A group of 169 Americans were airlifted from a hotel outside of the Kabul International Airport on Thursday, Pentagon spokesman JohnKirby confirmed to reporters on Friday.
One of a very limited number of actions that was undertaken by U.S. troops outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport walls since the 6,000 troops began deploying last week.
President Joe Biden first spoke about the mission at a press conference on Friday afternoon, where he described “military assets” bringing Americans “over the wall” of the airport.
“… the original plan was for the Americans to gather themselves up at the Baron [Hotel] and walk through the Abbey gate. The gate is right here. So you can see from the hotel to the gate,” Kirby said. “… but there was a large crowd established outside the Abbey gate ― a crowd, that, that not everybody had confidence in, in terms of their ability to walk through it. And so, local commanders on the scene took the initiative and flew these helicopters out there to pick them up.”
Three Army CH-47 Chinooks went to gather the Americans from a landing zone at the hotel, Kirby stated. They then dropped them at the airport for processing. He could not confirm whether or not any had been flown out of Afghanistan since the mission.
This is the first extradition that U.S. officials have reported operating outside the walls of the Airport that the United States Military now controls.
“… but there have been, on occasion, have been people walked in,” Kirby said. “People walking up, and not necessarily going to the right place and soldiers have helped them outside the perimeter of the airport get to where they need to go.”
French and British Special Forces have reportedly been extracting their own citizens in Kabul. The U.S. so far has stuck mostly to the Kabul airport, though Biden left the door open for further missions to be discussed on Friday outside the wire.
“We’re going to do everything that we can to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies, partners, and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States,” he said in his second national address this week on the chaotic situation in Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, deputy director of the Joint Staff for regional operations, told Military Times that the U.S. had not yet begun negotiating with the Taliban to assure safety for troops who might attempt rescue missions in the city.