The United States is urging crowds trying to access Kabul airport to leave the area, as the British and Australian governments warned of a “high threat” of a “terrorist” attack.
The warning came on August 26th as Western troops hurried to evacuate as many foreign nationals and Afghans as possible before a withdrawal deadline on August 31st.
“Those at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” the US State Department said in an alert, citing “security threats”.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs also cited an “ongoing and very high threat of terrorist attack” and told people not to travel to the airport.
The British foreign office gave similar advice, saying: “If you can leave Afghanistan safely by other means, you should do so immediately”.
“There is an ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack”, the statement added.
Earlier, US Army Major General William Taylor told a news briefing that there were more than 10,000 people at the Kabul airport waiting to be evacuated from Afghanistan.
The Pentagon claimed it evacuated some 19,000 people in the past 24 hours. More than 80,000 people, foreigners and Afghans, have been evacuated since August 14th, according to official claims.
Still, there’s quite a bit more to do.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there are still about 1,500 US citizens left in Afghanistan.
The US government is working to either contact them, or has given them instructions on how to leave.
“Over the past 24 hours, we’ve been in direct contact with approximately 500 additional Americans and provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely,” he said on Wednesday.
“For the remaining roughly 1000 contacts that we had, who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we’re aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day, through multiple channels of communication.”
The US citizens that are outside Kabul, however, are stranded. The US is trying to contact them to give them instructions, they will reportedly be provided no other assistance.
John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said the US military does not have the capability to rescue stranded Americans and Afghans who want to leave the country but are unable to get to Kabul.
“I don’t want to set the expectation that we’re going to be able to fly all over the country to pick-up people,” Kirby told reporters.
The Pentagon has confirmed the US military used helicopters to airlift people into the airport on three occasions and said the US government is receiving calls for help from others.
“There’s a limit to the capability we have here,” Kirby said. “But when we can help, and if we need rotary-wing aircraft to help, we’ll do it.”
With hopes of operating Kabul Airport apparently turning into reality, the Turkish Military began evacuations.
The Taliban wants Ankara to withdraw its military fully by the end-August deadline, even though President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government had said for months it could keep a presence at Kabul airport if requested after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.
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