The United States is mourning the loss of 13 service members and at least 90 Afghan civilians killed in a terrorist attack outside of the Kabul airport in Afghanistan, but military brass has pledged to continue its efforts to evacuate American citizens and allies from the country before an August 31st deadline.
“We will not be dissuaded from the task at hand,” wrote Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a statement. “To do anything less — especially now— would dishonor the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan.“
Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command and the highest-ranking military official in the Middle East, underscored the same position, saying in a videoconference, “Let me be clear: While we’re saddened by the life of loss, both U.S. and Afghan, we’ll continue to execute the mission. Our mission is to evacuate U.S. citizens, third-country nationals, Special Immigrant Visa holders, U.S. Embassy staff, and Afghans at risk.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his country would also continue its evacuation efforts. “We are able to continue with the program in the way we have been running it, according to the timetable that we have got and that is what we are going to do,” Johnson said.
As of last night, the State Department estimates that 1,500 Americans are still in Afghanistan, although they have failed to contact a thousand of them after repeated daily attempts.
Liz Sly, The Washington Post Beirut bureau chief, reports that evacuations will continue for those already inside the airport, but “no one who is not already inside will now be admitted. There are thousands who have been unable to reach the airport.”
The New York Times provides context on America’s evacuation efforts:
Over the past few days, the military and its foreign partners had been flying out around 20,000 people a day as the military operation raced to fly out as many Americans and Afghan allies as possible before the Aug. 31 deadline.
Thursday’s 13,400 new evacuations brought the total since the Taliban retook the city to 95,700 people.
During his address to the nation Thursday night, President Biden echoed the goal to continue evacuations:
“Our commanders on the ground throughout the day, they made it clear that we can and we must complete this mission and we will, and that’s what I’ve ordered them to do.”