A United States Central Command (Centcom) spokesman on Saturday assured the military was taking “all necessary actions” to secure Americans’ safe movement to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, amid reports of Americans being beaten and unable to travel to the airport to evacuate from Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover last weekend.
“Officials at [Hamid Karzai International Airport] are in contact with a number of U.S. citizens in Kabul, and the Taliban, to coordinate the safe movement of every U.S. citizen who wants to depart to HKIA,” said Navy Capt. Bill Urban in an email to Breitbart News.
“I am not going to be able to confirm any specific locations or what efforts may be underway to secure their safe transit. Rest assured we are taking all necessary actions to secure their safe movement to HKIA and the ultimate evacuation of any American citizen who wants to depart Afghanistan,” he said.
However, earlier in the day, the State Department warned Americans in Afghanistan not to come to the airport due to “potential security threats.” The alert said:
Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.
And there are reports the Taliban is seizing Americans’ passports and beating and harassing Americans trying to make their way to the airport.
The State and Defense Departments have said they are working with the Taliban to allow Americans through to the airport but concede that there are instances where Americans have not been able to.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Saturday at a press conference that it appeared that “not every Taliban fighter either got the word or decided to obey the word.”
“I can’t speak to Taliban command and control. But by and large, and for the most part, Americans with their credentials are being given the passage they need through the checkpoints and are getting onto the field – again, security conditions permitting,” he said.
The Pentagon has come under increasing pressure to help escort the estimated 11,000 Americans stranded around Afghanistan to get to the airport, where the U.S.-military controlled evacuations of Americans and Afghans are being staged from.
On Friday, the Pentagon said the U.S. military rescued 169 Americans by helicopter from a hotel 200 meters — or about a tenth of a mile — away from the airport. The Americans were rescued after another country told U.S. commanders that American citizens had gathered at the Baron Hotel near the airport, according to the Associated Press.
Kirby said Saturday it was the only instance he was aware of where U.S. helicopters left the field to collect American citizens, and the decision was made by the commander on the ground “on the spot.” The third country was not identified, but had established security at the hotel and informed the U.S. that the citizens were there, according to a report by CNN. Kirby said he would not confirm potential future operations going forward.
Earlier in the week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the U.S. military did not have the “capability” to collect Americans around Kabul, despite reports that British and French troops are doing so.
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