(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government’s collapsed and the Taliban seized control, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.
As the crisis intensifies, images from Kabul Thursday show Taliban fighters forcefully patrolling streets where Afghan men and women were protesting. Meanwhile, Pentagon officials said their focus remains on maintaining the airport perimeter and increasing the number evacuees out of Kabul.
President Joe Biden returned to Washington from Camp David on Wednesday and sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Pentagon said that 6,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to the country’s capital as the military races to evacuate people. Despite criticism, the Biden administration is sticking by its decision to withdraw troops from the country, though Biden told Stephanopoulos troops might stay beyond the original Aug. 31 date if it takes longer to get all Americans out of the country.
Here are some key developments. All times Eastern:
Aug 20, 1:25 am
US evacuated about 3,000 people from Kabul on Thursday
The U.S. evacuated approximately 3,000 people from the airport in Kabul on Thursday as thousands clamor to get out of the country in the wake of the Taliban taking over the government.
The White House confirmed the latest number of evacuees early Friday, among them nearly 350 U.S. citizens. The others on the 12 C-17 flights were family members of U.S. citizens, special immigration visa applicants and their families and vulnerable Afghans, a White House official said.
The official said 9,000 people have been evacuated since Aug. 14 and 14,000 since the end of July.
Not included in those totals were 11 charter flights facilitated by the U.S. military, the official said.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to discuss the evacuations from Afghanistan in an address Friday afternoon.
Aug 19, 8:13 pm
Consular surge will only be as high as 40 people total: Sources
The State Department announced earlier this week that it is “surging” staff to the international airport in Kabul to assist with the massive efforts to evacuate as many as 15,000 U.S. citizens and tens of thousands of Afghans who helped the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
But the total number of consular officials who will help process people will only be as high as 40 people in total, according to two sources familiar with the plans — raising questions about whether that is enough staff to process the tens of thousands left to evacuate.
The State Department declined to confirm how many consular officials would be based at Kabul airport, but referred questions to spokesperson Ned Price’s comments earlier on Thursday.
“We’re always going to be evaluating what we could be doing differently, what we could be doing more effectively. If it turns out that we need additional consular capacity in Kabul, we won’t hesitate to do that, but right now we are confident that … with the additional reinforcements, we’ll have what we need,” he told reporters.
In comparison, there are more than 5,200 U.S. troops on the ground, securing the airport and evacuating Americans and Afghans on military cargo aircraft. The military is able to airlift between 5,000 and 9,000 people per day, Gen. Hank Taylor told reporters Thursday, but they have not had that many evacuees ready to go.
Crowds are unable to access the airport, blocked by massive congestion and Taliban fighters beating back crowds. U.S. forces have also deployed tear gas and fired into the air to disperse crowds. Over the last 24 hours, Taylor said, only 2,000 passengers were taken out.
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