A new threat from the Islamic State (IS) branch in Afghanistan prompted a new warning from the US embassy in Kabul urging Americans not to go to the besieged airport in Kabul, confirmed on Saturday. officials at Fox News.
“Due to the potential security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport, we advise US citizens to avoid going to the airport and avoid the airport gates at this time. , unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government official to do so, ”the embassy said. warned Saturday.
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The warning came amid the lingering chaos at Kabul airport, where thousands of Americans and Afghan allies attempted to access flights leaving the country – which quickly fell to the Taliban before the withdrawal American scheduled for August 31. Officials admitted that a “small number” of Americans and Afghans were beaten or harassed by Taliban fighters as they tried to get to the airport.
So far, 17,000 people have been evacuated since August 14, including 2,500 Americans. There are now approximately 5,800 American soldiers on the ground guarding the airport. Officials, speaking to reporters on Saturday, stressed that “the airport remains secure” and that the military has maintained the security of the gates.
Pentagon officials did not comment on the nature of the possible threat at a press conference on Saturday, but officials told Fox that it was a threat from ISIS that triggered the warning. The ISIS threat was first reported by The Associated Press.
“There are other terrorist groups of concern to us as well,” an official told Fox.
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While the official declined to give details, the Pentagon has long estimated that “hundreds” of Al Qaeda fighters remain in Afghanistan. This directly contradicts an assertion by President Biden on Friday that al-Qaeda “left” Afghanistan. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby later told a press conference that Al Qaeda actually had a “presence.”
In a statement on Saturday, Kirby told Fox that “We are aware that the situation is dynamic and fluid, and we are doing everything possible to conduct a safe and orderly evacuation.”
The Biden administration faces significant political pressure over the crisis, which has surprised the United States and has led to growing criticism of President Biden’s handling of the situation – which has led him to defend his handling of the crisis several times this week. The White House also announced on Saturday that he would not be traveling to Wilmington, Delaware, as planned.
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At a press conference on Friday, Biden sought to portray a situation in which the United States had regained control and routinely evacuated Americans and some Afghans, but warned he couldn’t promise what the outcome would be.
“I cannot promise what the end result will be, or that it will be without risk of loss, but as Commander-in-Chief I can assure you that I will mobilize all the necessary resources,” he said.
The Pentagon was asked on Saturday whether Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was frustrated that his advice not to withdraw the troops was ignored by President Biden.
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“The secretary is 100% focused on the mission at hand right now, which is a non-combatant evacuation operation,” Kirby said. “And he is confident that throughout this deliberation his voice has been heard that he has had the opportunity to provide his best advice and guidance to the Commander-in-Chief and the National Security Team, as have other leaders here at the Pentagon. “
Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich and Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.
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