An explosion was reported on the outskirts of Hamid Karzai International Airport Thursday after reports of gunfire.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed that there was an explosion at the airport. The number of casualties was unconfirmed in the immediate aftermath.
The Pentagon did not say who was behind the explosion, but it comes after the State Department on Wednesday night warned Americans at gates of the chaotic Kabul airport to "leave immediately."
The Biden administration has increasingly warned about the threat of an ISIS-K terrorist attack at the Kabul airport as the Aug. 31 U.S. deadline to withdraw draws near.
— Matthew Brown and Joey Garrison
Allied nations wind down evacutions ahead of U.S. withdrawal
Allied nations who are evacuating refugees and their own citizens out of the international airport in Kabul are warning that they won’t be able to continue operations as U.S. military forces begin their final drawdown from the country.
Canada, which evacuated around 3,700 people, has ended military flights from Kabul, according to the Associated Press. Italy, the Netherlands and Poland will all conduct their final evacuation flights Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported. French officials have said they will no longer be able to operate out of the country after Friday, the newspaper reported. The United Kingdom’s defense minister, Ben Wallace, said Thursday the U.K. military has 11 flights scheduled to leave Kabul today but declined to say if those would be the country’s last, per the Guardian.
A spokesperson for the European Union foreign affairs commission said the bloc “will be on the ground as long as necessary in order to complete the evacuation operations.”
Close U.S. allies, including the leaders of influential G7 nations like Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, pressed President Joe Biden to delay the date for U.S. troop withdrawal. While each country operating evacuations at the Kabul airport haves some military presence, the 6,000 American troops on the ground currently make up the bulk of allied defense and operations.
The withdrawal comes as the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a warning late Wednesday night that Americans should avoid traveling to the airport unless directly contacted by a U.S. official, citing a heightened terror threat. Australia and the U.K. have also issued warnings of a “high threat” of a terrorist attack on the airport, according to The Washington Post.
— Matthew Brown
WASHINGTON – Thousands of Afghans who helped aid the U.S. military or are vulnerable in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan are arriving in the United States, where they are staying in military bases, at convention centers and even some community colleges as they await their next move.
But as they prepare to rebuild their lives in a foreign country, Afghans face a two-pronged issue: Trying to get out of their native country safely and then completely restarting their lives in a new home where they likely have few personal connections.
The process to get Afghan nationals out of the country has been riddled with setbacks and issues for many, from unfinished applicant paperwork to the Taliban blocking vulnerable Afghans from getting to the Kabul airport. Once they arrive in the U.S., nonprofit groups and non-governmental organizations are working feverishly to get Afghans placed in a community so they could rebuild their life.
The Biden administration has an Aug. 31 deadline to evacuate U.S. citizens and others who qualify for U.S. protection, which President Joe Biden said the United States is on track to meet. Since Aug. 14, the United States has evacuated or helped facilitate the evacuation of nearly 90,000 people from Afghanistan.
— Rebecca Morin
About 13,400 people were evacuated out of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Wednesday, according to the White House, down from the 19,000 people shuttled out of the country the day before.
The U.S. military ushered 5,100 people out on 17 flights while coalition allies used 74 flights to ferry 8,300 people out of the country.
The total number of evacuated people from Afghanistan since Afghanistan’s capitol city fell to the Taliban is now 95,700. The largest airlift in history was during the fall of Saigon, when 131,000 people were evacuated.
Neither the White House nor the Pentagon are currently breaking down the number of Americans, third party nationals or Afghans within the number of evacuated people.
The dip in the day-over-day number of people evacuated comes as the U.S. faces a looming deadline to fully withdraw U.S. troops from the country by Aug. 31. President Joe Biden determined that U.S. troops would withdraw from the country by that date in the spring, a commitment that the Taliban has now set as a red line.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there were still approximately 1,500 possible American citizens in Afghanistan. The State Department is in contact with 500 of those Americans and is “aggressively” attempting to reach the others, Blinken added.
While both Biden and Blinken have said the U.S. is “on track to complete our mission” in Afghanistan by the Aug. 31 pullout deadline, Blinken stressed Tuesday that there was “no deadline” for getting Americans out of the country.
"Let me be crystal clear about this,” Blinken said during a press briefing. “There is no deadline on our work to help any remaining American citizens who decide they want to leave to do so, along with the many Afghans who have stood by us over these many years and want to leave and have been unable to do so. That effort will continue every day past Aug. 31.”
The State Department and Pentagon say that the Taliban is currently providing safe passage to Americans en route to the Kabul airport. Yet reports on the ground of violence and chaos at the airport persist while Taliban fighters continue to harass and stop Afghans attempting to flee the country.
— Matthew Brown
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Western nations warned Thursday of a possible attack on Kabul’s airport, where thousands have flocked as they try to flee Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the waning days of a massive airlift. Britain said an attack could come within hours.
Several countries urged people to avoid the airport, where Belgium said there was a threat of a suicide bombing. But with just days left before the evacuation effort ends and American troops withdraw, few appeared to heed the call.
Over the last week, the airport has been the scene of some of the most searing images of the chaotic end of America’s longest war and the Taliban’s takeover, as flight after flight landed to pull out those who fear a return to the militants’ brutal rule.
Already, some countries have ended their evacuations and begun to withdraw their soldiers and diplomats, likely signaling the beginning of the end of one of history’s largest airlifts. The Taliban have so far honored a pledge not to attack Western forces during the evacuation, but insist the foreign troops must be out by America’s self-imposed deadline of Aug. 31.
But overnight, new warnings emerged from Western capitals about a threat from Afghanistan’s Islamic State group affiliate, which likely has seen its ranks boosted by the Taliban’s freeing of prisoners during their blitz across the country.