Pentagon on Wednesday said that the Taliban are not interfering with evacuation operations by US troops and said the terror group is guaranteeing safe passage to the airport for American citizens.
In a press briefing at the Pentagon, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley told reporters that, "the Taliban are in and around the Kabul right now but they are not interfering with our operations."
"Through the State Department, the Taliban are guaranteeing safe passage to the airport for American citizens, that is, US passport holders," Milley said.
When asked if the military had the capability to enter Kabul and extract people, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, "We don't have the capability to go out and collect the large numbers of people out."
Miley's remarks is in sharp contrast with State Department's statement on the matter.
The US embassy in Kabul issued an advisory, saying that the US government cannot ensure safe passage to the Hamid Karzai international Airport.
A few hours later, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told reporters at the State Department today that, "we have seen reports that the Taliban, contrary to their public statements and their commitments to our government are blocking Afghans who wish to leave the country from reaching the airport."
Sherman said that the State Department's team in Doha, Qatar, is meeting with Taliban officials, and "our military partners on the ground in Kabul are engaging directly with the Taliban to make clear that we expect them to allow all American citizens all third-country nationals and all Afghans who wish to leave to do so safely and without harassment."
The US has so far evacuated "approximately 5,000 people" from Afghanistan and its military intends to increase the number of evacuees.
"Right now, we are averaging about 20 sorties of C-17s every 24 hours," Milley said, referring to US military planes.
On Sunday, the Taliban declared victory after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad and his government collapsed. Like many other countries, the US started evacuating its nationals and some Afghans with links to foreign governments and organisations.
(With ANI inputs)