The Pentagon said Tuesday that the US is stepping up its airlift efforts at the Kabul airport and expects to be able to evacuate between 5,000 and 9,000 people from Afghanistan each day.
Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, a logistics officer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that seven C-17 transport planes departed overnight with between 700 and 800 passengers, including 165 US citizens. Taylor said the escalation in airlifts means an aircraft could leave the Kabul airport loaded with passengers every hour.
Nine C-17s also arrived at the airport overnight, bringing an additional 1,000 US troops. So far, there are about 4,000 US troops at the Kabul airport. The Pentagon has authorized the deployment of roughly 6,000 in total.
The flights resumed early Tuesday after a chaotic day on Monday left at least 10 people dead, according to Afghanistan’s TOLO News. Two people who the US claims were armed were reportedly shot and killed by US troops, and others fell to their deaths attempting to hold on to a C-17 as it took off. A body was found in the wheel well of one C-17 that was swarmed at the airport. The remains were discovered after the plane landed in Qatar.
While there are more US troops in Afghanistan now than at any other time during the Biden administration, it doesn’t appear that there will be an escalation against the Taliban. President Biden delivered a speech defending his decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan on Monday and said once the evacuation was complete, the US would conclude its “military withdrawal” and end the war.
The Taliban has an interest in allowing the evacuation to continue without more violence. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the Taliban have committed to allowing “safe passage” for any civilians looking to flee Afghanistan.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said US military leaders on the ground in Kabul have had discussions with the Taliban. “Our commanders at the airport are in communication with Taliban commanders on the ground outside the airport, there have been discussions …. and I would just let the results speak for themselves,” he said.