'Taliban strengthened control around Kabul airport'

Taliban strengthened access and control around Kabul airport: Pentagon

The Hamid Karzai International Airport is the only access point for the international community to reach out to people in Afghanistan

US Air Force loadmasters and pilots assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron load passengers aboard a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), Afghanistan. Credit: AFP Photo/US Air Force/Master Sgt. Donald R Allen

The Taliban have strengthened their measures of access and control around the Kabul airport, the Pentagon has said.

The Hamid Karzai International Airport is the only access point for the international community to reach out to people in Afghanistan, a land locked country.

“The Taliban have bolstered their own security at their checkpoints and have gotten involved in crowd control...every day is a different day, and yesterday we estimated that crowds were about half the size they had been the previous days,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.

“We still haven't seen them rise to the level they were in the early days of this. But yes, part of the reason is, certainly that the Taliban have strengthened their measures of access and control around the field,” he said.

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Responding to questions from reporters, Kirby said after August 31, it would not be the responsibility of the US to manage the Kabul airport.

He said the US embassy is currently running from the airport. The Taliban are responsible for running an airport that's in a city that they are now the titular heads of government there, Kirby said.

There's no military assets guarding the embassy compound. The US embassy is operating out of the Hamid Karzai International Airport and "as for the Turks, they are still on the ground at the airport assisting in this security mission that we have there”, he said.

“I won't speak for their intentions one way or another going forward, but there's not going to be when the mission is over and when we are leaving the airport, the airport will not be the US' responsibility anymore. How it gets managed going forward will be something that the Taliban...will have to manage on their own with -- and I assume with, you know, with the international community. But that won't be an American responsibility,” Kirby said.

The US, he said, is in daily communication with Taliban commanders about who they want to see get in and what the credentials are, what they look like, what's valid.

“That communication happens literally every day. We have been nothing but open with the Taliban about who we expect them to let in. Again, fully recognise that not every step of this process is in our firm control and that there are going to be incidences where it doesn't work as advertised,” Kirby said.

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