The U.S.-led airlift of Afghans and foreign nationals from Kabul's international airport is winding down with increasingly stark warnings of a possible terrorist attack. The U.S. Embassy on Wednesday urged Americans at or near the airport gates to leave "immediately" and await further instruction, and other Western governments followed up with warnings about credible threats of an imminent attack by Afghanistan's Islamic State affiliate.
British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told the BBC on Thursday there's "very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack" at Kabul's airport, possibly within "hours." French Prime Minister Jean Castex told French radio RTL that "we are not able to evacuate people from the Kabul airport" after Friday evening. Denmark said its last flight, with 90 people plus soldiers and diplomats on board, left Kabul on Thursday. "It is no longer safe to fly in or out of Kabul," Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen said.
The potential threats from ISIS-K, "which likely has seen its ranks boosted by the Taliban freeing prisoners across the country," include a suicide bomb smuggled into the airport and surface-to-air attacks on departing aircraft, The Associated Press reports, though senior U.S. officials said the threat centered on potential vehicle bombs.
President Biden is sticking to his Aug. 31 deadline for ending the airlift, mostly, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday as many as 1,500 American citizens could still be in Afghanistan in potential need of removal, plus thousands more endangered Afghan allies.
Acting U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson told CBS News that the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan "isn't going to end" on Aug. 31 and the embassy will continue to aid U.S. citizens and Afghan staff "with the Taliban and whatever form of government this country takes." But he also said the U.S. Embassy has been warning Americans to leave the country "immediately" for months, each message more urgent than the last. "Never in my 40 years of working at the State Department have I seen such strong language used," he said. "People chose not to leave, that's their business, that's their right. We regret now that many might find themselves in a position that they would rather not be in, and we are determined to try to help them."