In this image provided by the U.S. Marines, a U.S. Airman with the Joint Task Force-Crisis Response embraces a mother after helping reunite their family at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Cpl. Davis Harris/U.S. Marine Corps via AP) AP
WASHINGTON — The White House says President Joe Biden has been briefed by members of his national security team on the evolving situation in Afghanistan.
Biden and his team met on Saturday in the White House Situation Room to discuss the security situation and counterterrorism operations, including against the Islamic State group in Afghanistan.
Evacuations and efforts to finalize agreements with third-party countries willing to serve as transit hubs for evacuees were also discussed.
Vice President Kamala Harris joined the meeting by secure video teleconference during her travels to Singapore. They were joined by 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, among others.
The White House said Biden canceled plans to travel Saturday to his Wilmington, Delaware, home.
The IS affiliate – which has long declared a desire to attack America and U.S. interests abroad — has been active in Afghanistan for several years, carrying out horrific attacks, mostly on the Shiite minority. The group has been repeatedly targeted by U.S. airstrikes in recent years, as well as Taliban attacks. But officials say fragments of the group are still active in Afghanistan, and the U.S. is concerned about it reconstituting in a larger way as the country comes under divisive Taliban rule.
MORE ON THE CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN:
— In Kabul, a fearful wait for US to deliver on evacuation vow
— Europe fears Afghan refugee crisis after Taliban takeover
AP PHOTOS: Two decades of war, and daily life in Afghanistan
— Biden vows to evacuate all Americans — and Afghan helpers
— For US military leaders, Afghan news strikes personal chord
— Western groups desperate to save Afghan workers left behind
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MILAN -- Italy on Saturday flew 211 Afghans out of Kabul, bringing to some 2,100 the number of Afghan workers at Italian missions and their families who have been safely evacuated from Afghanistan, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Of those, 1,100 have been brought to Italy. Italy launched Operation Aquila Omnia in June, and has deployed 1,500 servicemen and women to operate an airbridge from Kabul to Kuwait, aboard four C130J aircraft, and to ferry evacuees to safety in Italy aboard four KC767s.
Of those who were evacuated earlier, 80, including 33 women, arrived on Saturday at a base in South Tyrol, northern Italy, for a 10-day COVID-19 quarantine.
WASHINGTON — Pentagon says that about 3,800 civilians have been evacuated from Afghanistan over the past day, amid widespread logistical challenges and backlogs at waystations in the Middle East and Europe.
Security threats slowed the progress of Americans and others through the gates at Kabul airport, as thousands desperately try to get on flights out of the country.
The Pentagon said that six U.S. military C-17 aircraft and 32 charter flights departed Kabul airport over the past 24 hours. The military planes carried just 1,600 of those people.
Army Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, Joint Staff deputy director for regional operations, told Pentagon reporters on Saturday that of the 17,000 people evacuated since Aug. 15, just 2,500 have been Americans. U.S. officials have estimated there are as many as 15,000 Americans in Afghanistan, but acknowledge they don’t have solid numbers.
The evacuations have been hampered by screening and logistical strains at waystations such as al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which hit maximum capacity. U.S. officials said they have limited numbers of military and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol screeners at the transit points, and they are struggling to work through glitches in the vetting systems.
Taylor said that the Kabul airport remains open, and that Americans continue to be processed if they get to the gates.
He and Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to discuss security problems in any detail, but said the threat picture changes by the hour.
“We know that we’re fighting against both time and space,” Kirby said. “That’s the race we’re in right now.”
WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. official said Saturday that potential threats by the Islamic State group against Americans in Afghanistan are forcing the U.S. military to find new ways for evacuees to reach the Kabul airport.
The official said that small groups of Americans and possibly other civilians will be given specific instructions on what to do, including movement to transit points where they can be gathered up by the military. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.
The changes come as the U.S. Embassy issued a new security warning Saturday telling citizen not to travel to the Kabul airport without individual instruction from a U.S. government representative.
Officials declined to provide more specifics about the IS threat but described it as significant, and said there have been no confirmed IS attacks or incidents as yet.