Hamid Karzai International Airport is up and running after a shutdown on Monday, with regular C-17 flights coming in and out and a limited number of commercial flights, deputy director of the Joint Staff for regional operations told reporters on Tuesday.
By the end of the day, according to Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, more than 4,000 soldiers and Marines will be on the ground, with each incoming flight filling up with evacuees to transport on its way out.
“Right now, we’re looking at one aircraft per hour in and out of HKIA,” Taylor said, within the next 24 hours. “We predict that our best effort could look like 5,000 to 9,000 passengers departing per day.”
Overnight, nine C-17s brought in 1,000 troops and equipment for the mission to secure the airport, taking out between 700 and 800 people as they left again. Of those, 165 were Americans and the remainder were special immigrant visa applicants and third-country nationals, Taylor said.
All told, he said, roughly 1,500 have been evacuated since the situation in Kabul began to deteriorate on Saturday.
There have been no attacks by the Taliban or other security incidents since an active shooter situation on Monday, in which two were shot and killed by U.S. forces.
Taylor couldn’t say how many people are still at the airport, though he clarified that the crowds that rushed the tarmac over the weekend have been cleared and only identified evacuees, including Americans and SIVs, are still there.
Commanders on the ground at the airport are in communication with the Taliban in the city, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, but he could not say whether there have been discussions of guaranteeing safe passage for Americans and SIVs not yet at the airport.
“There are interactions down at the local level and, as the general said, we are processing American citizens to get out,” Kirby said.
Both Kirby and Taylor reiterated that the mission remains to secure the airport, and there have been no moves to start escorting anyone to the airport or to secure Taliban-controlled checkpoints to allow Americans and SIVs to get to the airport.