National Security & Defense

U.S. Evacuation Flights Reportedly Leaving Kabul Half-Empty

A U.S. Marine checks two civilians during processing through an Evacuee Control Checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 18, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sergeant Victor Mancilla/Handout via Reuters)

U.S. Air Force evacuation flights from Afghanistan are leaving the Kabul international airport nearly half-empty, according to the Pentagon. 

The Department of Defense also announced on Thursday that some 7,000 Americans and other evacuees had been airlifted out of the airport since August 14. Major General William Taylor said Thursday that multiple gates at the airport are now open as the U.S. military looks to ramp up operations and evacuate between 5,000 to 9,000 passengers each day.

The State Department claims that 6,000 people are at the Kabul airport fully processed and waiting to board planes.

Meanwhile, there have also been reports of non-American evacuation flights leaving with numerous empty seats, according to the New York Times, raising concerns that people are struggling to confound Taliban checkpoints and make it out of the country. The U.S. has warned the Taliban not to interfere with the evacuation.

The world watched in horror this week as Kabul and much of the rest of the country fell to the Taliban nearly 20 years after they were removed from power. As thousands of people scrambled to get out of the country, reports have surfaced of Taliban fighters whipping and beating Afghans trying to enter the airport where the U.S. military is handling evacuations. Seven people died at the airport on Monday when hundreds of Afghans flooded the tarmac, desperate to flee the country and escape the Taliban.

The State Department sent notices to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan earlier this week encouraging them to “make your way” to the airport, but also warning that “THE UNITED STATES CANNOT GUARANTEE YOUR SECURITY AS YOU MAKE THIS TRIP.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Wednesday that the U.S. does not have the “capability” to bring stranded Americans to the airport.

President Biden originally stated that the U.S. military would be out of the country by August 31, but he has since committed to keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan until all American civilians are evacuated.

PHOTOS: The Fall of Afghanistan

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