Army Major General William Taylor, with the US military’s Joint Staff, told a Pentagon briefing that 5,800 US troops remain at the airport and that the facility “remains secure”. Taylor said some gates into the airport were temporarily closed and reopened over the past day to facilitate a safe influx of evacuees.
A Taliban official, speaking to Reuters on Saturday, said security risks could not be ruled out but that the group was “aiming to improve the situation and provide a smooth exit” for people trying to leave over the weekend.
Taylor said the United States in the past week has evacuated 17,000 people, including 2,500 Americans, from Kabul. He said in the past day 3,800 people were evacuated on US military and chartered flights.
President Joe Biden will provide an update on Sunday on the evacuation of American citizens and refugees from Afghanistan, the White House said.
The president is to speak at 8pm GMT (Monday, 4am, Singapore time), after meeting with his national security team to hear intelligence, security and diplomatic updates on the evolving situation in Afghanistan, the White House said.
Taliban leaders are trying to hammer out a new government after their forces swept across the country as US-led forces pulled out after two decades, with the Western-backed government and military crumbling.
Biden has come in for severe criticism over the situation in Afghanistan, including from former president Donald Trump, who called it “the greatest foreign policy humiliation” in US history, even though Trump’s administration had negotiated the withdrawal that triggered the collapse.
“Biden’s botched exit from Afghanistan is the most astonishing display of gross incompetence by a nation’s leader, perhaps at any time,” Trump told a boisterous rally in Alabama.
In Qatar, which is hosting thousands of evacuees until they can enter a third country, Afghans who fled described in interviews with Reuters despair at leaving behind loved ones while facing their own uncertain future.
A law student spoke of looting by the Taliban as they took control of Kabul, with armed militants intimidating people going to the airport. He left behind his wife, whom he married in a video call before evacuating.
“Our minds are back home because our families remain,” he said on condition of anonymity due to concerns for relatives left behind.
Source: Channel News Asia