Pentagon officials confirmed that 17,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul Airport in Afghanistan since the military withdrawal began on 14 August. With the inclusion of individuals evacuated prior to the start of the US operation in Kabul around the end of July, that number increases to 22,000.
Included among the total evacuees were 2,500 American citizens. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby noted during a press conference that the thousands of Americans still left in the country will be allowed into the Kabul airport when they arrive.
“If you're American and you're at a [Kabul airport gate], you'll be let through that gate,” Mr Kirby said.
However, the revelation that the military was still processing evacuees caused some confusion among reporters, as hours earlier the US Embassy issued an emergency alert warning Americans to avoid the airport due to threats.
“Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising US citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time,” the embassy said in a statement.
Mr Kirby would not comment directly on the nature of the “threat” that prompted the emergency alert.
General Taylor told reporters that there was “no reported change to the current enemy situation” in and around the airport when questioned about the threat.
He also said that Afghan evacuees were being taken to US bases in Qatar, Germany and the US.
According to General Taylor, a group of Afghan refugees were brought to Dulles International Airport in Washington DC, after which they were taken to be processed at Fort Bliss in Texas.
Though thousands have escaped Afghanistan, many more are still desperately trying to secure a means of evacuation.
On Saturday, all gates at the Kabul airport were closed due to a backup of incoming refugees at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, according to Department of Defense officials.
The US military currently has about 5,800 troops still on the ground at the airport.
When Mr Kirby was asked about reports that Taliban members had been whipping Americans with canes and other implements, he confirmed that there had been reported incidents of violence, but no deaths.
Taliban leadership has pledged not to attack Americans so long as US forces pull out of the country by the end of September, though it remains to be seen if the group will hold true to that promise.
Mr Kirby maintained that the US troop’s only mission is to hold the airport and facilitate civilian evacuations.
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