The United States will resume flights out of Afghanistan on Monday evening after flights were suspended earlier in the day because of a security breach at Kabul’s international airport.
John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said Monday that flights had been halted due to a security breach on the civilian side of the airport.
Video on the ground at Hamid Karzai International Airport showed dozens of panicked Afghans running alongside a U.S. Air Force jet as it took off. Later, people could be seen in the distance falling from the plane after it had already taken off.
“All the images coming out are of concern and troubling,” Kirby said.
At least seven were confirmed dead amid the chaos at the airport. A preliminary report indicated that one U.S. soldier had also been injured, according to Kirby.
At a Pentagon news conference on Monday afternoon, Director for Defense Intelligence Garry Reid said the military expects to speed up the evacuations of Afghan refugees.
“We anticipate picking up the pace, provided we can stabilize conditions at Kabul,” Reid said.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price added at a separate briefing that the U.S. is “of course prioritizing American citizens” for evacuation. He said, however, that the State Department is requesting that U.S. citizens shelter in place and not travel to the Kabul airport.
The U.S. moved its embassy operations to the airport over the weekend as the Taliban descended on Kabul. The Taliban took over the country’s capital and the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday with little to no resistance after the collapse of the Afghan government.
Over the last several weeks, the terrorist group advanced across the country at a breakneck pace that appeared to stun U.S. officials. Many of the Afghanistan security forces that had been trained by the U.S. either fled or blanched in the face of the Taliban’s advances across the country.
President Joe Biden authorized a total of 7,000 troops to handle the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan as the U.S. completes its withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country, marking the end of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan.
On Monday afternoon, Biden addressed the nation on the U.S. withdrawal, which was widely criticized as botched, and defended his decision to leave.
“How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not?” Biden said from the White House. “How many more lives, American lives, is it worth, how many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?”
Biden blamed former President Donald Trump as well as the Afghan military for the chaotic departure.
“When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on US forces,” Biden said. “Shortly before he left office, he also drew US forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict.”
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