US Deployed Helicopters To Rescue 169 Americans In Kabul Operation
US troops briefly exited Kabul airport at one point during ongoing evacuation operations: Pentagon (File)
The US military in Afghanistan deployed three helicopters to rescue 169 Americans unable to reach the Kabul airport gates to leave the country, an official said Friday.
In the first evidence that US forces are willing and able to go beyond the US-secured airport to help people seeking evacuation, three Chinook helicopters flew to pick up the group of US citizens at the Baron hotel, not far from the airport, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
The group had planned to walk to the Abbey Gate of the airport, but a crowd was gathered there and US officials were concerned for the Americans' safety.
"There was a large crowd established outside the Abbey Gate, a crowd, that, not everybody had confidence in, in terms of their ability to walk through it, and so local commanders on the scene took the initiative and flew these helicopters out there to pick them up," Kirby said.
Earlier, President Joe Biden mentioned the rescue in a speech, but gave few details.
Since US troops took over the airport to facilitate an airlift of potentially tens of thousands of people a week ago, they have avoided going outside the gates to steer clear of possible clashes with the Taliban, who have seized control of the country.
The Pentagon says the US commander on the ground in the airport is in frequent contact with the local Taliban commander to make it easier for Americans and Afghans with US visas to reach the airport to leave.
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