US tells Americans to leave Kabul airport ‘immediately’
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a security alert on Saturday night stating that Americans near the airport “should leave the airport area immediately,” citing a “specific, credible threat.”
“Due to a specific, credible threat, all U.S. citizens in the vicinity of Kabul airport (HKIA), including the South (Airport Circle) gate, the new Ministry of the Interior, and the gate near the Panjshir Petrol station on the northwest side of the airport, should leave the airport area immediately,” the embassy said.
“U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid all airport gates at this time,” the embassy added.
The stark warning from the State Department comes just hours after President Biden said that he was notified by officials that an attack on the airport with in the next 24 to 36 hours was highly likely.
“Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours. I directed them to take every possible measure to prioritize force protection, and ensured that they have all the authorities, resources and plans to protect our men and women on the ground,” Biden said. “They assured me that they did, and that they could take these measures while completing the mission and safely retrograding our personnel.”
Details were not immediately clear of what the “specific, credible threat” might be.
The terrorist group ISIS-K claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday that killed 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans.
U.S. officials had already expressed concerns prior to Thursday about the security situation close to the airport, as many Afghans crowded near the area in hopes of getting a flight out of the country.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Monday that it had been a concern of his that the airport could be “a very attractive target” for terrorist groups.
“This has been a concern of mine for some days now — that this would make a very attractive target for ISIS-K or for elements of al Qaeda,” Schiff said.
On Friday, U.S. Central Command announced that it had an “over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation today against an ISIS-K planner” in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
“Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties,” Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said in a statement late Friday.
The Pentagon later elaborated on Saturday, saying that two “high-profile” ISIS targets had been killed, while another was wounded.
A spokesperson from the State Department said in a statement to The Hill Saturday night that the situation on the ground was “volatile.”
“As a general rule, we don’t speak to intelligence, but this is a dynamic and volatile security situation on the ground. We have no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also confirmed the embassy’s security alert, and directed The Hill to refer to the “U.S. Embassy Kabul’s website for updates.”
The Hill has reached out to the White House for more information regarding the threat.
Updated 10:30 p.m.