Aug 12, 2021

Pentagon John Kirby Press Briefing Transcript August 12: Troops Sent to Evacuate U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan

Pentagon John Kirby Press Briefing Transcript August 12: Troops Sent to Evacuate U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan
RevBlogTranscriptsPentagon John Kirby Press Briefing Transcript August 12: Troops Sent to Evacuate U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby held a news briefing on August 12, 2021. The Pentagon is sending 3,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to help evacuate the U.S. embassy. Read the full transcript of the press conference here.

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John Kirby: (00:00)
And I’m sure you’ve heard from my colleague over at the state department, the President has ordered the reduction of civilian personnel at our embassy in Kabul and the acceleration of the evacuation of Afghan special immigrant visa applicants from the country. To enable this safe, orderly reduction, the Secretary of Defense has directed the department to position temporary enabling capabilities to ensure the safety and security of US and partner civilian personnel. I’m going to break this down for you just real quick.

John Kirby: (00:32)
The first movement will consist of three infantry battalions that are currently in the central command area of responsibility. They will move to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul within the next 24 to 48 hours. Two of those battalions are United States Marines, and one is a US Army battalion.

John Kirby: (00:50)
The next movement will consist of a joint US Army Air Force support element of around a thousand personnel to facilitate the processing of SIV applicants. Initial elements of this movement of this element will arrive in Qatar in the coming days.

John Kirby: (01:08)
The third movement is to alert and to deploy one infantry brigade combat team out of Fort Bragg to Kuwait, where they will be postured and prepared if needed to provide additional security at the airport. We anticipate those forces will reach Kuwait sometime within the next week. Now I want to stress that these forces are being deployed to support the orderly and safe reduction of civilian personnel at the request of the state department, and to help facilitate an accelerated process of working through SIV applicants. This is a temporary mission with a narrow focus. As with all deployments of our troops into harm’s way, our commanders have the inherent right of self-defense in any attack on them can and will be met with a forceful and inappropriate response.

John Kirby: (01:54)
As Ned Price, my colleague at the state department, highlighted earlier Secretary Austin did join Secretary Blinken in a phone call this morning with President Ghani. These conversations with allies and partners will continue to ensure close coordination going forward. With that, we’ll take questions. Bob. I think your first,

Bob: (02:12)
Thank you, John. Thank you for spelling out, breaking down some of the numbers. With regard to those forces that are going into Afghanistan to work specifically on supporting the removal or evacuation or whatever you call it of personnel from the embassy, is that about 3,000 people? And also is that in addition to the 600 or 650 already there doing that sort of work?

John Kirby: (02:45)
Yes Bob. Those three infantry battalions will comprise approximately 3,000 personnel and they will be in addition to those troops that are already in Kabul in the process of conducting our draw down. So we still have more than 650 troops in Kabul right now, these 3000 will join them there.

Bob: (03:10)
Can I do a quick follow-up?

John Kirby: (03:11)

Bob: (03:11)
Thank you. Does the military mission include flying US civilian personnel, the embassy personnel out of the country or only processing and securing them at the airport?

John Kirby: (03:26)
We certainly anticipate being postured to support airlift as well, for not only the reduction of civilian personnel from the embassy but also in the forward movement of special immigrant visa applicants. So we do anticipate that there will be airlift required of us and we are working through the final plans right now to put that into place.

Bob: (03:51)
Thank you.

John Kirby: (03:52)
Yeah, Tom.

Tom: (03:53)
Thanks John. In regards to what you just said to Bob about a possible airlifting out of individuals, in regards to the special immigrant visa applicants, has it been decided yet where they will be airlifted to? And if so, where please?

John Kirby: (04:07)
We’re still working through a series of options here, Tom. We anticipate that we’ll be looking at locations overseas, outside of the United States, as well as US installations that belongs to the United States, either overseas and or here at home. I don’t have a list for you right now, but I think it’ll be a mix of both. And as we get more clarity on that, we’ll certainly update it.

Tom: (04:37)
Just to be clear, we’ll follow the same criteria you outlined earlier, those who have passed the security clearance could come within the United States and those without other locations?

John Kirby: (04:47)
I’m going to defer to my state department colleagues to talk to the SIV process more specifically. Our job will be in locating and helping secure facilities and installations that can be used. And as we did with Fort Lee, I think you can expect the defense department will lean in to the degree possible that we can to help facilitate this movement and relocation.

Tom: (05:08)

John Kirby: (05:09)

David: (05:09)
John, will these infantry battalions help with a movement of diplomats from the embassy to the airport, as well as moving them out of the country? And if so, will that move would be done by convoy or will it be done by helicopter? And let me just add one more question.

John Kirby: (05:32)

David: (05:33)
You say temporarily.

John Kirby: (05:34)
I do.

David: (05:35)
But aren’t they going to remain there in case further draw downs are ordered?

John Kirby: (05:42)
So let me take the first one first. These infantry battalions will be there to help facilitate this safe and orderly reduction, and I don’t want to get into too much tactical detail about what that would require. Commanders on the ground will be working with the state department to determine what’s what’s most needed. And if it is to help facilitate and secure transportation to the airport then our troops will be postured to do that. But again, I can’t speak here today when they’re not even there yet about what that’s going to look like, what the transportation’s going to look like. And some of this, David, is going to depend on the degree of permissability in the environment and the security environment. But these are infantry battalions that are highly trained and will have the capabilities to support in any manner what the state department needs to do to facilitate this reduction.

John Kirby: (06:41)
Your second question on the temporary nature. As the state department has said, they’re going to try to complete this reduction of their personnel by the end of this month. And these troops are being ordered in to help facilitate that purpose, that mission, along that timeline. I won’t speculate beyond August 31st as to what the footprint is going to look like, or how many troops are going to be there and what they’re going to be doing. What I can tell you is we’re focused on trying to get them there as soon as possible to facilitate this mission, which is the reduction of civilian personnel by the end of the month.

David: (07:17)
And one follow-up. Was there a specific event which triggered this decision?

John Kirby: (07:24)
It would be wrong to conclude that there was one specific event that led to this decision, that we believe this is the prudent thing to do given the rapidly deteriorating security situation in and around Kabul. So I think there’s a confluence of things, you guys have all been reporting over the last 24 to 36 hours, the Taliban’s advances and where they are. And I think again, cognizant of that security situation this administration believed that this was a prudent action today.

David: (07:58)
One more math question.

John Kirby: (07:59)
Yeah sure.

David: (07:59)
3, 650, and then another 1,000 of this joint task force due process-

John Kirby: (08:09)
Joint Army, Air Force. Yeah. That’s about a 1,000 personnel. It’s engineers, it’s medical personnel, it’s military police, that kind of thing. And they are going to Qatar right now because as you know, we’ve been working with countries in the region, to Tom’s question, to try to find processing sites outside Afghanistan. So I would just tell you, they’re going to Qatar for now and then we’ll see what the need is after that. But we want to be flexible and we want to get them close by and in the region. And that’s why they’re going there right now. Courtney.

Courtney: (08:47)
And then there’s one infantry BCT that’s going to Kuwait you said, and that’s only if things go bad, you have like a QRF basically, right?

John Kirby: (08:54)
They’ll be there, posture as prepared. If there’s a need for additional security at the airport they’ll be in the region and a lot more-

John Kirby: (09:03)
They’ll be in the region and a lot more accessible.

Courtney: (09:04)
Okay. So, and then the ones who are going to Qatar that’s specifically for SIV applicants. I mean, it sounds like engineers, medical and MPs, it sounds like to build …

John Kirby: (09:14)
No. We’re not changing it. actually, we’re talking about a very small number of engineers and it’s largely for electrical power. It’s to make sure that we actually have power to do the processing of applicants. By engineers, I didn’t mean construction men and that kind of thing.

Courtney: (09:32)
So in the BCT going equate, that’s what, roughly 3000 to 3,500 people? Right. Total.

John Kirby: (09:38)
A common infantry combat brigade is about 3,500 to 4,000.

Courtney: (09:43)
So why is it? I don’t, I’m unclear why, so it’s 3,000 people who are going to HKIA right away, in the coming days. And then you have another 3,500 who will be there on standby in case, all for security. I’m unclear on what they’re doing. I mean, if the 3,000 going to HKIA, it’s a couple of miles from the embassy to HKIA, what exactly are our 3,000 people doing? Are they just they’re securing the airport then?

John Kirby: (10:06)
They’ll be there to provide safety and secure and the secure movement of the reduction of civilian personnel, out of the embassy, to help facilitate their departure from the country, to also help with the process of moving special immigrant visa applicants out of the country, and to provide additional security at the airport. Again, we believe this is a prudent measure given the deteriorating security situation.

Courtney: (10:32)
3,000 is a lot of people though, I mean, can you give any better sense of on a day to day, what are they doing? I mean, it sounds like with that many people, they must be responsible for getting people to the airport. And then actually, it almost sounds as if they’re coming in and taking over security at the airport, if it’s that size.

John Kirby: (10:50)
I wouldn’t go that far, Courtney. The Turkish forces are still at the airport. The Turks are still in the lead of security at the airport. We already have some security forces, United States security forces at the airport, including some aviation elements. These 3,000 would be going to bolster that presence and to make sure that the airport is secure enough to facilitate the movement of all these people over the next couple of weeks. Again, this is about prudent preparation, and we want to make sure that we’ve got enough on hand to adapt to any contingencies.

John Kirby: (11:29)
So I your question about the numbers being too high, we believe it’s appropriate to the security situation that we see now, and that we can anticipate possibly in the future, which is again why we’re going to flow a brigade combat team into the theater to be ready in case we need even more. Now, hopefully, Courtney, this will be an incredibly permissive environment, and we won’t need these additional capabilities, but the secretary believes the safety and security of our people, not just American troops, but our allies and partners and our state department colleagues is of paramount concern. And he’s not going to add additional risk to that safe movement.

Courtney: (12:13)
Very quickly, Kandahar City and Herat city. Can you confirm what the Taliban are reporting that they’ve taken it?

John Kirby: (12:17)
I can’t, and I’m not going to do battlefield assessments here from the Pentagon podium. Yeah. Let me go back to the phones. I know we’ve got lots to get through. Tara Cupp.

Tara Cupp: (12:32)
Hi, Don. Thanks for doing this. A couple of questions, the infantry battalions, where are they coming from?

John Kirby: (12:37)
The three infantry battalions that I talked about are already coming from inside the central command air responsibility. And I think I’d rather leave it at that for now. They’re already in theater.

Tara Cupp: (12:50)
Okay. Thank you. And then the thousand that’ll be at Qatar, is the intent that they will stay at Qatar, or would they also be flying into Kabul to provide additional support if needed.

John Kirby: (13:02)
Yeah. As I, as I mentioned it to David, right now, the plan is to get them to Qatar because again, we were looking at regional sites for processing of SIV applicants. Qatar is one of those sites that we are looking at potentially being able to use. If they need to move in part or in whole elsewhere to do this job, to help with the application process, we’ll deal with that at the right time. But for right now in the coming days, they’ll be heading to Qatar.

Tara Cupp: (13:30)
And last one, besides the increase in troops, it becomes kind of a logistics issue if you don’t have enough I guess airlift support. Is the U.S. also going to send additional planes or get additional contracted air to be able to increase the throughput of people that can leave Kabul?

John Kirby: (13:49)
As I said earlier, we do anticipate an increased need for U.S. airlift and well, the Secretary has already had conversations with the chairman and with transportation command about these potential needs. So we do fully expect that there’ll be additional United States military airlift required. I just don’t have the details here today for you, exactly what that’s going to look like, how many tails and what the sorties are going to look like, but we absolutely anticipate being more involved in the airlift element of this mission. Lucas.

Lucas: (14:23)
And what about close air support? Are you going to increase the number of drones or fighter jets overhead to protect these troops?

John Kirby: (14:28)
Yesterday we have and today we have the authority and the capabilities in the region to conduct airstrikes if needed. That’s not going to change as a result of these new mission sets.

Lucas: (14:40)
Does this mean the U.S. military withdrawal is not going to be complete by August 31st?

John Kirby: (14:44)
Again, what I said was we’re aiming to facilitate the reduction of the civilian personnel by August 31st. So it’s all lining up on the same timeline. I won’t speculate about what the footprint is going to look like post August 31st because there’s this additional mission set of helping process special immigrants. So we’re just going to have to wait and see, but the draw down itself is still on track to be complete by August 31st.

Lucas: (15:10)
That makes no sense to me.

John Kirby: (15:11)
I know, I know what you’re saying.

Lucas: (15:12)
[crosstalk 00:15:12] you’re bringing 3,000 troops [crosstalk 00:15:14].

John Kirby: (15:13)
I know what you’re saying, Lucas. I’m saying of the original footprint plans, that’s still continuing, but yes, we are adding additional troops for this specific and narrow focus.

Lucas: (15:24)
And you’ll get them all out by the end of the month?

John Kirby: (15:25)
I’m not going to speculate beyond August 31st. Our job here now with this additional plus up is to help facilitate the safe movement of civilian personnel out of Afghanistan. And the President’s been very clear that he wants that reduction complete by the end of August. That’s what we’re focused on.

Lucas: (15:44)
Have you spoken to the Taliban? They know that you’re doing this and that you have some assurances or maybe guarantees that they will not attack these additional forces moving in?

John Kirby: (15:53)
The Defense Department has not spoken to the Taliban about this.

Lucas: (15:56)
So are you concerned they’re going to be under attack?

John Kirby: (15:59)
As I said, we’ve made it very clear as I just did a few minutes ago, that as in all cases, our commanders will have the right of self-defense, and any attack upon our forces will be met with a swift and appropriate response.

Lucas: (16:11)
Do you consider this a combat mission?

John Kirby: (16:13)
This is a very narrowly focused mission of safeguarding the orderly reduction of civilian personnel out of Afghanistan and that’s what we’re going to be focused on.

Lucas: (16:25)
Not a combat mission?

John Kirby: (16:26)
Lucas, I’ve already described this mission now three times. We’re mindful that the security situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan. And as I said before, our troops will as always have the right of self-defense, but this is a narrowly focused mission to help with that help safeguard an orderly reduction of civilian personnel. Jeff Selden.

Jeff: (16:51)
John, thanks very much. If I could follow up a little bit on Lucas’s question, with all these new troops, resources going into Kabul, is there any consideration of using the Kabul airport as a staging point for what had been the over-the-horizon capabilities and has there also been any progress on securing anything closer to Afghanistan in terms of a staging or basing for the over-the-horizon airstrikes? And then secondly, how worrisome is it that a city like Herat, a city like Kandahar, where U.S. air power has been focused in recent weeks in an attempt to assist the Afghan security forces are either falling or have fallen to the Taliban despite the additional U.S. support?

John Kirby: (17:43)
I’m sorry, I didn’t get that, what the question was on your second one.

Lucas: (17:47)
Sorry. Over the last couple of weeks or so the U.S. we’re told has focused some of its airstrike capability on cities, like Heart, on Kandahar in an effort to bolster the efforts of Afghan security forces there. How worrisome is it that … ?

Jeff: (18:03)
… the first of Afghan security forces there. How worrisome is it that those cities appear to be falling or have fallen into Taliban hands, despite the fact that the US has focused what capabilities it has on those areas?

John Kirby: (18:14)
Obviously, no one’s pleased to see that the security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate and that the Taliban continues to act as if they believe the only path to governance is through violence and brutality and oppression and force, contrary to what they have said previously at the negotiating table.

John Kirby: (18:36)
So of course, nobody’s happy to see that. And as we’ve said before, Jeff, with these airstrikes, we would provide support to the Afghan national security and defense forces, where and when feasible, with the expectation and the knowledge that it’s not always going to be feasible.

John Kirby: (18:51)
As to your first question about the airport, there is no planning and no discussion of using Hamid Karzai International Airport as a base for conducting airstrikes in and around Afghanistan. There is a small aviation element at the airport that is rotary based and it’s for the facilitation and logistics and movement and that kind of thing. Yeah, Mike.

Mike: (19:20)
John, you have three battalions there at the airport, brigade. They’re in Kuwait. Troops … Who’s in charge of this? What’s the chain of command? Do they report? Is there somebody in charge of the collected military effort? Or do they report to the embassy security officer, the RSO? What’s the chain of [crosstalk 00:19:41]-

John Kirby: (19:43)
We have rear admiral Vasely, who is in Kabul and has been placed in charge by General McKenzie to be the commander of US forces Afghanistan forward.

Mike: (19:52)

John Kirby: (19:55)
Ashley from Jane’s.

Ashley: (19:57)
Hi, John. Just to follow up on some of the other questions, in addition to any additional aircraft, is there additional equipment that these three battalions are going to need? And then could you just sort of walk us through how you arrived at the need for 3,000 additional troops?

John Kirby: (20:13)
Well, I’m not going to get into the deliberations over exactly how these particular units were chosen. This was based on consultation by the secretary, with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and with General McKenzie based on the mission set. And again, it’s a narrowly defined mission to safeguard the movement of civilian personnel and to help process at an accelerated pace, special immigrant visas. And so based on the mission set, we sourced a mission. And based on consultations with top military leaders, the secretary decided that this was the appropriate amount right now. And to again, have additional forces available closer into theater, if that was required. I’m sorry. I missed your other question.

Ashley: (21:00)
In addition to potential aircraft being sent into the country to help with the evacuation, is there a need, is there additional equipment being sent and to help with transportation or anything else ar this point in time?

John Kirby: (21:11)
As I said, we anticipate the use of a additional military airlift as required. And we’re working through the requirements for that right now. And these infantry battalions come with some measure of self-defense equipment, mortars, machine gun, and of course personally carried weaponry. So I mean, they have self-defense capabilities, but I’m not going to … And I’m not able to detail specifically what each battalion will be carrying with them, but they will obviously have the capabilities they need to defend themselves. Lou?

Lou: (21:47)
[inaudible 00:21:47] one term that we’ve heard in the last couple of days is a neo, Non-combatant Evacuation Operation, sending 3,000 personnel, another thousand, another country, 4,000, another 3,000 to inside? I mean, that’s a significant number. Is this a NEO? And if not, why are you not calling it that?

John Kirby: (22:07)
We’re not classifying this as a Non-combatant evacuation operation. As I said at the very beginning, this is a very narrowly focused temporary mission to facilitate the safe and orderly departure of additional civilian personnel from the state department and to help accelerate, to help the state department colleagues accelerate the processing of SIV applicants. We are not classifying this as a NEO at this time.

Lou: (22:35)
[crosstalk 00:22:35] followup. I mean, there’s a certain irony here that the draw down was for 2,500 troops, and you’re sending in an additional 3,000 to get out civilians and ramping it up super quick. And on top of that, another 3,500 in Kuwait, I mean, what is the irony here, for people who might be asking? I mean, literally isn’t this ironic that in order to get out the 2,500, you’re having a ramp up significantly?

John Kirby: (23:03)
No, I don’t share your view of the irony, Louie. This is a very temporary mission for a very specific purpose. That’s a big difference than saying you’re deploying for eight, nine, 12 months, forces to stabilize and secure Afghanistan, which we’d been doing for the last 20 years. This is a very narrowly defined, very temporary mission.

Lou: (23:27)
[inaudible 00:23:27]. So once this mission, this very narrowly defined mission is over, there are only going to be 650 troops to protect the airport and the embassy staff?

John Kirby: (23:37)
Once this mission is over, I won’t get into specific numbers here, but we anticipate having less than 1,000 US troops on the ground to support the diplomatic presence in Kabul, which we all agree we still want to be able to have.

Lou: (23:55)
And I defer to my colleague, who’s been very gracious.

John Kirby: (23:57)
After three questions. Yeah. Oren?

Oren: (24:00)
Are you considering the need for even more troops, if the situation continues to deteriorate. And to follow up on David’s question, if there wasn’t one event that led to this, what changed in the last 24 to 48 hours, that’s led to what appears to be an incredible acceleration of the plans to get out those the US needs to get out?

John Kirby: (24:14)
To your first question, no, I think we laid out pretty clearly that three infantry battalions on the way now, and a brigade combat team being brought over into the region as a reserve. So there’s no plans right now for additional forces. And I can only say what I said before to David. I mean, there wasn’t one precipitating event in the last couple of days that led the president and the secretary to make this decision. It’s a confluence of events. And as I’ve been saying for now, for several weeks, we have been watching very closely with concern the security situation on the ground. And far better to be prudent about it and be responsible and watching the trends, to make the best decisions you can for safety and security of our people than to wait until it’s too late. So we believe that this is not only the right thing to do, but it’s the right time to do it.

Oren: (25:14)
At what point is the fall of Kabul inevitable?

John Kirby: (25:17)
I wouldn’t speculate, Oren. I’m not going to speculate about hypothetical situations in the future, and I’m certainly not going to get into intelligence assessments from the [crosstalk 00:25:26] –

Lucas: (25:26)
Clearly, you think it’s close if you’re evacuating all these Americans.

John Kirby: (25:29)
I’m not going to speculate about the future of Kabul, Lucas. And I’m certainly not going to talk about intelligence assessments. We believe that this is the right thing to do, and this is the right time to do it. And as my state department colleague said earlier today, there is still a diplomatic presence in Kabul, and the intention is to maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul.

Lucas: (25:53)
The Pentagon [inaudible 00:25:54] talking to the Taliban [inaudible 00:25:54] state department? Are any diplomats talking [crosstalk 00:25:56]?

John Kirby: (25:57)
We have a special envoy, Mr. Khalilzad, who routinely talks to leaders of the Taliban in terms of the pursuit of a diplomatic negotiated settlement.

Lucas: (26:08)
Deploying [inaudible 00:26:09]-

John Kirby: (26:09)
I would refer you to my state department colleagues to speak to what Ambassador Khalilzad is doing?

Lucas: (26:13)
Why don’t you call this a combat deployment? Because it’s insulting for Americans watching this right now.

John Kirby: (26:18)
I disagree, Lucas. I don’t think that it’s insulting, and I’m not sure I share that that sentiment at all. This is-

Lucas: (26:23)
[crosstalk 00:26:23] deploying into Kabul. You telling me that the Marines and the soldiers that are about to strap it on, going to Kabul this isn’t combat?

John Kirby: (26:30)
Lucas, what I’m telling you is, and I’ve said it before, they will have the ability to defend themselves. They will be armed. Of course, they’re going for a security mission. They’re going for a narrowly defined mission to help secure and safeguard the movement of these civilian personnel, as well as the movement of special immigrants or men and women in their families who are applying under that process. That’s the goal.

Lucas: (26:52)
It’s not a combat mission?

John Kirby: (26:53)
That’s the goal.

Speaker 1: (26:55)
I’m being clear here. I’m responding to emails. I’m getting from people in Afghanistan. This is a narrowly defined mission too, as you just said, for our diplomatic …

Tom: (27:03)
This is a narrowly defined mission to, as you just said, for our diplomatic personnel and those in the SIV program, it is not for any other individuals who are not Afghans in Kabul who may have worked for U.S. agencies or who work for other governments. And the follow-up question is, at some point without you speculating, this is a NATO mission. Is it possible that the U.S. could work with other NATO allies to evacuate other personnel?

John Kirby: (27:28)
On your first question, Tom, again, I think I’ve characterized this mission appropriately, and I’m going to leave it at that. On your second question, this is a U.S. decision by the commander-in-chief to reduce civilian personnel and to have U.S. military personnel flow in to help with that reduction. So it’s not a NATO mission. That said, we fully anticipate to be in close consultation with our allies and partners going forward. And if we can be of assistance to them, if they desire to make changes in their footprint, then the secretary fully intends to make it clear to them that we’ll be ready to help as needed. Yeah. Let’s see, Dan [inaudible 00:28:20].

Dan: (28:22)
Yes, thank you, John. Can you clarify how this doesn’t qualify as a NEO? And regardless of that, can you at least make it clear that if a NEO is needed because this speeds up yet still you’ve got everything you need in place for one?

John Kirby: (28:39)
Yeah. Again, the purpose here is to help with the reduction of civilian personnel out of the embassy. That is not the same as a non-combatant evacuation operation where you’re moving a massive amount of people who aren’t necessarily U.S. government employees. It’s a different operation altogether and we’re just not there. The other thing that we’re going to be doing is helping the State Department, again, accelerate the process for special immigrant visa applicants. That also does not fall under the rubric of what would be a non-combatant evacuation operation. Jeff [Shogel 00:29:22].

Jeff Shogel: (29:23)
Thank you very much. I know you’re telling us as much as you can and I know the Pentagon is committed to transparency. It is in that spirit that I ask, can you say where these infantry battalions are coming from? The New York Times is reporting the Marines are coming from a Marine expeditionary unit. Can you say which MEU?

John Kirby: (29:44)
Jeff, as I said, I’m going to leave it at letting you know that there are coming from with inside a central command area of responsibility. And I’m just going to leave it at that for right now.

Jeff Shogel: (29:57)
Thank you. Which brigade from Bragg is going?

John Kirby: (30:01)
I’m not going into detail which brigade, but it is a brigade from the 82nd Airborne. Megan, did you have a question? Okay. Sylvie. And then I’ll take one more after that and we’ll have to call it a day.

Sylvie: (30:15)
Okay. Thank you, John. You said that you don’t want to speak about intelligence, which I understand, but you can speak about image. What do you think the evacuation of a civilian by the military will look like. And how are you going to avoid the parallel with the fall of Saigon?

John Kirby: (30:43)
What this is going to look like is what it is, Sylvie, and that’s the United States government looking after the safety and security of our people, first and foremost, and making sure that we, the military, are supporting the safe movement of these individuals out of Afghanistan, as I said, which we believe is a prudent step. We’re not walking away from our commitments to the Afghan forces. We’re not completely eliminating our diplomatic presence on the ground. We’re still going to have diplomats there. We’re still going to be doing work, as Ned Price said earlier. And the military will still remain committed to helping protect the diplomatic presence that remains inside Afghanistan. So nobody is abandoning Afghanistan. It’s not walking away from it. It’s doing the right thing at the right time to protect our people. Okay. One more. Anything in here? Jim, you haven’t had a question.

Jim: (31:34)
It may seem a little strange, but does this operation have a name?

John Kirby: (31:38)
No, it does not.

Jim: (31:39)
Okay. Did UK announce it’s sending in troops to offer help evacuate its people?

John Kirby: (31:43)
You know more than me.

Jim: (31:44)
Oh, I was going to say you don’t… Okay.

John Kirby: (31:46)
No. I wasn’t aware of that.

Speaker 2: (31:48)
Are you worried about this triggering panic in the population there in Kabul?

Jim: (31:53)
I think it’s already happening.

John Kirby: (31:54)
Again, this is about the safe movement of our people in Afghanistan. And we obviously want-

Mike: (32:06)
… Referring to the civilians who live there and they’re going to see a large number of Americans being whisked away by the military while they’re stuck there, with the Taliban-

John Kirby: (32:16)
What I’d say to that, Mike, is what I’ve been saying for the last few days, that the Afghan forces have advantages. They have capability to protect their territory and their people. They have the capacity to do that. What I think the Afghan people want to see and what they deserve to see is the leadership and the will to use those advantages to their benefit. Thanks everybody. Going to have to go now.

Speaker 3: (32:42)
[inaudible 00:32:42] clarify the numbers one more time, just so I have no mistakes. 3,000 going into the airport. 1,000 first going to Qatar and then to Afghanistan to help with SIVs or staying in Qatar?

John Kirby: (32:51)
No, I said the 1,000 enablers will go to Qatar for right now. I can’t predict whether there’ll be onward movement from there. Right now, they’ll go into Qatar-

Speaker 3: (32:59)
And then 3,500-

John Kirby: (33:00)
Again for helping process. And then 3,000 to the airport in the next few days. And then there’ll be a reserve force out of Bragg that will stage out of Kuwait. And that’s roughly 3,500 to 4,000.

Speaker 3: (33:14)
All of that’s in addition to the 650 who are there [].

John Kirby: (33:16)
That is correct. Thanks everybody.

Speaker 4: (33:19)
I’m sorry. [crosstalk 00:33:19] of the immigrants though. Is that just transportation or are they actually helping-

John Kirby: (33:23)
No. I mean, processing their applications. Medical screening, that kind of thing.

Speaker 5: (33:28)
Any [inaudible 00:33:28], John?

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