16,000 evacuated from Kabul airport in past 24 hours: Pentagon
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Around 16,000 people were evacuated over the past 24 hours from Afghanistan through the Kabul airport, the Pentagon said Monday, as the US speeds toward completing its airlift by an August 31 deadline.
General Hank Taylor told reporters that 61 military, commercial and charter flights involving a number of countries flew out from Hamid Karzai International Airport in the 24 hours to 3:00 am Monday (0700 GMT) carrying people escaping the country after the Taliban seized power.
Of the total evacuated that day, 11,000 were taken out by the US military airlift operations, Taylor said.
Taylor said the number of people relocated from Afghanistan since July on US flights hit 42,000, with 37,000 of those since the intense airlift operations started on August 14 as the Taliban moved to take Kabul.
That includes "several thousand" US citizens, and thousands of Afghans who worked for US forces, who had applied for or received special immigrant visas, and Afghans seen as at risk to Taliban attacks for their work in non-governmental organizations, the media, and other jobs, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
Kirby said focus remains on getting US evacuation operations done by the August 31 deadline set for the US pullout from the country by President Joe Biden.
That would require withdrawing the 5,800 US troops who have essentially run airport operations and maintained security since August 14, as well as large amounts of equipment brought in to support their mission.
German, British and French officials said Monday that evacuations on their part could continue after August 31, and said they want the US force to stay in place to help the international airlift.
On Tuesday leaders of the G7 group of wealthy nations will meet virtually on Afghanistan.
"Whether or not the US can be persuaded to stay is a matter for the prime minister (Boris Johnson) tomorrow in the G7 meeting," British armed forces minister James Heappey told Sky News.
Britain currently chairs the G7, also comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
Kirby did not categorically rule out Washington extending the deadline, although the Taliban have said they will hold the US to it.
For the United States, Kirby said, "The goal is to get as many people out as fast as possible."
"The focus is on trying to do this as best we can, by the end of the month," he said.