Australian citizens and visa holders prepare to board the Royal Australian Air Force’s C-17A Globemaster III aircraft, as Australian Army infantry personnel provide security and assist with cargo, at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul , Afghanistan on August 22, 2021.
SGT Glen McCarthy | Australian Ministry of Defense | via Reuters
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Thursday confirmed an explosion at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, as Western forces are rushing to evacuate as many people as possible from the country.
It was unclear if there were any casualties, according to top Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
A White House official told NBC News that President Joe Biden had been notified of the blast.
The latest revelation comes hours after the US embassy in Afghanistan issued a security warning urging Americans not to travel to the Kabul airport.
“U.S. citizens who are now at Abbey Gate, East Gate or North Gate should leave immediately,” the warning said.
In the past 24 hours, Western forces have evacuated 13,400 people from Kabul on 91 military cargo planes. About 95,700 people have flown from Afghanistan since the mass evacuations began on August 14.
About 101,300 people have been evacuated since late July, including about 4,500 U.S. citizens and their families.
A United States Marine provides assistance during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2021.
US Marines | Reuters
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that there may still be 1,500 Americans in Afghanistan to evacuate.
The country’s top diplomat added that the US is currently “aggressively contacting” about 1,000 contacts “several times a day, through multiple channels of communication” to determine if they still want to leave and to give them instructions on how to do it. they have to do that.
Blinken added that the actual number could also be lower.
Biden reiterated on Tuesday to leaders of the G-7, NATO, the United Nations and the European Union that the United States will withdraw its military from Afghanistan by the end of the month.
The president warned that extended stays in Afghanistan pose serious risks to foreign troops and civilians. Biden said ISIS-K, an Afghan affiliate of the terror group, poses a growing threat to the airport.
“Every day that we are on the ground is another day that we know that ISIS-K is trying to attack the airport and attack the US as well as the Allies and innocent civilians,” he said.
About 5,400 U.S. military personnel are assisting with evacuation efforts, with nearly 200 U.S. military aircraft dedicated to the mission.
The Taliban said earlier Tuesday that the group will no longer allow Afghan nationals to leave the country on evacuation flights, nor will it accept an extension of the withdrawal deadline beyond the end of the month.
“We are not in favor of letting Afghans leave,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters on Tuesday.
“She [the Americans] have the chance, they have all the resources, they can take all the people who take their belongings with them, but we will not let Afghans leave and we will not extend the deadline,” he said. August 31 would be a “violation” of a promise of the Biden’s government to end the US military’s mission in the country, Mujahid said.
This story is evolving. Come back for updates.