people that we have helped evacuate since the 14th, and it's not all just Americans. There have been some of our allies and partners that have gone out. And we're giving you U.S. government flights. I'm not even -- that's not counting people who are still getting out commercially or on charter flights. OK, does that clear that up? We get -- and understandably so here at the Pentagon, we're fixated on the tails that -- that we own. But it's not the only way out of Kabul right now. As the general briefed, the commercial side is open. There's limited. It's not as -- it's not as robust as what we can do on the military side. But people are still getting out that way. 

Q: Is there a breakdown of those numbers, the 7000? Saying this is U.S., this is Afghan...

MR. KIRBY: I do not have that -- I do not have a breakdown. I -- I suspect that over time, as our manifesting process gets more refined, we may be able to be that -- be there. But I -- we don't have that specific breakdown. 

Q: So, as of today, how many Americans -- American citizens remain in Afghanistan? 

MR. KIRBY: I don't know. 

Q: So -- so you're -- I mean, you're planning for these operations. And you should be, you know, have some kind of a count of how many Americans are whether in harm's way or need to be evacuated, right? 

MR. KIRBY: I think, as you probably know -- I mean, first of all, the State Department would be a better place to go for an estimate of how many Americans are in Afghanistan or in and around Kabul. That is not a figure that the United States military would -- would know. And -- and I think you also know, not every American citizen in another country -- there's no obligation that they register their presence, and -- and that we -- and that you can have a perfectly accurate count. But I don't have that figure, and I'd refer you to my State Department colleagues for the best estimate on that. 

Q: (OFF-MIKE) just the President has the -- does the Pentagon have the authorization at this point in time to expand its perimeter at the airport or to go into Kabul if necessary from the President? 

MR. KIRBY: The -- the mission is to provide safe and secure Operations at the airport...

Q: I know. Listen, I'm asking you if you -- the Pentagon has the authorization from the President...

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to talk -- I'm not going to talk about the potential of -- of any future decisions one way or another, that would be a - a policy decision. We are focused on security at the airport.

Q: ... my question is do you have the authorization now, at this point? Who makes that decision? Is it Biden or is it Austin?

MR. KIRBY: We are authorized to provide safe and secure operations at the airport, Helene.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the logistics regarding the human needs of the people at the airport? There's a lot of civilians, a lot of troops, there's food, there's sleeping arrangements, water, sanitation. You - are you handling both military and civilian, and how is that - how are you doing that?

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: So when you look at when whoever comes into the gate at HKIA and is processed for ready to fly, all human needs, you know, all of those things, the basic needs to ensure their - their welfare, their care, to ensure the - all those things to ensure they can go forward and - and fly are being done, and that is a combination of State Department support and military support, working hand in hand, the commander and State Department, to ensure eating, sleeping, well taken care of, you know, out of the elements, are being done, absolutely.

Q: You've got, like, two more weeks almost of this. Are there concerns about maintaining the - the - the input of supplies, you know, the - the cleanliness over time?

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: As military planners, we always ensure that we have the proper supplies on base for - you know, to conduct missions, and those are assessed on a daily basis and those commanders are always assessing "what do we have now, what do I need to do in the short term and so forth?"

And so we are always continuing to - and that's why you see other planes continuing to arrive as required, to continue to ensure a commander has everything they need to do to execute the - the mission that we have right now.

MR. KIRBY: I need to get to somebody on the phones. Tom - Tom Squitieri?

Q: Hi, John, thanks, good morning. Hey, I wanted to just check on something. In regards to the Pentagon policy that existed to provide air support and other assistance to the Afghan government that was in place this summer, has that policy ended with the fall of Kabul or is it still alive for elements of the government that's still functioning in places like the Panjshir Valley? Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Tom, I - as I think you can see by - by events, it - it's - the - there's - there aren't operations out in the rest of the country to support, and our focus in terms of air power is as the general described, and that is providing appropriate over watch for our operation, and that operation right now is at the airport.


Q: Can I go back on the question of gates at the airport? Can you tell us - this new gate that you opened, are the Taliban outside of that gate? Are they letting people of - Afghans and U.S. - people with U.S. documentation, U.S. citizens through that new gate? And have you been able to keep, very specifically, all of their gates, including Camp Sullivan, on your side, have you been able to keep them open or have you had to close Camp Sullivan at various points? Have you had to close any of the gates?

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: So the - the gates at Kabul Airport are secure. And as we continue to flow more forces in, that gives the commander greater capability to provide security at those gates, and as we said, open more gates and allow for greater input into Kabul Airport.

Q: I'll follow up with Kirby, all respect - the question is are all of the gates continuously open? Have you had to close - have the Marines had to close Sullivan at various points? Do you have the Taliban letting people through this new gate that you're talking about? Have you been able to keep them all continuously open?

MR. KIRBY: Barbara, the - as the general said, we have additional gates now and they - and reporting this morning is that they are open, but I can't tell you with perfect clarity that there haven't been times over the last 72 hours when, temporarily, because of maybe security incidents, that they've had to close. I - I suspect that that's true. I - I don't have a - a firm answer for you on that.

Our goal is obviously to keep them as open as possible and to increase the flow as much as we can.

Q: Just for the record, have the - any of the U.S. troops been involved in any additional crowd control measures that included them having to fire?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not aware of any over the last 24 hours.

Q: Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: I think that's probably good - that's a good place to stop. So thanks very much. My plan is to come - Jim?

Q: Can I just get a - a Haiti question? There are reports that American military medical teams are going into the area. It - do you have anything on that?

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: That - that's what I said earlier. So first, the - we do have Air Force medical personnel there helping assist. And the - the first thing I said was - said were - you know, the flights of those helicopter were bringing in one of our medical hospital capabilities, and more to come today, to be able to help and assist in a medical hospital, first aid-type care.

Q: So there's a - so they're setting up a field hospital that'll be manned by American military personnel?

MAJ. GEN. TAYLOR: That is correct.

Q: OK, great. Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Thanks, everybody. My plan is to update you again this afternoon but it'll be off camera, so we'll see you about 2:15 - at least that's the plan right now. Thank you.

Q: Thank you.