According to a report from The Associated Press, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, met face-to-face with Taliban leaders in Qatar on Sunday to warn the group against attacks on US troops and personnel as they evacuate from Afghanistan.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed the meeting with reporters on Monday, although he did not offer any details. The AP report said McKenzie warned the Taliban that the US would respond forcefully to any attacks on troops that are working to evacuate civilian personnel and Afghan’s seeking refuge from Afghanistan.
Kirby said that there are about 2,500 US troops currently at the Kabul airport, and another 500 were due to arrive by Tuesday. He said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin authorized the deployment of a third infantry battalion to Afghanistan on Monday, and in a few days, there should be “roughly 6,000” US troops in the country.
The US has taken over the Kabul airport and suspended commercial flights, causing confusion for Afghans who wanted to flee on commercial airplanes. Videos of chaotic scenes at the Kabul airport emerged on Monday. According to Afghanistan’s TOLO News, at least 10 people have died in the chaos. A Pentagon official told CNN that US troops shot and killed two people who the official claimed were armed, but at this point, nothing is confirmed. At least two more people died falling from a US military airplane in flight after takeoff.
President Biden delivered a speech on Monday defending his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. He said once the evacuation mission is over, the US will conclude its “military withdrawal.” The Taliban’s best interest is to let the US leave without incident, so they will most likely not attack while the evacuation is underway.