WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The U.S. military says it evacuated about 3,000 people from the Kabul airport in Afghanistan Thursday, 350 of them American citizens, but that’s well short of the goal of between 5,000 and 9,000 people daily.
The process is being hindered by Taliban militants, who continue to make it difficult for people to get to the airport. Barriers have prompted chaos and panic among Afghans desperate to escape.
More than 5,000 U.S. troopers are on the ground at the airport to facilitate the evacuations and the Department of State has sent more teams to speed up visa processing.
“We are going to do as much as we can for as long as we can,” State Department spokesman Ned Price promised Thursday.
While the U.S. and G7 allies have urged the Taliban to allow safe passage to the airport, the U.S. military has so far been unable to send troops out to collect evacuees.
“You will be hard-pressed to find a country that has the capacity on the ground, if any such country exists, in a position to do that,” Price said.
Department of Defense officials said the Taliban has not targeted U.S. troops.
“Any attack on our people or our operations at the airport will be met with a forceful response,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said.
At the current rate, it would be difficult to evacuate all of the Americans and qualifying Afghans by the withdrawal goal of Aug. 31. President Joe Biden has said troops will stay on the ground until every American seeking to leave it out of Afghanistan. On Thursday, Pentagon officials added the Aug. 31 deadline stands and that changes would require further discussions with the Taliban.