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tv   Pentagon Press Secretary Gen. Hank Taylor Hold Briefing on Afghanistan  CSPAN  August 30, 2021 12:46pm-1:29pm EDT

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among these other television providers. giving you a front row seat to democracy. >> pentagon press secretary john kirby and army major general hank taylor brief reporters on evacuation and security efforts in afghanistan. this is just over 40 minutes.
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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 air strike on a vehicle known to be in imminent isis threat. the 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 and we take
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these reports very seriously and we are continuing to assess the situation. separately at approximately 11:00 p.m. eastern time last night, as many as five rockets were fired at the kabul airport. u.s. military forces successfully employed are force protection measures to thwart that attack. u.s. forces retained the inherent right of self-defense and are authorized to meet with a swift and forceful response. over the weekend evacuation operations continued. yesterday 26 u.s. military aircraft departed with approximately 1002 hundred evacuees. in total there were 28 flights out of kabul airport in the last
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24 hours which included the remaining coalition departures. as of today more than 122,000 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 cold -- across the globe. more than 27,000 passengers await follow-on movement from six active locations. three active locations currently have 22,000 passengers and 17 flights will transport about 3700 passengers dulles international airport with 11
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flights and philadelphia international airport with six flights. there are nearly 13,000 passengers that remain at different installations. these numbers are a snapshot in time and movement of personnel is very fluid. we do not expect these passenger totals to match the number of evacuees from afghanistan or the total 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 including american citizens, and country nationals or afghans whose credentials permitted them to depart without processing military installation. personnel continue to work closely with both government and nongovernmental agencies to
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provide additional capabilities for families as they continued their tradition. while operations in afghanistan will conclude soon, the effort is ongoing. the department of defense continues to support humanitarian relief operations. in haiti the u.s. military assets have flown 560 stories providing rapid logistical and airlift support. on the gulf coast, as of this morning in coordination with fema and our national guard has activated more than 5000 200 personnel in louisiana, mississippi, texas and alabama in response to the hurricane. they bring a variety of assets including high water vehicles
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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. dod stands ready to assist as requested by fema. >> i don't have anything to add so we will go to questions. >> did they hit all of the five rockets or did some land in areas where there are no casualties? >> we assessed that five rockets were in the air. three landed off the airfield and see ram was able to affect and thwart the attack with no effect to the mission or any
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danger to our personnel. >> does the u.s. military assess that the number of americans still in the country are only the ones that no longer want to leave or the ones who want to leave are largely out now and the evacuation of afghans is largely complete so are you now solely concentrating on just getting u.s. troops out and equipment? >> approximately 500 -- 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 continuing evacuation and military operations.
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>> the number of americans still in contact, that's something for them to speak to. >> could you speak to the continuing rocket threat, will the crm be left behind, what will happen after it goes? >> there is still an active threat in various ways that we have to be prepared for and what i will tell you without getting into specific systems and their availability which i think you can understand why we wouldn't, we continue to have and will maintain the capability to protect ourselves and defend ourselves as we continue to complete the retrograde. >> a number of us have gotten reports from either american citizens or vulnerable afghans that are still on the ground and
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can't get through the gates anymore. they have gotten notices that the evacuation is over. what happens next for those left behind? will there be any military operations to get them out of the country? >> for americans and other individuals that want to be able to leave afghanistan after our withdrawal is complete that the state department is going to continue to work across many different lovers to facilitate that transportation. as i said earlier, right now we do not anticipate a military role in that effort. >> you just said that when rocket landed with no effect from the mission. you mean it landed inside the airport perimeter but it did not affect the mission.
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>> it landed inside the perimeter and had no effect whatsoever. >> these fighters that you have targeted, or they released from the bagram prison, where they known combatants who were inside those prisons? >> i don't think we have that information. >> if 5800 americans were left in afghanistan in july, why did the u.s. military not begin evacuation of americans before pulling out of the country? >> we talked about this quite some time ago. we were already baked into the retrograde plan way back in the spring with the possibility for noncombatant operations and helping people get out. we were in constant conversations with the government about what that would
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look like and when would be the right time to do that and in anticipation of it, well before the provincial capitals started toppling toward the middle of august, secretary austin pre-positioned forces -- and moved them so they would be ready. this is something we had been planning for and preparing for. the timing of these things is always delicate as you might imagine. i don't think it's important to get into internal deliberations. we were obviously still in close contact with the ghanaian government. he was still the president of the country. you have to be able to have those conversations because our expectation was that the government would stay in place.
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nobody could have imagined how quickly that government would have dissipated. overnight. there was simply no way to predict that. >> are any of the gates staying open and are any of them under taliban control? >> we are in a particularly dangerous time right now. i think you can understand that we are not going to discuss the status of any particular gate right now. we still have the ability and the capability to conduct evacuation operations even while working to complete the retrograde of u.s. forces. >> you have now had two incidents where there have been reports of casualties. >> we are not in a position to dispute it right now.
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as the general said, we are assessing out investigating. make no mistake, no military on the face of the earth works harder to avoid civilian casualties than the united states military. nobody wants to see innocent life taken. . we take it very seriously. when we know that we have caused innocent life to be lost and -- we are transparent about it. i am not going to get ahead of it. if we have verifiable information that we did in fact take innocent lives, we will be transparent about that too. nobody wants to see that happen. we also do not want to see what we believed to be a very real, specific, imminent threat to the
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international airport and our troops operating at the airport. as well as civilians surrounding it and in it. >> the president said that the likelihood of an attack within the next 24 hours a was high. when he had been told that by his monetary commanders. there was the strike on this vehicle. after that strike, is another attack still considered highly likely? >> we are operating under the assumption that we need to be prepared for future threats. as the general detailed for you in his opening statement, there was in fact, after we took this airstrike. against this vehicle, there were rocket attacks. and rectifier rocket attacks --
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indirect fire rocket attacks. it is still specific, we are taking it seriously. we will until the end. >> you do not answer the question about whether the taliban, who was at what gate? the taliban, are they at the airport? >> no, yeah. >> you mentioned 122,000 have been evacuated. how many of those are sib and your -- their families? >> that is a better question for the state department. roughly 5400 of the 122,000 are american citizens. the vast majority are afghan. i do not have a breakdown of that. >> our reporting and saying there about 7000 of the 88,000. that leaves more than 80,000
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left behind. as a pentagon see that as a success? -- does the pentagon see that as a success? livingston behind? -- leaving them behind? >> i cannot tell you the breakdown between the more than 112,000 afghans who were able to evacuate in the course of a couple of weeks. i cannot give you the breakdown. i honestly cannot. what i will tell you is, we want to get as many people out as we could. in the course of a short order of time, 122,000 got to safety. when this is complete, this department can the math and figure this out. we are all focused on continuing
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the mission that the general described as doing and making sure that right up until the end , we can get people out safely. including evacuees. >> we have sources that say marines is running the airport allowed accident family members of kabul staff despite having argumentation -- despite having documentation while children were turned away in some cases. have you heard this? >> i cannot verify those reports. without speaking to these reports, the marines and soldiers that have been helping officers manned these gates and help process people did heroic work. they had to make decisions in real time. but i do help people get out -- about helping people get out.
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that is significant. a lot of lives were saved. a lot of lives are in a better place. there were to have opportunities they could hunt have had before -- they are going to have opportunities they could not have before. >> one more question. beijing has come out with a new south china sea policy which forces people to so identify while approaching their maritime territories. it goes into effect on wednesday, does the dod plan on following that policy? >> i will take the question back and get the -- i will take the question back and get you a question a later. i cannot speculate at this time. >> why did president biden not
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get -- act faster to get people out of afghanistan? they will be targeted. >> i think the president has been very clear that what our expectations are. once this is complete with respect to the safety and security of american citizens. we have been clear about that. as you heard, we are going to continue to pursue a variety of means to help those americans who want to get out after we are gone. >> can you give us a sense of how many people are on those flights and the breakdown of afghans in the u.s.? >> i cannot give you the by manifest, we think of today's 17
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flights, the majority of those are afghans. the priority at these lily pads that are done are to get a negative since first. the majority of the flights are afghans. >> the congressional people are being briefed that you're starting to destroy ammunitions, as well as equipment. can you give us a sense of that effort? >> what i go back to is commanders on the ground retained authority. and the capability to remove or destroy equipment to ensure that it does not fall into the hands of anybody else. when the time is art will be able to try to help better -- time is right we will be able to
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better flesh that out. >> on the vehicle, central command talked about secular explosions. -- secondhand explosion. is there evidence that there were secondary explosions? are you convinced that there were? glenn seems to be one of the potentially -- potential cryptic factors to civilian casualties. are you certain there were secondary explosions? >> yes. >> can you see how you are sure? >> no. >> we come down to the final hours, what are your thoughts for americans who might be trying to get to the airport and get through? is there still time for them? >> there is still time.
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the state department is in touch with additional american citizens. given the tense security environment we are dealing with, i think it would be better to not talk about it much more than that. they are in contact. >> flights continue tomorrow on the 31st? >> i want to get ahead of the actual operational schedule -- i will not get ahead of the actual operational schedule. >> after the u.s. is complete out on the 31st, will you coordinate with the taliban or give them notice if you plan to conduct more searches? >> i do not think it is useful to get into hypothetical operations. the president has made it clear that we will maintain robust counterterrorism capabilities. the capability to have seen us use in the past few hours.
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we will have the capability to react in ways that are in keeping with our national security interest and prevent attacks on the homeland. we saw that could ability, we will use second ability -- we have that capability, we will use that capability. >> if you are going to continue coordinating with them, in this case against isis-k, will you continue to court and eight with the taliban after august 31 -- ordinate with the taliban after the 31st? >> it has been to help help us get as many people onto that airport as possible. i appreciate the sense of the question, i do not think it is helpful for us to talk about what creditors are in -- what counterterrorism is going to look like going forward. we have the capability, we have demonstrated that over the past couple of days in strikes that were not ordinate it with the
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taliban. we have that ability to go forward. >> does the pentagon have the authority to continue to conduct strikes against isis-k after august 31? do those go to the president? >> the commander on the ground has the authority he needs. i'm not going to talk about authorities going forward. i know what you're asking, specific approval authority for each strike. i will not talk about policy decisions going forward. the entire inter-agency chain of command understands the existence of this threat and the possibility of this threat to continue to exist over time. we have the ability to deal with it. >> have there been contacts with the taliban about the u.s. withdrawal that is one to be taking place right now and over the coming days to ensure that
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there are no misinterpretations of what is going on? >> yes. without getting into detail, our commanders remain in communication with taliban leaders around the airfield duty conflict and prevent -- to prevent mr. galatians and misunderstandings. -- to prevent misunderstandings. >> the initial readout on the strikes over the weekend, on the car. the west says the initial sentiment was there were no civilian categories -- the u.s. says the initial statement says there were noticeably casualties -- no civilian casualties. >> that was true when it was sent. we also put in there that we are assessing. we continue to assess. >> on what basis, are you making
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assessments on civilian casualties? >> we are looking at a variety of means of information. we are collecting open press reporting, and doing the best we can to understand the situation locally. that would include discussions with the taliban about what they might be seeing. there is a variety of ways we are trying to do this assessment. >> can i get more clarity on why we cannot know the names of the isis-k suspects that were hit on thursday? they were high-profile planners, the president has said we will hunt you down. why cannot we know who the you is? >> that is not the time right now. we are dealing with real,
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ongoing threats. i think we are doing what we believe to be the prudent thing. we are giving you as much as we can. we are not going to give you everything. we talked about that a couple of days ago. . there was going to be a merchant's about information release -- judicious approach about information release. let me go to the phones. >> [inaudible] >> will come back to you. >> according to politico, the u.s. knew where the attack would take place on thursday and when
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it would attack. why were there u.s. troops at that gate at that time? >> what i can tell you is we have been monitoring as close as we can. intelligence that led us to believe that we were in a dynamic threat environment. we are going to investigate, get to the bottom of what happened last thursday. 13 lives were lost. we take that seriously. we are not going to investigate it in public. i am not going to speak to a press story that was informed by the unlawful disclosure of classified information and sensitive the liberations here at the pentagon. -- deliberations here at the
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pentagon. >> the strike was -- was not the only option you guys used? where there any other options to stop the bomb? >> i will let the general to provide context. i would say we use the word dynamic and lot. i know that sounds like going to speak. -- pentagon speak. that is the best way we can describe the situation. that is how isis-k operates. we have to try to be as quick and nimble as they are. when you have it we believe to be an imminent threat, we believe this to be an imminent threat, we took the action we believed was the most necessary
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at the best opportunity to thwart that attack. >> commanders will always minimize collateral damage. that is one of the key tenets of how we operate. this strike prevented a high-profile attack against the u.s. forces and other afghan civilians. also look at the information, that we -- as we look at the information that we had at the time of the strike, the decision was made to strike and thwart that attack. >> the u.s. engaged those rockets.
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did you not engage the other one? who just want to engage in that specific 1 -- did you just want to engage in that specific one? >> it had an effect on the one, one did land in an area. it was not effective. >> you intercepted, that one? >> it was affected -- yes, it was effective. >> need to clarify the numbers you stated earlier. 122,000, is that a separate number from -- >> 122,000 plus evacuated. when you add in the rest in, the
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5400 is included in the 22,000 -- 122,000. >> are you so confident that you will be able to work within the deadline? when the deadline was come into effect, kabul time? >> yes, the answer for your second question is i'm not going to get into it. >> isis-k in afghanistan, 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.
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the president has made it clear that our combat mission, the war we have been fighting in afghanistan, that is going to end. is going to and theory soon. -- it is going to end very soon. it is to protect the american people from threats. from any terrorist threat the good emanate from afghanistan -- could emanate from afghanistan. you can see it in the past 24 hours that we do have an effective over the horizon counterterrorism ability. -- cabability. that will remain. we are not going to detail what it looks like. you're going to maintain the capability to protect the american -- we are going to maintain the capability to protect the american people.
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the counterterrorism threat is not just in afghanistan. it is in north africa, you have seen that. we are going to maintain that ability. to thwart those threats the best we can. over the horizon is not something new to us. we have been doing it for a long time. >> on the ability to strike, is that coming from gulf basis? or are you making progress with regional partners? >> i will not do into details on that. we continue to have discussions with neighboring nations about possibilities. i do not have anything to announce today. >> alex, are you there? >> going back to the strike. on the vehicle. i want to revisit the evidence you used.
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it seems like verification that it was a legitimate target. it came from a secondary explosion, an expert told me, assessing the wire photos, of the scene show a lack of soot on the walls. a little amount of shrapnel, there was a tree that was knocked down. after reviewing these things, one -- you still stand by that there was a significant explosion and not something like a gas take explosion or something like that? that may misdirect the evidence of a big secondary explosion? >> we know that there was a secondary explosion. we assist that what was there -- assessed that what was there was going to be used in a high-profile attack. i do not have details on the information that you are seeing.
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we continue to assess the post strike activities. >> a couple more. >> what has the corporation with -- what has the coverage with the taliban been alike up to now? how do you ensure the safety of americans? >> as i said, we have been in medication with the taliban about these -- communication with the taliban in these final days. to make sure that there is no misunderstanding. our goal is to complete this retrograde and or about the evacuation operations as safely and orderly as we can.
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i will not get into the details of the conversations we are having or our processes. we have seen in the last day, the threat remains high. it remains real. what i can assure you is that general mckenzie and others on the ground have worked out a very carefully coordinated method of safely completing this retrograde. that is about as far as i can go. as for the airport, the airport will remain operational. through our final flights. what it looks like after we are gone, i would point you to what the secretary said. the international community, a couple of countries have talked about being able to come up with
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an arrangement to keep it operational for commercial air traffic and coordination with the taliban. all of those countries speak. -- i will let those countries speak. it would not be a u.s. response ability once we have completed the retrograde. >> the ratio of flights of people getting out gotten pretty high. is that because of your people coming onto the airport? or are the flights coming up with equipment and supplies heading out? >> we are reaching the end of our mission. commanders are inflowing those requirements needed to complete the mission. >> are there still strike aircraft flying overhead? >> assets available, we are not going to get into the details.
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what is flying and what there is. the commanders that are for filling this mission have all of the assets they need in the air and on the ground to complete the mission safely. >> we talk about evacuations being dangerous. one in an environment that we cannot consider permissive, are particularly dangerous. the commanders on the ground have the resources they need to enact appropriate protection. >> what is more dangerous now about reverse flying over -- reapers fly over now? >> it is that we are in a particularly dangerous time.
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not that it hasn't always been dangerous, it is particular leak dangerous now. we are not going to detail every aspect of our protection measures in public while we still have troops in harm's way. as we are trying to get the people out of afghanistan. there will be a time to talk about all of that. it is not today. >> there is an american hostage being held by the taliban. has the taliban agreed to release mark before the u.s. leaves? does the u.s. have plans to leave without the american hostage? >> we share the entire government's concerns over him. our strong desire to see him returned home to his family. there has been a concerted effort over many months to
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achieve that outcome. regardless of what we do over the next day or so, we will remain focused on returning him safely to his family. that is not going to change. i'm going to wrap it up here, i appreciate it. thank you. i will talk to you soon. [inaudible] >> legal letter to the white house for today's briefing with jen psaki. she is expected to take questions on afghanistan and the federal response to hurricane ida.
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