Western nations warn their citizens to immediately leave area around Kabul airport over a “terrorist” threat, as thousands of people try to reach a dwindling number of evacuation flights.
Taliban has promised to provide security outside Kabul airport, but intelligence reports of an imminent threat from Deash terrorist organisation cannot be ignored, a NATO country diplomat in the Afghan capital said.
The diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity on Thursday, was referring to warnings by Australia and the United States to its citizens to vacate the area outside the airport immediately because of the reports.
Thousands of people desperate to flee the country are gathered at the gates of the airport.
“Western forces, under no circumstances, want to be in a position to launch an offensive or a defensive attack against anyone in Afghanistan,” the diplomat added.
“Our mandate is to ensure evacuations end on August 31.”
Nearly 90,000 Afghans and foreigners have fled Afghanistan via the US-led airlift since the Taliban movement took control of the country on August 15.
‘Be aware of your surroundings’
The US embassy in Kabul advised US citizens not to travel to the Hamid Karzai International Airport at this time, according to an embassy security alert.
Citizens already at the airport’s Abbey Gate, East Gate, and North Gate were advised to leave immediately, said the security alert.
The alert, posted on the embassy website, gave no reason for why it was issued.
It followed warnings by US President Joe Biden and other administration officials of a threat by Daesh to evacuation operations as crowds thronged airport gates, desperate to leave following the collapse of US-backed government and Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
The alert advised Americans to “be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially in large crowds.”
London issued a similar warning, adding “if you can leave Afghanistan safely by other means, you should do so immediately”.
Australia says ‘high threat of a terrorist attack’
There is a high threat of a terrorist attack near the airport in Kabul, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said on Thursday, as Canberra urged its citizens and those with a visa for Australia to leave the area.
Australia has been evacuating its citizens and visa holders for more than a week from Kabul airport, where Canberra had urged people to travel in order to be ready for transport.
Late on Wednesday, Australia changed its advice to those in the area, which Payne said was based on heightened concerns of an attack.
“There is an ongoing and very high threat of a terrorist attack,” Payne told reporters in Canberra.
The warning heightens the risk that scores of Afghans holding visas for Australia could be left behind as Canberra readies to end its evacuation programme.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison , who has previously said Australia will unlikely be able to evacuate everyone, declined to comment on whether Australia would continue flights up to the August 31 deadline the Taliban insists must be adhered to.
Morrison said Australia has now evacuated about 4,000 people out of Afghanistan after another 1,200 people were flown out overnight.
Many of these remain in the United Arab Emirates, Morrison said, while 639 have been evacuated to Australia.
Australia was part of a NATO-led international force that battled the Taliban and trained Afghan security forces in the years after the insurgents were ousted in 2001.
More than 39,000 Australian military personnel served in Afghanistan and 41 were killed there.