U.S. forces are taking over Kabul airport’s air traffic control to fly personnel out of Afghanistan, after the American Embassy was evacuated on Sunday.
The latest: State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in an emailed statement: “We can confirm that the safe evacuation of all Embassy personnel is now complete. All Embassy personnel are located on the premises of Hamid Karzai International Airport, whose perimeter is secured by the U.S. Military.”
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Per a joint statement from the Defense and State departments, the U.S. was “transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan,” along with locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families” on Monday and over the coming days.
The departments were “completing a series of steps to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of U.S. and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights” on Sunday.
“Over the next 48 hours, we will have expanded our security presence to nearly 6,000 troops, with a mission focused solely on facilitating these efforts and will be taking over air traffic control,” the State and Defense departments said.
“And we will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks. For all categories, Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States.”
The big picture: The American flag was removed at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul earlier on Sunday, a final step in the mass and rapid evacuation of United States citizens and some Afghan allies. Some staff will remain to process visas.
Several other countries have been evacuating their diplomatic employees, moving staff to Kabul’s airport and/or reducing staff numbers to a small group of diplomats.
These include the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Spain and Canada — which has suspended its diplomatic operations in Afghanistan.
Germany and Norway have closed their Kabul embassies altogether, while Denmark temporarily shut its diplomatic quarters in the Afghan capital. Australia’s Kabul embassy has been closed since May.
U.S. military officials said Kabul’s airport had closed to commercial flights while the military-led evacuations continued, per AP.
What they’re saying: “We assured all embassies, diplomatic centers, institutions and places and foreign nationals in Kabul that they will not face any danger,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said Sunday on Twitter.
The U.S. and over 60 countries issued a joint statement Sunday that saying Afghans and international citizens who wish to leave the country should be allowed to do so, with airports and border crossings remaining open.
Flashback: President Biden on Saturday ordered 1,000 more troops to secure the airlift of U.S. Embassy personnel and Afghan allies. Marines were assisting with airlift efforts.
The U.S. Defense Department authorized an additional 1,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division to aid in the chaotic final stage of the evacuation, per the Washington Post.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.
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