Channel 1 Los Angeles
8/24/2021 Washington D.C.
As you know, recently, the Secretary of Defense activated the stage one of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet. Right now, that activation includes 18 aircraft from six commercial airlines. This will increase passenger movement from the intermediate staging bases, temporary safe havens to the United States. While we continue to prioritize military aircraft for the transportation of individuals out of Kabul and out of harm’s way, please note — as I said, note these craft flights will not be flying into Kabul.
As of this morning, within the last 24 hours, 25 U.S. military C-17s, three U.S. military C-130s, and then a combination of 61 charter, commercial and other military flights departed Kabul. The total passenger count for those flights was approximately 16,000. Of that number, the U.S. military transported just under 11,000 personnel.
Our mission remains focused on ensuring a steady flow of evacuees out of Kabul to the intermediate staging bases and safe havens at our installations, continue to rapidly build out capacity as needed to ensure reception and providing humanitarian assistance.
The use of temporary safe haven locations across Europe and the Middle East to — in areas that include U.S. installations in Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Italy, Spain and Germany. We deeply appreciate the support from these countries. This is truly a testament to the importance of our alliances and our partnerships.
In the past 24 hours, five flights landed at Dulles International Airport with approximately 1,300 passengers. At this time, four military installations, as well as Dulles International, are receiving Afghans as they come into the United States.
These installations include Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Fort Lee, Virginia, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Fort Bliss, Texas. The total number currently at these installations is approximately 1,200 and NORTHCOM continues to build out capacity to ensure they are prepared to receive more flights that will come in the next few days. This is absolutely a worldwide effort, which hits several countries, multiple commands and thousands of service members across the Joint Force.
Over the weekend, the airport in Kabul remains secure. However, as many of you have seen already, CENTCOM released a statement regarding a — an incident. To report, as a — no U.S. casualties, the partner force or coalition forces were involved but regrettably an Afghan Security Force member lost his life.
As the President referenced last night in his remarks, we are in communication with the Taliban for the establishment and sustainment of several checkpoints to increase throughput and facilitate safe passage for individuals working to gain access to the airport.
Today, the number of troops at the airport continues to stand at 5,800. Commanders on the ground continue to actively monitor threats. They are empowered to make the appropriate force protection decisions. As always, U.S. forces retain the inherent right to use force in self-defense.
We are using all of our available tools to maintain the highest threat awareness, both in Afghanistan and throughout the globe. While this mission is not without risk, the safety of our personnel, American citizens and Afghan evacuees at risk is of paramount importance.
To wrap up, we continue to make progress in the completion of this mission. Since the end of July, we have relocated approximately 42,000 people. Since the beginning of evacuation operations on August 14th, we have evacuated approximately 37,000.
All of this progress stems from the teamwork, professionalism and dedication of our military, our interagency colleagues, and our allies and partners. We know more hard work remains in the coming days and we’re absolutely prepared to meet that challenge. Thank you.
MR. KIRBY: And just a couple of other points I’d like to make. As you all are aware, the FDA approved full licensure of the Pfizer vaccine this morning. As also I’m sure you’re aware, back in August, on the 9th, the Secretary articulated that it was his intent to mandate the COVID-19 vaccines upon FDA licensure, or by mid-September, to seek a waiver from the President.
So now that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved, the department is prepared to issue updated guidance requiring all service members to be vaccinated. A timeline for vaccination completion will be provided in the coming days. The health of the force is, as always — of our military and our civilian employees, families and communities is a top priority. As — it was important to remind everyone that these efforts ensure the safety of our service members and promote the readiness of our force, not to mention the health and safety of the communities around the country in which we live.
A schedule item — the Secretary and General Milley will be attending this afternoon the funeral for former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at Arlington National Cemetery. Mr. Rumsfeld served as the 13th Secretary of Defense, as well as the 21st. He also served in the United States Navy in 1950 — in the mid-1950s as a pilot, a flight instructor, and he continued his service as a Reservist until 1975, when he became the Secretary of Defense for the first time. On behalf of the Department of Defense, we send our deep condolences to his family, to the loved ones, and indeed, to the country.