Afghanistan updates: Nearly 8,000 evacuated in 24 hours


(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government’s collapsed and the Taliban seized control, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.

The U.S. has evacuated approximately 9,000 people since Aug. 14, according to a White House official, with 3,000 people evacuated Thursday and double that number slated to be flown out Friday. Pentagon officials have said their focus remains on maintaining the airport perimeter and increasing the number of evacuees out of Kabul.

President Joe Biden returned to Washington from Camp David on Wednesday and sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan. He addressed the nation on evacuation efforts Friday.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern: 

Aug 22, 2:56 pm
Refugees to begin arriving at Dulles Monday on commercial charters

Refugees from Afghanistan will begin arriving at Virginia’s Dulles International Airport in the Washington region Monday morning on U.S. carriers as part of the Defense Department’s Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, which compels commercial airlines to provide aircraft for the emergency airlift.

United Airlines and Delta Airlines are both expected to have arrivals in the morning.

The flights will be immediately met by U.S. Customs and Border Protection so that the passengers can be cleared aboard the plane and immediately transferred to charter buses or C-17s for transfer to other U.S. locations.

-ABC News’ Mina Kaji and Sam Sweeney

Aug 22, 2:42 pm
2 dozen partner nations facilitating transit at 3rd-country hubs

Biden received another briefing from his national security team Sunday on “the security situation in Afghanistan,” evacuations, efforts to facilitate third-country hubs for flights to land at, and current “counterterrorism operations, including ISIS-K.”

“They welcomed the update that we have evacuated over 7,800 people from Afghanistan over the previous day via U.S. military aircraft, charter flights and coalition flights, including American citizens and their families, SIV applicants and their families, and other vulnerable Afghans,” a White House official said.

The national security team also affirmed the importance of the contributions of more than two dozen partner nations in facilitating transit at third-country hubs.

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez

Aug 22, 1:39 pm
Chaos, lack of food prompts Afghan family to consider leaving Kabul airport

Having made it through the chaotic gauntlet to get inside the Karzai International Airport in Kabul, one Afghan family told ABC News that they are now considering leaving after spending three nights sleeping on the ground and finding food scarce.

The Afghan family — a husband, wife, and three children — is among many made desperate to get out of Afghanistan because they have members who fear reprisal from the Taliban, which has taken over the country, for helping support the American military mission in the country over the past two decades.

The family said they arrived at the airport on Thursday. But since then, they have spent three nights inside the airport compound sleeping on the ground in an outside area along with countless other would-be evacuees waiting for a flight out. The husband told ABC News they have run out of food and water and were unable to get supplies when they were distributed to a crush of people near them.

He said the situation has grown so desperate inside the airport that he was weighing whether to leave the airport to seek water and comfort for his children.

-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan

Aug 22, 12:45 pm
Major commercial airlines to help evacuate US citizens and Afghan allies

United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta announced Sunday they are partnering with the Department of Defense to provide aircraft to assist in the evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies to the United States from the capital of Afghanistan.

In a statement, United  CEO Scott Kirby said the airline will send planes and flight crews to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul to help in the humanitarian effort after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Sunday that the Pentagon is activating its seldom-used Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, which compels commercial airlines to provide aircraft for the emergency airlift.

American Airlines also issued a statement that it will send as early as Monday “three three widebody aircraft to military bases and other secure transit points on the Arabian Peninsula and in Europe to assist with the emergency evacuation of U.S. citizens and refugees coming from Kabul.

“The Biden administration has also asked American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air, Omni Air, and Hawaiian Airlines to send Boeing 777 planes to help in the evacuation.

“As a global airline and flag carrier for our country, we embrace the responsibility to quickly respond to international challenges like this one,” Kirby said in an Instagram post.  “It’s a duty we take with the utmost care and coordination as we call upon the expertise of several different teams within our airline to work in close partnership with the U.S. military to safely execute this operation.”

Delta said it will have multiple relief flights arriving back in the U.S. tomorrow morning. The compant said it will use spare aircraft so commercial operations are not impacted.

“For decades, Delta has actively played a role in supporting the US Military and our troops,” said John Laughter, Delta EVP and Chief of Operations. “And we are again proud to pledge Delta people and our aircraft in support our country’s relief efforts.”

Aug 22, 12:33 pm
Ernst calls evacuation efforts ‘one of the biggest debacles’

The U.S. should send more troops into Afghanistan to help evacuate American citizens and Afghans who supported the U.S., Republican senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said Sunday.

“We should be doing everything possible to get Americans safely to the airport for evacuation,” Ernst told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz. “We are the strongest military on the face of this planet, and we should be exercising those authorities to make sure that we’re flexing our military muscle, especially when it comes to evacuating Americans.”

Ernst, a combat veteran, called the effort to evacuate the Kabul embassy “one of the biggest debacles that we have seen in the last several decades.”

“We have been on the administration for months now to be working on the vetting process to make sure we’re working with those interpreters to get them safely out of the country,” Ernst said.

“If there are Afghans that need to be evacuated that aren’t fully vetted, we do have third-country partners that are working with us in this effort,” Ernst added. “We can evacuate these Afghans to those countries to continue the vetting process from there and I think we should be doing absolutely everything we can to assist those who assisted us in the past two decades in the global war on terror.”

-Julia Cherner and Lauren Lantry

Aug 22, 12:02 pm
Nearly 8,000 evacuated from Afghanistan in 24 hours

The White House said Sunday that roughly 7,800 U.S. citizens and Afghan allies were evacuated from Afghanistan in a 24-hour period over Saturday and Sunday aboard both U.S. military and coalition flights.

At least a total of 25,100 people have been evacuated from the country since Aug. 14, according to the White House.

In a big push to get Americans and Afghan refugees out of the country that has been taken over by the Taliban, 23 U.S. military aircraft evacuated about 3,900 people and 35 coalition flights evacuated another 3,900 people over a 24-hour period that began early Saturday.

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez

Aug 22, 10:42 am
US will look for every way possible to get people to airport: Defense secretary

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz that the U.S. was going to do everything it could to get people out of Afghanistan.

These types of evacuations — where thousands of people need to be flown safely out, then processed and verified, all during a global pandemic — can create some of the most challenging missions, Austin said in the exclusive interview.

“It’s a dynamic and challenging environment,” Austin said. “As you would imagine, you know, a noncombatant evacuation operation is one of the most challenging operations in the inventory.”

While the U.S. military has sent over 5,800 troops to secure the airport, the evacuation has been largely criticized for being too little, too late. But Austin insisted the U.S. military would get as many people out as possible.

“Martha, we’re gonna try our very best to get everybody, every American citizen who wants to get out, out,” Austin said.

“You said American citizens, what about those Afghans?” Raddatz pressed. “What about those interpreters? What about the people who are desperate?”

“Absolutely, the people that are in the Special Immigrant Visa Program are very, very important to us and these would be the interpreters and many of the staff that supported our embassy and other embassies,” Austin responded.

-ABC News’ Julia Cherner and Lauren Lantry

Aug 22, 5:16 am
UK defense secretary hopes US will stay in Kabul longer

In a column for the U.K.’s Daily Mail on Sunday, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace wrote that if the timetable for American forces to evacuate Afghans from Kabul remains, then, “we have no time to lose to get the majority of the people waiting out.”

“We have the planes – we just need the flow,” he said.

Wallace noted several roadblocks the evacuation efforts have encountered, including “whether the airport would remain open, then if those coming to Britain would able to get to the airport,” and then overcrowding at the airport.

“And ticking along, impossible to stop, is time,” he wrote. “I have said all along that no nation will be able to get everyone out.”

Wallace seemed to indicate he hopes American military troops will extend the departure deadline.

“Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer, and they will have our complete support if they do,” he wrote.

Aug 21, 9:55 pm
Austin defends US military, says they will ‘look at every way’ to assist evacuees

ABC News’ Martha Raddatz sat down exclusively with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Saturday afternoon as the chaotic scramble continues to get all Americans and Afghan allies safely to Kabul’s airport and out of the country.

“Why aren’t American troops able to go out into Kabul and help those Americans, help those Afghans who helped Americans, get to the airport?” Raddatz pressed in an early clip of the interview, which will air on “This Week” Sunday morning.

“We have been out,” Austin said. “You saw evidence of an operation the other day where we flew a couple of helicopters over to that hotel.

“Certainly it helped 169 American citizens get back, get into the gate without issues,” Austin said, defending the mission.

“But further out into Kabul, there are people desperate to get in. We’re the most capable military in the world,” Raddatz argued.

“We are, and that most capable military in the world is going to make sure that our airfield remains secure and safe,” Austin replied. “We’re going to look at every way — every means possible — to get American citizens, third-country nationals, special immigrant visa applicants, into the airfield.”

Austin was at the White House earlier Saturday meeting with President Joe Biden and the rest of the national security team, where they discussed “the security situation in Afghanistan and counter-terrorism operations, including ISIS-K” and “the massive logistical operation to evacuate American citizens and their families, SIV applicants and their families, and vulnerable Afghans both on US military aircraft as well as flight charters and coalition flights,” according to the White House.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Aug 21, 6:20 pm
State Department working to reunite some evacuated children with parents

The U.S. government is “continuing to work to try and reunite” some minors who remain separated from their families amid evacuation efforts, a State Department spokesperson confirmed to ABC News.

So far, “a number” have been reunited, the spokesperson added, without providing an exact figure.

The Afghan American Foundation, a nonprofit in the U.S., said it was “very concerned” about these cases and urged the administration to provide more information.

“Our community in the U.S. is prepared to step up, but we need to know what is happening,” the group said in a tweet.

The U.S. said Saturday it had evacuated some 17,000 people from Kabul in the last week.

-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan

Aug 21, 6:02 pm
Conditions deteriorating inside Kabul airport

The scenes of chaos have become common outside Kabul’s Hamid Karzai Karzai Airport’s walls as thousands of Afghans, Americans and others desperate to flee try to get inside.

But the conditions in some parts of the airport are deteriorating as well, according to one Afghan family. The father told ABC News they have been stuck inside the compound for three nights now waiting for a flight out.

He, his wife and their three children got in on Thursday after spending three days now outside in the heat and on their third night sleeping on the ground, along with countless others. They are out of food and water. Some was distributed near them, but they were unable to get any, they said.

Their situation has grown so desperate, that the father said he has even considered leaving the airport to find water and comfort for their kids.

-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan

Aug 21, 5:49 pm
US airlines in talks to help evacuate Afghan refugees

U.S. airlines are in talks with the federal government to assist in evacuating Afghan refugees, ABC News has confirmed.

Airlines were put on notice late Friday about the possible activation of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which would force airlines to help with the evacuation efforts.

ABC News has learned that two major U.S. airlines are voluntarily working with the federal government on ways to assist without activating the Civil Reserve Air Fleet.

The commercial airliners would not fly into Kabul but land at U.S. bases where evacuees have been taken. This mission would help relieve the overcrowding at bases throughout the Middle East.

-ABC News’ Sam Sweeney

Aug 21, 2:43 pm
7 killed in crowds at Kabul airport

Seven Afghan civilians died in crowds gathered outside the Kabul airport Saturday, British officials said.

Footage from British broadcaster Sky News showed chaotic scenes of people being crushed as crowds trying to flee gathered around concrete barriers outside the airport. Soldiers could be seen covering bodies with white sheets, assisting those injured and pulling people from the crowds.

“Our sincere thoughts are with the families of the seven Afghan civilians who have sadly died in crowds in Kabul,” a spokesperson for the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement to ABC News. “Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible.”

Aug 21, 1:12 pm
Voluntary evacuation order for New York’s Fire Island

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced a voluntary evacuation order for residents and visitors of Fire Island in New York on Saturday.

He said Saturday is the only chance for locals and visitors to leave the island and ferry and water taxi service will be suspended Sunday. Emergency shelters will be set up for evacuees, he said in a press conference.

Portions of Long Island are currently under hurricane and storm surge warnings as Henri draws near, expected to make landfall in Suffolk County on Sunday.

“This storm is significant and potentially dangerous and is likely to be really impactful,” he said. “Remember the storm we experienced last year, Tropical Storm Isaias, was not a direct hit. We had 650,000 power outages from that storm. We are now looking at a weather event that may be hitting us directly.”

Aug 21, 12:25 pm
2,500 Americans evacuated from Kabul so far

So far, 17,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul since Aug. 14, including 2,500 Americans, officials said during a Pentagon briefing late Saturday morning.

President Biden had previously estimated that up to 15,000 Americans were needing to be evacuated, though Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby acknowledged Saturday that “we don’t have a perfect figure of how many are in Afghanistan.”

In the last 24 hours, 38 flights — including six U.S. Military C-17s and 32 charters — departed from Kabul with approximately 3,800 passengers total, White House officials said.

Flights are now headed to Qatar and other destinations. Three flights arrived at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., Friday night carrying Afghans headed to Fort Bliss in Texas.

Since the end of July, the U.S. has relocated approximately 22,000 people from Afghanistan, according to the White House.

Aug 21, 8:55 am
US embassy tells citizens to avoid Kabul airport

The U.S. embassy in Afghanistan has advised American citizens to avoid traveling to Kabul airport due to “potential security threats.”

U.S. nationals should “avoid the gates to the airport at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so,” a notice posted on the embassy website says.

It adds: “U.S. citizens requesting assistance in departing the country who have Repatriation Assistance Request for each traveler in their group should do so as soon as possible. Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who are awaiting immigrant visas should also complete this form if they wish to depart.”

Previous advice issued two days ago said the U.S. government “cannot ensure safe passage” but said that citizens “should consider travelling to Hamid Karzai International Airport when you judge it is safe to do so”.

-ABC News’ Guy Davies

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