The Department of Defense released photos of U.S. servicemembers assisting with efforts to aid Afghan refugees on Thursday as the Biden administration ramps up efforts to evacuate thousands seeking to escape the Taliban.
The photos showed U.S. troops serving lunch to Afghan refugees who were completing Special Immigrant Applications, a U.S. Marine escorting civilians through a security checkpoint at Kabul’s airport, and Afghan civilians preparing to board a transport plane to evacuate the country.
Other images showed U.S. Army soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division arriving in Kabul to assist with the ongoing evacuation. More than 5,200 U.S. troops are currently on the ground in the capital city.
In another photo, a U.S. Air Force member greeted staffers from the now-shuttered U.S. embassy as they prepared to fly to Kuwait via Qatar Airways.
The photos were published amid intense scrutiny of the Biden administration’s handling of the evacuation effort ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline. More than 7,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan so far.
About 2,000 people have been evacuated over the last 24 hours, Pentagon officials said Thursday. That number was far short of the Pentagon’s goal of 5,000 to 9,000 evacuees per day hoped for. Transport planes are departing Kabul with less than their full capacity of 300 passengers, and there have been reports of Taliban militants barring people from reaching the airport.
An additional 6,000 people “have been fully processed by our consular team and will soon board planes,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.