WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s top two leaders said Wednesday that the accelerating military operation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul is committed to the evacuation of all Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, as well as Afghans who have aided in the war effort and have permission to leave the United States. to enter states. States.
“We intend to evacuate those who have supported us for years, and we will not leave them behind,” General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters. “And we’ll get the most out of it.”
At a Pentagon press conference, however, neither General Milley nor Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III would provide safe passage to the airport for Americans, Afghans and other foreigners now outside the airport perimeter.
“The troops we have are focused on airport security,” said Mr. Austin. He said: “I currently do not have the opportunity to go out to Kabul and expand my operations.”
The defense minister said the military would work with the Taliban to let properly papered Afghans through.
And General Milley said the State Department was in contact with the Taliban to ensure passage for passengers trying to get to the airport. There have been reports of Taliban fighters beating and harassing Afghans trying to reach the airport, despite Pentagon warnings not to hinder the evacuation.
Neither Mr Austin nor General Milley would commit to extending the evacuation mission, which has so far carried out 5,000 people since the operation began this weekend. The White House has set an August 31 deadline for ending the military’s mission in the country.
General Milley also pushed back on media reports that there had been warnings of a rapid collapse of the Afghan military.
“I’m very familiar with intelligence,” he said, “and in war nothing is ever certain. But I can tell you there are no reports that I know of predicted that a security force of 300,000 would evaporate in 11 days.”