WASHINGTON (AP) – The US 20-year war in Afghanistan entered its final hours on Monday with the last Americans seeking evacuation and the US military preparing to end its airlift and leave the US-controlled capital. Taliban.
“Obviously, we are coming to the end of our prescribed mission,” Major General Hank Taylor of the Pentagon Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters, adding that details of the latest evacuation moves were being kept under wraps. security reasons.
Speaking at the same press conference, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said it was not too late for the remaining Americans to fly to Kabul airport for flights from evacuation.
“There is still time,” Kirby said.
Later, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said “a small number” of Americans still want to leave the country. She did not provide an exact number but said around 6,000 had been evacuated by various means so far. She said some of the remaining Americans had not fully decided to leave.
The Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for targeting Kabul airport with rockets. The US military has not reported any US casualties.
The goal of the American evacuation was increasingly to get the last Americans out. Senior administration officials said on Sunday that the United States had the capacity to evacuate the approximately 300 U.S. citizens remaining in Afghanistan and wishing to leave before Tuesday’s deadline set by President Joe Biden.
“This is the most dangerous period of an already extremely dangerous mission in recent days,” said top US diplomat Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The steady stream of US military planes taking off and landing at Hamid Karzai International Airport in the Afghan capital continued on Monday even after rocket fire targeted the airport and rockets hit a nearby neighborhood. US Central Command spokesman Bill Urban said five rockets were targeting the airport and a US defensive system on the airfield known as the Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar System, or C-RAM, had been used against them. He said there had been no American casualties and that the airfield continued to operate. More details were not immediately available. The White House said Biden had been briefed on the rocket attack.
Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that for American citizens seeking to leave Afghanistan immediately before the looming deadline, “we have the capacity to have 300 Americans, which is roughly the number that we think is left, come to the airport and catch the plane in the time that is left.
The White House said Monday morning that around 1,200 people had been evacuated from Kabul in the past 24 hours aboard 26 US military flights and two Allied flights.
Sullivan said the United States does not currently plan to have a permanent embassy presence after the final withdrawal of American troops. But he pledged that the United States “will make sure there is safe passage for any American citizen, any lawful permanent resident,” after Tuesday, as well as “those Afghans who helped us.” But countless numbers of vulnerable Afghans, fearing a return to the brutality of the pre-2001 Taliban regime, are likely to be left behind.
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