The Taliban now control the capital city

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby (Pool)

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby today defended the US military’s chaotic withdrawal from Kabul, telling CNN he took issue with any characterization of the situation at Hamid Karzai International Airport as a planning failure.

“I would take issue with your designation of this operation at the airport as a failure,” said Kirby, after CNN’s Barbara Starr asked him “what failed in your planning?”

“We do plan for all manner of contingencies but it’s not a perfect process,” he continued. “Plans are not always perfectly predictive … and as is well known in military maximum, plans don’t often survive first contact and you have to adjust in real time.”

“When you look at the images out of Kabul, that would have been difficult for anybody to predict,” added Kirby, speaking in a news conference at the Pentagon.

Kirby defended the preparation of the US, saying they did plan “noncombatant evacuation operations as far back as May” and that “there were drills being done here at the Pentagon to walk through what different noncombatant evacuation operations might look like.”

Kirby said one of the exercises was done as recently as two weeks ago to examine what a noncombatant evacuation “would look like out of the Hamid Karzai International Airport.”

“And we think that those exercises did prepare us in terms of having their resources forward, secretary forward deployed troops, including Marines, off of their ship and into Kuwait so that they could be more readily available as well as other forces in the region,” he said.

“A lot of what you’re seeing transpire, the reason we can be so quick with upwards of 6,000 troop, is because we anticipated the possible need to do this,” he said, noting again that they could not have predicted “every single scenario and every single breach around the perimeter of the airport” and there are “changes that happen.”

Some more background: Violence erupted at the Kabul airport on Monday as hundreds of people poured onto the tarmac desperately seeking a route out of Afghanistan after the Taliban’s sudden seizure of power sparked a chaotic Western withdrawal.

US forces shot and killed two armed men who fired on them Monday, according to a US defense official, and the US resumed temporarily suspended operations at the airfield after clearing crowds off the runways.