Transcript

Gen. Tod D. Wolters, Commander, U.S. European Command and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Press Briefing

Aug. 25, 2021
Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, Commander, U.S. European Command and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: So, listen, thanks for joining. As I mentioned earlier this morning, we have a special guest with us here virtually in the briefing room. General Tod Wolters, the Commander of U.S. European Command. As well as NATO Shape Commander. And I'm going to turn it over to the General in just a minute who's got some opening comments. 

He's here to talk to you about EUCOM and NATO's contributions to the ongoing evacuation effort out of Afghanistan. And like to keep our limit our questions to the General to that purpose. We've got the General for about 30 minutes, so I don't want to eat up any more of the clock. And then once the Generals done with his comments, we'll go to questions. I will moderate just like I did the other day. Please identify yourself and your outlet before you ask the questions. Because the general can't see you from where he is. So, would that General if you can hear me loud? OK?

GENERAL TOD D. WOLTERS: John, I've got you loud and clear. 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you General. I'll turn the floor over to you, sir.

GEN. WOLTERS: Thanks, John. Good afternoon, and it's good to be with you and to the press corps thanks for taking a little bit of time to share with us on the other side of the Atlantic over here in Europe. Let me start by extending my personal and professional thanks to the women and men in the United States military. All of our civilian employees and most importantly to the volunteers who have given us their relentless efforts in support of this operation. 

It has truly been inspiring. To date we've received 55 flights at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. And we currently have 5783 evacuees on deck at Ramstein. We've received three flights and Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy, and we currently have 662 evacuees on deck there. For context, we received our first evacuation flights last Friday, the 20th of August. 

And three short days later this last Monday, we had our first set of flights depart Ramstein for the continental United States. To date, a total of 1,605 evacuees have departed Ramstein, for the continental United States. And for additional context, as you all know, here in Europe, this is a whole of government, whole nation, whole of partner, whole of ally process. 

That the trust and transparency that we've constructed over the course of the last several decades, in particular with our NATO allies and partners. Has paid huge dividends with respect to the effectiveness of this operation. And their cooperation, quite honestly has been remarkable. A little bit about the evacuees themselves. When they landed Ramstein or at Sigonella. They're immediately given food, water, and shelter. They have medical care as required from a screening perspective. 

And they have screening as required for onward movement to the continental United States. And we can't forget here in Europe that this process is by with and through the nations and the local communities. And to this point, the cooperation that we've seen has been superb. I'd like to make a special shout out to the governments of Germany, and the governments of Italy and now the government of Spain. 

For their whole of government work across ministries, their ministries of Foreign Affairs, to their ministries of defense. All the way from the top portion of their governments down to their military levels. The cooperation has been seamless and has allowed us to do our job from a U.S. perspective. I’ll end my comments with what's most important, the safety and security of our evacuees. And all of the workers associated with this mission is of the number one issue. 

And at this time, we've had zero security incidents. And a security incident is defined when we witness an evacuee exhibit malign behavior and we have to put that evacuee a holding cell. We have had no incidents. John, that's it for my comments. I look forward to fielding your questions. Thank you. 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, General, we'll start with the Lita Baldor from the Associated Press. Lita is on the phone. Go ahead Lita.

Q: Hi General, Lita Baldor with AP. Thanks for doing this. Good to talk to you. One quick thing. Have you not had any go into Spain yet? Is that expected in the coming days? And more broadly do you think the numbers are right now starting to really tic awkward and getting larger? 

Or as people are coming out and there are more waystations. Do you think you're at about a regular flow going into these countries?

GEN. WOLTERS: Lita, thanks for the question. And I'll go in reverse order with respect to the flow. I believe the flow that we are going to embrace in the next 24 to 48 hours will be the flow that we can expect to see for the next several days. So, we are we are building to what I would say is a plateau. That we are very, very close to getting to. 

And my sense is obviously as far as the machine is concerned from what we get to the Middle East to here in Europe. We're ready, willing and able to accommodate that flow. With respect to Spain. As you probably know, we've had one installation open up and tremendous cooperation on behalf of the Spanish government. 

We have yet to put anybody in Spain in any of our C17 grey tails. But if need be we're prepared to do that from this moment forward. Thank you.

Q: Can I ask a follow up. 

GEN. WOLTERS: Sure. 

MR. KIRBY: Go ahead Lita.

Q: One quick follow up. Are you hearing much from all of your European colleagues about any frustrations about them getting their people out? And are you working with your NATO and European colleagues on that issue?

GEN. WOLTERS: We've had a little bit of both, but we're not hearing any negative comments. And as you probably know, our goal is to get folks out as fast as we possibly can. With as many people as we possibly can. And the cooperation that has taken place with respect to CENTCOM and the nations of Europe. 

We've had no negative feedback. And my sense is it's because we're all working feverishly to make sure that we can get as many people out as fast as we possibly can. And so far, so good with respect to any negative feedback from our European allies and partners.

MR. KIRBY: Tony. 

QUSTION: General, Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg. Had a quick question on NATO. So, I'd like you to put your NATO hat on. Can you tell us in general privately the types of reaction you’ve been getting from your counterparts over there? About the U.S. withdrawal? And the evacuation? And is there a sense of disappointment and frustration?

GEN. WOLTERS: Tony from my - from my friends, who are the Chiefs of Defense of our NATO allies and partners. The military language back and forth has been nothing but positive, and mostly focused on the mission at hand. Which is to get as many people out as fast as we possibly can, always keeping safety and security at the forefront. 

And with the jobs, and with that, being in mind. We've had no negative feedback. And as far as the consensus is concerned for agreement and working side by side and shoulder to shoulder, military to military. Those relationships are as strong now as they ever have been.

Q: But as the Supreme Allied Commander, are you concerned that this effort is going to hurt U.S. credibility with NATO? After four years of roiling relationships that the Biden administration is trying to salvage. Trying to heal? 

GEN. WOLTERS: Tony, no. And again, I get feedback from my counterparts as Chiefs of Defense of the other 29 nations to include General Milley. And that has not been the case that the military-to-military relationships that we have with all 30 nations to include the U.S. Is as strong as it ever has been. 

MR. KIRBY: Sylvie, go ahead. 

Q: Sylvie Lanteaume from AFP. We know that the Afghan evacuees are screened for COVID. What happens if one evacuee is tested positive? Do you isolate them? What do you do exactly?

GEN. WOLTERS: I'm sorry, I didn't hear who the reporter was. Can you restate your name?

Q: Sylvie Lanteaume from AFP.

GEN. WOLTERS: Great, great question. First of all, we want to screen for COVID in all levels. And once the evacuees arrive, we have a medical screening segment. And if we find ourselves in a situation to where someone is showing symptoms. We're able to isolate those individuals and they receive additional medical treatment. 

Through local stations there at the screening line at Ramstein. And if we have more severe conditions, we can lean on the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Located about 10 kilometers away from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. 

Q: Do you have numbers of cases?

GEN. WOLTERS: We processed over 7,000 evacuees just less than 100 after they've been initially medically screened. Needed to go to an additional tent. And those 100 less than 25 needed additional medical treatment at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. So, 25 after 7,000 have been processed. We've been able to get to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. 

And of those 25 well over 50 percent are already out of Landstuhl back at Ramstein in the evacuee holding area.

MR. KIRBY: OK. Go ahead Tom.

Q: General this is Tom Squitieri with Talk Media News, and following on Sylvie's question, are you just screening for COVID? Or are you screening for other things, contagious diseases like tuberculosis?

GEN. WOLTERS: We're doing a very broad medical screening, knowing that there has been screening before they come out of the Middle East. And knowing that there will be additional medical screening that will occur once they get to CONUS. And for now, that's in Dulles in the Virginia area. For right now we are specifically looking at general medical condition and COVID. 

Q: Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: We need to go to -. back that the phones I'll keep working in room. Karoun from the Washington Post.

Q: Hi thanks. Karoun McCall.  General I'm sorry if I missed this is very beginning. But do you have a goal duration that you're hoping that people stay at places like Ramstein? Are you trying to do a turnover rate that gets people out their next destination? Or is it too early to kind of have that in mind? 

GEN. WOLTERS: Karoun, you were a little bit broken. But I think I got the gist.

Q: Sorry, I was just asking you about the duration of what is there a goal duration, you're trying to keep people on bases like Ramstein? Then move them on to their next destination. And what is that? Or are you thinking in terms of timelines right now even in or process? And you have to get before they can move on?

GEN. WOLTERS: Karoun, there is there is a timeline between 10 and 14 days. Depending upon the country. And as you probably know, there are there are four nations that are currently involved in the process of potentially feeling down our folks. And right now, given the flow that we have approximately 15 to 1,700 in per day. 

And approximately 1,800 to 2,000, who should be going out every day. The 10-to-14-day limit that we have in general for most of the nations is not in compromise at this point. And we do not anticipate based off the expected flow to have a problem in that area. 

MR. KIRBY: OK. Jen.

Q: Hi, Jennifer Griffin with Fox News. General Wolters, are you mandating vaccines for or offering vaccines for COVID for these Afghan evacuees? Before sending them on to the U.S. And also, do you have any numbers of any of the screening that's taking place? In terms of any watchlist? Any numbers of people who have appeared on any watchlist that you've had to deal with?

GEN. WOLTERS: Jennifer, the first question had to do with vaccination. The plan for now is to screen and the administration of vaccines should first occur for those at Dulles. There is an effort underway with Secretary Austin to examine the feasibility of being able to take a deeper look at our evacuees at Ramstein. 

And potentially administer the vaccination there if the evacuee needs it. There's still a way to go on that with respect to a nation-to-nation contacts. And Secretary Austin and team are working on that. The second part of your question had to do with travelers that require further screening. And I will tell you, Jennifer. The 7,000 plus evacuee’s process, we've had 52 flag in that area that require further screening. 

Upon further screening with our DHS (Department of Homeland Security) counterparts, all 52 had been cleared in the green. So, to date, our sample size is approximately a 7,000 evacuee’s processed. About 50 need further screening, and upon subsequent more in-depth screening, all of those have been cleared. And we feel that we have a very good process in place that is DOD centric. As well as state department centric with DHS. 

Q: And sir, what is your biggest challenge right now at these facilities? 

GEN. WOLTERS: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear that question. You were cut out.

Q: What is your biggest challenge right now at these facilities? 

GEN. WOLTERS: Jennifer, it's making sure that when the manifests come in, you've got the right body with the right name. And then when you construct the manifest for the evacuees to depart. To make sure that name by name, person by person, you've got 100 percent accountability. And for safety and security, we think this is paramount. 

And as the days have progressed from last Friday to the present, we see process improvement. In the speed with which we can process individuals with 100 percent accuracy. And it's like anything else, Jennifer. The more you do it, the better you get. And that's certainly the case with what we've seen at Ramstein.

MR. KIRBY: Court.

Q: General Wolters is Courtney Kube from NBC News. I apologize because I missed the top of the briefing. If you said this, but can you get a little bit more explain a little bit more about the screening process? How many CBP officials do you have their screening Afghans? And is that number going to ramp up in the coming days? 

And then can you talk a little bit about any military members who are helping with the screening? And then and I'm sorry, I'm still a little unclear on the numbers that you just gave to Jennifer. So, 52, were flagged for screening? What was the 50 number you referenced? Can you explain that again?

GEN. WOLTERS: Courtney, the number was 52 travelers requiring further screening. That's the process. So, if we go back to your screening question. We have 50 individuals who are in the screening line from the military side of the house. We have 32 individuals in the screening line from the DHS DOS (Department of State) side of the house. 

We've gone back and forth with the numbers as you can well imagine if our goal is to get 2,000 in and approximately 2,000 out. Processing about 200 folks per hour. The large math equation says that footprint of DHS representatives, and DOD representatives is just about right. And we've actually mirrored that footprint in our other locations at Sigonella, and soon to be at Rota.

Q: And how many is that how many CBP officials do you have running them through? And then I'm sorry, I still don't understand what you mean by 50 in line in the military side and 52 on the DHS side?

GEN. WOLTERS: A large screening process in the screening process, you have human to human contact with a U.S. DOD screener. And a U.S. DOS/DHS screener. So, you've got you got both ministries, if you will. Taking a look at each and every one of the applicants with 50 DOD individuals involved in that DOD the screening process. 

And about 30 plus involved in the State Department DHS screening process. In order to solve the overall math equation for subsequent flow in and flow out. That's about what we need. And we think for now it's right sized.

Q: I miss understood what you said. Thanks, General Wolters, I appreciate it. 

MR. KIRBY: OK. Meghann. 

Q: Hi there. General Wolters this is Meghann Myers at Military Time. I have a few clarifying questions. One on the vaccines at Dulles. Are you saying that in general right now, that's the first time that these refugees will be offered a vaccine? Rather than in Europe on a way? 

GEN. WOLTERS: That's correct Meghann. 

Q: Also, go on throughout Europe, Italy and Germany. How many people have made it through that weigh station and gone on to the U.S.?

GEN. WOLTERS: 1,604.

Q: And the base in Spain is being opened for potential evacuees which one?

GEN. WOLTERS: Meghann that's Rota. 
Q. Thank you. 

MR. KIRBY: All right, Carla. 

Q: Thank you, General Walters. Carla Babb, the Voice of America here. What's the capacity total for Rota? Ramstein? The base in Italy? What's your maximum capacity?

GEN. WOLTERS: Carla we can take 12,000 evacuees at Ramstein. We can take 2,000 evacuees at Rota. We can take 4,000 evacuees at Sigonella. And I have a list of all the other spots when you add them all together. It involves eight separate current sites where we can field 25,000 evacuees. And it spans through four countries. 

Q: Can you list the other ones for us?

GEN. WOLTERS: I sure can you have Ramstein, you have Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Germany. You have Sigonella in Italy. You have Rota in Spain. You have Grafenwöhr in Germany. You have Hohenfels in Germany. You have Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. And you have Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo as a U.S. site.

Q: OK. Thank you, sir. And then one other clarification. You said that 100 of the people use the evacuees you took in needed to go to a separate tent for COVID. Less than 25 needed additional medical care. Is that so we can say less than 25 needed medical care? What about people you know, like the mothers who gave birth? How many total? Have you had to provide medical care for in these facilities?

GEN. WOLTERS: Carla, believe it or not, that's it. So, 100 that come through the initial screening that go to an additional medical tent on site. They further ascertain what the issue is. And then after that visit to the local medical tent site at Ramstein, 25 were taken up the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for further evaluation. And 50 percent of those are already in the green back on site. Does that make sense? Carla?

Q: That does make sense. So just less than 25 for all sort of medical care from COVID to giving birth to any other issues.

GEN. WOLTERS: That's correct.

MR. KIRBY: Back to the phones, Jeff Schogal. 

Q: Thank you General. At last count, there were three new babies and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. I just wanted to see has that number have gone up at all. And how are the babies doing? 

GEN. WOLTERS: Jeff. Thanks for asking. All three babies are good. And as you probably know, one baby was actually delivered on board a C17. The other two babies were actually delivered at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. And a point of note that we think is interesting. 

Because we've had further conversations with the mom and the dad of the baby that was born on the C17 inbound to Ramstein. They named the little girl Reach. And they did so because the call sign of the C17 aircraft that flew them from Qatar to Ramstein was reach. 

So that that child's name will forever be Reach. And if you can well imagine being an Air Force Fighter Pilot, it's my dream to watch that young child called Reach grew up and be a U.S. citizen and fly United States Air Force fighters in our Air Force. Over.

Q: And just a quick follow up the... 

MR. KIRBY: Just a couple more for the General. Then we got to let him get on with his day. Go ahead. 

Q: John. The agency General, 1,000’s evacuees. Are they all designated to come to the United States? Or are they allowed to choose a country in Europe or any other parts of the world? 

GEN. WOLTERS: The Afghan evacuees are designated to have follow on to go to the United States. Some of the evacuees who are not Afghanistan's they fall into a different category. 

Q: Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Mike, did have one?

Q: Yes.

MR. KIRBY: Yes, we'll just do two more. We only got a couple minutes go head. 

Q: Sir Mike Lindell, The Washington Times. I was wondering has this effort to help these evacuees. What kind of impact has it made on the normal day to day operations there, there at your command because obviously, you know, Russia's not taking a break and letting, you know, a handle just that -- just the refugees now? Any kind of impact at all on the normal day-to-day operations? 

GEN. WOLTERS: Mike, there has been -- there's been a small impact on the force protection footprint with respect to the security forces that are available to -- to -- to guard perimeters. All of those situations have been rectified. Safety and security of the evacuees and all the workers that are involved in this operation is -- is of prime importance, as well as all of the operations activities and investments that we must continue to do with respect to all the other categories. And we're keeping a very, very close watch on all of those regions. And so far, we've had no degradation with respect to the other missions that were responsible for, from a USEUCOM perspective.

Q: OK. 

MR. KIRBY: Last question? 

Q: Yeah, hi. Caitlin Doornbos, Stars and Stripes, just asking for clarification on this -- on the timeline? You said, depending on the country. How long can you just say does it take someone who lands at, say, Ramstein to get to Dulles?

GEN. WOLTERS: Caitlin, that's still a process that's in work. It -- it -- it needs to be faster than what it currently is. The -- the expectation is for the -- for the numbers of evacuees that we have remaining at Ramstein, we -- we plan, starting now, and for the next 24 to 48 hours, being able to get 1500 to 1800 evacuees out of Ramstein onward to CONUS (Continental U.S) in Dulles. And -- and that would tell you how long of a wait you would have a worst-case if you're one of the last evacuees to show up at Ramstein. So the process is ongoing. And with the numbers that we currently have at Ramstein, the wait from this point forward should be in the three-to-four-day timeframe.

Q: Thank you. 

MR. KIRBY: OK, General, thanks so much for your time. We really appreciate it. I'll toss it over to you for any closing thoughts you might have before we let you go.

GEN. WOLTERS: No, John, I just like to give a couple of quick reflections on -- on what we see with the evacuees that come off the plane. As you probably know, about a third are kids, a third are male, but a third are female. I will tell you that they are very, very appreciative and excited to be here, and in what -- what they're getting as far as treatment is concerned at Ramstein and Sigonella. They are very, very much in favor of -- and we're proud of the opportunity to be able to be part of this operation. That's all we've got from -- from Ramstein. Thank you, John.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, General. I appreciate your time today. Thank you so much. OK, is there anything for me or we're good? All right. We'll see you tomorrow morning. I'm sorry? 

Q: (OFF-MIKE). 

(LAUGHTER)

MR. KIRBY: You do? 

Q: Yeah. 

MR. KIRBY: All right, go ahead. 

Q: So Secretary Blinken, during his press conference, alluded to the idea of evacuating more Afghans than Americans after boots are off of the ground in Afghanistan. Is the State Department coordinating with the military for security or for flights for these -- these evacuations, even if it doesn't mean securing HKAI (Hamid Karzai International Airport) ourselves? 

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. I think what Secretary Blinken was talking about was the kind of support and assistance that we give to Americans around the world who want to leave where they are and get help coming home. That's something we do all the time. And I think that's what he's referring to that we're -- that -- that post -- the post-mission, if Americans are -- are still there and need help getting back, that -- that the United States government is going to do what we do every day around the world. And we'll -- we'll see what we can do to help them. I wouldn't anticipate that there will be a military role and that sort of assistance. 

Q: And how does that work, John? Would you have -- you know, in Iran, you use the Iranian -- I mean, the Swiss government. Are you going to use the Qatari government? Where did these people go who are left behind? How are they going to get out if you aren't there? If the embassy won't be there and the military won't be there?

MR. KIRBY: That's -- that's a process I think that would have to work out over time, and that would really be more of the purview of the State Department than it would the Department of Defense... Mike. 

Q: Yeah John we have a report of a couple of dozen students from the San Diego area who were -- and their parents were still trapped in Afghanistan. I wonder if you have any information about what their status is now. 

MR. KIRBY: I don't; send me an email with the details, as much as you can. And what I can promise you is we'll -- we'll try to flow that into the right hands, but I -- I don't have anything on that report.

Q: Hey, John. Just curious if you saw the video taken outside of the airport, shot today, of the Taliban executing -- the killing of somebody who had an SIV credential?

MR. KIRBY: I have not. I have not seen that video. … let me go figure out what -- and I don't know whether we'd be able to validate it. 

Q: I wasn't asking -- I was just asking if you saw it. 

MR. KIRBY: I have not. 

Q: Yeah. 

MR. KIRBY: I have not. No, sir. Caitlin. 

Q: Hey. Yesterday, I think you mentioned that the crowds were lessening outside the airport and that -- that's what was helping the operations reach such high levels. But is that because the Taliban is denying people entry past those checkpoints? 

MR. KIRBY: Some of it. Some -- some of the reason is that the -- the Taliban have -- have bolstered their own security at their checkpoints and have gotten involved in crowd control. Yes. And, Caitlin, I want to be clear, every day is a different day. And yesterday, we estimated that crowds were about half the size they had been the previous days. We still haven't seen them rise to the level they were in the early days of this. But yes, part of the reason is -- is certainly that the, you know, the Taliban has strengthened their measures of access and control around the field.

Q: (OFF-MIKE) than it was higher than it was yesterday?

MR. KIRBY: I don't know. I don't know what the estimate is today. I -- I don't believe we've seen numbers that are greatly different than they were yesterday.

Q: OK. I have just one more. With Turkish forces leaving, how much of an impact is that making on the security situation and the -- the weight of what the U.S. troops have...

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, as of the time we're speaking now, the Turks are still there. So I mean, I've seen these reports of what they said they're going to do. Of course, this is a sovereign nation, and they, they -- they can make decisions for their own troops as we do for ours. They're still there. They're, as we speak, still contributing to the security mission. 

We're grateful for the assistance that they have rendered, remain confident that with the U.S. presence that's on the ground at the airport that we can continue to safeguard that airport for the length of time that we needed. But it is a challenging, tense, dynamic environment. The -- the threats -- threats are still real. So, you know, I'm not going to say that it's a cakewalk to do this, but we're -- we're comfortable in the -- in the force presence that we have to get the job done. Tony. 

Q: Since the first briefing this morning, has there been any more U.S. rotor or helicopter evacuations outside...

MR. KIRBY: None that I'm aware of. 

Q: Would be -- would you be updating us periodically...

MR. KIRBY: When I become aware of them, yes, we are updating you. I -- I've received no reports of additional rotary wing operations.

Q: Are those 82nd Airborne are those special operations troops we're dealing with? 

MR. KIRBY: I don't know who flew the actual mission. There are a range of helicopters there that we have at our disposal. I don't have any more detail on exactly who manned that helicopter.

Q: Are U.S. military helicopters being used to fly to pick up anyone outside of Kabul, no matter whose authority they're under? Are U.S. military helicopters being used to fly outside Kabul?

MR. KIRBY: Thus -- thus -- thus far they have not. 

Q: Only inside of Kabul...

MR. KIRBY: That, to my knowledge, inside Kabul. Could it be done outside Kabul if needed? We have the capability. 

Q: Courtney tool my question, but is the U.S. military otherwise helping Americans stuck outside of Kabul get to Kabul?

MR. KIRBY: We have a variety of means at our disposal to help provide safe passage into the airport. And I think I'm just gonna leave it at that. Gordon did you have one? 

Q: Yeah. Could you tell us if you think that you'll need any more craft, aircraft, for the logistics? And then, you know, the army announced some of the deployments to domestic bases to help with security and whatnot for the American bases that were -- that are taking evacuees. Can you give us an idea of what the scope and scale of that kind of internal deployment could be over the next couple of weeks? 

MR. KIRBY: I don't have the data here for that. I mean, we have four U.S. installations that we're using right now. And as I mentioned yesterday, we'll keep looking at that. And if we need additional installations, you know, we'll make the right plans to do that. And by and large, in most of these installations, they're using organic capabilities. 

I'll let the General VanHerck and NORTHCOM take your question about the flow of any additional force protection personnel. I don't have that -- that information readily available. And I will be getting General VanHerck into the briefing room later this week. 

Q: And then what about the CRAF (Civil Reserve Air Fleet)? 

MR. KIRBY: I know of no plans to expand the civilian reserve air fleet beyond the level one, which the Secretary authorized.

Q: One quick follow-on to what you just said. You said, could it be done on getting air evacuations outside of Kabul and extractions. You said yes. Why haven't they been done yet? Because we know of American citizens in places outside Kabul.

MR. KIRBY: It's a -- it's a capability question. And -- and I'm not suggesting that would be well outside of Kabul. I'm not suggesting that it would be throughout the whole countryside. Terace. 

Q: Hi, John. I've spoken to a few families who are on the bases where the evacuees are going. And they want to know what they can do to assist. So I'm not sure what advice is being given or what others can do to help those who are coming to stay on these different bases. Has there been any briefing or anything for those military families? What can they possibly do to help out as well?

MR. KIRBY: Terace, I mean, we're not surprised that people want to be generous and help. And that's terrific. I think we saw reports that the Commanding General at Fort Bliss was -- they were being inundated with requests from the local community about trying to help. There are various humanitarian aid organizations and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that -- that are helping these Afghans relocate. And I would recommend, you know, reaching out to some of those aid organizations and -- and seeing what's most needed for these men and women and their children. 

What we're going to do when we get them onto these bases is make sure that they have safe, secure housing, plenty of sustenance, food, and water, medical care that they need, and the ability to work through the rest of their visa process. So our focus is really on making sure that they're safe and secure, and they have that ability. And we're going to do that to the maximum capability that we -- that we can, and -- and we certainly encourage Americans to welcome them as well when they relocate from our military bases into the -- into American society. When we are -- that -- that's one of the great things about our country is -- is the way we have welcomed immigrants over the years and -- and these are -- these are going to be new immigrants and new Americans, maybe even a new fighter pilot. And so we're -- we're grateful for that generosity, and I would point them to these non-governmental organizations and humanitarian relief organizations.

Q: Hey, John. Can I follow up on Carla’s theme, please? There's a report out by relatives of Americans in Mazar-i-Sharif, who has said the Taliban has given her, the woman in Mazar-i-Sharif, permission to leave (inaudible) to go to Kabul to leave. Would that fall -- would helping that American citizen who has gotten permission on their own from the Taliban, to get from Mazar-i-Sharif to Kabul, would that be something that would be in this suite of capabilities that the Pentagon has?

MR. KIRBY: No. And I'm glad I got the chance to follow up. When I said, outside Kabul, I'm talking about, you know, relatively close by. I don't want to set the expectation that -- that we're going to be able to fly all over the country to pick up people. You heard the Secretary himself say that we -- we -- there's a -- there's a limit to the capability we have here. But when we can help, and if we need rotary-wing aircraft to help, we'll do it. 

And we will talk about it to you. I'm not going to give you every detail of every mission that is flown, but we've done three, and they have been successful, but they have been of short duration and a short distance. So I want to make sure that I level set that because I -- and I was glad for the chance to -- to clarify that. Caitlin. 

Q: Why is that distance so small? Is it because the Taliban isn't allowing those overflights? 

MR. KIRBY: It's the -- it's really more about the focus of the mission, which is protecting the airport, and that's what the assets are -- are largely there for. Where were brought in to protect and safeguard that -- that airport. 

Q: And then also can we just get updated numbers about how many evacuees are in America now? 

MR. KIRBY: How many evacuees are in...

Q: Well, actually, like U.S. bases in America? 

MR. KIRBY: I'll get back to you on that. I don't have that data. And it changes literally every day; there are flights flying into Dulles. I'll see if we can get it for you. But it's -- it's -- OK. Anyway, I'll take the question. All right, thanks, and we'll see you tomorrow. I'm planning on two briefings again tomorrow. We'll start at 10:30, and we'll do another one in the afternoon. And we'll see you then.

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