Pentagon: Taliban Threat 'Hour-by-Hour' Situation as U.S. Forces Evacuate Thousands

The Biden administration can't say whether U.S. forces are facing a strict deadline to leave Afghanistan by a certain date to prevent the Taliban or other insurgents from attacking—as the U.S. military works to safely evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghan allies.

"We're always evaluating the threat—it's not only a day-by-day thing, it's an hour-by-hour thing," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday. "We know that this is a still a perilous environment. All I can tell you is that we're going to do everything that we can to make sure that we can protect our force, protect the people that we're trying to move on to the airport and protect their movement out of Kabul, as well as protect the entire operation at the airport."

Kirby said there have been no hostile interactions between Taliban and U.S. forces working on the evacuation mission since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan over the weekend.

"We've made it very clear to the Taliban that any attack upon our people and our operations at the airport will be met with a forceful response," he said.

The U.S. military has evacuated about 7,000 people—U.S. Embassy personnel, American citizens and Afghan allies—since Saturday.

"We are absolutely focused on this mission of national importance,"
Army Major General Hank Taylor, a logistics specialist on the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters. "We are committed to the safe evacuation of as many people, as quickly and as safely as possible."

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris held a closed-door, Situation Room meeting with the White House's national security team to get the latest update on the situation in Afghanistan Thursday morning.

Facing a stinging backlash in recent days as chaos enveloped Afghanistan, Biden has defended his decision to withdraw troops, even as U.S. Embassy officials, American citizens and Afghan people who have helped the U.S. during the war have had to be evacuated.

"There is no good time to leave Afghanistan," Biden told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday in the president's first interview on the Taliban takeover, "Fifteen years ago would've been a problem, 15 years from now. The basic choice is, 'am I gonna send your sons and your daughters to war in Afghanistan in perpetuity?'"

In April, Biden announced that American troops would be out of Afghanistan this year before the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks—putting an end to the longest war in U.S. history. He revised the deadline last month, setting the U.S. military forces on a path to pull out by the end of August.

Biden, who previously asserted that it was "highly unlikely" the Taliban would take over when American troops left, has repeatedly stressed that the Afghan military forces were trained by American soldiers and the United States spent billions on tanks, guns and other equipment for Afghan soldiers to defend the country.

"That somehow the 300,000 troops we had trained and equipped was gonna just collapse, that they were gonna give up—I don't think anybody anticipated that," Biden told Stephanopoulos.

After toppling the government in several regions of the country, the Taliban seized control of the capital city of Kabul on Sunday. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

"There was nothing that I, or anyone else, saw that indicated a collapse of this army or this government in 11 days," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley told reporters Wednesday.

Taliban takes over Afghanistan, Pentagon latest
Taliban fighters stand along a road in Kabul on August 18, 2021, after the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan. Wakil KOHSAR / AFP/Getty Images