The pre-dawn darkness in Kabul came alive with the distinct sound of American fighter jets Wednesday, causing Twitter to light up with speculation and concern.
Initial speculation ranged from trouble at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul to a potential U.S. seizure of Bagram airfield, which is currently in the hands of the Taliban.
HKIA, the last airfield controlled by the U.S. in Afghanistan has been a chaotic scene in recent days, and remains the last chance for tens of thousands of American citizens and Afghans seeking an exit from the country.
But Navy Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told Military Times that the presence of U.S. fighter aircraft was routine and would continue until the evacuation mission concludes.
Although CENTCOM did not comment on the intent behind the jets flying low enough for people around Kabul to be awakened in the early morning hours, ground troops sometimes request fly-overs by pilots as a “show of force.” The intent is to inform potential belligerents that the U.S. has overwhelming firepower, should it be needed.
While CENTCOM did not answer questions about who was flying the jets, it is clear that the U.S. military maintains a robust presence in and around the region. The aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan is in the area directly supporting the drawdown along with aircraft operating out of bases in Kuwait.
When reinforcements have all arrived, there will be roughly 7,000 U.S. troops securing the Kabul airport, and their mission so far is confined there, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters earlier this week.
Currently, there are some 22,000 Afghans who risk death at the hands of the Taliban if left behind by American forces attempting to complete the U.S. withdrawal from the country by Aug. 31.
“Right now, we’re looking at one aircraft per hour in and out of HKIA,” Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor told reporters earlier this week. “We predict that our best effort could look like 5,000 to 9,000 passengers departing per day.”
These Afghans are in addition to the thousands of U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan over the last week, whose only supply route is HKIA’s runway, as major U.S. airbases at Bagram and Kandahar have been captured from the now-defunct Afghan government by the Taliban.
The situation in Kabul is fluid. Stay with Military Times for the latest updates.
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