The US military is establishing “alternative routes” to Kabul airport due to the threat terror group ISIS-K poses to the airport and its surroundings, as President Joe Biden met with senior officials Saturday to discuss the security situation in Afghanistan and counter-terrorism operations against the Islamic State offshoot.
“There is a strong possibility ISIS-K is trying to carry off an attack at the airport,” a US defense official told CNN. A senior diplomat in Kabul said they are aware of a credible but not immediate threat by Islamic State against Americans at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Media outlets, citing unnamed US officials, reported that the main threat was coming from ISIS’s Afghanistan branch.
US officials believe ISIS could launch an attack that would simultaneously harm Americans, and bruise the Taliban’s sense of control, The New York Times reported. The Times added that it was unclear whether ISIS was capable of such an attack. The warnings come just one day after President Joe Biden promised that “any American who wants to come home, we will get you home.” He said more than 18,000 people have been evacuated since last month.
The Pentagon has been monitoring the situation around the airport, aware that the swelling crowds on the grounds and around the airfield create a target for ISIS-K and other organizations, which may use car bombs or suicide bombers to attack, the second official said. Mortar attacks are another possible threat.
“There’s a whole canopy of security concerns we have,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a press briefing Saturday, as he described the military “fighting against both time and space” in its effort to safely evacuate people. “The idea is to get as many people out as fast as we can,” Kirby said. “That’s what the focus is. In trying to accomplish that mission, we’re taking in a whole wealth of information about what the security environment looks like.”
Biden and his national security team met in the Situation Room on Saturday morning to discuss “the security situation in Afghanistan and counterterrorism operations, including ISIS-K,” the White House said. “They discussed the massive logistical operation to evacuate American citizens and their families, SIV applicants and their families, and vulnerable Afghans both on U.S. military aircraft, as well as flight charters and coalition flights.”
Biden referred to the threat from Islamic State in an address to the nation on Friday, telling Americans that, “we’re also keeping a close watch on any potential terrorist threat at or around the airport, including from the ISIS affiliates in Afghanistan who were released from prison when the prisons were emptied.”
Biden noted that ISIS in Afghanistan have been the sworn enemy of the Taliban, with which US officials have been coordinating and communicating on a constant basis over access to the airport. “I’ve said all along,” Biden added, “We’re going to retain a laser-focus on our counterterrorism mission, working in close coordination with our allies and our partners and all those who have an interest in ensuring stability in the region.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: YAHOO NEWS
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