‘Any of them that want to leave, and we have to assume that’s all of them, they will be evacuated,’ says Pentagon.
WASHINGTON (AA) – The Pentagon vowed on Tuesday to evacuate Afghan troops who are facilitating ongoing efforts to pull out Americans and vulnerable Afghans at Kabul’s international airport ahead of the withdrawal of US forces.
Agency spokesman John Kirby said the US will pull out any of the 500 – 600 Afghan troops at Hamid Karzai International Airport who want to leave.
“Any of them that want to leave, and we have to assume that’s all of them, they will be evacuated,” he told reporters.
The US set a self-imposed deadline of Aug. 31 to complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Taliban, the country’s de facto authorities, have warned against any extension beyond the date.
US President Joe Biden left the door open to unilaterally extending the deadline amid ongoing evacuation efforts. The matter is expected to be addressed among allies during a virtual G7 leaders meeting in which UK Premier Boris Johnson is expected to push for keeping forces in the country beyond August.
In the past 24 hours, 12,700 people have been ferried out of Afghanistan on 37 military aircraft, according to the Pentagon. An additional 8,900 departed on coalition and partner aircraft.
Kirby further acknowledged squalid conditions at al-Udied Airbase in Qatar, which is being used as a primary processing center for Afghan refugees, saying the Pentagon is acting to improve the situation.
“We recognize that things were, and in many ways still are not at the level of sanitation and good hygiene that we want,” he said. “Nobody here wants anyone to be less than safe, secure, comfortable and well cared for as they go through this process. We take it very seriously. But we’ll be the first to admit that conditions at al-Udeid could have been better. They are improving now.”
The Axios news website earlier Tuesday reported on an email from a Pentagon official warning, “Where the Afghans are housed is a living hell.”
“Trash, urine, fecal matter, spilled liquids and vomit cover the floors,” Central Command supervisory special agent Colin Sullivan wrote in the leaked email. “These human beings are in a living nightmare.”