Military flights have evacuated 3,200 U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and their families from Afghanistan as of Aug. 17, according to a White House official.
On Tuesday alone, 13 flights carried 1,100 people out of the capital city of Kabul, the official said, adding that the pace of the evacuation was expected to pick up on Wednesday and throughout the week.
“We have evacuated more than 3,200 people so far, including our personnel. In addition to these more than 3,200 total evacuated, we have relocated nearly 2,000 Afghan special immigrants to the United States,” the official said.
The Taliban have agreed to allow “safe passage” from Afghanistan for civilians struggling to join a U.S.-directed airlift from the capital, according to President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. A timetable for completing the evacuation of Americans, Afghan allies, and others has yet to be worked out with the country’s new rulers, Sullivan said.
Sullivan acknowledged reports that some civilians were encountering resistance from the Taliban as they attempted to reach the airport, but noted that “very large numbers” were still getting through. The problems others encountered were taken up with the Taliban, Sullivan added.
The Taliban executed a rapid takeover of Afghanistan, triggering a rush to escape from the country by American citizens, residents, and Afghans who worked with the United States.
A total of more than 6,000 troops were expected to be involved in protecting the airport in Kabul in the next several days. Additional troops arrived on Tuesday.
The State Department said it was sending John Bass, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, to manage the evacuation operation in Kabul. The Pentagon is sending Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Donohue, a special operations officer and current commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, to take command of airport security operations.
U.S. officers were speaking with Taliban commanders “multiple times a day” about avoiding conflict at the airport, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
About 11,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan, the White House said Tuesday.
“There are individuals who will self-identify as American citizens. That number is around 11,000 around the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington.
Earlier Tuesday, a Pentagon official pegged the number lower.
“We think there are certainly thousands of Americans. We don’t have an exact count. I would say somewhere, best guess, between five and 10,000 that are near Kabul,” John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said on CNN’s “New Day.”
U.S. officials are urging Americans to travel to the Hamid Karzai International Airport, if they’re not there already, to fly out of the country.
Zachary Stieber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.