As Tuesday Withdrawal Deadline Looms, Pentagon Says Situation in Afghanistan Remains Tense

More than 122,000 people—Americans and Afghan allies—have been evacuated from Afghanistan in recent weeks as Tuesday's deadline looms for U.S. forces to be out of the country, putting an end to the nation's longest war.

"U.S. military troops have shown tremendous bravery and compassion, as they put themselves in harm's way to evacuating as many American citizens and Afghans as possible during this operation," Army Major General Hank Taylor, a logistics specialist on the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Monday. "The mission of the evacuation was to help as many people as possible leave Afghanistan."

The U.S. military withdrawal comes amid growing tensions over security in the South Asian country after its recent takeover by the Taliban. Taylor confirmed that on Monday morning U.S. forces shot down multiple rockets aimed at Kabul's airport.

Last Thursday, at least 13 members of the U.S. military were among the scores killed and injured in an attack near the airport carried out by ISIS-K, an Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State militant group.

It's unclear how many Americans remain in Afghanistan and want to be evacuated. The State Department has been in touch with more Americans there, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.

"Given the tense security environment that we're dealing with, I think it'd be better to just not talk about it much more than that, but they're in contact," he said.

Kirby also wouldn't provide specifics on the exact timing for Tuesday's withdrawal deadline.

"We are in a particularly dangerous time now—not that it hasn't always been dangerous—but it is particularly dangerous now, and we're just not going to detail every aspect of our force protection measures in public while we still have troops in harm's way and we're still trying to get people out of Afghanistan," he said.

Since the evacuation effort started in earnest at the end of July, the United States has evacuated about 122,300 people—about 5,400 of them American citizens.

This month, as America's withdrawal deadline approached, the Taliban toppled the capital city of Kabul and former President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. The U.S. military has been coordinating with the Taliban to ensure that Americans can get out of the country if they want to leave.

"We have been in communication with the Taliban about these final days so that we can make sure that there's no miscalculation or misunderstanding," Kirby said.

The Pentagon has repeatedly declined to provide details on specific efforts that will take place in the military's final hours in Afghanistan.

"We're not going to get into the details of what's flying and what there is, but the commanders that are fulfilling this last part of this mission have all the assets they need in the air and on the ground where they're at to complete the mission safely," Taylor said.

August 31 Afghanistan deadline looms
The U.S. military's withdrawal deadline approaches amid growing tensions in Afghanistan. Above, Afghan residents and family members of the victims gather on Monday next to a damaged vehicle inside a house, a day after a U.S. drone airstrike in Kabul. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images