August 16, 2021
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds an Off-Camera Press Briefing
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby
PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: Hey guys. (Inaudible).
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, it's on the record.
Q: On the record.
MR. KIRBY: It's on the record, but -- but you can't show my pretty face.
So look, everybody, lots of activity over the weekend, of course, and today, and so I thought would be important to come out and give you as much of an update as I can, understanding -- and I caveat everything by, I'm sure you understand, it's a -- it's a fluid and dynamic situation. And so I'll do what I can to -- to provide some context and answer your questions to the best of my ability, but there will obviously be things that I don't know because things are continuing to unfold. I do expect that we'll be able to provide you an update this afternoon, another on-the-record update this afternoon, so be standing by for that. But I just thought given the -- the activity in the last 24 hours and -- and, of course, all the news this morning, that it would be good for me to just kind of level-set with you to the degree that I can, so bear with me.
As you're aware, there have been significant developments in Kabul overnight. We are working to reestablish security at Hamid Karzai International Airport following breaches overnight that emanated from the civilian side of the airfield. And I think, as you know, the civilian side is the southern part of the field; the military side is the northern part of the field.
At this time, out of an abundance of caution, there are no flights coming or going, military or civilian, and this is because of large crowds that are still on the tarmac on the southern side of the field, the civilian side of the field. U.S. military forces are on the scene working alongside Turkish and other -- and other international troops to clear the area of people. We do not know how long this will take. We've certainly seen all the dramatic video coming from the airport today, and we obviously don't want anyone else to get hurt, so we're going to work methodically in coming hours to restore a safe and secure environment so that air operations can resume.
U.S. forces continue to arrive to assist in our mission to safeguard this ongoing evacuation. Currently, there are approximately 2,500 U.S. troops at the airport. Over the next 24 hours, we expect additional forces to arrive from both the 82nd Airborne Division and battalions from a Marine expeditionary unit. That should bring our force level to over 3,000 by tomorrow.
We will continue to expand our security presence as needed, and to that end, the secretary has authorized today the immediate deployment to Kabul of the Third Battalion of the 82nd Air -- Airborne Division there, brigade combat team, that was headed to Kuwait. They are -- they will flow in immediately, and they'll be there in -- in coming days.
Now, I want to reiterate the notice from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that -- Kabul that all U.S. citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and others should shelter in place until security can be reestablished at the airfield, and an orderly process can be established to marshal them onto the field and to get them out of the country. We are aware that there are a number of civilian groups, including media organizations that are seeking assistance in coordinating departure fights. We are communicating that information with our forces on the ground and our partners at the State Department, and we're working as best as we can to assist these media outlets.
As you have seen in the press, there have been security incidents -- incidents at the field involving armed individuals shooting at U.S. forces. I want to reiterate that while our mission is not offensive, our forces have the inherent right of self-defense, and they will respond accordingly to threats and attacks. So in two separate incidents, U.S. forces did respond to hostile threats, and that resulted in the death of two armed individuals.
On the support for vulnerable or at-risk Afghan citizens, the secretary did approve a Department of State request for assistance yesterday for the transport and temporary housing of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants, their families and other individuals at risk. So in the United States, we are assessing facilities and support at two additional stateside installations.
I'm going to refrain from identifying those installations today as we continue to work the notification process, just in case you ask. This would be in addition to the existing facility that we have at Fort Lee. Our aim at these three facilities would be over time, three to four weeks from now, be able to provide support for up to 22,000 at-risk individuals. We will not have that capacity immediately. It will take some time to build it out.
We are also providing air transportation for other at-risk individuals to facilities located in a third-country partner nation. A battalion-sized unit already in the Central Command area of responsibility is prepared to also assist with processing and medical care for up to 8,000 at-risk individuals there. You may remember last week, I briefed this thousand-member joint Army and Air Force unit that was going to the region to help with processing.
Again, the situation is very fluid and dynamic. However, we are laser-focused on the missions that our military men and women do best. They are increasing security, adjusting to rapidly-changing conditions and they're working hard to ensure the safety and security of all those under our care at the airport.
Now finally, a word on Haiti: In support of disaster relief, U.S. Southern Command has been working since Saturday morning with the interagency to assess the situation and provide support in the wake of the earthquake. On Sunday, yesterday, Secretary Austin directed Admiral Fowler at U.S. Southern Command to support a formal request from USAID, the USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Affairs, for assistance. So yesterday, SOUTHCOM stood up a joint task force, and they sent a team with 14 military personnel to assess the situation on the ground.
The Navy is aiding with unmanned and manned aircraft to provide aerial images of earthquake devastation. Those images will be used to help determine what relief capabilities are needed, where and when. U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and aircrews are transporting medical personnel and evacuating those requiring higher levels of care. These Coast Guard cutters -- I'm sorry -- Coast -- U.S. Coast Guard cutters will remain offshore and on standby to assist relief efforts. Additionally, we are surging other lifesaving support with -- via helicopter out of Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras. So with that I'll take questions and, Bob, I think you're on the phone.
Q: Yes, thank you, John. John, could you confirm and elaborate on the de-confliction agreement that General McKenzie reached for the Taliban yesterday. And also, along those same lines did he or has the Defense Department told the Taliban when you intend to finish with the evacuation operation at the airport.
MR. KIRBY: So, Bob, General McKenzie did meet in Doha with senior leaders of the Taliban. Actually the president himself said that that was occurring in a statement that he put out over the weekend. I'm not going to detail the specifics of that discussion.
I think you can understand but I can tell you that the general was very clear and firm in his discussions with Taliban leaders that any attack on our people or on our operations at the airport would be met swiftly with a very forceful response. And I think I'll leave it at that.
Q: (Inaudible) from the 82nd to is that now 7,000 authorized or is that --
MR. KIRBY: I think, again, by -- by the time, you know, we get here two or three days from now; we're still looking at roughly at 6,000.
Q: OK. So it's just 6,000 from yesterday?
MR. KIRBY: It -- well, again, the Secretary authorized the third battalion now to go in but I think we still think the numbers will roughly shake out to around 6,000. Megan?
Q: You mentioned that on the troops that are there now are doing security at the airport, are they also at the embassy or doing anything else to secure Americans being able to get to the airport?
MR. KIRBY: We are not at the embassy. The embassy has been closed. I think you saw the State Department announced that everybody's out. That would include U.S. military. So all our military presence right now is focused on the airport. David?
Q: How are these additional combat motions going to get in if the airport remains closed? It -- do these 2,500 that are there now -- I mean that's whose got to establish control before the air operations can resume, correct?
MR. KIRBY: Correct. As I said in my opening statement they are also being assisted by Turkish forces, which remain at the airport and are partnering with us as well as elements of other nations that have security forces there. As I said, we don't -- we anticipate in the coming hours that we'll be able to restore air operations at the airport.
So there's not -- I mean obviously it's very fluid, David. So I don't want to make a prediction or put a stake in the ground in terms of a certain hour of the day but we do anticipate that air operations will resume and that we'll be able to get the remaining flowing forces into the airport. Let me go ahead.
Q: At some point do you -- if you can't restore operations do you have to consider just pulling out with what you got?
MR. KIRBY: We believe we're going to be able to restore operations. Let me go -- let me just -- bear with me while I go to the -- to the phones please. Lubold, Wall Street Journal.
Q: Hi, John. Just to clarify on the troops -- can you hear me OK by the way?
MR. KIRBY: Yes, sir.
Q: Just because the numbers have been changing so much, I would have counted that this was now up to 7,000 to include the numbers that were already on the ground before all of this happened. So if you could clarify that. But also, can you give us a sense of how many troops are actually there now and how much you're impeded by the situation on the ramps and the tarmacs there?
MR. KIRBY: As I said, we got approximately 2,500 there now and should be up to over 3,000 by tomorrow. And I understand the confusion. As you know, an infantry battalion is approximately 1,000 but it's not exactly 1,000 and there's enablers as well.
So again, I would just confirm that the secretary authorized the third battalion of the 82nd to go in. We still anticipate that the rough number when complete will be around 6,000. That's about the best I can do for you. Jen?
Q: John, have any U.S. troops been injured or when -- when there was gunfire or anybody -- was anybody targeted and how many Americans do you estimate are still on the ground that need to be evacuated and those two individuals who were shot and killed by the U.S. troops, were they Taliban?
MR. KIRBY: There's a lot of questions there.
Q: Three and they're related.
MR. KIRBY: Yes, so let's just take one at a time, please. I wasn't -- I wasn't writing them down.
Q: OK. Any U.S. troops injured today?
MR. KIRBY: We have seen some preliminary indications that there may be a -- a -- one wounded but I cannot confirm that. We're still trying to track that down.
Q: How many Americans do you estimate are still on the ground and need to be evacuated?
MR. KIRBY: I would refer you to my State Department colleagues on that; they would have a better sense of that. That -- all the embassy personnel are now located at the airport -- of course it would be up to our State Department colleagues to determine how many of those do they want to -- to leave the country and how many and for how long they want others to stay. So really I'm not qualified to answer that question.
Q: And the two Afghans who were shot by American forces, were they Taliban?
MR. KIRBY: We don't have any indication that they were Taliban.
Q: And do you know when this happened?
MR. KIRBY: I just know it happened in the last 24 hours. I don't have an exact time hack for you on that. Tara?
Q: Hey, John. A couple clarifiers. Can you give us a since of the magnitude of the airlift operation going on. How many U.S. military aircraft are involved, how many sorties are being flown, any sort of detail on how many people have already been airlifted out?
MR. KIRBY: I can tell you as of now we -- that there have been several hundred people flown out and right now, of course, since air operations are not occurring, there's not much of a flow for me to speak to. What I can tell you is that once we can reestablish security at the airport, get a safe and secure environment and can resume air operations both on the civilian side and the military side because, you know, there's still -- we still want to preserve the option for a commercial aircraft to come and go, as well as charter aircraft. So it's not just military.
But from the military perspective, as the chairman, I think you've heard him say, we could be able to get 5,000 or maybe even more out per day out on literally a couple dozen or more sorties per day.
I'm being intentionally careful with the estimates because, again, it's a fluid situation and it is going to change day by day. But our goal would be once safety and security is -- can be resumed at the airport to begin to flow from the military side, multiple sorties a day with the hope of getting thousands of people out per day.
On the C-17, the max capacity is about 300 when you configure it as just a passenger aircraft.
Q: We all saw a report last night of the C-17 that may have been configured to carry as many as 800 out and there's a flight recording of it. And there -- this has been before with C-17 where they're sitting on the ground and you can get up to 700 or more maybe on an aircraft. Do you -- do you know if that flight was successful in getting that many out?
MR. KIRBY: I don't. I'd have to point you to TRANSCOM, Tara. I don't have that level of detail.
Q: What time did you, did the Marines, shutdown of flights coming in and out of Kabul? And are they now on the civilian side securing the airport?
MR. KIRBY: I do not have an exact hour of when air operations were suspended, Helene. We can try to find a little bit more detail for you on that. And your second question was?
Q: Are they actively -- are they actively now – on the civilian side, what are they doing?
MR. KIRBY: Yes. Our -- as I mentioned in my opening statement our troops, and it's not just Marines, in concert with Turkish troops as well as other international partners are working right now to clear the field of individuals, of people, so that normal air operations can resume.
Q: Couple of clean-up details. Do you know if there have been some sporadic flights that have gotten our since this whole business of the -- so many people on the airfield?
MR. KIRBY: I know of no flights that have gotten out since we began an operation to clear people from the -- from the field and from the tarmac.
Q: Couple other quick things. The video that we've all seen of people allegedly falling off a C-17 from an altitude, officials say the video's legit. Some say it's not. Do you have any clarity for us on that video?
MR. KIRBY: I do not.
Q: You do not know --
MR. KIRBY: I do not have further clarity on the validity of that particular piece of video. Obviously we have seen the other video of --
Q: On the ground.
MR. KIRBY: -- people running around. And then again, that's why we want to restore a safe and secure environment so that nobody else can get hurt.
Q: My other quick question, you said at the very beginning there were two incidents, am I right, in which U.S. troops had to fire?
MR. KIRBY: Two separate incidents.
Q: Two separate incidents. But the two people that were killed were in one of the incidents only?
MR. KIRBY: I don't know that. I know two separate incidents and I know two individuals with hostile intent who were engaged and killed. I cannot -- I don't have additional details on that. I'm thinking -- you know -- obviously this just happened.
Q: Do you have any -- can you tell us anything about the non-lethal weapons capability that troops would be using to clear the airfield?
MR. KIRBY: By -- I don't have that -- I don't have that detail, Barb.
Q: Just a clarification. Were the U.S. troops targeted by those two gunmen?
MR. KIRBY: Again, without speaking to an incident at that level that I don't have full knowledge of, it's our understanding that these troops acted on what they believe to be a real and tangible threat to them and to their mission. And they have the right of self-defense and they -- and they -- and they exercised that right.
Q: You said though that you don't -- you didn't want more victims of the people, you know, around the --
MR. KIRBY: We don't want anybody to get hurt, Sylvie.
Q: Do you have a number of --
MR. KIRBY: I do not. I don't know how many people have been hurt. I can only speak to the two security incidents that we know of. Obviously the video is very troubling to watch and -- but I don't know how many people might have been hurt in that. I mean, we'll try to get more information as time goes on. I just -- I'm telling you what I know now.
Q: The service member who may have been --
Q: (Inaudible) was it on the civilian side or the military side?
MR. KIRBY: I don't know, Helene.
Q: Is there -- I'm sure there may be have been injured. Is -- do you have any more information?
MR. KIRBY: I don't. I don't, and again, it's a preliminary report, Mosh. I'm not confirming a wounded soldier. I'm saying we've got a preliminary report. We're -- we'll update you as we get more information.
Q: This is ongoing, we're all watching it from here, but can you offer some context, I mean have you ever seen anything like this? And how will this compare to other humanitarian and evacuation missions with the military?
MR. KIRBY: Look I mean I'm not going to get into a comparison between this and other humanitarian operations or non-combatant evacuations. These are all difficult missions. Missions that we are trained to do, but they are all difficult and all of them occur in space and time unique to the circumstances.
The video that we saw this morning of all those people on the tarmac running along the C-17, it's extraordinary video, there's no question about that. And it's troubling and it certainly gives us all pause and concern here, which is why commanders are working so hard to secure the field and to -- and to make it a more safe environment.
But I think comparisons to other humanitarian ops or non-combatant evacuation operations I think would be a fool's errand. And I don't think it would be helpful to do that kind of comparison.
Q: Okay, real clarification, thank you, before my question. So this morning there was delay of the Marines getting in because there were civilians on the military side of the airport. That was cleared, they did land, they are there. Correct?
MR. KIRBY: I'm sorry, say that again. I couldn't understand you.
Q: So my understanding is there was a delay this morning for several hours of Marines trying to get in Kabul. The airfield on the military side was cleared and they have landed. I just want to make sure that's accurate --
MR. KIRBY: I don't know -- I don't know, Carla. I don't have -- I mean I don't have the air tasking order that they're using to fly in flights. I couldn't tell you. They -- we had had -- we had -- before we had to stop air operations, because we are now in control of air traffic control at the airport. Before we had to stop air operations.
Yes, there were military flights, there was even yesterday commercials that were coming. An when that stopped and at what point and what was the last plane to land before we had to stop, I just simply don't have that level of detail.
Q: OK and then back to the video that we've seen the people falling off of the military transport jet, so you're not confirming one way or another whether that happened?
MR. KIRBY: I cannot.
Q: Can you take the question because we knew know if there pilot knew there were people hanging off. And then if they did who authorized that plane taking off with people hanging on.
MR. KIRBY: I don't know, Carla. I mean I -- we'll – certainly, if we get more information about these incidents, we'll speak to them. But as we're talking now at noon I just don't have that level of detail.
We obviously all the images coming out are of concern and troubling and we want to do this in a safe and efficient and as orderly way as possible and that is why right now our troops are focused on making a safe and secure environment at the airport and clearing people and the crowds off of the tarmac and the flight line so that flights can resume. That's our focus right now.
Q: Can you speak to any granularity on coordination with allies for third country or air lifted third countries?
MR. KIRBY: Oh, Nayyera, is that you?
Q: Nayyera, it would be --
MR. KIRBY: Yes, yes, yes. Sorry. I -- can I -- as I said in my opening statement we are working with a country in the region, I'm not at liberty to identify at this point, but we are working with a country in the region and trying to secure arrangements with others that are party countries to at least serve as a way station as we get people out so that we can, you know, do some sorting and then help with follow on transportation from these locations.
Q: And can you confirm if any of the flights that have left have gone to this partner country?
MR. KIRBY: Yes, I can.
Q: John, did the U.S. government fly President Ghani and other members of the government out of Afghanistan?
MR. KIRBY: No.
Q:Did -- OK. Did Secretary Austin ask him to resign and tell him it was time to leave?
MR. KIRBY: No.
MR. KIRBY: Mike?
Q: Yes, has the secretary offered his resignation to the president over this, or if not does he intend to?
MR. KIRBY: No. Lara? Politico?
Q: Hey, John. Thanks for doing this. I just wanted to ask you about the -- what he Pentagon assess the terrorist situation in Afghanistan to be now? Do Pentagon officials assess that the threat from ISIS or Al-Qaeda is not going to grow particularly as the Taliban has taken over so quickly and might not have any incentive to stick to their end of the bargain on that front?
MR. KIRBY: I think it's way too early to make assessments and judgments about what the counterterrorism threat -- the terrorism threat's going to be in Afghanistan going forward. The secretary certainly believes that in light of recent events that a reassessment of the possibilities for reconstitution of terrorist networks inside Afghanistan is warranted, but we're in no position at this point just one day after the events in Kabul to make affirm judgment either way or what that's going to look like.
Q: Did the -- does General McKenzie speak to...
MR. KIRBY: Sam LeGrone USNI.
Q: Did General McKenzie speak to the Taliban about potentially about the threat in Afghanistan from terrorists and about potentially making sure -- reiterating that they made a commitment to not harbor terrorists and have Afghanistan become a safe haven again?
MR. KIRBY: Yes. As I said, I'm not going to detail the conversation that General McKenzie had with Taliban leaders in Doha except to say that he issued a very clear and unambiguous warning that any attack on our operations and people would be met with a forceful response, and again I'm just going to leave it at that, Laura. Sam?
Q: Hey, John. This is -- can -- are we calling this a non-combatant evacuation operation? I mean, it feels like beneath all of the definitions of that according to the State Department and DOD doctrine, and if you all aren't calling that, why not? Thanks.
MR. KIRBY: Yes. I think we can all readily assume and talk about this as a non-combatant evacuation operation. OK, a couple more? Yes, in the back there.
Q: In light of events on the air field and reports about how many people are on these planes, are they any -- what kind of guidance are air crews getting about who they let on the planes and which people are getting on?
MR. KIRBY: Well again, I don't have the details of exactly what the process is like. We're working closely with our State Department colleagues at the field to try to process -- to try to process, identify, and manifest people on the plane. I just don't have the details of exactly how that -- how that process is going. Yes, in the back.
Q: Hi. This is Steve Losey, Military.com.
MR. KIRBY: Hey, Steve.
Q: You said that SIV applicants and others were instructed to shelter in place. You're trying to get -- regain -- regain control of the airport. Beyond that, what is the process going to be like for -- once control is -- is restored? What's the process going to be like? What should these people do to get out of the country?
MR. KIRBY: That's really a better question put to our State Department colleagues. They will have a process in place to reach out to qualified American citizens that are there. I mean, all American citizens are qualified to come home, but I mean -- and -- and...
MR. KIRBY: ... SIV applicants, yeah. They have a communication process to do that, to reach out to them and to advise them about when it's the appropriate time for them to move to the airport. The reason they were asked to shelter in place was really to just help with their own protection and safety, especially in light of what's been going on at the airport. So it's really -- it's -- it's -- it's really for their own protection. And when the situation will permit the flow, the State Department will reach out and advise them, and how they do that -- I mean, they -- largely, they do it through text messages. But how they decide who gets notified and when is really not for DOD to determine.
Our focus is safe and secure environment, getting security restored at the airport -- we're working on that now -- and then resuming flight operations and -- and making sure that we're getting people out that need to get out. But our State Department colleagues are the ones that really determine the who, and in what order.
Q: Did the Air Force send any fighter bomber assets to provide more air cover, anything like that, Air Force-wise?
MR. KIRBY: No, I know of no additional flow of any combat aircraft in -- into the -- into the region.
Q: Hi, John. Is it safe to presume that, based on what your answer to Steve here, that there is a commitment or an assurance from the Taliban that these individuals, these Afghan citizens, would be allowed to transit from their homes where they're sheltering in place to the airport, once you have cleared everything? And following that, as you just stated, I mean, there's -- there's a game plan. But what if the Taliban doesn't enable that to happen?
MR. KIRBY: I'd rather not get into speculating on hypotheticals, and I'm not going to talk about the -- the -- the specific discussions that we've had with -- with the Taliban. Luis -- and I get the questions coming from you -- just going to have to bear with me here. Our focus is on making sure that we can get the security at the airport restored, we can get flights going in and out again and we can start to process people to get them on -- on flights, whether it's charter, commercial or military, to leave. That population includes, in our planning and in our expectations, Special Immigrant Visa applicants.
MR. KIRBY: Hang -- hang on. Just a second.
Q: So last week, you said you were prepping to be able to have the capacity to up to -- have several thousands, or thousands of passengers being transported out…
MR. KIRBY: That is the goal, to have that capacity.
Q: Oh, so no -- are you still confident of that? And the numbers that you're citing today of potentially up to 22,000 headed to the United States, that would presume maybe a week-long operation at a minimum. Is that what we're talking about here?
MR. KIRBY: Well, we're -- we're going to work as fast and as efficiently as we can, Luis. And the president, the commander-in-chief made it clear that he wanted the -- the -- the drawdown of the embassy personnel complete by the end of the month, and then consequent to that, obviously, the completion of the drawdown of U.S. military forces.
So that's the rough timeline we're on. How fast we can go is going to depend a lot on security and stability there at the airport, flow of aircraft and that the processing of individuals, and then there's a lot of pieces to this. So I can't be definitive in terms of how many per day -- predictive, I guess, in -- in the coming days. What I can tell you is we're trying to build out that capacity as much as possible, understanding that it's a very fluid situation.
MR. KIRBY: Sylvie? Hang on, let me get somebody else. Tara?
Q: Thank you. Luis actually just kind of asked my question. But is there a sense that there's the possibility that U.S. troops will be staying past August 31st at this point? It's become a much bigger military response, and immediate need for a military response than he had originally thought.
MR. KIRBY: I -- I'm -- I won't speculate, Tara. Our -- our goal, the -- the president's made it clear that he -- he -- he wants this drawdown complete by the 31st. That's what we're driving at. Beyond that, I think, it -- you know, we'll just have to -- to take it as it comes. I'm not going to speculate.
Q: We know the Taliban has the capability to hit through rockets or through IEDs. Is there some sort of agreement now in place that they are not going to target airport while this operation's in progress?
MR. KIRBY: We've made it very clear that any attack on our operations or our people will be met with a forceful response. We have not seen an attack occur.
Q: Can you confirm that the Taliban have freed detainees on the base that was previously patrolled by the Afghan army, and that these detainees were Taliban, but also Al Qaeda and ISIS?
MR. KIRBY: I -- I can't confirm the release. We certainly know that the Taliban had, over the weekend, taken control over Bagram, and of course, the Parwan prison that was there. As you know, there's several thousand prisoners there. Some are Taliban, some are ISIS. I do not know the fate -- the state of the prison or those -- or of those prisoners.
Q: Thank you. Tara asked -- actually asked one of my questions, but can you tell us when the last U.S. airstrike was in Afghanistan, or are there any pockets of resistance that the U.S. is helping with airstrikes at this point? What's going on?
MR. KIRBY: As before, we're not getting into the details of the airstrikes, but I can tell you the last one was several days ago, and I think I'll leave it at that.
Q: Can I pivot to Haiti?
MR. KIRBY: Sure.
Q: Can you give some insight into whether or not the Coast Guard and the medical personnel there will be working or supporting Haitian nationals to leave the island?
MR. KIRBY: No, right now, the focus is on getting a sense of what the damage is and communicating that with Haitian authorities, as well as our interagency partners. And as I said in my opening statement, the Coast Guard cutters offshore are standing by, if needed, to provide medical assistance to people living in Haiti. If you're asking if there is an effort right now to -- to remove Haitians or to help evacuate Haitians, that is not the intent of -- of what our assets are standing by to do. There's an assessment team that's on the way. I think important that we let do their work and come back to us with their -- their thoughts and recommendations.
Q: Is there a timeframe before their assessment report pivots to some alternative mission? How long will they be assessing?
MR. KIRBY: I -- I'd refer you to SOUTHCOM. I don't know. They're just -- they're on the way now, Naer. They -- they -- they're very good at what they do. I don't think it'll take them very long, but as for exact timelines, I just don't know.
Q: I wanted to circle back to the issue of the -- all -- all the -- the weapons and aircraft that we -- that we gave to the Afghan army. Is there any -- you know, now that Taliban is in control of a couple hundred aircraft, possibly, both fixed and rotary wing, is there any plan to do something to make sure that we're not going to have a Taliban flying around in A -- you know, A-29 Super Tucanos and causing problems with all the aircraft we gave them?
MR. KIRBY: Mike, right now, our military focus is really on the airport and on getting people out, and that's what we're focused on right now.
Q: Can I push back on that a little bit?
MR. KIRBY: Sure, push back.
Q: Because we already inaudible know the U.S. military. The U.S. military was supposed to be able to handle these things --
MR. KIRBY: We don't want to see any of our equipment end up in the hands of people that could do harm to our interests and our security or that of our partners obviously. And I'm not going to speculate about actions beyond that. Military focus right now is on the airport.
Q: Were you wise to give so much of this equipment to the ANA at this late of game knowing that they were likely going to collapse?
MR. KIRBY: Mike, up until last week we still were supporting the Afghans in the field with occasional airstrikes and still meeting our commitment to support their air force, and an air force that was, in fact, very active in the air in the last few weeks.
So if you're asking do we have regrets over trying to support our Afghan partners in the field as some of their units engaged? No. No. Jeff Schogol.
Q: Thank you. I'm getting messages from Afghans saying the Taliban are going door-to-door looking for anyone who's worked for the U.S. government. How is the American government going to keep these people alive long enough to evacuate them?
MR. KIRBY: Jeff, we are, again, focused on the processing at the airport, and the State Department has a methodology and a process in place to identify people as they -- as they need to and as they can to get them -- to get them to Kabul, to the airport, and then our responsibility is if they qualify to get them on a plane whether it's a military plane or not and get them out.
That's the U.S. military's focus right now is on safety and security at the airport and resuming air operations. Peter Martin.
Q: Hi, John. Thanks for doing this. Just stepping back a little bit, Jake Sullivan and others have been on cable news essentially saying that what happened on the ground in Afghanistan is the fault of Afghanistan's forces and saying they've not been willing to fight, but I guess my question is why after 20 years of training and fighting alongside Afghan forces wasn't it clear to the Pentagon and others that the troops weren't going to fight?
MR. KIRBY: No, it wasn't clear. And I think it's a question better posed to the -- to the political and military leadership of our -- of our Afghan partners. You can resource, you can train, you can support, you can advise, and you can assist, but you cannot buy will. You cannot purchase leadership, and leadership was missing. And we've been saying for weeks that when we look back at the outcome, whatever the outcome is and now we know, that we are going to be able to say that leadership was the deciding factor, and I think that that has proven to be true. Paul Handley. Last question.
OK, then I guys Peter Martin had the last question. Thanks, everybody. Again, we hope to be able to provide another update to you this afternoon, again, knowing that this is a very fluid situation. So stand by, and when we can advise we'll advise. Appreciate it. Thank you.
Q: Thank you.
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