Taliban promises ‘safe passage’ of civilians to airport
The Taliban has been warned they would face “overwhelming force” if they interfere with evacuation efforts, the U.S. Central Command indicated on Tuesday, following chaotic scenes of thousands of people trying to flee Afghanistan at Kabul airport after the terrorist group took control of the country on Sunday.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said he had met with senior Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday. “I cautioned them against interference in our evacuation, and made it clear to them that any attack would be met with overwhelming force in the defense of our forces,” he said in a statement.
“The protection of U.S. civilians and our partners is my highest priority and we will take all necessary action to ensure a safe and efficient withdrawal,” he added. “To that end, we are prepared to fully support U.S. Embassy efforts to process and evacuate U.S. citizens, partners, special visa applicants, and Afghans at risk.”
Americans Urged to Leave Afghanistan
U.S. officials are urging Americans to travel to the Hamid Karzai International Airport, also known as Kabul airport, to fly out of the country, a change in advice after having asked Americans to shelter in place.
Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor told a Pentagon news conference on Tuesday that more than 4,000 U.S. troops are now at the airport to help facilitate evacuations via both military and civilian flights.
More than 6,000 troops are expected to be involved in securing the airport in coming days—more than twice as many as in all of Afghanistan when Biden announced in April he would be ending the U.S. war effort and pulling out all troops.
Taylor said that overnight, seven C-17 planes took off with 700-800 civilian evacuees, including 165 Americans. The figure included Afghans who have applied for special immigrant visas and third-country nationals, he said.