ISIS Bomb Threat Forces US Citizens to Stay Away From Kabul Airport

Published August 26th, 2021 - 07:01 GMT
All foreigners evacuated Kabul airport due to car bomb threats by ISIS
People evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan wait to board a bus that will take them to a refugee processing center at the Dulles International Airport on August 25, 2021 in Dulles, Virginia. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/AFP
Americans at Kabul airport were told at around 3:30am local time Thursday to immediately leave three gates

The US, Britain and Australia called on their citizens in the early hours of Thursday to leave the Kabul Airport area over fears of a deadly car bomb blast.

American officials said that any of its citizens near three gates in particular should go, while Britain and Australia said that all their citizens anywhere near the airport should leave. 

The warning was given amid fears extremist group ISIS-K was plotting multiple car bomb attack using recently-freed prisoners, as around 1,500 Americans remain stranded, including 23 schoolchildren from California. 

'Due to threats outside the Kabul airport, US citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates unless you receive instructions to do so,' the State Department tweeted on Wednesday night. 

'Those at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.' 

The order to leave the gates was issued at 3:30am local time in Kabul on Thursday morning. 

It came as a 345-seat evacuation flight organized by a Washington DC-based philanthropist left Kabul Airport almost empty because its intended passengers could not get past the Taliban.

The jet - laid on by George Abi-Habib, co-founder of development firm Sayara International, had just 50 of passengers in its cabin, amid fears terrorists are now plotting a car bomb attack against Kabul's Hamid Karzai Airport. 

One of the passengers had to crawl through a sewage pipe just to make it into the airport, he told The Wall Street Journal. 

'We can't expect everyone to crawl through a sewer pipe to safety,' Abi-Habib said.

Another of Abi-Habib's 240-seat charter flights heading to Ukraine left with 70 seats empty after U.S. soldiers wouldn't let passengers through to board the aircraft. 

'It's total chaos,' said Warren Binford, a law professor at the University of Colorado who has been working on evacuation efforts. 

'What's happening is that we're seeing a massive underground railroad operation where, instead of running for decades, it's literally running for a matter of hours, or days.' 

CNN reported Thursday that they believe ISIS-K, which is a sworn enemy of the Taliban, wants to create mayhem at the airport and has intelligence streams suggesting it is capable and planning to carry out multiple attacks.  

Analysts told on Wednesday night that the intelligence likely came from intercepted calls, amid fears recently-freed prisoners could mount the attacks.  

Concerns increased after more than 100 prison inmates loyal to the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan escaped from two prisons near Kabul as the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital. 

Taliban fighters stormed the jails at Bagram and Pul-e-Charkhi, both to the east of Kabul, shortly before the capital city fell.

CNN reported that hundreds of ISIS-K fighters are believed to have been freed.   

Fears are mounting that the Islamic State affiliate in the region, ISIS-K, could try and launch an attack on the crowds masses outside the airport. 

A BBC reporter said there were reports of a potential car bomb attack. 

Joe Biden on Tuesday warned that ISIS-K were believed to be attempting to target departing jets, as he explained why it was unlikely that U.S. forces will remain in the area beyond August 31. 

Up to 1,500 Americans are still trapped in Afghanistan and the U.S. is still relying on the Taliban to allow safe passage to Kabul airport with just six days before the deadline, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Blinken gave his first briefing on the airlift operation and the bid to get all citizens and Afghan allies out amid reports the CIA has joined U.S. troops in helicopter rescue missions outside the airport perimeter. 

Thousands of people are still trying to leave Afghanistan as U.S. troops start leaving and evacuation flights begin to wrap up, but are being stopped and beaten by insurgents on their way.

Among those left are 23 school children from California Cajon Valley Union School District and 16 parents who visited the war zone on a summer trip to see extended family and haven't been able to leave. 

Erik Prince, founder of controversial private military firm Blackwater, was selling seats on a plane out of Afghanistan for $6,500.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, on Wednesday could barely contain her disgust at what she described as profiteering from 'pain and agony'. She said Prince did not have a soul. 

Blinken blamed Americans still on the ground for not leaving fast enough after first being warned earlier this year to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible, but said there would be 'no deadline' in helping those who still want to leave.

He spoke as a CIA officer told that American civilians and Afghan allies have just 72 hours before evacuations end and Biden cracked a joke about the evacuation crisis at a cybersecurity summit.

NBC reporter Peter Alexander asked the president what he would do if there were Americans trapped in Afghanistan after August 31.

The microphone was cut before Biden could reply, but he cracked a smile and said: 'You'll be the first person I call.' 

Blinken said the U.S. has been in 'direct contact' with roughly 500 confirmed U.S. citizens and 'provided specific instructions for how to get to the airport safely.'

The State Department said there are roughly 1,000 other people whose status is still being established.

'We're aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day,' he said of those 1,000 people, adding they're looking 'to determine whether they still want to leave and to get them the most up-to-date information and instructions for them on how to do so.'

'Some may no longer be in the country. Some may have claimed to be Americans but turn out not to be. Some may choose to stay,' Blinken said

'We'll continue to try and identify the status and plans of these people in the coming days.' 

A short time later a journalist covering Afghanistan wrote on Twitter that the Taliban blocked all roads leading to Kabul airport.

Only Afghans 'accompanied by foreigners' are reportedly allowed through.

'Taliban refused to let a friend, a dual Afghan-Australian citizen, from entering airport today,' Frud Bezhan wrote. 

About 4,500 U.S. citizens and immediate family members have been evacuated over the last 10 days.

As many as 6,000 Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan were in the country when the Taliban took Kabul last week. 

Biden posted a statement to Twitter on Wednesday afternoon vowing to help people still stuck there but did not provide further explanation.

'We're going to do everything that we can to provide safe evacuation for Americans, our Afghan allies, partners, and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States,' the president wrote. 

The CIA has joined the U.S. military in evacuation efforts, launching clandestine operations to rescue Americans in and outside of Kabul, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

The military's operations have been more limited in comparison, focusing on US citizen trapped within the Afghan capital.

CIA operations include air and ground missions and use U.S. military helicopters under the agency's control.

At least two dozen Americans students and parents are among those still stuck in Kabul. After taking a summer trip to visit grandparents and other extended family, 24 students and 16 parents from the Cajon Valley Union School District are trying to get to the airport with less than a week before the US leaves the country, the LA Times reported. 

Cajon Valley Superintendent David Miyashiro said that officials who work with the school district's FACE program as interpreters and liaisons were contacted by a family concerned its student would lose a seat in the classroom last week when classes began, a local CBS affiliate reports. 

The concern was echoed by several other families who missed their scheduled flights home for the first day of school on August 17. 

The district said they arrived on special U.S. military visas, and states the trip was not school-sanctioned. Officials at the district just outside of San Diego said the students are safe but that it's not certain when they could return home. 

A family of five from the same school district is back in the U.S. after escaping from Afghanistan, 10 News reports. 

Psaki said today she has 'no additional information' on the stranded students when asked and appeared confused at the report. 

'I'm happy to take their information if there's something more detailed,' she said. 

The U.S. has ramped up their airlifts and have evacuated 19,000 people in the last 24 hours and have already started pulling out military forces with just six days until the deadline, which Biden has promised to stick to. 

Desperate Afghan men, women and children have swarmed the airport in a bid to get out amid fears of an attack from the Islamic State offshoot ISIS-K and 10,000 evacuees are inside the gates waiting to get out. 

'It is hard to overstate the complexity and danger of this effort. We are operating in an hostile environment, in a city and country now controlled by the Taliban, with a very real possibility of an ISIS-K attack,' Blinken said Wednesday. 

Asked to take responsibility for the chaos, he responded: 'I take responsibility. I know the president has said he takes responsibility.'

'There will be plenty of time to look back at the last six or seven months, to look back at the last 20 years and to see what we might have done differently,' as well as sooner or more effectively,' he said.

Blinken said right now his 'entire focus is on the mission at hand.'  

It was also revealed that a military operation recovered 'less than 20 people' by helicopter from Kabul under cover of darkness and brought them safely to the airport for evacuation. It comes in addition to two other operations outside the airport walls confirmed by the Pentagon, including a mission to bring 169 Americans 'over the wall' that Biden announced Monday. 

'So last night, during the period of darkness, there was an operation to be able to go out and safely evacuate evacuees back into Kabul. They're at [Hamid Karzai International Airport], and they're safely there preparing to be evacuated,' Army Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor said at a Pentagon briefing Wednesday. 

In a White House briefing the same day Psaki said the administration suspected many of the 1,000 prospective Americans who may be looking to leave are dual-citizens or 'people who may not be ready to leave for a variety of reasons.'

'For many of these Afghans, this is their home. And yes they are dual-citizens, yes it is absolutely our responsibility to make sure we are reaching out to them multiple times. We are providing opportunity, we are finding ways to get them to the airport to evacuate them, but it is also their personal decision on whether they want to depart,' she said.

During the briefing Psaki was asked how the Biden administration will determine whether every American who wants to leave will get to do so by the deadline.

The press secretary clarified that some of those Americans could 'have not yet decided to depart by August 31.'

'We know that is a potential, so therefore we're looking at a range of options for how we can allow them to depart and enable them to depart after that date and time,' she said. 

The news comes after days of criticism being hurled at the Biden administration for its handling of the crisis.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy criticized President Joe Biden for starting his Afghanistan speech on Tuesday by talking about his 'liberal wish list' $3.5trillion budget and walking away without taking any questions from the media following his promise to withdraw all troops by August 31 - after the Taliban threatened consequences for those who stayed. 

'He turned his back and walked away - an image that has come to define him and his presidency,' he said.

'He turned his back on our own citizens stranded in Afghanistan, he's turned his back on our allies and partners, he's turned his back on his duties as a Commander-in-Chief.'  

McCarthy and a slew of Republicans continued their criticism of Biden as desperate Americans and Afghans surrounded Kabul airport trying to escape the Taliban and the growing threat of an attack from the Islamic State offshoot ISIS-K.

The GOP have accused him of letting the Taliban 'call the shots' amid reports westerners and SIV applicants are getting stopped and beaten at checkpoints - despite Pentagon claims they are telling the insurgents who the 'expect' to be let through.   

'Joe Biden and his team are letting the Taliban call the shots,' Senator Tom Cotton said on a Fox News radio show Wednesday morning. 

His fellow GOP Senator Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter, 'A President that abandons Americans in order to meet a deadline set by a medieval band of terrorists will forever be disgraced.' 

Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina criticized Biden's 'disastrous decision' to hold firm on his end-of-the-month deadline on Wednesday morning, which he said was 'cemented by his administration's prior ill-conceived timeline agreement with the Taliban instead of the conditions on the ground.'  

Senator Lindsey Graham, who served with Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Biden and Taliban-mandated deadline will cost lives.

'How could we create a deadline that is a death sentence to those who fought along our side?' he questioned on Fox radio Wednesday.

'There's nobody to blame but Biden here,' Graham said on Fox radio today, adding the U.S. is leaving 'thousands of Afghans, most likely American citizens, and what we're leaving behind is an Al Qaeda on steroids.' 

The South Carolina Republican warned Biden's decisions mean 'an increased likelihood of another 9/11' and claimed Biden had 'a political goal to get us all out.' 

Graham, who served with Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the president lacks 'critical thinking skills needed to be Commander-in-Chief.'

''He gets something in his mind and it sticks, that makes him very dangerous,' Graham said. 

Claiming to have spoken with U.S. allies all week, Graham said they were 'dumbfounded' by Biden's actions.  

Thousands converged on Kabul airport on Wednesday in a desperate bid to leave Afghanistan amid reports the Taliban are stopping westerners getting in, less than 24 hours after President Joe Biden said he would only pull troops by August 31 if the insurgents allow safe passage. 

But the Taliban has ignored the president's threats and are beating up people trying to leave, according to reports, and both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said there isn't enough time to get everyone out.  

The Pentagon said on Wednesday that US forces have 'been very clear' with the Taliban 'about what credentials we are willing to accept' for people trying to get to the airport.

'By and large, with caveats' people have been getting through checkpoints, spokesman John Kirby said, adding 'we also have other means to get people in.' 

'When we have reports that someone credentialed is not being let in, we are making that clear to Taliban leaders they need to let them in,' Kirby said.  

Members of the GOP have said that Biden has 'blood on his hands' because thousands of American citizens and Afghan allies who helped U.S. troops could be left to die when the final evacuation flights depart - which could even be before midnight on Aug. 31 to ensure a safe evacuation of everyone at the airport.  

Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan, who underwent a secret trip to Kabul to witness the situation at the airport for themselves, challenged President Biden and claimed that 'we won't get everyone out on time'.   

The approaching deadline has sparked fears that the desperate men, women and children currently camped outside the military zone could attempt a last-ditch bid for freedom by storming the airport as they attempt to flee the Taliban - who have also set up checkpoints outside the airport.

The U.S. may have to halt evacuation flights before the weekend in a bid to get all American personnel out, after France warned there operation would stop in hours and the former head of the UK armed forces said they would be wrapped up in two days. 

Republicans, Donald Trump and members of the Trump administration also launched criticism of Biden's botched evacuation overnight. 

Trump said Tuesday night: 'How dare Biden force our military to run off the battlefield in Afghanistan and desert what now have become many thousands of American hostages.' 

'We had Afghanistan and Kabul in perfect control with just 2,500 soldiers and he destroyed it when it was demanded that they flee,' he added in an emailed statement.

In a Tuesday podcast interview the former president said his administration had Afghanistan 'so under control, like you wouldn't believe.' 

'I'm not sure the way we got out would even allow us to get out,' he said on The Truth with Lisa Boothe, seemingly predicting future U.S. engagement with the war-torn country.   

Ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined his boss in heckling Biden, tearing into him in an op-ed Tuesday night.

'President Biden's incompetence has left Americans in harm's way and is dishonoring those who serve and our country,' he wrote on Fox.  

Ted Cruz accused Biden of 'claiming Afghanistan is some great diplomatic achievement' on Twitter Wednesday.

The White House revealed today that over the last 24 hours, 42 American flights dealt with the bulk of evacuations - transporting 11,200 from Kabul - meaning the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 87,900 people on U.S. military and coalition flights since the end of July.

Major General Hank Taylor announced at the Pentagon briefing on Wednesday that 400 U.S. troops were evacuated from Kabul.

Some of those were part of the 6,000 sent to aid with the evacuation. Taylor said the military withdrawal was 'very much part of the original drawdown plan.' About 5,400 troops are still on the ground in Kabul. 

With military personnel required to have retreated from the country by Biden's August 31 deadline, it is feared civilian evacuations could be halted in a matter of days to ensure enough time is left for U.S. soldiers to leave the airport before the cut off.  

Roughly 10,000 'vulnerable Afghans' have been evacuated by US-led forces since August 20, Taylor said. 

Kirby vowed that 'needed populations' will be evacuated 'all the way to the end' but acknowledged the US will 'have to reserve some time in the last couple of days' for military equipment to be removed.

The Taliban said on Tuesday that all foreign evacuations from the country must be completed by August 31, and asked Washington to stop urging highly skilled Afghans to leave the country. 

And speaking later on Tuesday, the President said the U.S. is on pace to finish evacuations from Afghanistan on time, but left open the chance of extending the deadline, saying reaching that goal depends on cooperation from the country's new Taliban rulers.  

'The sooner we can finish, the better,' Biden said. 'Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.' 

And the desperate efforts to evacuate as many Americans and allies from Afghanistan as possible have been affected by the Taliban who have banned Afghans from fleeing the country.

There are also reports that Westerners are also currently unable to reach the airport and are being 'blocked from getting to Kabul airport' by Taliban fighters who are seeking to stem the flow of Afghans leaving.   

This situation gave rise to comments from President Biden, who continued to stick to his August 31 deadline, but only so long as the Taliban uphold its agreement to allow Westerners and vulnerable Afghans free passage to the airport.      

Continued coordination with the Taliban remains crucial to meeting the deadline, he said, but he called it a 'tenuous situation' with a 'serious risk of breaking down as time goes on.'

And Pentagon commanders have warned evacuation efforts are under threat from an Islamic State-offshoot, known as ISIS-K, who are 'targeting' evacuation planes at Kabul airport. 

This was echoed by two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, who said there was growing concern about the risk of suicide bombings by Islamic State at the airport, which has been overwhelmed by Afghans and foreign citizens rushing to leave.

Those concerns are based on 'a very specific threat stream' from the Afghanistan ISIS affiliate regarding possible attacks on crowds outside the airport, a defense official told CNN.

ISIS-K is a sworn enemy of the Taliban, and intelligence officials reportedly believe they are actively planning multiple attacks in a bid to create mayhem at the airport. 

More than 100 ISIS-K affiliated inmates escaped from two prisons near Kabul amid the Taliban's advance on the city, the outlet reports.

A regional source told them several hundred ISIS-K members could have escaped. 

Asked about the possible escape a Taliban spokesman only said the reports were not confirmed. 

'There have been reports that some ill-wishers want to disrupt the security situation there by attacking and harming people and the media. So don't go close to the airport to avoid being hurt,' they told CNN. 

One U.S. official said it was no longer a question of if, but when, militants would attack and the priority was to get out before it happened.

The fears that some people won't get out of Kabul will only grow in the coming days as as civilian mercy flights stop and troops begin withdrawing from the airport, with hundreds of American soldiers already thought to have left on flights that departed Tuesday.

There are signs that even foreign nationals are struggling to evacuate. A man claiming to be an Australian citizen was beaten bloody by Taliban fighters as he tried to reach the airport Wednesday.

The man, whose identity is unknown, filmed himself at what appears to be a Taliban checkpoint. Blood can be seen running down his face and onto his shirt while he says in accented English, 'They hit me... I am an Australian citizen.'

He then talks about trying to reach the airport, though his words are partially obscured by the sound of Taliban guards cocking and firing an AK47 rifle over his head - before the footage cuts out. 

The desperation to get on the last flights is already plain, with people standing in sewage up to their knees on the south side of the airport today while begging soldiers to let them inside.   

Many Afghans fear a repeat of the brutal five-year Taliban regime that was toppled in 2001, and violent retribution for working with foreign militaries, Western missions and the previous U.S.-backed government.

Washington and its allies have been flying out thousands of such Afghans every day on hulking military transports, but it has become an increasingly difficult and desperate task.

Speaking on Tuesday, Biden confirmed that in the past 12 hours, 19 U.S. military flights evacuated approximately 6,400 people and 31 coalition flights carrying 5,600 people have left Kabul. 

A White House official told CNN yesterday that the number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan as of August 14 was 'probably lower than most people believe', but declined to confirm exactly how many remain in the country.

Though officials believe that thousands of Americans and their Allies remain in the Afghan capital, the New York Times reports. 

The Afghan capital's airport has been gripped by chaos as US-led troops try to maintain a secure perimeter for evacuation flights, surrounded by desperate Afghans.

Some have foreign passports, visas or eligibility to travel, but most do not. At least eight people have died in the chaos.

'Does anyone ... ANYONE ... have a contact inside the airport,' pleaded one American on a WhatsApp group set up to share information on how people can access the airport.

'My guy worked for us 2010-15 and needs to get out with 5 of his family. This is real bad.'

The Taliban have also been accused of blocking or slowing access for many trying to reach the airport, although they denied the charge again late Tuesday.

Biden said the Taliban were taking steps to assist, but there was also an 'acute and growing risk' of an attack by the regional chapter of the Islamic State jihadist group.

Speaking yesterday, the President said he had asked the Pentagon and the State Department to develop contingency plans to push past the deadline should that prove necessary.

The Democratic president, whose administration has been under fire for its handling of the pullout, said U.S. forces had now helped evacuate 87,900 people since Aug. 14. 

Rubio suggested on Twitter that Biden should 'inform' the Taliban that U.S. forces will remain in Kabul until everyone is evacuated, and 'If they get in the way they will be killed.'

Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal also appeared to criticize Biden's Aug. 31 decision, despite not mentioning the president by name.

'Rescuing U.S. citizens & Afghan allies from this humanitarian nightmare is a moral imperative demanding a continued military & diplomatic effort beyond Aug 31. Afghans who put their lives on the line deserve no less,' he wrote on Twitter Wednesday.   

Former Trump campaign aide David Bossie blamed Biden for 'singlehandedly' causing the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan in a Fox News op-ed published Wednesday.

'In his never-ending rush to appease his socialist base, Biden allowed the murderous Taliban to takeover Afghanistan, put thousands of American lives at risk, embarrass our great country, and make us far less secure and respected as a nation,' Bossie wrote. 

Nebaska Sen. Ben Sasse said 'Damn the deadline' in a statement on Tuesday. 

'Americans want us to stay until we get our people out, and so do our allies. The Biden administration needs to cut the Stockholm syndrome,' he fumed.

Rep. Don Bacon, a veteran who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said there was a 'potential for lots of American hostages' in a Wednesday morning C-SPAN interview. 

'This was a colossal disaster, it was avoidable. The president's policy was just a huge mistake. He overruled the military and the intelligence advisers in the White House and did what he thought was right, but it was a political objective if you asked me,' he said.

Rep. Mo Brooks said Biden 'will abandon Americans in Afghanistan' after Aug. 31 on Twitter Wednesday, adding 'We need Donald J. Trump back in the White House.' 

Biden said his administration was working to rebuild a system for processing refugees that he said was 'purposely destroyed' by his Republican predecessor.

'We must all work together to resettle thousands of Afghans who ultimately qualify for refugee status. The United States will do our part,' he said.

Biden has also frequently pointed to Trump's peace deal with the Taliban that included a May 1 withdrawal deadline as his reason for pursuing the chaotic drawdown.

But on Tuesday night Pompeo claimed the Trump strategy 'utilized a combination of deterrence and negotiated agreements based on conditions in the country to keep the Taliban in check while we withdrew our forces.'

'We told the Taliban: if you violate the agreements, you will pay a heavy price. And we backed up those threats with action. We pressured the Ghani government to work through the reconciliation process or face serious costs,' he said, despite the Afghan government's notable exclusion from Trump's Taliban negotiations. 

During a G7 meeting with other world leaders yesterday, Biden 'point blank' refused pleas from his allies to extend the August 31 deadline, and later said during a press conference he believes the evacuation will be complete on time.

However, concerns have been raised about the security at Kabul airport, where thousands of US troops are currently holding the line, with the Taliban now blocking access to the site.

People on the ground claim that Westerners in Afghanistan are being 'blocked from getting to Kabul airport' by Taliban fighters after the extremist group banned locals from fleeing the country.

The militant group today issued an edict saying only foreigners will be able to access the airport for evacuation.

A spokesperson for the group ordered locals to return home. Roads in the city have been blocked in a bid to stop Afghans from leaving.

Quoting 'multiple sources', Politico's Alex Thompson said: 'The Taliban has now started halting people trying to get in through the airport gates. 

'Not just Afghans but American citizens. Informal groups coordinating need to redirect people on the fly.'

However, in his address yesterday, Bide reiterated his message to the Taliban that the August 31 deadline could only be met if they upheld their agreement not to impede on the operation in any way.

Security concerns have also been raised by Pentagon commanders, who have warned that an Afghan-based Islamic State-offshoot called ISIS-K are 'targeting' evacuation planes flying out of Kabul.

The threat comes from an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan known as ISIS-K, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province. ISIS announced its expansion to the Khorasan region in 2015, which historically encompasses parts of modern day Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Joe Biden on Tuesday evening warned of the threat posed by ISIS-K, but Pentagon officials gave more detail in a closed-door briefing to Congress, which was relayed to Politico by three congressional aides and another source familiar with the intelligence.

'Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops,' Biden said. 

'ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack U.S. and allied forces and innocent civilians.' 

Further details on their plots were not shared - but U.S. forces left hordes of powerful weapons behind after withdrawing across Afghanistan, which could now be used against its own personnel.

U.S. planes landing at Kabul Airport earlier this week were also spotted doing steep 'diving combat' landings in a bid to avoid potential attack, and were photographed dropping flares which could draw away any missiles fired at them.  

The officials said that the security situation around the airport had significantly deteriorated in recent days, given the new terror threats, and contributed to Biden's decision not to declare an extension of the August 31 deadline for all U.S. troops to leave.

ISIS-K is targeting airport gates - which have seen thousands of people gather in a bid to flee - as well as military and commercial aircraft evacuating people from the capital city, the sources told Politico. 

They said the Defense Department officials told the meeting they are trying to mitigate the threats as best as possible. 

Gates at the airport were closed because of the security threat, the sources said.

There was also panic after the U.S. embassy reportedly issued a last call for its citizens to leave Afghanistan, only to then recall the warning minutes later. 

The Biden administration is under intense pressure to wrap up a chaotic evacuation without leaving Americans or Afghans with visas behind. The president's hurried withdrawal has drawn criticism from all sides: Republicans, Democrats, foreign policy hawks, humanitarian group sand international allies, who said they felt blindsided.

And two U.S. military vets, now serving as congressmen, who flew unannounced into Afghanistan to monitor the on going evacuation efforts have called on President Joe Biden to extend the U.S. withdrawal deadline past August 31.

Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan, flew in and out of Kabul airport on Tuesday, with both men adding that they boarded return flights with empty seats so as not to take away space from fleeing Americans and Afghans. 

They appeared to condemn Joe Biden over his chaotic withdrawal from the war-torn country, and predicted the U.S. would not be able to airlift everyone eligible to leave Afghanistan on time.  

'We conducted this visit in secret, speaking about it only after our departure, to minimize the risk and disruption to the people on the ground, and because we were there to gather information, not to grandstand,' the two said in a joint statement.

'As veterans, we care deeply about the situation on the ground at Hamid Karzai International Airport. America has a moral obligation to our citizens and loyal allies, and we must make sure that obligation is being kept.'  

Later on, they added: 'It's obvious that because we started the evacuation so late, that no matter what we do, we won't get everyone out on time, even by September 11.

'Sadly and frustratingly, getting our people out depends on maintaining the current, bizarre relationship with the Taliban.'

Nancy Pelosi was among lawmakers who condemned the trip, although they have continued to defend it.

In a letter seen by Politico, she wrote: 'Given the urgency of this situation, the desire of some Members to travel to Afghanistan and the surrounding areas is understandable and reflective of the high priority that we place on the lives of those on the ground.

'Member travel to Afghanistan and the surrounding countries would unnecessarily divert needed resources from the priority mission of safely and expeditiously evacuating America and Afghans at risk from Afghanistan.' 

Both Congressmen insisted their trip was meant to help ensure the U.S. was upholding its promises to evacuate Afghan people who'd aided its fight against the Taliban. 

They paid for their own tickets to the United Arab Emirates, then boarded a U.S. military plane bound for Kabul. Further details on how the men managed to get on board that aircraft have not been disclosed.  

CIA Director William Burns also, separately, flew to Kabul for a secret meeting with top Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, U.S. media reported Tuesday, the highest-level meeting so far between the U.S. government and the new rulers of Afghanistan.

The New York Times said the spy chief was not there to negotiate an extension to the pullout deadline, but for general talks on 'evacuation operations and terrorist threats'. 

Despite the harrowing scenes at Kabul airport, the Taliban have ruled out any extension to next Tuesday's deadline to pull out foreign troops, describing it as 'a red line'.

'They have planes, they have the airport, they should get their citizens and contractors out of here,' Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Tuesday.

European nations have said they would not be able to airlift all at-risk Afghans before August 31.

'Even if (the evacuation) goes on... a few days longer, it will not be enough,' German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Bild TV.

A hard withdrawal deadline presents a further complication that may reduce the number of daily evacuations.

The United States deployed fresh troops for evacuations.

That 6,000-plus contingent, as well as hundreds of U.S. officials, 600 Afghan troops and the equipment, will have to be flown out.

To do that by August 31, the Pentagon said operations would have to start winding down days in advance. 

Following their lightning victory that stunned the world, the Taliban have so far been content to allow the U.S.-led operation to continue, focusing instead on consolidating control and forming a government.

They have vowed a softer, more inclusive regime this time around, offering amnesty to opponents and assurances of rights to women.

But many Afghans remain fearful and skeptical.

In an attempt to assuage fears, the Taliban spokesman on Tuesday urged skilled Afghans to not flee, saying the country needed 'expert' Afghans such as doctors and engineers.

But Zabihullah Mujahid added that women who work for the Afghan government should stay home until the security situation improves.

The Taliban have said women will be able to get an education and work, but within what they consider Islamic bounds.

And Afghanistan's former interior minister has claimed the Taliban are killing innocent children as they brutally consolidate power.

Masoud Andarabi, who was sacked by the now former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani in March, posted shocking photos on Twitter of people, including a small child, who had allegedly been killed by Taliban fighters. 

He claimed that the group, who now control nearly all of Afghanistan after dramatically marching into the capital Kabul last week, 'are trying to rule over people by terrorizing, killing young children and elderly citizens.'  

Andarabi added that the Taliban 'cannot govern the nation' using such terror methods.

The Taliban's grip on Afghanistan has also been strengthened by the weapons, equipment and vehicles abandoned by the Afghan security forces as the militants swept through the country - that the U.S. had only supplied earlier this year.

Among the military haul collected by the Taliban during their offensive, are 61,000 high-explosive rounds, two million AK47 bullets, 10,000 70mm rockets, A-29 light aircraft, and 89,000 brand new combat shirts, the Mirror reports.

Speaking to the publication, former commander of UK forces in Afghanistan Colonel Richard Kemp said: 'The ungoverned space of Afghanistan will be used by the Taliban's partners al-Qaeda and the tallies of equipment now being revealed are deeply disturbing.

'It means we are now facing a very well equipped terrorist army in Afghanistan that is being run by the new rulers of Afghanistan and that should concern us all.

'The Taliban is now fully-armed and in control of the entire country – and the west has left this equipment for them to help themselves.' 

While much of the attention has been focused on the evacuations in Afghanistan, aid agencies have warned of an impending humanitarian crisis for the population left behind. 

'There's a perfect storm coming because of several years of drought, conflict, economic deterioration, compounded by COVID,' David Beasley, the executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme, told Reuters in Doha, calling for the international community to donate $200 million in food aid.

'The number of people marching towards starvation has spiked to now 14 million.'

The EU said this week it was planning a quadrupling in aid and was seeking coordination with the United Nations on delivery as well as safety guarantees on the ground.

The U.N. human rights chief said she had received credible reports of serious violations by the Taliban, including 'summary executions' of civilians and Afghan security forces who had surrendered. The Taliban have said they will investigate any reports of atrocities.

Non-Government organizations have also been working independently from official channels to help special immigrant visa applicants, who have been cut off from the airport by Taliban checkpoints.

Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan Rogers told Fox News: 'Everyone is p****d about this even being necessary,' he said. 'But if the president doesn't want to step up and lead, someone else will.'

While former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has also been reportedly attempted to charter flights out of the country for the country's at-risk women, the New York Times has reported. 

And she has also been in contact with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, according to the Washington Examiner, to urge Canada to continue its evacuation work. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

You may also like


Sign up to our newsletter for exclusive updates and enhanced content