A day after the Afghan capital fell to the Taliban without a fight, foreign forces continue to protect and hold Kabul’s international airport, including thousands of American soldiers tasked with carrying out a hasty evacuation. A senior defense official confirmed to VOA Monday that Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, met with the Taliban in Qatar on Sunday, warning them that the U.S. military would use self-defense should the militant group try to interfere with the massive evacuation mission. Asked how many C-17 aircraft were being utilized to fly people out of Afghanistan, the official replied, “every one that’s available.” Some U.S. troops were delayed for hours from arriving in Kabul this morning due to civilians on a runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport. The airfield is now open and those forces have landed, according to defense officials.  The U.S. has approved 6,000 troops to assist with security and evacuations on the ground, more than double the number of American troops in Afghanistan when the withdrawal was announced in May. About half of those 6,000 troops are in country at this time, according to officials.Smoke rises next to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2021.A joint statement from the Pentagon and the State Department issued Sunday said the U.S. “will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals.”      It also said the U.S. is accelerating the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas.      “For all categories, Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States,” the joint Pentagon and State Department said. “And we will find additional locations for those yet to be screened.”      NATO on Sunday also began focusing its efforts on the airport, though it said it was also seeking to maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul. Meanwhile, concern is growing about what is to come for Afghan troops who defended their nation against the Taliban.  Afghan Col. Rahman Rahmani, a pilot currently studying in the U.S., said via Twitter that the Taliban was going door to door killing Afghan special operators and Afghan pilots.  He says his house was taken by “terrorists” and his mother and five siblings are trapped in the country.  I receive lots of messages to give interviews. I’m not in a state to give interviews. I am helping my friends to rescue their families. Terrorists took my house, I made from 18 yrs of savings. They r going door to door to kill SOFs & pilots. My mom & 5 siblings (4 sis) r trapped!— Col Rahman Rahmani (@rahmanrahmanee) August 15, 2021“The West left us with betrayal,” he said. VOA’s Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.
 

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