President Joe Biden’s top national security officials said Monday the administration was confident it could continue evacuation flights out of Afghanistan, carrying Americans and Afghans to safety amid the collapse of the government in Kabul.
But the officials conceded the international airport in the Afghan capital was not yet secure and acknowledged additional U.S. forces would be deployed to facilitate the evacuations amid the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
“We believe that we can effectuate an ongoing evacuation of American citizens, of Afghans who worked for us — including interpreters and translators — and other vulnerable Afghans at risk,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview.
“We are working to do that — first, by securing the airport today. And then, in the days ahead, by taking people out one flight at a time, flight after flight,” Sullivan said. “We fully intend to continue an evacuation process to bring out people who worked alongside of us in Afghanistan.”
Sullivans’ remarks came as the United States awoke Monday morning to images and videos showing a chaotic scene at Hamid Karzai International Airport, where Afghans rushed the airfield and some sought to cling onto departing U.S. military aircraft. The Wall Street Journal reported that at least three people were killed by gunfire at the airport.
Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in an interview Monday that “the main line of effort today” by administration officials would be “to get the airport back up and running.”
“We’re going to be spending our time today focused intensively on exactly that question,” Finer said, adding that “there will be additional U.S. forces flowing into Kabul international airport over the course of today and tomorrow.”
Finer also said administration officials “remain engaged in diplomatic conversations” with Taliban representatives in Qatar, and that the United States has conveyed “that they need to enable and allow … the airport to function, people to get access to the airport, and our flights to evacuate Afghans and Americans and others who are vulnerable to proceed.”
“So far, they have done that,” Finer said of the Taliban. “And we have been very clear to them that needs to continue.”
Both Sullivan and Finer suggested Monday that Biden would be addressing the nation on the situation in Afghanistan sometime over the next few days, with Sullivan saying Americans “can expect to hear from the president soon.”
“He is right now actively engaged with his national security team. He is working the situation hard. He is focused on ensuring that the mission — which is to secure that airport and to continue these evacuations — that that mission continues and is brought to a positive conclusion,” Sullivan said. “That is his overriding focus right now. He’s deeply engaged on it. And yes, at the right point, he will absolutely address the American people.”
Finer also said he expected “you’ll hear from the president in the coming days,” adding: “I know that he will have more to say.”
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