American troops fired shots at Kabul’s airport in a bid to control crowds trying to enter the facility, the U.S. Department of Defense said Wednesday.
The shots were largely fired around gates being guarded by U.S. troops as evacuation flights take off and a mix of Americans and Afghans are processed into the facility, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington.
“I can’t account for every bullet, but at least some of these were fired by U.S. personnel on the airport side of the perimeter as crowd control measures, as non-lethal warnings if you will. No shots were fired by American troops at Afghans or anybody else,” Kirby said.
“None of these shots that we’re aware of have anything to do with hostile intent or hostile activity. Simply used as crowd control. It’s our troops doing what they’re trained to do, which is try to hold security at the airport and a semblance of order and we have no indications that there were any casualties or injuries as a result of these shots being fired.”
Kirby declined to specify whether troops fired real bullets in their attempt to control the crowds.
A Taliban official told Reuters that the terrorist group was also firing shots in the air on Wednesday to try to control crowds outside the airport.
U.S. troops, supported by Afghan military personnel, are holding the airport as flights to countries around the world depart. Foreigners are rushing to leave Afghanistan because of the recent takeover, while thousands of Afghans try to obtain special visas that will get them on the departing planes.
U.S. officials have warned the Taliban not to interfere with the evacuations, and the Taliban has promised it will not.
The United States is in touch with the terrorist group, officials say, with Navy Rear Adm. Peter Vasely communicating directly with Taliban commanders.
U.S. troops have struggled to keep peace at the airport, with Afghans running alongside and climbing onto various planes. The runway was cleared on Monday and the number of flights has been increasing since.
Approximately 4,500 U.S. troops are now at the airport, Kirby said, with several hundred more expected to arrive over the next day.
Eighteen military flights carrying 2,000 passengers, including 325 American citizens, have left the airport in the last 24 hours, Kirby added. The rest of the number was Afghans and Europeans.
The White House said Tuesday that about 11,000 Americans remained in the Taliban-held country. The United States has urged Americans to get to the airport, but has been unable to guarantee their safety if they attempt to travel there.
“By and large, what we have found is that people have been able to get to the airport. In fact, very large numbers of people have been able to get to the airport and present themselves,” U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday. “There have been instances where we have received reports of people being turned away or pushed back or even beaten. We are taking that up in a channel with the Taliban to try to resolve those issues. And we are concerned about whether that will continue to unfold in the coming days.”