The threat of attacks on civilians in Kabul from Islamic State terrorists has added another hazard to the already chaotic evacuation under way in Afghanistan, two U.S. officials said Saturday.
One official said the threat was significant and had affected planning for the evacuation. The other official said the ISIS-K threat has always been a concern, and that commanders had accounted for it.
The larger concern, and the one that had delayed flights Saturday, was finding accommodations for the flood of refugees being flown out of Kabul, the second official said. Both officials were not authorized to speak publicly.
President Joe Biden was briefed on IS in Afghanistan on Saturday in a situation room meeting that included Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and National Intelligence Director Avril Haines.
U.S. soldiers stand guard behind barbed wire as Afghans sit on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country after the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan.
All gates at the Kabul airport were closed Saturday because of a backup at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, according to a Defense Department official who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Most U.S. military evacuation planes fly from Kabul to Qatar, and the inability to handle more evacuees there is causing a ripple effect.
Pentagon officials said Saturday they continue to process evacuees from Afghanistan, despite a fluid and dynamic situation at Kabul airport.
“The airport remains secure,” said Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor, deputy director of the joint staff for regional operations. “There has been no reported change to the current enemy situation in and around the airport at this time.”