The Pentagon acknowledged Tuesday that there had been “some terrible conditions” at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar where the US military has temporarily stationed thousands of evacuees from Afghanistan as they relocate people leaving the country.
“We are aware of and as concerned as anybody about what had been some terrible sanitation conditions at Qatar that were facilitated by the sheer numbers and the speed with which those numbers got there,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a news briefing Tuesday.
Several news outlets had reported unsanitary conditions at the Al Udeid Air Base, which has been one of the primary destinations for flights out of Kabul.
Kirby said Tuesday that the conditions are “improving now,” but “they’re not” perfect.
“We’ll be the first to admit that conditions at Al Udeid could have been better. They are improving now,” he said. “I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that they’re perfect, because they’re not.”
The US military continues to try and identify other temporary locations where evacuees can be sent to “ease the pressure” at the Qatari base, Kirby said.
He added that “nobody here wants anyone to be less than safe, secure, comfortable and well-cared for, as they go through this process.”
The US reached a deal with Qatar for the nation to take in 8,000 Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and their family members.
An eight-hour pause in US military evacuation flights occurred Friday because the Al Udeid base had reached capacity.
The US military has chosen more locations for evacuees to be sent temporarily, including Ramstein Air Base in Germany, locations in Italy, Spain and Bahrain, Kirby said.
The US is in the midst of what President Joe Biden has called “one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history,” and trying to ramp up flights out of Afghanistan ahead of a fast-approaching August 31 deadline for US troops to be out of the country. The Al Udeid base is home to the largest US base in the Middle East.
A sign of the breadth and urgency of the mission, the Pentagon activated commercial airlines to help with the evacuation mission by flying people out of Qatar and other centers, to the US or a third country.
More than 21,000 people were evacuated from Kabul airport in the last 24 hours via US military and coalition flights, a White House official told CNN Tuesday.
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