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afghanistan

Pentagon chief suggests U.S. has to rely on Taliban to ensure safe passage of evacuees

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters Wednesday that the United States does not currently "have the capability to go out and collect large numbers of people" amid the evacuation rush in Kabul. "The forces that we have are focused on security of the" Hamid Karzai International Airport, where evacuation flights are departing, he added. "We have to make sure that we can not only secure the airfield, but defend it, as well."

In other words, it's up to American citizens who are still in Kabul to make their way to the airport on their own — the U.S. embassy sent a message out earlier in the day warning they could not guarantee safe passage at this point. Instead, they're forced to rely on the Taliban to facilitate the process.

Both Austin and Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley indicated that so far the Taliban is allowing people with proper credentials to pass, and Austin said the U.S. "will continue to coordinate and de-conflict" with the group.