Potential threats from the Islamic State group against Americans in Afghanistan are forcing U.S. military forces to find new ways to transfer people to Kabul airport to be evacuated, a U.S. official said Saturday, adding further complications to previously chaotic efforts to get people out of the country after its rapid fall at the hands of the Taliban.
The official added that small groups of Americans and possibly other civilians will receive specific instructions on what to do, including going to assembly points where they can be picked up by military forces. The person spoke on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to discuss military operations.
The changes come the same day that the US embassy issues a new security warning asking its citizens not to travel to the Kabul airport without having received individual instructions from a US government representative. Officials declined to provide details about the threat from the Islamic State group, but described it as considerable. They stressed that so far there have been no confirmed attacks.
Time is running out before the August 31 deadline set by US President Joe Biden to remove all troops from Afghanistan, and on Friday the president gave no indication that he was considering extending it, although he did issue a new commitment. to evacuate not only all Americans in Afghanistan, but the tens of thousands of Afghans who have assisted in the war effort since September 11, 2001. That promise would dramatically skyrocket the number of people the United States will evacuate.
Tension mounts as helicopters picked up people in various locations far from the Kabul airport, where chaotic evacuation scenes were revealed and where the Taliban have erected road checkpoints.
Biden has come under fire in light of scenes of chaos and occasional violence outside the airport, and as many vulnerable Afghans fear the Taliban, now in power, will seek revenge.
Bahrain announced on Saturday that it will allow its transportation facilities to be used for evacuations, amid reports that a US air base in Qatar is already saturated with refugees. The delays caused a disruption of several hours in outbound flights from Kabul airport.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates announced that they will receive a maximum of 5,000 Afghans “prior to their departure for other countries.”
Tens of thousands of Afghan interpreters and other officials, along with their families, are waiting to be evacuated from the country after the sudden offensive with which the Taliban seized power. The fall of Kabul marked the end of the war that began with the US invasion, which was in response to the September 2001 attacks, engineered by the terrorist group al-Qaida from Afghan soil.
So far, 13 countries have agreed to host vulnerable Afghans, at least temporarily, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Another 12 have agreed to serve as a transit point. Some 300 evacuees arrived Friday night from Qatar at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany, one of the transit points for those being transferred to the United States, military sources said.
But the big question for many of the Afghans left in their country is, Where will they end up living? Already, European countries that fear a repeat of the migration crisis of 2015 have indicated that Afghans who did not help the foreign military should be located in neighboring countries. The scenes in which desperate individuals clung to planes in full takeoff have increased the anxieties of Europeans.