US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said “we have a moral obligation to help those who helped us. And I feel the urgency deeply,” AP reported on Saturday.
“All of this is very personal for me. This is a war that I fought in and led. I know the country, I know the people, and I know those who fought alongside me,” said Austin.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also commanded troops in Afghanistan and spoke of the war in personal terms.
“For more than 20 years, we have prevented an attack on the US homeland. 2,448 lost lives, 20,722 were wounded in action, and many others suffered the unseen wounds of war. To each of them, I want you to know, personally, that your service matters,” said Milley.
“As the Secretary said, for both he and I, this is personal. And I know it’s personal for each and every one of you,” he further said.
Austin also said that troops have a wide range of views on the issue and he urged them to work through it in their own way. “We need to respect that and we need to give one another the time and space to help do it,” he said.
On Friday US President Joe Biden promised Americans in Afghanistan that "we will get you home," but warned the evacuation mission would be risky and dangerous, Reuters reported.
"There'll be plenty of time to criticize and second guess when this operation is over," Biden said while giving a speech followed by questions from reporters at the White House, adding that "the buck stops with me."
Biden called the airlift one of the largest, most difficult of its kind, and said an attack in Kabul is one concern following the Taliban’s release from prisons of fellow militants.
The United States is "keeping a close watch on any potential terrorist threat at or around the airport," Biden said.
"I cannot promise what the final outcome will be or that it will be without risk of loss. But as commander in chief, I can assure you that I will mobilize every resource necessary," he said.
The United States is desperately trying to evacuate thousands by an Aug. 31 deadline, although Biden said this week that US troops at Kabul airport providing security for the evacuation could stay longer if necessary.
About 13,000 people have been evacuated on US military aircraft since Aug. 14 and 18,000 people since the end of July, he said; 5,700 were evacuated on Thursday alone.