Speed Reads

Kabul Airlift

Biden says U.S. has expanded 'safe zone' and 'increased rational access' to Kabul airport

President Biden said Sunday that 11,000 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan through Kabul's international airport since Saturday morning, for a total of 28,000 people evacuated since Aug. 14, one day before the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital. "We see no reason why this tempo will not be kept up," though there's still "a long way to go" and "a lot could still go wrong," Biden said, adding, "Any American who wants to get home, will get home." 

U.S. troops and civilians at the airport "face the risk of attack" from Afghanistan's Islamic State faction, ISIS-K, "even though we're moving back the perimeter significantly," Biden said. "We're working hard and as fast as we can to get people out. That's our mission. That's our goal." The U.S. has expanded a "safe zone" at the airport, he said, adding that he won't "talk about the tactical changes we're making to make sure we maintain as much security as we can."

"We have constantly, how can I say it, increased rational access to the airport, where more folk can get there more safely," Biden said. He added that the Taliban has "been cooperative in extending some of the perimeter," and the White House said later the Taliban has set up additional entry points outside the permitter to prevent attacks by ISIS-K, a shared enemy.

The Biden administration estimated Sunday that "several thousand" Americans remain in Afghanistan, and the State Department on Saturday warned U.S. citizens to travel to the airport only when contacted with instructions. Among other methods, Qatar's ambassador in Kabul has been escorting small groups of Americans to the airport to ensure safe passage, The Washington Post reports, and U.S. military helicopters evacuated 169 Americans from the roof of a hotel near the airport on Thursday, the Pentagon said Friday night. The State Department pulled most U.S. Embassy workers from Kabul back in April, and it urged all U.S. citizens on Aug. 7 to leave Afghanistan immediately. 

Most of the 10,000 or so people crammed inside the Kabul airport are Afghans. Outside the airport, seven Afghans were killed Saturday in the crush to get past Taliban checkpoints, the British military says. U.S. citizens and Afghans with special immigrant visas were still being let into the airport on Sunday, a senior U.S. official tells the Post.