Top General: Armed F-18 Planes on Standby Amid Kabul Airport Chaos

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The U.S. military has placed armed F-18 jets on standby amid the evacuation chaos at the Kabul airport, a U.S. general said on Aug. 19.

The jets are on standby if the need for air support arises and to ensure the safety of U.S. troops and operations, Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor said in a comment to reporters.

Several thousand American military troops were deployed to the airport, as numerous Americans, Afghans, and others try to evacuate the country after the Taliban took over Kabul over the past weekend. The deployment of F-18s is the latest development in an increasingly tense and chaotic situation, as the Taliban extremist group appears to be tightening its grip after video footage and reports show the group stopping people from getting to the airport.

“The ability to provide close air support is something that needs to be immediate if a condition on the ground ever required that,” Taylor said.

When asked about whether the planes would carry out airstrikes, neither he nor Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, who was standing nearby, provided an answer.

“We are going to have at our disposal the resources to carry out our mission safely. … It’s the prudent and responsible thing to do,” Kirby said.

Overnight, about a dozen C-17 cargo planes removed about 2,000 people, according to the officials, who said that about 7,000 people have been removed from Afghanistan so far. Kirby and other officials said that the deadline for evacuation is Aug. 31, although President Joe Biden told ABC News that the U.S. mission in Kabul will continue past that deadline.

Officials previously said they would lift between 5,000 and 9,000 people out of the country each day. It isn’t clear how many Americans remain in Afghanistan, according to Kirby and Taylor, although Biden confirmed to ABC News that between 10,000 and 15,000 remain.

“The U.S. military footprint in Kabul is we have 5,200 troops on the ground. Kabul Airport remains secure and open,” Taylor said. “There are multiple gates that are now open and have entry, which will help expedite processing.”

By Jack Phillips

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