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tv   Pentagon Press Secretary Gen. Hank Taylor Hold Briefing on Afghanistan  CSPAN  August 30, 2021 10:32am-11:16am EDT

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-- amran khan said recently, he said america blew the afghan war. he is the prime minister criticizing america while he is receiving billions of dollars from america just to be allied. they will not be our friends. host: do you think we should withdraw money not only from afghanistan but also pakistan? caller: these are decisions that need to be done at the highest level. i think america has enough problems back home to deal with. there is so much to do in this country without wasting money on war we cannot win. going people who made money off this war is the military establishment that makes billions selling guns to the government.
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>> good morning. u.s. military operations in afghanistan continue with our primary focus on the safety and security of the troops who remain in kabul. on sunday, u.s. military forces conducted an unmanned over the horizon airstrike on a vehicle known to be an imminent isis-k threat. this self-defense strike successfully hit the target near kabul airport. significant secondary explosions from the targeted vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material. we are aware of reports of civilian casualties. we take these reports very seriously. we are continuing to assess the situation. separately, at approximately 11:00 p.m. eastern time last
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night, as many as five rockets were fired at the kabul airport. u.s. military forces successfully employed our force protection measures to thwart that attack. u.s. forces retain the inherent right of self-defense and are authorized to meet threats with a swift and forceful response. force protection is paramount in this phase of the operation. over the weekend and into today, evacuation operations continue. yesterday, 26 u.s. military aircraft, all c-17's, departed with approximately 1200 evacuees. in total, there were 28 flights out of kabul airport in the last 24 hours which included the remaining coalition departures. as of today, more than 122,000,
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including 5400 americans, have been evacuated from afghanistan. u.s. military troops have shown tremendous bravery and compassion as they put themselves in harm's way to evacuate as many american citizens and afghans as possible during this operation. that work by u.s. service members continues across the globe at a number of intermediate staging bases and deity installations. more than 27,000 passengers wait follow on movement from six active locations. three active locations currently have more than 22,000 passengers. today, 17 flights will transport about 3700 passengers to both dulles international airport with approximately 11 flights and philadelphia international airport with six flights. in northcom, there are nearly 13,000 passengers that remain at
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five different u.s. installations. these numbers are a snapshot in time. the movement of personnel is very fluid. we do not expect these passenger totals to match the total number of evacuees from afghanistan, nor will they match the total number of afghans arriving to the united states. the mission of the evacuation operation was to help as many people as possible leave afghanistan. some of these evacuees included american citizens, third country nationals or afghans whose credentials permitted them to otherwise depart without processing at a military installation. military, civilian, and contractor personnel continue to work closely with government and nongovernmental agencies to meet requirements and provide additional capabilities for families as they continue their transition. while operations in afghanistan will conclude soon, the deity
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effort to support the interagency is ongoing. additionally, the department of defense continues to support humanitarian relief operations in response to national disasters closer to home. in haiti, the u.s. military assets have flown 560 sorties, providing rapid logistical and airlift support, including delivery of more than 348,000 pounds of aid. on the gulf coast with hurricane ida, northcom as of this morning , incoordination with fema and the national guard, has activated more than 5200 personnel in louisiana, mississippi, texas, and alabama in response to the hurricane. they bring a variety of assets, including high water vehicles, rotary lift, and other transportation capability to support recovery efforts. the u.s. army corps of engineers is operational in new orleans and is assessing the storm's impact.
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deity stands ready to assist as requested by fema. -- d.o.d. stands ready to assist as requested by fema. thank you. >> i don't have anything to add, so we will go to questions. >> did they strike and hit all five rockets or did some land in areas where there are no casualties? >> we assessed five rockets were in the air and went. three landed off the airfield of no effect. one other rocket landed with no effect to the mission or danger to personnel. >> on evacuees, does the u.s. military assess the number of
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americans still in the country are only the ones that no longer want to leave? are they largely out now? are you now solely concentrating on just getting u.s. troops out and equipment? >> total, 122,000 work evacuated. approximate 5400 americans. we continue to have the capability to evacuate and fly out those until the very end. we are continuing to work with the department of state and continue evacuation and military operations. >> on the numbers of americans you're still in contact with, that is something for them to speak to. >> can you speak to the continuing rocket threat to the final planes leaving?
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will the cram be left behind? >> we assess there is still an active threat in various ways that we have to be prepared for. what i will tell you without getting into specific systems and their availability, which i think you can understand why we would not, we continue to have and will maintain the capability to protect and defend ourselves as we continue to complete the retrograde. >> one follow-up. a number of us have gotten reports from american citizens or vulnerable afghans still on the ground that cannot get through the gates anymore. they have been getting notices the evacuation is over. what happens next for those left behind.
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will there be any military operation to get them out of the country? >> i think you heard secretary blinken talk about this. for americans and other individuals that want to be able to leave afghanistan after our withdrawal is complete, the state department is going to continue to work across many different levers to facilitate that transportation create as i said earlier, right now we do not anticipate a military rope in that effort. >> you just said one rocket landed with no effect to the mission. you mean it landed inside the airport perimeter and did not affect the mission? what's it landed inside the perimeter and had no effect whatsoever. >> these isis-k fighters you have targeted with drone strikes in the last few days, were any
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of them released from the prisons, where they known combatants inside the prisons? >> i don't think we have that information. >> if 5800 americans were left in afghanistan when you pulled out of bob graham -- the ground -- bagram at the end of july, why did evacuations not begin? >> we talked about this some time ago. i'm happy to revisit it. we were already baked into the retrograde plan with helping people get out. we were in constant conversations with the ghani government and colleagues about the right time to do that. well before the provincial capitals started toppling
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towards the middle of august, we pre-positioned forces to the degree of taking an entire marine battalion and moving them so they would be ready. this was something we had been preparing for. timing is always very delicate, as you might imagine. >> you were stopped by the state department from beginning evacuations? >> i would not say that. i don't think it is important now to get into internal deliberations. we were still in close contact with the ghani government. he was still president of the country. our expectation was that the government would stay in place be nobody could have imagined how quickly that government would have literally just dissipated almost overnight. there was no way to protect that.
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>> a couple questions on the gates. are any of the gates open and are any under taliban control? >> this has always been a dangerous operation, but we are in a particularly dangerous time . i think you can understand we will not be detailing the status of any particular gate right now. we still have the ability and capability to conduct evacuation operations, even while we are working to complete the retrograde of it u.s. forces. >> beyond investigating reports of casualties, do you have any indications those reports may be accurate? >> we are not in a position to dispute it right now. we are assessing and investigating. make no mistake.
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note military on the face of the earth works harder to avoid civilian casualties than united states military. when we know we have caused innocent life to be lost in the conduct of operations, we are transparent about it. we are investigating it. i'm not going to get ahead of it. if we have very viable -- verifiable information we did take innocent lives, we will be transparent about that. nobody wants to see that happen. you know what else we did not want to see happen? we did not want to see a very imminent threat to the hamid karzai airport and our troops operating at the airport, as well as civilians around it and end it -- in it.
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that is something else we were very concerned about. >> the president said the likelihood of an attack within the next 36 hours was highly likely. he had been told that by his military commanders. after that, there was the strike on this vehicle. after that strike, is another attack still considered highly likely? >> we are operating under the assumption we need to prepared for future threats. as the general detailed, there was in fact, after we took the airstrike against this vehicle, there were rocket attacks, indirect rocket fire attacks, on the airport. the threat stream is still real and active. in many cases, is specific. we are taking it seriously and will write up to the end could >> you did not specifically
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answer the question about where the the taliban -- about whether the taliban are on the airport. >> not to my knowledge. >> you mentioned 122,000 evacuated. how many of those are siv's and their families? >> we know roughly 5400 of the 122,000 are american citizens. the vast majority are afghan. i do not have a breakdown of that. >> our reporting is saying there are about 7000 of the 88,000, so that leaves more than 80,000 of the siv's and their families behind. >> i cannot verify that number.
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i cannot tell you what the breakdown is right now. more than 112,000, maybe more, that we were able to evacuate. i cannot give you the breakdown. what i will tell you is we wanted to get as many people out as we could. in a short order of time, 122,000, the largest airlift the military has conducted, got 122,000 people to safety. there will be a time, when this is complete, that the state department can do the math and figure this out. i think we are all focused right now on continuing the mission that the general described us doing and making sure up until the end that we can get people out safely, including evacuees.
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>> we have sources that say marines guarding the airport allowed relatives and extended family members of kabul embassy local staff, despite not having documentation, meanwhile, thousands of american citizens were turned away. have you heard this? can you confirm? >> i have not heard those reports. i cannot verify them. i can tell you the marines and soldiers that have been helping consular officers man the gates and process people in did heroic work. they had to make decisions in real time about trying to help people get out. the numbers speak to themselves. 122,000-plus, that is significant. and a lot of lives were saved. and a lot of lives are now in a better place. they will have opportunities
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they could not have had before, thanks to the work these troops did in concert with their state department colleagues at these gates. >> beijing has come out with a south china sea policy forcing people to self identify. it goes into effect on wednesday. does dnd plan on following that policy? ? >> i will take the question back and try to get you a better answer. you're hitting me up with a statement from the chinese that i have not seen. i'm not going to speculate at this time. >> the afghan premier wants me to ask you, was president by not wanting the taliban that any u.s. citizens or afghan allies are killed or hurt that their leadership would be targeted just like isis was targeted recently?
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>> thanks for the question. i think the president has been very clear what our expectations are when the retrograde is complete with respect to the safety and security of american citizens. i think we have been very clear about that. as you heard secretary blinken say, we will continue to pursue a variety of means to help those americans who want to get out after we are gone get out. >> you talked about flights heading to dulles and philly. can you give us an idea of how a people are on the flights, afghans and u.s. citizens? >> i cannot give you by manifest. >> ballpark. >> 17 flights, the majority of those are afghans. as a priority at these lily pads done immediately to get american
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citizens first and then other green card holders and others, but the majority of the flights are afghans. >> i understand congressional people are being briefed that you are starting to destroy munitions as well as equipment. can you give us a sense of that effort? >> what i go back to is commanders on the ground retain that authority and capability to remove or destroy equipment and weapons to ensure those do not fall into the hands of anybody else. >> are we going to get an accounting of what has been destroyed? >> i think when the time is right, we will be able to help better flesh that out. the time is not right. >> on the strike against the vehicle, central command talked
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about secondary explosions. do you have visual evidence there were secondary explosions? are you convinced that there were, because that seems to be one of the potential contributing factors to civilian casualties? are you certain there were secondary explosions? >> yes. >> can you say how you are sure? >> no. >> we inevitably come down to the final hours. what advice or thoughts for americans were green cardholders who might be trying to get to the airport and get through, is there still time for them? >> there is still time. the state department is in touch with additional american citizens.
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given the tense security environment we are dealing with, i think it would be better to not talk about it much more than that. but they are in contact. >> flights will continue tomorrow, on the 31st? >> i'm not going to get ahead of the actual operational schedule. >> a little bit more on the continuing strength from isis-k. after the u.s. is completely out on august 31, will you coordinate with the taliban or give them notice? >> i don't think it is useful to get into hypothetical future operations one way or the other. yelling thing i would tell you is the president has made it clear we will retain robust antiterrorism capabilities and will have the ability to react in ways that are in keeping with our national security interests and help prevent attacks on the homeland.
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we still have that capability. we will use that capability. >> what is not hypothetical is the u.s. military has been coordinating with the taliban on the ground. so to ask if you are going to continue coordinating with them, in this case against isis-k, is not hypothetical. will you continue to coordinate with the taliban after august 31? >> i beg to differ. i think your question is entirely hypothetical about something different from what we have been coordinating with the taliban on, which is to help us get as many people on to the airport as possible. i appreciate the sense of the question. i am not trying to market. i don't think it is helpful to talk about what counterterrorism capability will look like going forward and how we will execute it. we have the capability. we demonstrated that in strikes that were not coordinated with the taliban. we have that ability to go forward. >> does the pentagon or whoever it would be have the authority
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to to continue to connect strikes against isis-k after august 31? >> the commander on the ground has the authorities he needs right now. i'm not going to talk about authorities going forward. i know what you're asking, specific approval authority for each and every strike. i will not talk about policy decisions going forward, except to say that the entire military chain of command understands the existence of this threat and the possibility of this threat to continue to exist, and we have the capability to deal with it. >> had there been contacts with the taliban about the u.s. withdrawal taking place to ensure there is no misinterpretations of what is going on? >> the short answer is yes. our commanders on the ground remain in communication with
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taliban leaders to de-conflict and prevent misunderstandings. so far, that communication has been effective. >> i would like to follow-up. in the initial readout from centcom on the strikes over the weekend, the u.s. said the initial assessment was there were no civilian casualties. on what basis did the u.s. make that assessment? >> the initial statement said we have no indications at this time of civilian casualties. that was true when it was said. centcom also put in that we are assessing, and we continue to assess. >> how is that assessment being done? >> we are looking at a variety
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of means of information. we are collecting open press reporting. we are doing the best we can to try to understand the situations locally as best we can. that would include discussions with the taliban about what they might be seeing. there's a variety of ways we are trying to do the assessment. >> craig get more clarity on why we cannot know the names of the isis-k suspects hit on thursday? they were described as high-profile planners, facilitators. the president has said we will hunt you down. why can't we know who they are? >> there is a time we can talk about the names. time is not now. we are dealing with very real, ongoing threats. i think we are doing what we believe to be the prudent thing with respect to the release of information. we are giving you as much as we
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can in as close to real-time time as we can, but we will not be able to give you everything. we talked about that a couple of days ago when we talked about the retrograde beginning, that there would be a more judicious approach about information release. there will probably come a time when we can be more forthcoming. now is not that time. let me go to the phones. alex horton. ok. we will come back. jeff? >> thanks. i have a question. it is difficult, but i hope you can entertain it. according to politico, the u.s. knew roughly where the attack would take place on thursday and went >> what i can tell you is we
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been monitoring as close as we can intelligence that led us to believe we were in a dynamic and specific threat environment. number two, as general mckenzie said it, we will investigate. we will get to the bottom of what happened thursday. 13 precious lives were lost. we are not going to investigate it in public. number three, i am not going to speak to a press story that was informed by the unlawful disclosure of classified information in the pentagon. not going to do it. >> being conducted in a residential area, this drone strike -- was that the only
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option you used? whether other options to stop that? >> i will at the general -- i will ask the general to provide context. the only thing i would say is we've used the word dynamic a lot. i know that sounds like pentagon speak. that is really the best way to describe the threats we are facing, moving, fluid, quick. that's how isis-k operates. we have to be as quick and nimble as they are. when you have what we believe to be an imminent threat and we believe this to be an imminent threat. we took the action we believed was the most necessary at the best opportunity to thwart that attack.
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>> commanders will always minimize calabro damage. -- collateral damage. that is how we operate. in this case, this strike prevented a high profile attack against coalition forces and other civilians. as we look at the information that we have during the time of the strike, we took those measures in place and the decision was made to strike and thwart that attack. >> the u.s. engaged those rockets. they hit one of them? or you didn't engage the other one? >> just going back, it did
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engage. it had an effect on the one. one did land in an area and it was not effective. >> you intercepted that one? >> yes. it was effective. >> i wanted to clarify the numbers you stated earlier. 122,000, is 5400 a part of that? >> one hunted 22,000 plus evacuated over the course of this operation going back to late july when we started moving applicants back home. then since then, 5400 is included in the 122,000. >> i understand you can't give us an update on the number of troops on the ground.
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are you confident they will be up by the deadline? when the deadline will come into effect, it's difficult. >> to answer your first question, yes. the answer to the second question is i'm not going to get into it. >> the continued terrorism in afghanistan after the withdrawal of u.s. troops on the 31st, will the united states get involved in the war on terror again? >> i think i would like to go back to what i said before to courtney. the president has made it clear that our combat mission, the war
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we been fighting in afghanistan, that is going to end. it is going to end very soon. what's not going to end is our commitment in the defense department to protect the american people from threats. particular from any terrorist threat that could emanate from afghanistan. you can see in just the last 36 hours we do have an effective over the horizon counterterrorism capability. that capability will remain. obviously, we will not deal what it looks like on any given day. we will maintain that capability to protect the people from france -- threats that could emanate from afghanistan. the counter terrorism threat is not just in afghanistan. it's in north africa. you've seen that. we are going to maintain that ability, to thwart those threats
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as best we can. over the horizon is not new to us. we've been doing it for a long time outside afghanistan. >> that ability, is that still coming from gulf basis? are you making progress with regional partners? >> i'm not going to go into any detail about that. we have discussions with neighboring nations about possibilities. i don't have anything to announce today. are you there? >> can you hear me? going back to the strike on the vehicle, the evidence you used seems like verification that it was a legitimate target. the same for the secondary explosion. assessing the public available
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photos, it shows a lack of set on the wall. there is a tree that was knocked down with foliage intact. after viewing these things, do you still stand by that there was a significant explosion and not something like a gas tank explosion or something like that that may misdirect a big secondary explosion? >> as i said earlier, there was a secondary explosion. what was there was going to be used in a high-profile attack. i don't have details on the information. our intelligence experts will continue to assess the post strike activities.
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>> a couple of more. back there. >> we take over the airport before we leave, how will you depend on your capabilities? what will the outcome look like? >> as i said, we've been in communication with the taliban about these final days. we can make sure there is no miscalculation or understanding. our goal is to complete this retrograde and wrap up operations as safely and orderly as we can. i'm not going to get into the details about the conversations we are having. as we have seen too vividly in the last day, the threat remains
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high and it remains real. what i can assure you is general mckenzie and general donahue on the ground, they have worked out a very carefully coordinated method of safely completing this retrograde. that's as far as i think i can go. as for the airport, it will remain operational through our final flights. what it looks like after we are gone, i would point you to at the secretary of state said. there are a couple of countries that have talked about being able to come up with an arrangement to keep it operational for commercial air traffic in coordination with the taliban. i will let them speak for their efforts.
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that would not be a u.s. military function once we've completed the retrograde and we are no longer there. a couple of more. >> the ratio of flights to people have gotten pretty high. is that because fewer people are coming to the airport? our flights filling up with equipment and supplies? >> we're not going to get into details. obviously, we are reaching the end of our mission. commanders are outflowing those requirements needed to complete the mission. >> are there still strike aircraft in case something is going on near the airport? >> the commanders fulfilling this last part of the mission have all the assets they need in
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the air and on the ground to complete the mission safely. >> evacuation operations are dangerous. the end of them in an environment we can't consider permissive, they are particularly dangerous. the commanders on the ground have the resources they need to enact force protection. >> what is more dangerous now than there was two weeks ago? >> it's not that we are not saying more specific for one reason or another, we are in a particularly dangerous time now. not that it hasn't always been dangerous. we are just not going to detail every aspect of our force
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protection measures in public while we still have troops in harm's way and we are still trying to get people out of afghanistan. there will be a time to talk about all of that. it's not today. >> there is an american hostage held are the taliban. have they agreed to release him before the u.s. leaves? are there plans to leave without this hostage? >> i can tell you that we share the entire governments concerns over him. our strong desire is to see him returned home to his family where he belongs. there has been a concerted effort over many many months to try to achieve that outcome. regardless of what we do over the next day or so, we will
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remain focused on returning him safely to his family. that's not going to change one way or the other. i appreciate it. thanks very much. we will talk to you soon. >> coming up live at 1:30 p.m., the secretary of state will make a statement on afghanistan. more about afghanistan from capitol hill where kevin mccarthy will be joined by other republicans in a press conference. live coverage begins at 5:00 eastern.
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