Washington [US], August 19 (ANI): The Pentagon on Thursday (local time) informed that armed F-18s flew over Kabul to "ensure enhanced security".
During an on-camera briefing at the Pentagon, Major General Hank Taylor, Vice Director for logistics of the Joint Staff said F-18s from the Ronald Reagan Carrier strike group "flew armed overwatch flights" over Kabul, Afghanistan, "to ensure security" over the last 24 hours.
"We maintain a watchful high and are continuously conducting in-depth assessments to protect the safety of Americans. We'll use all of the tools in our arsenal to achieve this goal. I want to reinforce that we are absolutely focused on this mission of national importance. We are committed to the safe evacuation of as many people as quickly and as safely as possible," Taylor said.
The flights are providing air support, the general said.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby added that the flights were "not low pass flights" but they are "at altitude."
The general said, "They are keeping a watch on the Taliban. Besides these F-18s, there are other F-18s and other aircraft under General Frank McKenzie (head of US Central Command) for this kind of overwatch. So they are not low passes."
Asked if the aircraft has the authorization to fire if US troops and allies come under attack, Kirby said, "As always, we have the right to defend ourselves and our people and our operations."
Since the Defense Department began supporting the State Department with the movement of people out of Afghanistan at the end of July, approximately 12,000 people have been moved out of the country, said Hank Taylor.
That 12,000 number includes "American citizens, US embassy personnel, individuals designated by the State Department as SIV applicants and other evacuees in coordination with the State Department," Taylor said.
Included in that 12,000 number are 7,000 people who have been moved out of Afghanistan just since August 14, Taylor said.
"Since the start of evacuation operations on August 14, we have airlifted approximately 7,000 total evacuees," Taylor said.
Taylor told reporters that 12 C-17 aircraft departed with 2,000 evacuees over the past 24 hours.
Speaking at a Pentagon briefing Taylor said the military now has enough aircraft to get 5,000-9,000 people out a day, depending on how many have been processed and other factors, such as weather.
The Defense Department is "ready to increase output and have scheduled aircraft departures accordingly," Taylor said.
"We intend to maximize each plane's capacity. We are prioritizing people above all else, and we are focused on doing this as safely as possible with absolute urgency," he added.
Desperate Afghans trying to flee have surrounded Kabul airport, but Taliban fighters are stationed outside, some firing shots to control the crowd. (ANI)