Scenes of chaos have emerged this week from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where thousands of people have been attempting to flee Afghanistan following the recent Taliban takeover and the collapse of the government. U.S. officials say they are racing to evacuate as many people from the country as possible before the end of the month, when American troops are scheduled to withdraw after two decades of occupation.
President Biden said Friday that 13,000 people, including Americans and Afghans who have applied for so-called special immigrant visas or SIVs, have been evacuated from Kabul since Aug. 14, and approximately 18,000 total have been removed from the country since late July.
The Biden administration has reportedly estimated that the number of Americans in Afghanistan is between 10,000 and 15,000. There are also more than 80,000 Afghans who are believed to be seeking to evacuate, including more than 20,000 translators and others who worked with the U.S. military and have applied for Special Immigrant Visas.
After hastening the removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this month, the Biden administration was forced to ramp up the U.S. military presence in Kabul over the last few days in an effort to expedite the evacuation process before the final pullout.
As of Friday, Taylor said there were now 5,800 total troops on the ground with the capacity evacuate between 5,000 and 9,000 people out of Kabul per day. The exact number, however, depends on how many eligible people are able to make it onto the airfield, he said.
The U.S. evacuation efforts are reliant on cooperation from the Taliban, who, officials have said, are facilitating safe passage to the airport for American citizens. However, there have been many reports that Afghan citizens seeking to evacuate have encountered harassment and violence from Taliban forces.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued an alert Wednesday to people in the Afghan capital, saying it “cannot ensure safe passage” to the airport.
President Biden has promised not to leave any American citizens behind in Afghanistan, and said Wednesday that could mean keeping troops in the country past his self-imposed deadline of Aug. 31. It remains unclear how many vulnerable Afghans, including thousands of translators and others who worked for the U.S. government, will make it to safety before U.S. troops pull out of the country for good.