Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby has said that up to 22,000 “at-risk” Afghans could be transported to three U.S. facilities in the coming weeks.
“Our aim at these three facilities would be over time, three to four weeks from now, be able to provide support for up to 22,000 at-risk individuals,” Kirby said during a press briefing Monday. “We will not have that capacity immediately. It will take some time to build it out.” Kirby said at present there are 2,500 U.S. forces on the ground in Kabul, with more troops on the way that will bring that number to over 3,000 in the next 24 hours.
Those troops assist in the evacuation of Americans who are still on the ground in Afghanistan, as well as the potentially 22,000 at-risk Afghans. Kirby said that there have been “several hundred people flown out” of the country so far, and estimated that the U.S. could fly as many as “5,000 or maybe even more out per day” on “literally a couple dozen or more sorties.”
“I’m being intentionally careful with the estimates because, again, it’s a fluid situation and it is going to change day by day,” Kirby said. “But our goal would be once safety and security is — can be resumed at the airport, to begin to flow from the military side, multiple sorties a day with the hope of getting thousands of people out per day.”
Kirby said that the goal is still to remove all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by August 31, though he wouldn’t speculate on whether or not the current mission may have to be extended. “The president’s made it clear that he wants this drawdown complete by the 31st. That’s what we’re driving at,” Kirby said. “Beyond that, I think we’ll just have to take it as it comes. I’m not going to speculate.”