Sign up to myFT Daily Digest to be the first to know about Afghanistan news.
US military commanders have warned that another attack on the Kabul airport in the next 24-36 hours is “highly likely,” President Joe Biden said, as Western countries finalize desperate efforts to evacuate thousands of Afghans and foreigners trying to flee.
Biden said in a statement Saturday that the situation remained “extremely dangerous” and that “the threat of terrorist attacks at the airport remains high” ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan.
“Our commanders have informed me that an attack is very likely in the next 24-36 hours. I have instructed them to take all possible measures to prioritize force protection, ensuring that they have all authorities, resources and plans in place to protect our men and women on the ground,” he added.
The US said Friday it had carried out a drone strike in eastern Afghanistan that killed two members of Isis-K, the group that claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on Kabul airport that killed more than 100 Afghan civilians and 13 US military personnel. perished, perished.
Pentagon officials said the Isis-K members killed in the airstrike in Nangarhar province were “planners” and “facilitators” of terrorist attacks. A third Isis-K member was injured.
“This strike was not the last,” Biden said. “We will continue to track down all those involved in that horrific attack and make them pay.”
Thousands of people remain in the airport grounds awaiting evacuation, though their hopes of getting out are fading as countries carry out their final evacuation flights and Taliban fighters reject eligible evacuees.
Many of those who collaborated with or were associated with foreign forces or organizations are at immediate risk of retaliation from the Taliban if left behind, international humanitarian organizations say.
The British Ministry of Defense confirmed on Saturday that the last British flights evacuating civilians and military personnel had left Kabul.
Nick Carter, Britain’s chief of defense staff, told the BBC Britain had not evacuated everyone. “We haven’t been able to bring everyone out,” he said. “That has been heartbreaking. There have been some very challenging judgments that had to be made on the spot.”
The UK government said as many as 1,100 Afghans eligible to travel would likely be left behind, although opposition MPs said the real number was much higher. Other countries, including Italy, Canada and the Netherlands, have already ended their evacuation operations.
US officials said about 114,800 people had been evacuated since late June, including more than 12,000 on Friday. But added that more than 5,000 people are still waiting for evacuation at Kabul airport.
The US embassy in Kabul on Friday repeated calls on citizens to avoid traveling to the Afghan capital’s airport and to leave one of its entrances “immediately” fearing another terror attack.
Locals say few Afghan civilians are now able to get through the Taliban checkpoints set up to control access to the airport, as the militants evict them despite having passage to leave.
A man in his early thirties, his wife and two young daughters boarded a bus chartered to take Europe-bound evacuees to the airport on Thursday, but ended up stuck in the chaos that followed the terrorist attack for 36 hours.
“There was no access to” [a] toilet, good food, food, water,” said the man. “Everything we had, we shared with each other.”
On Friday evening, the bus had passed the first Taliban checkpoint at the entrance to the airport when a fighter plane boarded. “He asked us, ‘Why are you leaving my brothers? Who are you afraid of? Please go back home, the country needs you.”
Only the foreign citizens on the bus were allowed to pass. The man and his family are now back at home awaiting another evacuation attempt, though their hopes are fading.
The Taliban now claim to control some gates of the Kabul airport, although the Pentagon has denied this.
Additional reporting by Fazelminallah Qazizai in Kabul