U.S. Forces Sending Helicopters Into Kabul Neighborhoods to Rescue Evacuees

Admin Emergency Services, Helicopter Services

In recent weeks, the perimeter of U.S. and coalition-controlled territory in Afghanistan has shrunk to little more than a few beleaguered outposts and nowhere is this more visible than in Kabul, where coalition forces control little more than the walled-off territory of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Inside this minute slice of the surrounding city’s geography, security is becoming increasingly precarious as U.S. and allied forces hurriedly evacuate people before the planned August 31st military withdrawal that president Biden still seems to be holding to firmly.

Despite this fragile situation, the airport is a refuge for thousands of Afghan citizens and many others from different nationalities who have managed to escape other dangers outside the airport’s barricades and walls.

While entry to the airport itself seems to be heavily restricted based on eligibility, U.S forces have also been conducting proactive rescue missions of select stranded groups outside its walls in what is now Taliban territory.

One case of this occurred this past Tuesday, August 24th when the U.S. military sent a helicopter into a Kabul neighborhood to pick up trapped U.S. citizens. Another similar effort was also conducted on Monday in which U.S. forces sent another helicopter to retrieve a total of 16 American citizens and take them to the airport for evacuation processing.

In an even more ambitious incident that occurred on Thursday of last week, three U.S. helicopters were sent out together to rescue 169 Americans close to a hotel in Kabul.

These efforts haven’t been limited to exfiltrations of U.S. citizens either. On Wednesday, August 25th, American forces flew a helicopter in which accompanying German military personnel assisted in the rescue of 21 German citizens from outside the walls of Kabul’s airport.

Other recent flights of these kinds have been used to collect at-risk Americans, Afghans with ties to U.S. authorities, and the citizens of allied countries from territories outside the shrinking perimeter of coalition control.

U.S officials have recognized that these ongoing rescue efforts are occurring as the pressure to evacuate as many people as possible mounts before the end of the month, but coalition authorities have not stated just how most of their rescues are conducted. They have only mentioned that helicopter missions are rare.

Inside Hamid Karzai airport, evacuation flights out of Afghanistan have notably accelerated in recent days, with 90 military cargo flights taking off at an average rate of one every 39 minutes, having evacuated over 19,000 refugees in the last 24 hours alone as of August 26th.

According to Chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, the accelerated pace of evacuations has been possible largely due to active coordination between coalition military forces and Taliban commanders in control of the territory outside the airport.

According to Kirby, “Thus far, and going forward, it does require constant coordination and deconfliction with the Taliban. What we’ve seen is, this deconfliction has worked well in terms of allowing access and flow as well as reducing the overall size of the crowds just outside the airport.”

In many emergency situations where airlifts of government and civilian personnel are needed rapidly, military choppers and even specialty helicopter charters are commonly used due to their extreme versatility.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rahmat Gul