The American flag at the US embassy in Kabul has been taken down, marking a final step in the evacuation of the embassy, days earlier than US officials initially projected, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The US scrambled to evacuate embassy staff and top officials from its diplomatic compound in Afghanistan Sunday as Taliban fighters entered the city, Afghan government officials fled the country and gunfire was heard at Kabul airport, multiple sources told CNN.
Early Sunday, two sources familiar with the situation told CNN that the plan was to pull all US personnel from the embassy in Kabul over the next 72 hours.
Hours later, most US embassy staff had been moved to Kabul airport for flights out of the country.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told House lawmakers Sunday that the evacuation was a “highly dynamic and very risky operation,” even as he and other senior US officials worked to project a sense of control.
“This is not Saigon,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” when asked about President Joe Biden’s July assertion that under no circumstances would US personnel be airlifted out of Kabul in a replay of the US withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975.