It’s estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 US citizens are still in Afghanistan. The US Embassy in Kabul, which is being run out of the airport, released an advisory on Wednesday that said the US government “cannot ensure safe passage” to the Kabul airport.
With the current situation, the US has to rely on a deal with the Taliban to allow US citizens to travel to the airport. While there have been reports of the Taliban stopping some Afghans, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Wednesday that the Taliban’s commitment for “safe passage for American citizens has been solid.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley held a press conference on the situation Wednesday. The two leaders conceded that the US was relying on the Taliban, and Austin said he didn’t have the capabilities to send troops outside of the airport.
“I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul,” Austin said when asked if troops could extract US citizens. “And where do you take that? How far do you extend into Kabul, and how long does it take to flow those forces in to be able to do that?”
Milley said there are currently 4,500 troops at the airport. In total, the Biden administration authorized the deployment of about 6,000 soldiers, so more could be on the way. The US also has air power at the airport, including B-52 bombers, F-18 and F-16 fighter jets, and armed MQ-9 drones.
Milley said that so far, the US has airlifted about 5,000 people out of Afghanistan. An average of 20 C-17 planes loaded with people are leaving the airport every 24 hours, and the Pentagon is trying to increase that rate.
On top of the 10,000 to 15,000 Americans, President Biden estimates between 50,000 and 65,000 Afghans are looking to evacuate. There have been reports of the Taliban beating some Afghans at checkpoints who were trying to get to the airport.
In an interview Wednesday, Biden said US troops would stay in Afghanistan until every US citizen that wants to leave is out, even if it goes past his August 31st withdrawal deadline, but he didn’t appear to give the same guarantee for the Afghans seeking refuge.