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Pentagon Holds Press Briefing On Updates About Afghanistan; Pentagon: Communicating With Taliban Several Times A Day; Afghan Women Face An Uncertain Future; Many Are Skeptical Of Taliban Promises On Women's Rights. Aired 11a-12pET
Aired August 23, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: And what we have seen is that this coordination has worked -- well this deconfliction has worked well in terms
of allowing access inflow to continue as well as reducing the overall size of the crowds just outside the airport.
And those crowds have been a factor Bob (ph). You've heard me talk about this other night, that when -- you know -- several days ago a little -- one
of our commanders that used a helicopter to bring people in and it was largely because of the crowd size outside the (inaudible) gates. So crowd
size matters here too. And that's what this president was referring to.
QUESTION: Thank you.
KIRBY: Zoey (ph).
QUESTION: Hello. I would like to -- I have two questions. I would like to go back to the incident, can you be a little b it more specific and tell if
you can rule out that the attackers were Taliban, first?
And I would like also to go back to the deadline. The French are for ending, sir, said today that they're -- it's, quote, "Necessary to continue
the Afghanistan evacuation beyond August 31.
KIRBY: Cannot rule out who the hostile actor was in this shooting incident last night. I think as you saw the Central Command statement referred to it
as a hostile actor. We don't know more than that. And this just happened Zoey (ph). So I don't know when we'll have more forensics on this.
Again, your focus was on making sure that we could maintain security at the airport. It was maintained. Sadly we -- it resulted in loss of a life of
one Afghan soldier and wounded several others. So, I mean obviously that's our focus right no.
On the deadline I can't speak for other nation states, I can only speak for the Department of Defense and you heard the secretary address this over
weekend. The goal is to get as many people out as fast as possible. And while we're glad to see the numbers that we got yesterday we're not going
to rest on lures The focus is on trying to do this as best we can by the end of the month.
And as the secretary said, if there need -- if we need, if he needs to have n additional conversations with the Commander-in-Chief about that timeline,
he'll do that but we're just not at that point right now.
QUESTION: Has the Taliban told you that Aug 31 is the deadline and that you must leave then. Are those communications happening? Is that something
you've agreed to with the Taliban?
KIRBY: We've seen the public statements by the Taliban spokesman about their views on the 31 of August. I think we all understand that view.
QUESTION: And can you explain, is it only Americans and SIV holders that are allowed through the gate now? Has that changed, what is the policy
about Afghans in need now coming.
KIRBY: Afghans in need are still -- are still being processed and facilitated.
QUESTION: Given the number of people who are in hiding who were either SIV recipients from Americans of Afghan allies, why not reopen Bagram Air Base?
Why not go get in agreement to -- from the Kataries to come and landing in Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif elsewhere.
We saw the Kataris bring the Mullah Baradar back with a C-17. Why not use the Pakistanis and the -- and the Kataris to help people bring out from,
because right now you're just bringing people out from Kabul and it's a choke point.
KIRBY: Well first of all the flow -- the throughput has improved and increased and I'm not going to -- I don't think it would be a useful
expenditure of our time to Monday morning quarterback the whole issue with Bagram. It was closed down as part of the retrograde, Jen (ph) --
QUESTION: I'm not talking about Monday morning quarterbacking. I'm talking about why not look at the situation now you need airfields that you can
land on to get people out.
KIRBY: Jen (ph), we are -- we are
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Major General Taylor about this.
KIRBY: Let me -- let me try it first and then I'll give it to the general clearly. We are -- we are improving out throughput at Hamid Karzai
International Airport and we think that we will be able to continue to try to improve that. That's the -- that's the goal.
But what you're talking about is -- would be an expenditure of resources and personnel as well an increase most likely to the threat that they're
under to try to go back, and as you put it, retake Bagram Air Base which is the size of a small city.
And I understand a lot of people have a -- have views and opinions about this. It was closed down as part of the retrograde. It was always supposed
to be closed down as part of the retrograde. It was the last base to be turned over to the Afghans and even as recently as three weeks ago, before
we actually had to conduct a non combatant evacuation operation, the leaders in this building ran a table top exercise on what it would be like
to run an effective neo operation at of Hamid Karzai International Airport and we're actually running that play now.
Now it's not without its challenges for sure but we're doing that now. And that's the focus is on making sure that we can get as many people out as
possible using Hamid Karzai International Airport.
And Jen (ph), the numbers are showing that it's working. No bodies taking it for granted, don't want to be predictive about tomorrow but it's
working. Do you have anything to add to that? OK. Tara (ph).
QUESTION: Thank you. Back to the August 31st question. Is August 31st, extending that deadline; is it really an option for the U.S. anymore? Is
this wholly -- it's kind of the fun (ph) whether the Taliban would agree to let a U.S. presence remain in Afghanistan past that date.
KIRBY: Our focus is on getting this done by the end of the month, Tara (ph). And what we do here at the building, at the Pentagon is options. We -
- our job is to provide the president the commander and chief options.
And as you heard the secretary say, if he gets to a point -- he and Chairman Milley, they believe they get to a point where they need to
provide that advice and counsel to the president about an extension, then he'll do that. We just aren't there right now.
And you heard the secretary say himself, if he had more time on the clock he would absolutely use more time on the clock but we're focused on getting
this done by the end of the month.
QUESTION: And secondly for Major General Taylor, you've mentioned that 42,000 have been evacuated since July. Is that 42,000 just on military and
airlift or does that include the commercial and charter plains?
TAYLOR: Yes, so that -- that total number is U.S. military plus U.S. civilian State Department. Some of that was State Department contract there
that went out also early on.
QUESTION: Do you have any breakdown of the number of U.S. citizens in that 42,000 that have gotten out?
TAYLOR: I do but I don't have that right now.
QUESTION: So just to cover quick questions, firstly on the vaccine. This is -- would be specifically the Pfizer, right, that would be mandatory or did
the other vaccine --
KIRBY: Right now we're focused on the Pfizer vaccine because of the FDA approval that came in this morning.
QUESTION: And just another couple of quick ones. How many, I guess, Afghan soldiers remain in the perimeter, I think you had said 5 to 600 a week ago,
is that still the number?
KIRBY: I believe that's the operative number.
QUESTION: And then how many Americans have been -- and I think you gave 2,500 Americans, has that number changed?
KIRBY: We think that -- that overall we -- we've been able to evacuate several thousand Americans and I'd be resonate to get too more -- more
specific than that. But since the 14th we believe we have been able to evacuate several thousand Americans.
QUESTION: Very quickly lastly, so the last table top exercise for a new operation for HKIA was about three weeks ago.
KIRBY: It was about three weeks ago. It was certainly before Kabul fell. This was something as -- and I've talked about this before and this was
something that the Pentagon had been thinking about for a long time. I mean as far back as late April when -- when we held over a cursel (ph) of
concept exercise here at the Pentagon looking at the retrograde and how that was going to parse out over and through the summer.
A part of that conversation was the potential for non combatant evacuation operations and what that would look like and how we would execute that.
QUESTION: All right, thank you. I have one -- if you could clarify a couple points as you made earlier. You said that any extent from beyond August
31st would be the secretary talking with that president. Would that decision include inputs from NATO allies, particularly those who say that
they need more time? Is that a factor in the U.S. consideration about staying?
KIRBY: I think we would absolutely consider the views and opinions of our allies and partners who also have people there and -- and -- and are -- as
the general briefed, very much a part of moving people out.
QUESTION: And how many of those NATO allies communicated to the United States that they need more time beyond August 31?
KIRBY: I'm not aware of specific conversations that we've had with respect to the deadline.
QUESTION: OK. And then perimeter, I'm having a hard time understanding when the president talked yesterday he said about expanding that perimeter. Can
you mention (ph) who's part of that? Is that U.S. forces? Have they moved where they're -- where they're positioned from where they were a few days
KIRBY: Yes. Without -- and I want to be very careful here to talk about specific movements at a tactical level on any given day. And so, I'm just
not going to do that, and I know that will be largely unsatisfying.
QUESTION: Well I...
KIRBY: But let me finish. So that has caveat. We continue to look at security on the airport itself as well as the immediate environment of the
airport. Because in those immediate environments outside the airport that's where you have Taliban checkpoints. That's where you have crowds
assembling. That's where access to the gates is critical in that space just outside the airport where we don't have a military presence of a sustained
And what we're doing is that we're in constant communication with the Taliban about that space and what that space looks like.
And the only thing I would say is that as you heard the secretary say this, you've heard General Milley say this. We're going to do what is required on
any given day at every possible opportunity to make sure that those who need to get out can get out, and that includes -- that includes the
monitoring and accessibility of that space outside the airport, but what it looks like on any given day, Nancy, is going to change.
QUESTION: I appreciate that, but I'm not looking for tactical details. I just think once that movement happens it's a definite threat to U.S. forces
and something that the public has a right to know. So just want to give them (ph) as a statement how often they process (ph) how we should be
thinking about where the U.S. military is in that -- in that environment.
KIRBY: I will tell you that we already consider our troops in harm's way at the airport. It's a dangerous situation. There's no question about that,
and we're not taking any of these threats for granted.
And the commanders on the ground have the wherewithal to move their forces as they see fit to, again, do essentially three things: make sure the
airport is secure and can be defended, make sure that air operations can continue to carry on at the clip we need them to carry on, and C -- and
this is an important one -- to make sure that American citizens, at-risk Afghans, our SIV applicants can get access to the gate to get entry --
process and entry to the field.
Those are the three primary tasks, and our commanders on the ground know that they are -- that's what their tasks are and can move forces, can
employ forces and assets as they see fit to do that.
And again, on any given day that can change, Nancy, and I just don't think it would be helpful particularly because the threat environment is so high
for us to talk with any great specificity about what that's going to look like. David.
QUESTION: General, were you being deliberately vague when you said a number of Americans was several thousand or was it because kind of you're not sure
of the number? If you need to check the number, I mean, that's the most important number here, the number of Americans. So if it's just a matter of
checking the number, can you do that and give it to us, or if you're being deliberately vague tell me why you're being deliberately vague?
KIRBY: I think I'm just going to leave it at several thousand right now, Dave.
QUESTION: Well then tell us why.
KIRBY: Because I think the number is very fluid, and it literally changes nearly by the hour.
QUESTION: If it's not more fluid (ph) then these 11,000, 37,000...
KIRBY: I'm going to leave it several thousand right now. (Inaudible).
QUESTION: You said that you heard the public statements from Taliban about the ready on (ph)...
QUESTION: ... the August 31. Does this mean that you didn't hear it directly from them since you're communicating with them on daily basis? Are
you communicating with that on this issue? Did you tell them to stop with them the needs for maybe extending the August 31 deadline (ph)?
KIRBY: I'm not going to speak to specificity with the communications that we're having with the Taliban on any given day. It happens several times a
day. We are well aware of the stated desire to by the Taliban to have this mission completed by the 31 of August.
I would tell you that we, too, are still planning on completing it by the 31 of August. That is the mission that would have been signed by the
Commander in Chief as signed (ph) it was, and that's what we're trying to execute. Let me -- go ahead.
QUESTION: Are the forces remaining now in Kabul focusing on that evacuation mission, the U.S. forces of course, are they maintaining that capability to
maybe deal with a threat from Taliban beyond the August 31 deadline or maybe attacks?
KIRBY: Yes. Again, I appreciate the -- you know, the question. In terms of hypothesizing past the 31, we are just aren't there yet. Our troops are
focused on the mission, the three missions that I just articulated, and that includes, as I said, being able to defend the airport, which means
being able to defend themselves and their operations, and we have assets in places -- assets in place to allow them to do that as well.
I am not going to speculate about post August 31. We are head down focused on keeping these numbers up as best we can, getting as many people out as
we can by the end of the month.
And if there needs to be a discussion about extending that timeline, then we absolutely will have that discussion at the appropriate time with the
Commander in Chief. Let me go to the phones, which I have not done yet. Jeff Shogul, you get the first one.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Regarding the incident, was the gunman killed, and was it U.S. troops who shot this person?
KIRBY: I do not know on either, Jeff. You could certainly reach out to Central Command for more detail at that level of the incident, but again
this just happened, Jeff. And so, I just don't think we have that level of forensic detail to offer you today.
QUESTION: Thank you, and from what we're hearing on the ground only...
KIRBY: Did you have one more, Jeff?
QUESTION: Oh, yes. I'm sorry. From what we're hearing on the ground only American citizens and green card holders are being allowed into the
airport. Do you know when that will change and Afghans at risk will be able to enter?
KIRBY: As I had mentioned to Jen it's for American citizens. It's for SIV applicants can still be processed through the gates. At-risk Afghans are
absolutely being considered for entry. Carla (ph).
QUESTION: Two questions. First of all, how many people have been killed at the airport? We've been hearing reports of seven, nine. A NATO official
told ABC there were 20 killed in and around the airport. What's that number?
TAYLOR: You're talking about the Afghans at the gate?
QUESTION: You're adding to people who were killed on Monday during the incident where the C-17 took off, the two that were killed during
skirmishes inside the airport, the guy killed today. What's that total number of people who have died?
TAYLOR: Less than -- what the number -- I don't have exact numbers of that, so I can't' answer the exact number right now.
QUESTION: Can you take that question and get back to us on that?
TAYLOR: Yes. Absolutely.
QUESTION: And then also you had mentioned, sir, that the capacity was 5,800 troops at the airport right now, and then the Secretary of Defense had told
us last week that he did not have the capability to go out and do extractions because there's just not enough troops. They're defending the
airport. Have you asked for authorization of additional troops to go into the airport to help with potential extractions should it come to that?
TAYLOR: No (ph), I -- I think you used the word "capability" -- and the actual troop number, I think, are two different things. So we have 5,000 --
approximately 5,800 forces. And as I have briefed over the week, as forces flew in, you know, flowed in, capability continued to increase. Initial
security was the most important ability to establish because without that security, the ability to do other things is just not possible.
So as our capability increased, and at that 5,800 number, as you've seen, we have the capability and have executed other operations to ensure that
American citizens are being brought in safely and prepared for evacuation.
QUESTION: So just so I can understand what you're saying, just (inaudible), you think that at 5,800 troops, the U.S. has the capability now to expand
the perimeter at the airport and continue all of this to -- or -- or to do whatever the President has mentioned with the -- opening up the perimeter,
and also to do extractions, if needed, or are you going to ask for authorization of more troops?
TAYLOR: No, what I said (ph) is 5,800. We're able to continue to secure the airfield, continue to increase safety there, and continue to do the
operations that we already have.
KIRBY: And Carla (ph), what -- what the Secretary said was that where he was on last Wednesday, that we didn't have the capability to do large
scale, you know, massive movements of people, but he did say if there's an incident where somebody's in extremis and we need to get them in small
numbers, we can do that and we have been doing that.
And as the General said, that was last Wednesday. Over the course of the ensuing days, more capability has flown in, more troops have flown in, and
so we do have the ability to help when we can and where we can, to help Americans move towards the gates.
And we're not going to talk about the details of each and every one of those but we do have those capabilities.
QUESTION: One last thing I just want to ask you is do you foresee the need to authorize additional troops to go in, should the situation -- you have a
hard stop at August 31st and you have to ramp up capacity again, do you foresee authorizing additional ...
KIRBY: I don't -- I don't think it will be helpful to get ahead of where we are right now. There are no plans at this time to request or to authorize
additional U.S. forces to this mission.
QUESTION: I -- are U.S. troops leaving the airport on a regular basis? I -- I still don't understand what's going on.
KIRBY: Courtney (ph), on occasion, as needed, our commanders have the authority that they need to use their assets and their forces to help
assist Americans who need to get to the airport, get to the airport on a case-by-case basis (ph).
Your -- your question was ...
... it -- it's not -- it's not regular. I don't want to -- I don't want to leave you with the idea that we're somehow patrolling the streets of Kabul,
but on occasion, where there's a need and there's a capability to meet that need, our commanders on the ground are doing what they feel they need to do
to help Americans reach the airport.
And there's a variety of methods that that can be affected and I -- without going into detail, we're -- we're using the variety of methods at our
QUESTION: So we know about (inaudible) there have been additional (inaudible). Can you tell us any details about that?
KIRBY: There has been at least one additional incident -- instance where rotary airlift was used to help Americans get from outside the airport into
the airport, and I think I'm just going to leave it at that today.
QUESTION: ... (inaudible) I have more. What -- this -- you know, you -- your planning organization -- what is your -- when do you expect that you
will have to -- assume that you're sticking to this August 31st deadline, when will you have to stop taking in additional people at the airport to
evacuate? Cause you're going to have to get the 5,800 American -- U.S. troops out, right?
KIRBY: You mean the -- you mean stop taking in evacuees?
QUESTION: Correct, yes, one -- and -- and -- and additional Americans who never have left (ph) out there. Like, what is the -- the -- the deadline so
that you will be able to get the American military, who are there at the airport supporting, and any last embassy people who are there out? When
will you stop accepting the evacuees there?
KIRBY: I mean, remember -- it's -- it's important to remember that we are not the only people flying evacuees out. So it's certainly conceivable that
-- that even without a U.S. military footprint there that people could still be able to get out of Kabul.
And I -- I -- I don't have a specific retrograde timeline to speak to today. We'll work through that as appropriate as we get closer to the end
of the mission. And as you well know, we very methodically and deliberately plan in the -- the movement out of -- of assets and equipment and -- and
resources so that we can preserve the capability we need for as long as we need it, and I think I'd just leave it at that.
QUESTION: ... I only ask that because it took several days to flow these 5,800 in. So I know that there were logistical hurdles to get them in, so
they won't take (ph) as long out, but it could theoretically take a day or two to get everyone -- the military back out. So that may bump the timeline
back from August 31st to the 28th (ph) ...
KIRBY: ... I -- I -- I -- look, clearly ...
QUESTION: ... (inaudible) speaking about 28th.
KIRBY: Clearly, there is -- you -- you know, you have to do some backward planning for retrograde, obviously. I -- I am not prepared today to speak
to the specific dates or process by which that would occur but, I mean, obviously we're -- we're thinking through that right now, and a lot of
that's going to depend on -- on how far we get, as fast as we can get, you know, by the end of the month.
I -- I -- I just don't want to speculate now about what that's going to look like but let me just back up. I mean, the focus is on getting as many
people out as we can, as fast as we can. That means being able to secure and defend the airport, which we are doing now, and we will factor all of
those things in, to whatever the departure timeline looks like, to make sure we can continue to maximize throughput as best we can and without
getting anybody hurt.
And -- and -- and thus far, with obviously some exceptions -- some small exceptions, I mean, we've been -- we've been fortunate that -- that -- that
nobody has, OK?
QUESTION: Yeah, is there any effort to tally up the number of U.S. weapons and equipment that are now under Taliban control? And is there any program
to mitigate this problem through destruction or confiscating them back, taking them back?
KIRBY: Yeah, Mike (ph), we -- I mean, we talked about this before. I -- I don't have an exact inventory of what equipment the -- that the Afghans had
at their disposal that -- that now might be at risk. Obviously we don't want to see any -- any weapons or systems that -- that -- to fall into
hands of people that -- that -- that would use them in such a way to -- that -- that -- to -- to harm our interests or those of our -- our partners
I mean, we have a vested interest, obviously, in -- in -- in not wanting that to happen but I don't have any policy solutions for you today about
how we would or could address that going forward. I would remind you, though, Mike (ph), that an awful lot of equipment, weapons, resources were
drawn down even in the last years and months of the previous administration, as President Trump decided to move down to a -- a force of
2,500. So there was a lot of retrograde of things up to that point.
And then after the president's decision in mid-April to complete this drown down, albeit on an extended timeline, a very -- and we've talked about this
too, the very big part of the retrograde was the disposition of weapons and equipment and systems and vehicles.
Some of them were destroyed, some of them were brought back home, some of them were deployed -- redeployed into the region.
And yes, some were turned over to the Afghans. And we're working through right now to try to get a better sense of what that would look like but I
don't have any specific solutions for you in terms of what we're -- what we're -- what we can or will do going forward on this.
And to the degree -- well, I'll leave it at that. I'll leave it at that. Jen (ph).
QUESTION: Thank you. Let me ask the General Taylor the -- General Taylor, the United States has tested South Korea to apparent (ph) effect of
(inaudible) do you have any more detail on this?
TAYLOR: I don't other than that communication is happening and that, like I said earlier, we are very grateful for all of our partners, allies that
continue to offer any assistance to allow the safe evacuation of Afghans and American citizens.
QUESTION: Has any military so far to the United States (inaudible) South Korea something like military aircraft?
TAYLOR: I don't -- I don't know how many Republic of Korea aircraft have been used. We've had, you know as we've said today, a lot of countries have
been supporting and we've -- we appreciate that. I don't have the number offhand.
TAYLOR: Yes (ph).
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
KIRBY: All right, back to the phones here. Kim Dossier (ph).
QUESTION: Thanks, John. I wanted to ask if you were -- given the short amount of time left, just seven days, are you going to allow private
charters to start landing in greater number at HKIA daily to pick-up Afghan's at risk. Because even by conservative math, you can't possibly
move all the American citizens out in just seven days, much less the green card holders, the Afghan special operators, et cetera.
Right? Also private charter companies tell me they've been told when they can land that they only have an hour to land, pick everybody up and take
off. And some of them are leery of even going because they don't think they can get it done that fast.
TAYLOR: So the ability to continue throughput is very important. And so as we look at airfield operations and the ability to get aircraft to land it
safely, immediately in and loaded and it -- that drives a lot of the -- what we would call time on ground to maximize the amount of evacuees that
we can get out.
As you saw in the last day, the numbers, that required, as you just said, you know aircraft on average to be on the ground less than an hour, which
is very quick. I do know that TRANSCOM and the commanders on the ground who are facilitating that synchronization are using and want to continue to use
every capability possible to get people out of -- out of Kabul. So that's all I have.
KIRBY: One more on the phone here. Sam Lagrone (ph).
QUESTION: Hey, John. Can we get a update on U.S. support for the Haiti earthquake and the disaster relief?
KIRBY: Yeah, I think we can facilitate that a little bit later, Sam, but yes, we can get you an update on that.
QUESTION: All right, thanks.
QUESTION: I had a question for the General just real quick. Sir, it -- it sounds like from what we're hearing from the podium that -- that the U.S.
is essentially relying on the Taliban for crowd control outside the gates. Obviously that was not part of the original plan.
What forces were originally assigned to conduct security outside the perimeter and -- and how did that fall apart? Where are they now? And then
I have a follow up.
TAYLOR: Yeah, so the -- the 5,800 forces were part of that force package to provide security for the airfield. As, you know -- within the last seven
days, we've seen the ability to continue to coordinate and synchronize with Taliban checkpoints.
And I would say as you look at the last two days, that ability with the commanders on the ground to work with the Taliban tactical commanders has
allowed -- and I would say the ability to control better the access into that.
QUESTION: So you're saying that U.S. troops were originally planned to be on the perimeter outside the airport but that did not work out? Is that
what I understood?
TAYLOR: No, that -- that's what I said -- the -- the original 5,800 forces were planned to secure HKAIA and those gates.
QUESTION: The interior of the airport? There was no one planned to be on the outside?
TAYLOR: That's not what I said. I said that, you know, as the -- the plan that went in -- and the -- what has changed is the coordination and using
the use of -- or the Taliban being there (ph).
QUESTION: Understood, OK. One last question, if I might -- given this arrangement, I mean, does this mean that the Taliban is, for better or
worse, in -- now in a better position to potentially dictate when we leave?
TAYLOR: I -- I can't answer that. What I do know is that our continued mission, which we were given, was to secure the airfield and to ensure the
-- to facilitate the evacuation by August 31st, and I'd just refer back to the comments that Mr. Kirby has already made about the August 31st date.
Sir -- yes (ph)?
KIRBY: Yeah, I mean, we've covered this pretty well about August 31st.
QUESTION: With the vaccine rollout plan, is the idea now that Pfizer will become mandatory and the Secretary will wait until mid-September to ask for
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson? Will he ask earlier or will the vaccines become mandatory as they become fully licensed?
KIRBY: Yeah, Megan (ph), what I can tell you is the focus right now today with this FDA approval is on the Pfizer vaccine and moving forward to
implement a mandatory vaccination regimen for Pfizer. I don't want to get ahead of decisions that haven't been made yet.
Yeah, Dan (ph)? I'm sorry ...
QUESTION: Mike (ph).
KIRBY: Mike (ph), sorry.
QUESTION: Thank you, John.
KIRBY: You guys have the masks on, I'm getting everybody confused. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you speak a little to any COVID prevention that's going on at the airport? Are evacuees being tested before they get on aircrafts? Are
any being tested in intermediary countries?
KIRBY: Yeah, good question. As I understand it, medical personnel at the -- at -- at the Hamid Karzai International Airport are conducting COVID
screening for those who are feeble or symptomatic, and then, as appropriate, depending on what the -- the temporary safe haven -- what the
-- what the -- the guidelines are at the temporary safe havens, additional screenings at -- at some of those safe havens occur, and then upon arrival
at the United States, all passengers are being tested upon arrival and then -- you know, and then medical professionals make the proper decisions after
QUESTION: Are there any concerns about positive tests in -- for soldiers on the ground?
KIRBY: Of course there's ...
QUESTION: ... any examples of -- of soldiers testing positive?
KIRBY: I have not -- I -- I don't have that level of detail. I don't know what -- what positive results may have come in for soldiers working at the
air fold (sic) but obviously -- at the airfield. Obviously their health and safety remains a top concern for -- for all of us.
Yeah, Louie (ph)?
QUESTION: A clarification -- at -- at the top, I think you announced that Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is now ...
KIRBY: That's correct.
QUESTION: ... is that a new -- in addition? Is that something new?
KIRBY: That is now -- that is one additional base. We have been talking about three prior to that -- Fort Lee, Fort McCoy, Fort Bliss. Joint Base
McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is now -- is now available to receive some of these SIV applicants.
And with the four bases, we're -- what our goal would be is to reach the ability -- not necessarily the actual count -- but the ability to build out
to about 25,000 capacity. We aren't there yet, Louie (ph). It's going to take days and weeks, I think, for all four to be able to combine to get to
that level, but that's the goal as -- as we are right now.
And the other thing I would say is if the Secretary, in communication with the Chairman and with General VanHerck at NORTHCOM, feels like we need to
add to that capacity and add to the list additional U.S. military installations, then we'll do that, but right now, we're at four.
QUESTION: And what is the current number of individuals who are at those four bases?
KIRBY: I do not have that. We can take the question and I'm sure Northern Command would have you a better number than I do right now.
QUESTION: OK. And my last question is this -- I -- I apologize for asking three -- with such an effort to get into the airport, and some people are
lucky to get in, but now we're hearing that the -- the food supplies, the water supplies, sanitation, hygiene are really bad inside the airport, and
so bad that some people are actually returning to go outside the perimeter.
So my question is this -- how can you prevent a humanitarian crisis inside the airport as this goes on and on?
KIRBY: Yeah, fair questions, Louie (ph). I'm going to let the General take it, and I think you had the number, too, for the installations.
TAYLOR: So that was in -- right now, in the (inaudible), right at approximately 1,200 have entered into the United States.
As we talk about the conditions and the ability to continue to provide a humane and safe peace (ph) on the airfield, as you see, some of those
flights -- the -- that continue to come in to -- to Kabul, those are bringing those supplies in. So as those supplies are used, we are
continually replenishing those to ensure that we have food and all of those things that are needed -- water -- to -- for those that are preparing for
So, you know, the last 48 hours, we had a lot of folks on there, which is a good thing, right? That means we have gotten people through the gate, we've
processed them. That means we have people safe, then we can fly out.
The commanders there are always assessing what the requirements are to ensure that safe and humanitarian environment.
KIRBY: And I -- I -- I would just add, Louie (ph), I mean, we're mindful of these reports too. It's not lost on us. There is a lot of people and they
are desperate. And we are trying to do the best we can to get them out of harm's way as fast as possible.
And when you have a throughput problem, it means that some people are going to be stuck in a given location, whether it's at Hamid Karzai International
Airport or Qatar or other temporary safe havens. Nobody wants to see this go on for any longer than it has to be.
And believe me, nobody more than the U.S. military and our troops want to see anybody suffer any more than they have to. We are -- we are very aware
that there are and have been some sanitation issues as well as, you know, issues of sustainment. And as the general said, we're making that a
As we float, some of these planes are coming in with that material on it, that kind of support, and then they're leaving with people. We're doing the
best we can under extraordinary circumstances.
And believe me, the pain and the suffering, the fear, the anxiety, all off that, none of it is lost on us or our troops. Jen.
QUESTION: If the report (ph) that the British evacuation commander in Kabul, Vice Admiral Ben Key, has been locked out of all negotiations
between U.S. CENTCOM staff, 82nd Airborne, and Taliban commanders and that there is a great deal of tension right now between the Brits who want --
who are sending people outside the airport and members of the 82nd Airborne who want to join them.
What is happening with our British allies? Is this report accurate? And supposedly there was supposed to be an 82nd Airborne jump into Bagram Air
Base to open that field and that that was shut down by the White House. Is that accurate?
KIRBY: Jen, first that I'm hearing of these reports. You're going to have to let me go back and look at this. I don't know. The only thing I would --
you mentioned that, you know, the Brits who want to go out, we are doing it as well. We are -- we are going out as needed and helping Americans get
into the field.
QUESTION: You only described one of those instances to Courtney with...
KIRBY: I just -- she asked me specifically about airlift, and I mentioned one using rotary wing aircraft. That doesn't mean it's the sum total of
what we're doing to go out and try to bring and assist Americans coming in. We're just not going to detail all of them because the threat environment
is so high.
As to these reports, first I've heard. You'll have to give us a little time to dissect this and come back to you. Yes, Matt (ph).
QUESTION: Yes. There are reports that some of the equipment that you left have landed in the hands of Taliban are going to Pakistan (ph). Do you have
that report as well? If it -- if it lands in the hands of Pakistan, those equipments, are you asking Pakistan to get them back to you?
KIRBY: I don't have anything on that reporting that you've got there. I think we'll just have to take a look. We can take the questions and see if
we can get back to you. I don't have anything on that. Nancy.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Could you clarify something that you said to Jen and Courtney about on occasion going out to do missions outside of it. What
kind of coordination then happens with the Taliban forces on the ground? Are there joint patrols happening now between Taliban and U.S. forces that
KIRBY: No, there's no joint patrols.
QUESTION: Who gives joint -- what kind of communication happens? Can you give us any sense (inaudible).
KIRBY: There's no joint patrols. There's no joint coordination, but obviously we are in communication with the Taliban about their presence and
where it is around the field. And I think, Nancy, for reasons I hope you understand we're just not going to get into the tactical level details of
what we're doing to help facilitate the passage and assist the passage of Americans getting onto the field. And we want to preserve as money -- as
many options as we can going forward because the threat environment outside the airport is so dynamic, and quite frankly dangerous.
So for I think very good reasons of operational security. We're just not going to detail everything we're doing and every opportunity we're taking
REPORTER: I do appreciate that. I just want to understand that U.S. forces are side by side with Taliban. I'm trying to get a visual of what it looks
like, that's all.
KIRBY: No, that - we are not out there side by side with them. It's not about joint patrols. So you can erase that visual. That is not what's
happening. OK, I'm going to have to get going, guys, thank you very much appreciate it. Our goal is to come back here again at around 15:00 for an
afternoon update, and we'll keep you apprised if and when that changes. Thanks very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN HOST: All right, that was Press Secretary John Kirby. We also heard from Major General Hank Taylor giving us an update on
Afghanistan. Here is where we stand right now. 16,000 people have been evacuated over the last 24 hours. And the main message is that the airport
is secure right now.
In terms of the firefight that ensued, they say that no U.S. casualties, we know that one Afghan soldier was killed. And in terms of who was the
threat, the external threat, they could not verify but there is a forensic investigation currently underway.
Importantly, who is getting in to the airport, we have been reporting that mostly U.S. citizens and green card holders are the only ones that were
being processed because of the backlog. Now we've heard confirmation that also SIV holders or visa holders are also being processed at the airport.
I'd like to bring in CNN Military Analyst Colonel Cedric Leighton, who joins us from Washington, DC, and we've got CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, who's
in Doha, Qatar as well.
Colonel, I'd like to come to you first. Here's something I heard quite a few times is that the threat environment remains very high. What were your
major takeaways from this update?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well Eleni, I think the major takeaway was that there was a lot of activity outside the wire. In
other words outside of the perimeter of Hamid Karzai International Airport. Admiral Kirby, this Pentagon spokesman, he mentioned that there was at
least one operation, one additional operation that we've heard about.
What also concerned me, though, was that it seems as if other forces, especially the British forces, may perhaps have become more aggressive in
doing these kinds of operations, which I consider personally to be necessary and the United States, maybe holding them back. I don't know if
that's true yet. Of course, we - you know, there are a lot of reports like that.
But I think also, you know, the thing that was very important to me, and to the people listening in Afghanistan, is that there seems to be a
discrepancy between what is said about the SIV holders, the Special Immigrant Visa holders, getting into the Hamid Karzai airport, and what is
actually happening on the ground.
The people that I've been in contact with, they still say that there are problems getting SIV holders into the airport. And that, of course leaves
out a lot of - for Afghans who are at risk from top to bottom retribution.
GIOKOS: Absolutely, Nick, I'd like to bring in you here. We know that getting to the airport, it's tough. It's chaotic. We see pandemonium, and
you've got to get through those Taliban checkpoints. I guess the question here is you've got the UAE saying that they are posing SIV holders, but
they could be stopped at Taliban checkpoints. What do we know right now?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, I was surprised to hear the Pentagon say so clearly that SIV applicants are being allowed
on and processed. Now, that's just not what we've been told both by the spokesperson on the record of the U.S. Embassy on the airport and a source
close to the airport situation, who I've spoken to.
So either something drastically has changed in the past few hours. And John Kirby is reflecting a new situation, or he is not really reflecting the
situation. So it's very important thing, because after the U.S. Americans, the number of whom John Kirby has already been rescued, he won't specify
it's the Allied Afghans who were number two on President Joe Biden's list of people to be taken out.
There might be an explanation as to why John Kirby is allowed to say that we do know that there is essentially developed a sort of secondary pathway
of Afghans getting onto the base who are kind of unofficial, they may have been got on it seems because of their friends in Afghan Special Forces
doing some of the perimeter patrolling and I understand that they could even be getting to the near - sort of 1000s or so. So within them, there
may be some who are SIV applicants who can be processed. So that might be where John Kirby is getting that information from.
But in terms of an actual policy, as far as we know, from, you know, the spokesperson of the American Embassy on the airport, SIV applicants are not
being brought in partly for practical reasons. The gates are closed, they have been closed, there have been crushes at the gates, people have died.
So there are absolutely logical reasons why that isn't happening right now. It may be down the line as they you know, this is the most confident we've
seen John Kirby frankly.
And this is because of an extraordinary effort over the last 24 hours and make no mistake, getting 10,000 people off an American aircraft in just 24
hours is insanely fantastic and is a great effort by the Pentagon. But it does leave in the question now the priority has been today to just get
American citizens, NATO citizens, green card holders out of the airport and onto the airport too. Do they now begin to expand towards those SIV
applicants? And importantly, the possibly 1000s of local embassy staff and their families who are either SIV applicants or SIV cleared.
So lots still moving on. And the one thing I have to say I think people were listening for and hoping to hear well, two possibly, firstly, for the
first time we heard John Kirby elaborate on the record that there are seems American troops able to go and get Americans in the rare instances in which
they require that.
But we also didn't get clarity on when this ends, what the goal is, what the timing is, it is entirely possible that they have got two to three
days' worth of packing up to do before those 60 - 5800 troops leave, that limits how much time they have to do actual evacuations. And that's
something of frankly, they're going to have to address but it's clearly a decision for President Joe Biden, so not something we're going to get more
clarity from John Kirby there.
GIOKOS: OK, Colonel, you know, and this is the speaks to the deadline, it sounded like a hard out, but he's saying that they will be advising the
Commander-in-Chief. In other words, the President, if they need to have discussions on that. We know that they are in discussions with the Taliban.
But importantly, here that that they have control of the airport, but in terms of the periphery, and where that extends to still, you know, remains
under the control of the Taliban.
And for the first time, we heard a little bit more of a definitive answer in terms of getting people to safety and safely to the airport.
LEIGHTON: Yes, that's right Eleni. It seems as if there is an asterisk on the hard out on the 31st of August. And yes, as Nick mentioned, you know,
there's a lot of planning and logistical effort that needs to go into any - any redeployment. In other words, any leaving of the Kabul International
Airport. So we have a time limit, perhaps, you know, certainly the Taliban thinks we have a time limit.
And they were acting as if there is a time limit and they're seemingly insisting on it but what we have is, you know, the possibility that there
might be a you know, some action to try to extend that time limit. It's going to be very hard to move all of the people in spite of these Herculean
efforts to get people out. They are truly magnificent, the arrival of the Berlin airlift, you know, from the late 1940s.
But this is the kind of thing that I think will be very fluid. These efforts on the ground are of course incredible. But the fact that you know,
this is going to change, I think is probably the one thing that we can rest our hats on. There's going to be a lot of action here before - before this
GIOKOS: Right thank you very much Colonel. Great to have you on the show. And Nick Paton Walsh. All right, well, the Taliban says that they will
respect the rights of woman, but many are skeptical. We'll look at what the future may hold for the country's women and girls.
GIOKOS: Well, the Taliban is known for their brutal and repressive treatment of women and girls but the group says things will be different
than before. Is that believable? Let's bring in Mahbouba Seraj. She heads up the Afghan women's Skills Development Center.
And she joins us now from Kabul. Thank you very much for joining us. You're in Kabul right now. And I have to ask how you were doing? And do you feel
safe? Do you feel afraid of what's to come?
MAHBOUBA SERAJ, EXECUTIVE DIR, AFGHAN SKILLS DEV. CENTER: Thank you very much for having me on your show on this program. I am in Kabul right now.
And as far as feeling safe is concerned, I could say that there is not one single woman in the whole of Afghanistan, that - that could or would feel
safe after the Taliban have arrived.
And the reason is not maybe that they you know, that they have done a whole lot of, you know, terrible things to us, right now. But the fear is from
before, from the things that the Taliban did before, and the woman and the people of Afghanistan have that memory. And they're so scared right now.
The reason why there was such a big rush at the airport for everybody leaving was because of that. But then unfortunately, one of the bad things
that happened is that some of those planes got filled up by the people that were - had no idea. They were just - they just got on the plane, they just,
they just were there, and they just got there and they just left the country.
And the women that are really at the forefront which are the human rights defenders, which are the civil society people, which are the ones that -
which are the lawyers, and the ones that have been working in Afghanistan, all of these years at the forefront, they haven't been picked up. None of
them has left.
Because now it is so --
GIOKOS: So tell me why you're still in Kabul. Why have you opted to stay?
SERAJ: Well, you know, I am - I am an Afghan-American. I was - for the first time when I left Afghanistan in 1978, I really didn't have any choice
to do that. But now it's - now it's my choice. Now I can - I can stay here. And the reason why I'm staying is because honestly, I want to see if
there's any help I can do because I still have a lot of responsibilities in this town.
There are a lot of people who depend on me, what am I supposed to do? Just leave it all of them and run? I cannot do that anymore, honestly. And I
keep on saying to the world, it's not because I'm such a brave or martyr of a woman. No, I'm not. But what is happening is that I have to be here.
Somebody has to be here.
You don't know what kind of situation we are in. Right now, the city of Kabul is completely crippled. Completely. Not only Kabul city, but the
country's crippled. We haven't had access to the banks.
GIOKOS: I see -
SERAJ: We haven't been able to get money -
GIOKOS: I see images of conversations. So basically, you can't even give money. Right? So you're talking about an economic shutdown, essentially.
GIOKOS: But I'm seeing images of the discussions, I'm seeing images of the, you know, agreements between the Taliban and the former Afghan government
and former Afghan officials. And I don't see women in the room. And the images we're seeing in the streets of Kabul, again, very few women. Is this
speaking to the fact that there's fear that the Taliban won't keep its promises about women having rights? Or do you think the Taliban already is
intimidating women that they feel they need to, you know, stay indoors for now?
SERAJ: Well, I mean, it's really both in a way, honestly. You know, because we really don't know what the Taliban are going to do with us. I mean, they
keep on promising that everything is going to be all right. And there's going to be - there are these meetings, I don't even know, first of all,
what they're doing in those meetings.
How can - How come the city is so crippled, how come there be this void of power, how come the banks are still closed? How come? How come? How come?
How come all of this and if they're doing such a wonderful thing, and they're working so hard?
What is happening here? And it's like, you know that - it's really --
GIOKOS: So the Taliban have said that woman will have rights with regards to in line with Sharia law. We know that that's up to interpretation.
That's the big fear because the Taliban that centered around Sharia law in the '90s, they say is going to be very different today. They say education,
will that just be religious education?
They say work, but that - would that be limited? What have you learned from your experience? And what do you hope to see?
SERAJ: Well, we know - we don't know because they haven't really started anything yet. Universities are closed. The schools are still closed.
Nobody's going to school, so we really don't know. And they are in pockets. What is happening are in pockets in different parts of the country in
different parts of the city. And I'm - I am - what I am hoping has nothing to do with what is really going to be happening here.
They - the Taliban have to really keep after their word, and they really have to do and show it to the people, show it, not words, words are not
good enough anymore. What words? Everybody promises everybody something. I haven't seen those promises, you know, coming through from anyone. I
haven't seen his promises coming through from the government of the United States. What are you talking about? Why should I believe in Taliban for God
GIOKOS: Do you feel - do you feel abandoned by the United States? Do you feel that the international community has abandoned women and girls?
SERAJ: International community abandoned everybody, especially women and girls. Go and ask every single person on the streets of Kabul. If you can
find somebody, ask them, how do they feel? They're going to tell you about them. Go and talk to the people that have just arrived at the airports if
they have arrived at the airports in the U.S. Ask them how they feel.
Of course, we feel abandoned.
GIOKOS: How do you feel when you see women, how do you feel when you see women handing their babies over barbed wire at the airport, the big rush to
the airport? How do you feel when you see those images?
SERAJ: It breaks me, it breaks me. It has been breaking me the whole time. You know what a horrible sights those are. What horrible scenes there were.
Every single day to that airport, people are dying. And women are dying, children are being handed over that way. I mean, I mean, it's like so
chaotic, and the world's best and the most powerful force have gathered there. And nobody could manage chaos? I mean --
GIOKOS: Mahbouba, thank you very much for joining us. Thank you for - for giving us a glimpse of your life in Kabul, a city that you've chosen,
chosen to stay in despite the fact that the Taliban have taken over. We wish you strength. Thank you. I'm Eleni Giokos in Dubai. One World is next.
You're watching CNN.
LARRY MADOWO, CNN HOST: 16,000 more people have been evacuated from Kabul.