U.S. is flying F/A-18 fighter jets over Kabul during evacuation

The fighter jets are "to support the commander on the ground," Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor said.
Image
Afghans rush to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
Afghans rush to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
(Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The American military is flying F/A-18 fighter jets over Kabul "to ensure security" during evacuations out of Afghanistan.

The F/A-18s from the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, which is currently in the North Arabian Sea, "flew armed overwatch flights over Kabul to ensure enhanced security" in the past day, Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor said, according to The Hill.

Defense Department press secretary John Kirby said the flights were "at altitude," contrary to social media reports that claimed they were flying low.

In response to being asked if the F/A-18s were authorized to fire if American and ally troops came under attack, Kirby said, "As always, we have the right to defend ourselves and our people and our operations."

Taylor said the jets were "to support the commander on the ground."

"Throughout the drawdown we had overwatch capabilities," Kirby said. "The fact that we are flying overwatch missions now, and have been since the 14th — we were actually doing it before the 14th, as you would think we would."

There are 5,200 U.S. troops overseeing the evacuation, and 7,000 people have been evacuated since the Taliban takeover on Sunday. Over 10,000 Americans and 50,000 to 65,000 Afghan allies need to be evacuated.