The risk of a terrorist attack at Kabul airport is increasing every day, NATO’s head warned, describing the “dilemma” countries face when deciding to halt efforts by foreign troops to air people out of Afghanistan. to end.
A day after US president Joe Biden chose to stick with his plan to withdraw US troops by the end of the month despite European opposition, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said the terrorist threat at the airport was not “theoretical”. ’ but ‘a real danger’.
“On the one hand, we want to have as much time as possible to get as many people out as possible,” Stoltenberg said in an interview. “At the same time . . . if we stay out there? [the] August 31th [deadline]especially if we don’t have at least some kind of tacit consent from the Taliban, the danger increases [of] to attack.”
Within hours of the Secretary-General’s warning, the British government issued new guidelines to British nationals in Afghanistan to advise against traveling to Kabul airport due to the “continuing and significant threat” of a terrorist attack.
“If you are near the airport, go to a safe location and wait for further advice,” the advice was. It added that road travel is “extremely dangerous” and warned of “accusations of assault” on the way to the airport.
British forces have reinforced barriers around their evacuee handling center at Kabul airport as a bulwark against the terror threat. Before the travel warning was issued, a military official said the threat of attack by Isis-K, an Isis affiliate in Afghanistan, was considered “very high.” The group’s tactics typically include suicide bombings, vehicle bombings, and small-arms fire attacks.
Stoltenberg described the current effort as one of the largest evacuation attempts in history, adding that about 20,000 people a day were flown over from the country, including a growing number of Afghans. Once the military process was over, NATO would continue to work on removing people via commercial flights, and the Taliban would urge the Taliban to open up land routes as well, he said.
The main challenge NATO members faced was getting people to the airport, rather than operating the flights, he said. “Even if we decide to expand, we will still have to get people to the airport, and the area around the airport, Kabul and the rest of the country is controlled by the Taliban.”
At least 4,500 U.S. citizens have been evacuated since Aug. 14, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday, and it is believed that about 1,500 remain. Of those, about 500 have expressed a desire to leave, Blinken said.
“It’s hard to overestimate the complexity and danger of this effort,” Blinken said. “We operate in a hostile environment, in a city and country now controlled by the Taliban, with a very real possibility of an Isis-K attack.”
Brigadier Dan Blanchford, who leads Britain’s evacuation efforts at Kabul airport, said British soldiers “redoubled their efforts” to identify and transport those most at risk to the airport as the August 31 deadline approached. . Blanchford said evacuees on their way to the airport were “exposed under severe and extreme conditions”.
More than 82,300 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since August 14, according to the White House, all made possible by the continued presence of US troops. The UK said it has evacuated 10,291 people, including 6,308 Afghan partners, 341 embassy staff and 2,570 British nationals and their families. About 2,000 Afghans eligible for resettlement in the UK, including translators, drivers and others working alongside British troops, still hoped to escape, a British military official said.
The US decision to withdraw completely from Afghanistan has raised new questions about the future of the NATO alliance and its heavy dependence on the US. But Stoltenberg insisted that the “transatlantic bond” remained crucial to a credible defense of Europe.
The European Union alone could never defend Europe, he said, pointing to the large share of NATO defense spending coming from outside Europe and the importance of non-EU countries in defending the region.
“Whatever happens in Afghanistan, North America and Europe must stand together, and that was the clear message from all NATO allied countries at last week’s ministerial meeting,” he said.
“We are facing a shifting global balance of power, a more aggressive Russia and the rise of China. And as long as North America and Europe stand together, we will be able to meet all these challenges,” he said. “This is important for Europe, but also for the United States.”