US warns Americans of potential ‘threats’ at Kabul airport
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a security alert on Saturday cautioning Americans seeking to evacuate Afghanistan about going to the airport in the country’s capital, citing “potential security threats.”
The latest alert underscores the persisting security issues facing Americans and others as they seek to evacuate Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover.
“Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so,” the alert stated.
The State Department has repeatedly told Americans not to come to the airport unless the embassy contacts them.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers on a call Friday afternoon that he was “aware” that Afghans and Americans who were trying to make their way to the airport in Kabul “have been harassed or even beaten by the Taliban.”
Austin’s remarks contrasted with President Biden’s comments earlier Friday at the White House when he claimed “where we have seen challenges for Americans we have thus far been able to resolve them.”
“We have no indication that they haven’t been able to get in Kabul through the airport,” Biden asserted of Americans, despite reporting on the ground indicating chaos at Taliban checkpoints. “We’ve made an agreement with the Taliban. Thus far, they’ve allowed them to go through.”
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman earlier this week also acknowledged “reports that the Taliban, contrary to their public statements and their commitments to our government, are blocking Afghans who wish to leave the country from reaching the airport.”
Still, she stressed that a good number of people were able to ultimately reach the airport.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Friday that roughly 13,000 people had been evacuated since Aug. 14 and the military had evacuated 5,700 people within the last 24 hours.
Biden in his speech on Friday vowed to evacuate all Americans and Afghan civilians who have helped the U.S. during the 20-year conflict while acknowledging an unpredictable situation and certain risks amid the large-scale evacuation.
“Make no mistake, this evacuation mission is dangerous. It involves risks to our armed forces, and it’s being conducted under difficult circumstances,” 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.”
Amid efforts to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghan civilians, flights out of Kabul were paused on Friday because a processing facility in Qatar had reached capacity; however, those flights were resumed after six or seven hours.
The embassy alert Saturday followed another issued three days earlier that warned the U.S. “cannot ensure safe passage” to the airport in Kabul.
“The security situation in Kabul continues to change quickly, including at the airport,” that alert read.
Biden said on Friday that the U.S. would do “everything that we can to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies, partners and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States.”
Embassy staff on Saturday urged Americans and their relatives who have not filled out their repatriation assistance requests to fill out the form as quickly as possible and told U.S. citizens not to contact the embassy about details regarding their flights.
“We will contact registered U.S. citizens as the security situation changes to provide further instructions,” the embassy said.