Army speeds up Kabul evacuations, but bottlenecks persist

WASHINGTON – As the August 31 deadline for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches, the Pentagon has sharply increased the speed of ...


WASHINGTON – As the August 31 deadline for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches, the Pentagon has sharply increased the speed of Kabul airport evacuations, flying 21,600 people in 24 hours, said Tuesday officials from the Department of Defense. But bottlenecks in the system, and President Biden’s insistence that all troops leave the country by the end of the month, may prevent the military from keeping up with that pace.

The race against time means that the 5,800 Marines and soldiers at Hamid Karzai International Airport must try to evacuate thousands of other Americans and Afghan allies, then withdraw, somehow wiping out the rubbish of 20 years of war in Afghanistan in the next seven days.

This process began on Tuesday, when John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said that several hundred headquarters, maintenance and other support troops who were not essential to the escalation of the evacuation operation had left the country.

Defense officials have been reluctant to say publicly, however, what seems increasingly clear: Some people will be left behind.

Since August 14, when Kabul fell to the Taliban, more than 70,700 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan on Tuesday evening, Biden said.

That’s well below the number of American citizens, foreign nationals and Afghan allies trying to get out. “We’re trying to get as much of it out as possible,” said John F. Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson. He said US troops at Kabul airport want to “continue this pace as aggressively as possible.”

But despite Mr. Biden’s emphasis on respect your withdrawal period, neither the Department of Homeland Security nor the Department of State have been able to increase verification and processing times to the levels necessary to meet demand.

A US official said it took up to 12 hours for immigration officers at Al Udeid Air Base outside of Doha, Qatar, to check incoming Afghans against the country’s watch list. National Counterterrorism Center. The official said screening and selection processes needed to be speeded up to prevent the evacuation pipeline from becoming clogged again at Al Udeid, the largest base receiving Afghans, as he did for several hours in the afternoon. last week.

The Taliban have warned of the “consequences” if the US military stays past the deadline. And on Tuesday, a Taliban spokesman said fighters in the group would physically prevent Afghans from getting to the airport.

The Pentagon has opened military bases in Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin and New Jersey to provide temporary housing for Afghan refugees, and will likely add more in the coming days, officials said.

Mr Kirby said US Afghan allies, who fear Taliban retaliation, are still being processed at Kabul airport, although the airport gates have been closed several times during from last week due to the influx of people.

The United States will continue to evacuate the Afghans until the last two days of its troop and equipment withdrawal, when the flights are expected to be mostly filled with troops and military equipment, as well as any Americans wishing to leave. Dozens of Afghan commandos – trained by the United States – are also at the airport and must be evacuated.

Part of the problem for the military is the scale of displacement of so many people so quickly, with so little notice. For example, the C-17 military planes, which carry 400 people per load, have one or two bathrooms on them, and the flight from Kabul to Qatar is four hours.

Once flights arrive at Al Udeid in Qatar and other intermediate bases in the Middle East and Europe, evacuees are vetted by Homeland Security and State Department officials, who determine if they are eligible to enter the United States.

The military is taking the Taliban’s red line seriously on August 31, in part because, despite harsh discussions by Taliban spokespersons, some of the group’s commanders have cooperated with the US military and allowed many people to stand by. get to the airport. In addition, the US military and the Taliban have cooperated against the threat of attacks from the Islamic State.

But after August 31, all bets are off, a senior US official said.

With so many people at Kabul airport, Doha and other bases, concerns are growing over sanitation, food and water. C-17 planes taking refugees out of Afghanistan turn around and bring in additional dumpsters, portable handwashing stations, refrigerated trucks to keep the water fresh, as well as food and water. ‘water.

In the past four days, Defense Ministry officials said, three babies have been born to evacuees. A woman gave birth on Saturday during a landing at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, air force officials said. The plane’s commander descended to a lower altitude to increase air pressure in the jet, a move that officials say saved the mother’s life because she had low blood pressure. When the plane landed, medics rushed aboard and delivered the baby – a girl – in the cargo hold. All three babies are in good condition, Mr Kirby said on Tuesday.

After receiving a classified briefing Monday night, Representative Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat who heads the House Intelligence Committee, said the August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of US troops from Kabul was unrealistic.

“I think it’s possible, but I think it’s highly unlikely,” Schiff told reporters. Using the abbreviation for special immigrant visas, he added: “Given the number of Americans yet to be evacuated, the number of SIVs, the number of other members of the Afghan press, the leaders of society. civilian, women leaders – it’s hard for me to imagine all of this can be accomplished by the end of the month.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Army speeds up Kabul evacuations, but bottlenecks persist
Army speeds up Kabul evacuations, but bottlenecks persist
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