Afghanistan: US to prioritise Kabul evacuations until final hours of Biden's August 31 deadline, says Pentagon

A woman pulls a suitcase with a child sitting on top during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan.
A woman pulls a suitcase with a child sitting on top during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan.

More than 4,400 American citizens have been evacuated from Kabul airport so far, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

Published Last updated

The US military airlift of Americans and others from Kabul will continue until the final hours of President Joe Biden’s August 31 deadline for ending the frantic evacuation from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Pentagon officials said.

John Kirby, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said more than 4,400 American citizens have been evacuated thus far, an increase of about 400 from Tuesday.

More than 80,000 people, mostly Afghans, have been airlifted since August 14, he said.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken was to elaborate later on details of the evacuation of Americans.

The State Department has not publicly said how many Americans it believes are still hoping to leave.

Evacuees wait to board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Evacuees wait to board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Mr Kirby said the US military will preserve as much military airlift capacity at Kabul airport as possible in the coming days.

The military will “continue to evacuate needed populations all the way to the end”, he said.

Mr Kirby added that in the final days and hours there will have to be a balance in getting out evacuees as well as US troops and their equipment.

The number of US troops at the airport has dropped by about 400, he said, to 5,400, but the final withdrawal has not yet begun.

Mr Kirby said that in coming days, defence secretary Lloyd Austin will consult directly with General Frank McKenzie, the head of Central Command and overseer of the evacuation operation, before Gen McKenzie moves ahead with the final withdrawal.

Mr Biden said on Tuesday that although he is sticking with his self-imposed August 31 deadline for ending the evacuation, he has asked Mr Austin and Mr Blinken to provide him with contingency plans in the event that timeline needs to be adjusted.