Taliban ‘will have to manage’ airport’s operations ‘on their own, and I assume with the international community,’ says US.
WASHINGTON (AA) – The running of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport will no longer be the US’ responsibility after the complete withdrawal of American forces, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Spokesman John Kirby said the Taliban “will have to manage” the airport’s operations “on their own, and I assume with the international community,” adding “that won’t be an American responsibility.”
“When we are gone the airport will no longer be secured by American forces. What that security looks like when we’re gone, I can’t speak to that,” he added.
Kirby said Turkish troops remain on the ground at the airport “assisting in this security mission that we have there,” but said he would not “speak for their intentions one way or another going forward.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week that Turkey is evaluating the new situation on the ground in Afghanistan before making any decision on its future role at the Kabul airport.
He said it is too early to discuss whether Turkey has canceled its plans to continue to protect and operate the airport following the US exit.
The US has been in control of the airport since Aug. 14 when the Taliban’s lightning offensive saw the group make rapid advances against former government forces that put them at the gates of the Afghan capital.
To date, 88,000 people have been flown out of Afghanistan on US military flights, including more than 4,400 Americans, according to the Pentagon.
Gen. William Taylor, a senior official with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said 24 military planes departed the Kabul airport in the past 24 hours, ferrying out some 11,200 people.
Kirby further acknowledged the departure of about 400 American troops from the airport compound ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline for the full withdrawal of American forces, saying the commander on the ground, Adm. Peter Vasely, “determined that it was the prudent thing to do to let several hundred troops leave the airport.”
Roughly 5,400 troops remain from a high of about 5,800.
The Pentagon acknowledged carrying out one helicopter rescue mission in Kabul beyond the airport perimeter on Tuesday with Kirby saying less than 20 people were flown to the airport where they are now preparing to be evacuated.