Pentagon press secretary John Kirby today provided few details on how US troops brought 169 Americans to the Hamid Karzai International Airport, but characterized the activity as “assistance” rather than a rescue mission.
“My understanding of what happened was they were really just outside the wall,” he told CNN’s Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
“It wasn’t a rescue so much as assisting them getting onto the field,” continued Kirby, speaking from the Pentagon.
When pressed by Starr, Kirby repeatedly said that he did not have details on US operations outside the airport, which is secured by the US military.
“I don’t have that level of detail,” said Kirby. “…I do not have that level of tactical detail today. I’m happy to go look and see if we can find answers for you on that.”
President Biden, in a press conference earlier this afternoon, said US troops had gone “over the wall” to bring 169 Americans to the airfield.
Kirby said beyond “assistance” to the 169 Americans, he was not aware of any other instances in which US soldiers had left the airport. He said the US had increased its capacity to operate outside of the wire, however, which stands in contrast to remarks made earlier in the week by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who said they did not have the capacity to go out and get “large numbers of people.”
Speaking at the Pentagon today, Kirby said they had now “flown in additional capacity, additional forces.”
“If there would be a need to do something additional to help Americans or other people at risk that we need to get to the airfield, we would examine those options,” Kirby said.