Updated: September 2, 2021 11:05:23 am
The Taliban is a ruthless group from the past, a top American general said, noting that it remains to be seen if the organisation has changed or not.
“We don’t know what the future of the Taliban is, but I can tell you from personal experience that this is a ruthless group from the past, and whether or not they change remains to be seen,” Joint US Chiefs Of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.
“And as far as our dealings with them at that airfield or in the past year or so, in war, you do what you must in order to reduce risk to the mission and force, not what you necessarily want to do,” he said responding to questions on cooperation with the Taliban.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US was working with the Taliban on a “very narrow set of issues”, and it was just to get as many people out as they possibly could.
“I would not make any leaps of logic to broader issues. I would just say that, again, I’m immensely proud of what our troops have done to this point, and it’s hard to predict where this will go in the future with respect to the Taliban,” he said.
Giving details of the evacuation mission, Gen Milley said the US deployed between 5,000 and 6,000 military personnel on the ground, some of whom were forward-deployed based on their contingency planning. “We flew 387 US military C-17 and C-130 sorties, and we enabled 391 non-US military sorties,” he said.
“A total of 778 sorties evacuated a total of 1,24,334 people which included almost 6,000 American citizens, third country nationals, and Afghans designated by the Department of State. And we will continue to evacuate American citizens under the leadership of the Department of State as this mission has now transitioned from a military mission to a diplomatic mission,” he added.
Currently, there are approximately 20,000 evacuees and seven staging bases in five countries in Central Command, another 23,000 in seven staging bases in four countries in Europe, and there are approximately 20,000 Afghans who arrived at eight different military bases in continental US, he said.
This mission cost 11 Marines, one soldier and one Navy corpsman their lives, and 22 others were wounded in action. In addition to over 100 Afghans killed and wounded in a horrific terrorist attack on August 26 at Abbey Gate on the southeast perimeter of the Kabul airport, Milley said.
“In Afghanistan, our military mission has now come to an end, and we’re going to learn from this experience. How we got to this moment in Afghanistan will be analysed and studied for years to come, and we in the military will approach this with humility, transparency and candour. There are many tactical, operational and strategic lessons to be learned,” he said.