“The information obtained throughout the week is increasingly serious and refers to an imminent and serious threat,” said British Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, James Heappey. “It’s a very serious threat, very imminent.”
Among the threats are a possible attack by the Islamic State (see below).
Hamid Karzai International Airport is the country’s only gateway for thousands of foreigners and Afghans desperately trying to board the withdrawal flights organized by Western countries.
Hundreds of people gather, some holding documents, near a checkpoint around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, on Aug. 26, 2021 — Photo: Wali Sabawoon/AP
Nearly 90,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since the Taliban regained power, on August 15th, but a crowd still gathers in and around the site, including in ditches (see the video below).
According to The New York Times, at least 250,000 Afghans who worked for the US have not yet been evacuated from the country (and the current rate of withdrawal is not enough to withdraw everyone until the 31st, deadline for withdrawal).
The estimate is based on reports on Afghan employment that are published annually by the US Department of Defense reviewed by the Association of Allies in Wartime (a group that advocates for Afghans who worked for the US) and researchers at American University.
VIDEO: People in ditch try to board one of the planes leaving Kabul, Afghanistan
‘Don’t go to the airport’
“Don’t go to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport,” warned the British Foreign Ministry on its website. “There is a high and permanent threat of a terrorist attack.”
Australian Defense Minister Andrew Hastie said the “risk of a suicide bombing attack is very high”. The US State Department cited “security threats” but did not give any details.
Despair grows with the reduction in available flights to leave the country and the approaching deadline of August 31, established by US President Joe Biden, for the total withdrawal from Afghanistan.
A Royal Australian Air Force soldier assists people being evacuated from their seats aboard the C-17A Globemaster III aircraft before leaving Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Aug 22, 2021 — Photo: Sergeant Glen McCarthy/Australian Department of Defense via Reuters
Threat from the Islamic State
Several countries asked the US to postpone the final departure from Afghanistan, to allow the departure of all foreigners and Afghans under its protection, but Biden denied the request. The Taliban has repeatedly said it will not accept an extension of the peace.
Among the reasons, Biden pointed to the “acute” terrorist threat from the regional wing of the Islamic State terrorist group, responsible for some of the most violent attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years.
The terrorist group has massacred civilians in both countries in mosques, shrines, squares and even hospitals, as well as carrying out attacks against Muslims from wards it considers heretics, including Shiites.
While the Islamic State and the Taliban are radical Sunnis, the two extremist groups are rivals.
The Islamic State criticized the US-Taliban peace agreement signed in 2020, which established guidelines for the withdrawal of foreign troops, and accused the Taliban of abandoning the jihadist cause.