US Embassy Warns Americans to Avoid Kabul Airport over “Security Threats”
By Staff, Agencies
The US Embassy in Kabul issued a second security alert to Americans on Friday. Those hoping to get to Hamid Karzai International Airport to be airlifted out of the Taliban-controlled country were advised against doing so, and warned to avoid airport gates due to credible "security threats" in Afghanistan.
The alert seemingly mirrored the first one, released on Wednesday, however it added mention of the New Ministry of Interior gate at Kabul airport as an area to avoid.
"US citizens who are at the Abbey gate, East gate, North gate or the New Ministry of Interior gate now should leave immediately," stated the Friday alert by the embassy, which also included recommendations on "actions to take."
Thus, Americans in Afghanistan were urged to be "aware of your surroundings at all times, especially in large crowds" and "follow the instructions of local authorities including movement restrictions related to curfews."
On 25 August, the US Embassy in Afghanistan advised Americans outside the gates of Kabul airport to leave immediately, citing the “dynamic and volatile” security situation on the ground, hours after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US would remain "on track" to complete the evacuation mission by the August 31 deadline.
Americans were told to "avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a US government representative to do so."
The second alert from the US embassy comes amid a frantic rush to complete the massive ongoing evacuation efforts in Afghanistan ahead of the August 31 deadline. However, the airlift is being carried out against the backdrop of an increasingly volatile security situation after the Kabul airport attack. The deadly bombings on Thursday were carried out by Daesh-K, a regional branch of the militant organization founded in 2015 in Afghanistan with American help, according to former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The attack struck the perimeter of Hamid Karzai airport in the Afghan capital, killing at least 180 people and wounding an estimated 1,300 others. 13 US soldiers died in the bombings, said the Pentagon.
US President Joe Biden has vowed retaliation, telling the perpetrators on Thursday, hours after the attack, that Washington would “hunt you down” and “make you pay."
Evacuations of Americans and their Afghan allies restarted, with the window of opportunity narrowing for those hoping to flee the country. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday that America has "brought to safety, with our partners, more than 100,000 individuals." However, he declined to provide an estimate of how many people might not make it in time to be airlifted out ahead of the August 31 withdrawal date.
"It's a difficult question because look, we have evacuated more than 110,000 people so far. But we have always sought to be clear about this, and sought not to sugarcoat what will be a time of great uncertainty, a time of great fear, a time of concern for many Afghans," said Price.
Earlier on Friday, the Pentagon warned of existing “specific, credible terrorist threats” from Daesh-K to US troops and civilians. In retaliation for the Kabul bombing, the US conducted a drone strike against a Daesh-K “panner” in Afghanistan on Saturday.
"Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties," said Captain Bill Urban of the Central Command, referring to the retaliatory operation with an unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
The race against the clock to evacuate the remaining people comes as the White House said on Friday that its national security team had warned of the possibility of further terror attacks in Kabul. In a briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden had been informed that “another terror attack at Kabul airport is likely”, adding:
“The threat is ongoing and it is active. Our troops are still in danger … This is the most dangerous part of the mission.”
The Taliban’s capture of the Afghan capital Kabul on 15 August concluded the Islamist group’s swift offensive against government forces that began once US and NATO troops started to pull out from the South Asian country in May.
The fall of the official Kabul government prompted many Afghans, particularly those who had been employed by or served with Western forces, to seek ways to leave the country. Currently, the US and other NATO member countries continue to remove their personnel from Afghanistan, alongside their Afghan allies, ahead of the August 31 deadline.