US fighter jets have been engaged in overwatch in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to ensure secure evacuation operation, the Pentagon said.
At a news briefing held on 19 August, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that there have been no security incidents between the US troops inside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul and the Taliban to impede the evacuation process.
More than 2,000 people were evacuated from the country ‘over the past 24 hours’, the Pentagon officials said.
The Joint Staff’s deputy director for regional operations Army Major General William D ‘Hank’ Taylor said that the footprint of the US armed forces at the airport has expanded to 5,200 troops, and more gates for entry have been opened.
The US Department of Defense officials also stated that US President Joe Biden had vowed to get US citizens, Afghans who are under the special immigrant visa programme and those designated as ‘special risk’, and third-country allies out of Afghanistan.
President Biden had ‘left the door open to extending the mission’ past the deadline date of 31 August.
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Kirdy added: “If he believes that there’s a need to alter the timeline … he would revisit that at the appropriate time.
“It’s prudent force protection measures in the air, to make sure that we can protect our people and our operations against any threat.”
Since the non-combatant evacuation operations began on 14 August, the US military has airlifted about 7,000 evacuees.
The total number of people who have been evacuated since July has reached 12,000.
F-18s from the Reagan Carrier Strike Group have been deployed for conducting the overwatch.
Taylor noted: “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.”