The Latest: Australia evacuated more than 1,600 from Kabul

CANBERRA, Australia — Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said that Australia has helped evacuate more than 1,600 people from the Kabul airport in 17 flights since last Wednesday.

“We have achieved this by working very closely with the United States and the United Kingdom, among other nations,” Andrews told Parliament on Tuesday.

The evacuated people include Australian citizens, Afghan nationals who had worked for the Australian government during the 20-year conflict and other countries’ nationals. The Australian government has not said how many people it planned to evacuate from Afghanistan.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison had earlier said Australian and New Zealand officials had evacuated more than 650 people from the airport over Monday night.

Morrison said that five flights had left the airport in the busiest day of Australian involvement in evacuations since the Taliban took control of the country. One of the flights was a New Zealand military aircraft.

Morrison told Nine Network television that the evacuated people included Australians, New Zealanders and Afghans.

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MORE ON THE CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN:

— G-7 grapples with Afghanistan, an afterthought not long ago

— Taliban takeover prompts fears of a resurgent al-Qaida

— US troops surge evacuations out of Kabul but threats persist

— Deadly gunfire at airport; Taliban insist on US pullout date

— UK struggles for influence as Afghan crisis strains US ties

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— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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BOCA RATON, Florida — Senior U.S. military officials in Afghanistan say U.S. Special Operations retrieved 16 American citizens from outside the Kabul airport early Monday morning.

The military officials would not detail where in Afghanistan the Americans were rescued from but they said it was about two hours outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport. The Americans were brought back to Kabul for evacuation processing.

The officials, who commented only on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations, said the rescue missions that go beyond the walls of the Kabul airport require the approval of a four-star officer and are handled on a case-by-case basis.

On Monday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed that the U.S. military had launched at least one additional rescue by helicopter but declined to offer further details. It’s unclear if Kirby was referring to Monday’s special operations mission or a separate flight.

“On occasion, as needed, our commanders have the authority they need to use their assets and their forces to help assist Americans who need to get to the airport, get to the airport, on a case-by-case basis,” said Kirby.

The Associated Press first reported on the sortie flights outside Kabul airport on Friday. The officials would not detail where these airlift sites were for security reasons.

In a video conference last week, President Biden and White House officials spoke with commanders in Afghanistan about sortie flight missions outside the Kabul Airport. The president said he wanted to avoid a “Black Hawk Down’” incident, according to U.S. military officials on the conference call and briefed on what was said.

U.S. military officials described President Biden’s demeanor as calm and pleasant during discussions about the progress that had been made in evacuating both Americans and Afghan nationals. Biden negatively commented on how quickly the Afghan government fell apart and told commanders he wanted them to be focused on beefing up security at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

On Sunday, the AP reported that potential Islamic State threats against Americans in Afghanistan are forcing the U.S. military to develop new plans to get evacuees to the airport in Kabul. U.S. Central Command on Monday said an exchange of gunfire at the airport broke out at the north gate of the Kabul Airport. No U.S. or coalition forces were hurt, but one member of the Afghan security forces was killed. The Pentagon said they do not know at the moment if the gunman was a member of the Taliban or ISIS.

Last week, the Defense Department publicly disclosed that three Army chinooks picked up 169 Americans just outside the walls of the Kabul Airport. The AP also reported that a helicopter from the 82nd Airborne Division airlifted Afghans from Camp Sullivan, near the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

— By James LaPorta

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Categories: National & International News