Washington DC, Aug 15 (EFE).- The United States took control of air traffic at the Kabul airport on Sunday to facilitate its evacuations and those of its allies, and promised to speed up the departure of thousands of Afghans who helped their troops during the war.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told EFE that the US forces have already taken over air traffic control at the airport with the help of Afghan allies.
He added that commercial aircraft traffic from that airport continues, although it has experienced some sporadic interruptions and delays.
Shortly before, the Pentagon and the State Department had announced in a joint statement that they had expanded their security presence to nearly 6,000 troops and “will be taking over air traffic control.”
This measure is aimed at enabling “the safe departure of US and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights,” the statement said.
Kirby said the US has already evacuated several hundred civilians, including personnel (from its embassy) as well as US citizens who were in Afghanistan.
To reinforce that operation, the Pentagon on Sunday authorized the dispatch of 1,000 more troops to Kabul, which means that, within 48 hours, there would be “approximately 6,000” US troops at the airport in the Afghan capital, Kirby confirmed.
Of those, some 3,000 were already on the ground in Kabul on Sunday, he said.
The main objective of the US evacuation mission is to evacuate “thousands” of US citizens and the 4,000 employees who worked for the US embassy in Kabul, whose headquarters moved to the Kabul airport on Sunday after the Taliban siege.
The State Department and the Pentagon also promised to transfer “other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals” out of the country.”
The US government promised weeks ago that, before the end of August and with its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, it would help evacuate up to 70,000 Afghan citizens from the country, including interpreters and other workers who helped US troops during the war, along with their families.
In its statement on Sunday, the State Department promised to “accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for US Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks.”
“Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States. And we will find additional locations for those yet to be screened,” it added.
The process of obtaining the visa is complex and can take years so the US has negotiated with third countries, including Qatar and Kuwait, to try to temporarily host these refugees.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on Sunday that Washington would also help evacuate other Afghans who do not qualify for special visas, but who supported their staff and may now face threats from the Taliban.
However, the rapid fall of Kabul has complicated that evacuation operation, especially for those who have difficulty reaching the Afghan capital. EFE