Thirty-three US military transport jets are expected to land in Kabul within the next 24 hours where as many as 20,000 people, including Americans and Afghans, are still waiting to be evacuated.
In an attempt to help ramp up the evacuation of Americans, a source told CNN on Monday that only US citizens and green card holders, as well as their immediate families, would now be allowed through the airport gates.
Afghans applying for the Special Immigrant Visa will not be granted access, the source claimed.
It wasn’t immediately clear if that policy only applies until some of the 20,000 people currently waiting in the airport are evacuated.
Thousands of Afghans with no documentation currently remain on airport grounds after gaining access amid the chaos last week, the source said.
There are currently “no plans to kick people off the airport,” according to the source — but it is not yet clear what will eventually happen to those who have no documentation.
Each of the 33 planes set to arrive in Kabul in the next 24 hours can carry an estimated 400 passengers, which should make a “decent dent” in the number of those still stranded.
President Joe Biden said Sunday the process to get Americans and tens of thousands of others out of Afghanistan was accelerating but he continued to defend his decision to withdraw despite the botched evacuations.
“The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful, no matter when it started, when we began,” Biden said.
“It would have been true if we’d started a month ago, or a month from now. There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss of heartbreaking images you see on television.”
Over the 24 hours that ended early morning Monday, 28 US military flights evacuated approximately 10,400 people from Kabul, according to a White House official.
“We see no reason why this tempo will not be kept up,” Biden said.
The US is aiming to fly 5,000 to 9,000 people out of Kabul each day.
Biden said, without going into detail, that US troops had improved access to the airport for Americans and others seeking to evacuated.
He suggested that the perimeter around the airport had been extended.
“What I’m not going to do is talk about the tactical changes we’re making to make sure we maintain as much security as we can,” he said.
“We have constantly, how can I say it, increased rational access to the airport, where more folk can get there more safely. It’s still a dangerous operation but I don’t want to go into the detail of how we’re doing that.
“We’ve discussed a lot with the Taliban. They’ve been cooperative in extending some of the perimeter.”