US Forces Go Beyond Kabul Airport to Save Citizens

With clock ticking, evacuation has been stepped up
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2021 6:30 PM CDT
US Forces Rescue Citizens Beyond Kabul Airport
In this image provided by the US Marine Corps, families begin to board a US Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021.   (Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/U.S. Marine Corps via AP)

US forces in Afghanistan are going beyond Kabul's airport to rescue stranded American citizens and allies, the Pentagon confirmed Monday. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said troops and helicopters have extracted around 350 Americans from the city and there could be similar missions in cases where people are "in extremis," the New York Times reports. Kirby said negotiations between US and Taliban commanders are ongoing. Officials say that in an operation Monday morning, a US helicopter brought 16 American citizens to the Kabul airfield, the AP reports. Kirby said that in another rescue last Thursday, Army helicopters picked up 169 Americans from near a hotel outside the airport gates.

Kirby said "constant coordination and deconfliction with the Taliban" has allowed the US to step up the evacuation process. Officials said Monday that 28 US military flights brought another 10,400 people to safety in the 24 hours that ended Monday morning. Army Gen. Stephen Lyons told reporters at the Pentagon air crews are becoming "exhausted" from the nonstop evacuation missions. He also said three babies have been born during evacuation flights.

It's not clear how long the evacuation flights will continue, the Guardian reports. President Biden said Sunday that he hasn't ruled out extending the Aug. 31 deadline for troop withdrawal, but a Taliban spokesman described that date Monday as a "red line." Ben Wallace, the UK's defense secretary, said the British evacuation effort could now be down to "hours, not weeks." Reuters reports that Boris Johnson and other G7 leaders are expected to pressure Biden to extend the deadline when he hosts a virtual meeting Tuesday. (More Afghanistan stories.)

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