Afghanistan Airlift Ops Have Rescued 101,300 From Kabul
But numbers out each day are dropping as Taliban tighten grip on airport, security threats rise.
U.S. military and chartered aircraft have evacuated 101,300 people from Kabul, and almost 96,000 of those were airlifted out in just the last 12 days.
However, the number of U.S. military aircraft taking off had dropped significantly as of Thursday: 17 Wednesday compared to 42 the day before. The number of people getting off the ground is also falling each day: 13,400 on Wednesday compared to 19,600 the day before.
On Wednesday, the Taliban directed that no more Afghans could leave the country, and a security scare that night at Hamid Karzai International Airport led the State Department to send a security alert that “U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.”
The sheer number getting rescued has created a secondary challenge: At staging bases throughout the Middle East, such as Al Udeid in Qatar, thousands of evacuees must wait in three-digit temperatures to be processed.
The military is planning to be completely gone from Kabul airport as of Aug. 31. To get all the weapons, helicopters, vehicles, and approximately 5,000 U.S. troops out safely by that date, the last few days of the operation will have to focus on retrograde, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Wednesday.
As military aircraft flights have decreased, a massive charter operation operated by allied partners and private firms has grown. A total of 74 chartered or coalition aircraft took off from the airfield Thursday.
The airlift may have become the largest and fastest in U.S. military history, depending on how the total numbers carried on coalition aircraft are counted. The largest military airlift operation on record is the evacuation of Saigon. The U.S. airlifted 50,490 evacuees to safety and airlifted 31,000 Vietnamese who escaped by boat to the Philippines. U.S. aircraft took those refugees to Guam, according to Air Force historical records.