Afghanistan exit goes on after suicide attack

Despite a suicide attack near the entrance to Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai International Airport that killed 13 U.S. service members and injured others, the “noble mission” to evacuate American and eligible Afghans out of the country will continue, said the Joint Staff deputy director for regional operations.

At a press briefing this morning, Army Maj. Gen. William D. “Hank” Taylor and Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby expressed heartfelt condolences on behalf of the Defense Department to the families of those killed or injured, Afghans as well as Americans.

“This is a devastating time for these Gold Star families, a title no one wants to hold, but we absolutely hold in the utmost respect,” said Taylor.

“Force protection remains paramount with the continued threat,” he said.

Taylor said two flights carrying the wounded landed today at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Those service members were then transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for care. Afghans injured in the attack are being treated in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Army Maj. Gen. William D. “Hank” Taylor at the Pentagon

In the first 24 hours after the suicide attack, 35 U.S. military aircraft consisting of 29 C-17 and six C-130s departed the Kabul airport with about 8,500 personnel. There were also 54 coalition aircraft departures, he said.

A total of 12,500 people were evacuated from Afghanistan in a 24-hour period yesterday, he added. Also in the past 24 hours, over 300 U.S. citizens were evacuated, bringing the total number of American evacuees to about 5,100.

There are still about 5,400 people at the airport awaiting flights out of Afghanistan, Taylor said. “We have the ability to include evacuees on U.S. military air airlift out of Afghanistan until the very end.”

A number of nations in the region and in Europe have allowed evacuees to land for further screening en route to the U.S. Taylor said “I cannot say enough how important the contribution of our allies and our partners has been in this massive global operation.”

Once the evacuees land in the U.S., they move on to one of several locations set to receive them.

Those locations, Kirby said, now include Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; Fort Pickett, Virginia; and Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Fort Lee, Virginia, were already receiving evacuees and continue to do so.

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