Washington: The ongoing evacuation of US citizens and Afghan nationals who supported Americans over the last 20 years is one of the largest and most difficult airlifts in history, US President Joe Biden said here Friday. He said the US has already evacuated more than 18,000 people since July and approximately 13,000 since its military airlift began on August 14. This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history, and the only country in the world capable of projecting this much power on the far side of the world with this degree of precision is the United States of America,” Biden told reporters at a White House news conference.
He said thousands more have been evacuated on private charter flights facilitated by the US government including American citizens and permanent residents as well as their families. It also includes Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and their families, the Afghans who have worked alongside the US, served alongside Americans, “one into combat with us, and provided invaluable assistance to the US such as translators and interpreters”, he said. The United States, he said, has secured the Kabul airport, enabling flights to resume, not just military flights, but civilian charters and from other countries and the NGOs taking out civilians and vulnerable Afghans. “We have almost 6,000 troops on the ground, including the 82nd Airborne, providing runway security, the Army 10th Mountain Division standing guard around the airport, and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit assisting civilian departure,” he said.
Biden asserted that the United States stands by its commitment that it has made to vulnerable Afghans such as women leaders and journalists. Working in close coordination with the management of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the US has successfully evacuated all 204 of their employees in Afghanistan on US military aircraft earlier this week. “We’ve established the flow of flights, and we’ve increased the number of people we’re moving out of the country. We paused flights in Kabul a few hours this morning to make sure we can process the arriving evacuees at the transit points. But our commander in Kabul has already given the order for outbound flights to resume,” he said.
Even with the pause, the US moved out 5,700 evacuees Thursday, he said, adding his administration is working to ascertain the exact number of Americans in Afghanistan. A day earlier, among the many Americans evacuated, there were 169 Americans who got over the wall into the airport using military assets, he said. “We’re also facilitating flights for our allies and our partners and working in close operational coordination with NATO on this evacuation. For example, we provided overwatch for the French convoy bringing hundreds of their people from the French Embassy to the airport. These operations are going to continue over the coming days before we complete our drawdown,” he said. “We’re going to do everything, everything that we can to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies, partners, and Afghans who might be targeted if — because of their association of the United States. But let me be clear, any American who wants to come home, we will get you home, he said.
PTI, August 20, 2021