US fighter jets are flying over Kabul to ensure the safety of Americans being evacuated as troops at the airport reportedly use teargas to keep back the desperate crowds.
The Pentagon revealed on Thursday that armed fighter jets have been engaged in “overwatch” missions but claimed there are no hostile interactions with the Taliban, or attempts to impede the evacuation from Afghanistan.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told the news briefing that the jets had not carried out any “low pass” flights over Kabul but were there to provide an “added layer of force.”
"The overwatch flights … have been in the air since before the noncombatant evacuation operation," he said.
"It's a prudent force protection measure in the air, to make sure that we can protect our people and our operations against any threat.
"This is a continuum. It is not something new,” Kirby added.
"Protection is the prudent and responsible thing to do."
It comes as it was revealed that only 7,000 people have been evacuated from the country since Sunday.
Army Major General William Taylor said Thursday that more gates have now been opened at the airport and 5,200 troops are placed on guard in an attempt to speed up the process.
Taylor also claimed that there were no hostile interactions with the Taliban at the airport or fighters impeding the movement of US citizens through the airport.
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"We've made it very clear to the Taliban that any attack upon our people in our operations at the airport would be met with a forceful response," he said.
Taylor added that the Pentagon continues to recognize the "inherent danger of operating in this environment," but that US troops remain "agile, professional, and are postured to continue the mission, and to respond if required."
He said the US is “committed to the safe evacuation of as many people as quickly and as safely as possible."
Yet despite Taylor's comments, the airport remains in chaos as thousands of Afghans crowd the area hoping to escape.
US troops reportedly used teargas and fired shots into the air on Wednesday night, according to DailyMail.com.
Taliban fighters have been seen surrounding the streets around the airport in efforts to prevent Afghans from being evacuated.
According to DailyMail.com, 12 US Air Force C-17 cargo jets removed only 2,000 people from the region overnight.
It equals only 160 people in planes which can hold 600 each.
This figure remains far below the 5,000 to 8,000 the Pentagon said it could evacuate a day.
Only 1,800 of the 7,000 evacuated so far were American citizens or residents.
The rest were made up of translators and interpreters who worked on American camps and could be targeted by the Taliban if found.
TALIBAN BLOCK AIRPORT
Reports say that the chaos on the ground means that Afghans with paperwork are having difficulty getting through the stampede, while those without are managing to trick their way into the line.
Taliban fighters opened fire on the panicked crowds on Thursday morning as desperate parents attempted to shield their babies and pass children over the fences to safety.
Shocking videos appear to show gunmen firing first into the air and then towards a crowd of people as the desperate efforts to escape the new terror regime continue.
One video appears to show a crowd of people gathered around men in camouflage fatigues – understood to be the Taliban's elite Badri 313 special forces unit – before the shooting begins.
Gunshots then ring out as the armed men attempt to disperse the crowd as the screaming families run for their lives.
And one woman can be seen clutching her crying daughter as the men point their guns at the crowds in the background.
Another video shows hundreds of people cowering in a trench near the distinctive walls of the airport as gunfire rings out again and again.
One man can be heard speaking into a megaphone giving orders to the fearful people.
And in a third clip, another group of armed men fires into the air as crowds scramble, including one man who is clutching a little girl.
British troops are now leaving the airport to ensure that citizens trapped in the city and elsewhere can be safely evacuated.
The Pentagon was pressed by Fox News to explain why US troops are not doing the same.
Officials said the current goal is simply to protect the airport.
"At this time, as our main mission continues to be to secure it, to allow those American citizens and other civilians to come in and be processed at the airfield," Taylor said.
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