Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby Says There Are Thousands of Americans Still in Afghanistan

There are thousands of Americans still trapped in Afghanistan amid the Taliban takeover of Kabul, a Pentagon spokesperson said Tuesday.

John Kirby, the press secretary for the Department of Defense, told CNN's New Day host John Berman that there could be anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 U.S. citizens near Afghanistan's capital.

"We think there are certainly thousands of Americans," Kirby said. "We don't have an exact count."

Kirby noted that the State Department is advising U.S. citizens there on how to get to the airport and begin processing for flights out of the country.

Videos captured at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul showed chaos over the weekend as hundreds of Afghans tried to flee the country. Images showed Afghans running on the tarmac and trying to climb onto military planes.

Kirby said Tuesday that the U.S. has an "obligation" to help Afghan allies who aided military forces over the past 20 years. He previously said that once full operations at the airport are up and running, there would be the potential to remove between 5,000 and 9,000 people per day.

The Taliban officially seized control of the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday evening after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. The Taliban's takeover of the capital came after it captured many of the country's key provinces over the course of a few weeks.

The militant group's lightning-fast progress has coincided with the withdrawal of American troops from the region. President Joe Biden had set an August 31 deadline to remove combat forces from the country.

On Monday, Biden called the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan "gut-wrenching" but defended his decision to end the American military presence there.

"If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision," Biden said in a speech delivered from the White House. "American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves."

Kirby: Thousands of Americans Stuck in Afghanistan
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday that thousands of Americans remain trapped in Afghanistan. In this photo, Kirby speaks during a news briefing at the Pentagon August 16, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Many fear that Taliban control could lead to violations of humanitarian law. United Nations chief António Guterres said Monday that there were already "chilling reports" of human rights abuses and that he was particularly concerned about restrictions against women.

According to the Associated Press, the Taliban Tuesday declared an "amnesty" across the nation and called on women to join the government.

"The Islamic Emirate don't want women to be victims," said Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban's cultural commission.

A State Department spokesperson told Newsweek that the safety and security of American government employees and citizens overseas remain their top priority.

The official said U.S. citizens looking for assistance in leaving Afghanistan should complete the request form on Embassy Kabul's website as soon as possible. The State Department is also asking U.S. citizens to shelter in place and not travel to the airport until they've been informed via email that departure options exist.

"We urge everyone to remain calm and to cease rushing the airport. We will be better able to safely get people out if there is calm and order," the spokesperson said.

Update (8/17/2021, 3:15 p.m. Eastern): This story has been updated with additional information provided by the State Department.