Watch live: Pentagon chiefs address the crisis in Afghanistan as U.S. scrambles to evacuate thousands
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WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley are slated to address the nation from the Pentagon Wednesday afternoon as the U.S. scrambles to evacuate thousands from Kabul after the Taliban's takeover.
Their remarks, scheduled for 3:00 p.m. ET, will be their first since Taliban insurgents seized the presidential palace in the Afghan capital of Kabul over the weekend, a stunning development that marks the apparent end to a 20-year U.S.-led attempt at creating a stable democracy in the country.
Taliban advances, spurred in part by the exodus of U.S. and NATO coalition troops, led to Western nations deploying troops to Kabul to evacuate embassies amid the deteriorating security situation.
In the immediate wake of the Taliban's takeover, many Afghans, desperate to leave the country crowded the tarmac at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
The Pentagon's goal is to get 5,000 to 9,000 people out of Kabul daily, according to Army Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, deputy director of the Joint Staff for regional operations.
Taylor expects a departure tempo of one U.S. military cargo aircraft per hour. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has moved about 4,000 U.S. troops to Kabul in order to provide security and help with evacuation efforts.
President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House on Monday that he stands behind his April decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, a move that effectively ends America's longest war.
"American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves," Biden said. "We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future."