By: Aparajita Patel
The US State Department has advised Americans still in Afghanistan to leave the area around Kabul airport immediately, citing a “specific, credible threat.” This comes just hours after President Joe Biden said his military commanders had warned that an attack was “highly likely” to occur within the next 36 hours.
These particular cautions and alerts were issued just days before the United States was set to finish its evacuation and troop withdrawal.
“All US citizens in the area of Kabul airport (Hamid Karzai International Airport), 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 due to a specific, credible threat,” the US embassy in Kabul said in a security alert on Saturday. According to the State Department, at least 500 Americans remain in Afghanistan and want to be evacuated. The US embassy in Kabul has been operating out of the airport, and President Biden is intending to evacuate the ambassador and diplomatic personnel by Tuesday, according to The Washington Post, despite the Taliban’s wish for the US to keep its diplomatic post. However, no definitive decision on the US’s future involvement has been made.
President Biden had already warned of an impending attack on Saturday. In a statement, he said, “Our commanders advised me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours.” “I directed them to prioritize force protection in every way possible, and to ensure that they have all of the authorities, resources, and strategies in place to defend our men and women on the ground.”
“On the ground, the situation remains extraordinarily perilous, and the possibility of terrorist strikes on the airport remains high,” Biden warned.
Similar warnings were sent by the US before the Kabul airport explosion last Thursday, which killed over 170 Afghans and 13 American personnel. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan (ISIS-K), an affiliate of the Islamic State.
The US military killed two ISIS-K “planners and facilitators” in a drone strike in Nangarhar, Afghanistan’s border region with Pakistan, on the orders of Biden, who has vowed to “hunt down” the perpetrators of the Kabul attack. One of the operatives was hurt. There was no way of knowing who they were.
“I said we would go after the organization responsible for the attack on our troops and innocent people in Kabul, and we have,” Biden said in a statement that also mentioned the possibility of another strike in 36 hours. “This was not the final strike. We will continue to track down and prosecute everyone who was part of that horrible attack.”
The US president also stated that he was committed to continuing the evacuation.