High Terror warning at Kabul airport, US & Allies warn citizens to leave immediately

The US State Department issued a statement asking those at North Gate, East Gate and Abbey Gate to leave immediately, citing unspecified "security threats"

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

The United States along with other western countries warned their citizens on August 26, 2021 to leave the Kabul airport immediately after high terror threat. The warning comes as thousands of people are trying to flee the nation in the wake of Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan. 

Around 90,000 Afghans and foreign nationals have been evacuated from Afghanistan through US-led evacuation missions. Several other nations including European countries and even India have been rushing to evacuate their own nationals as well as Afghans who are seeking to flee the nation ever since the Taliban insurgents took control of the nation on August 15, 2021. 

The Kabul airport is still under the control of the US military and its allies. The airport has been a scene of chaos since the Taliban takeover with huge crowds gathering in and around the airport. 

The crowds have become increasingly desperate after some foreign nations have ceased their flights ahead of the August 31 deadline set by US President Joe Biden to end the evacuations and withdraw US troops overseeing it.

Countries ceasing flights from Kabul 

Turkey, which had more than 500 non-combat troops stationed in Afghanistan, said on August 25 that it has started pulling out its forces.

Belgium is also ending its evacuations after its military planes airlifted over 1,100 people in recent days including both Europeans and Afghans. 

France will also end its flights from today, August 26. 

High Terror Threat

•One of the hard reasons for setting the hard deadline has been an "acute" terrorist threat from the regional chapter of the Islamic State group.

•The US and its allies raised alarm on August 26 with specific advisories warnings for their citizens to avoid the Kabul airport.

•The US State Department issued a statement asking those at North Gate, East Gate and Abbey Gate to leave immediately, citing unspecified "security threats"

•Australia's foreign affairs department also issued a statement saying there was an "ongoing and very high threat of terrorist attack". The department warned its citizens against travelling to Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport and said that if they are in the area of the airport, then move to a safe location and await further advice.

•The United Kingdom also issued a similar warning and urged its citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately if they can safely by other means. 

What can be the possible terror threat?

The United States and its allies are reportedly vary of terror threat from the Islamic State's Afghanistan-Pakistan chapter, which has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in those countries in recent years.

ISIS has over the years massacred civilians in both countries at mosques, shrines, public squares and even hospitals. The group has specifically targeted Muslims from sects it considers heretical, including Shias.

The ISIS and the Taliban are reportedly rivals and oppose each other despite both being hardline Sunni terrorists.

Kabul airport to function post-August 31 withdrawal deadline?

The United States, which is managing all the operations at the Kabul airport, stated that it has to wind down evacuations several days before the August 31 withdrawal deadline. This is to give time to the US military to remove its own 6,000-plus troops, equipment and hundreds of US officials and Afghan security forces. 

The Taliban have ruled out any extension to the August 31 deadline to pull out foreign troops, describing it as "a red line". Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, "They have planes, they have the airport, they should get their citizens and contractors out of here."

However, the United States on August 25, 2021 hinted that the Kabul airport can be kept open beyond the August 31 withdrawal deadline by regional countries.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a press briefing, "there are active efforts underway on the part of regional countries to see whether they can play a role in keeping the airport open once our military mission leaves or, as necessary, reopening it if it closes for some period of time."

He said, "The Taliban have made clear that they have a strong interest in having a functioning airport. We & rest of the int'l community have a strong interest in that, primarily for the purpose of making sure that anyone who wants to leave can leave past the 31st using the airport."

Blinken added saying, "Active efforts are underway. And again, with regard to our own potential presence going forward after the 31st (August), we’re looking at a number of options."

Antony Blinken assured, "People will continue to be able to leave the country after the military evacuation effort ends. This effort does not end on Aug 31. It will continue for as long as it takes to help get people out of Afghanistan who wish to leave."

He said that around 1,500 Americans may still need evacuating from Afghanistan and added that they are still evaluating their decision to leave Afghanistan based on the situation on the ground.

Background 

The Taliban after its takeover of the country has attempted to portray that they will undertake a softer rule this time, in comparison to their earlier regime when they had imposed a strict Sharia Law, taking away all freedom from women and subjecting them to their homes. 

The Afghans though remember the Taliban's first regime and fear that the group will repeat its brutal interpretation of Sharia law. In their previous rule, the Taliban had been accused of giving sanctuary to the terrorist group -Al-Qaeda, which is why the United States and its allies invaded the nation to overthrow the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.  

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