Pentagon warns terror group ISIS-K is ‘targeting’ evacuation planes leaving Kabul and airport gates packed with desperate Afghans as US prepares for August 31 withdrawal
- Pentagon officials on Tuesday briefed congressional staff members about Kabul
- The officials said that the situation around the airport was deteriorating
- They warned of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant–Khorasan Province (ISIS-K)
- ISIS-K, they said, is believed to be trying to attack jets leaving Kabul airport
- Their activities are why gates around the airport have been closed
- U.S. citizens and green card holders were meeting at the Ministry of Interior
- They were then escorted to the airport to avoid large crowds in the area
- On Tuesday the system fell apart and some planes were flying out empty
Pentagon commanders have warned that Islamic State terrorists are ‘targeting’ planes flying out of Kabul – sparking fears they could bring one of the jet’s down.
The threat comes from an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan known as ISIS-K, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province. The Islamic State announced its expansion to the Khorasan region in 2015, which historically encompasses parts of modern day Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Joe Biden on Tuesday evening warned of the threat posed by ISIS-K, but Pentagon officials gave more detail in a closed-door briefing to Congress, which was relayed to Politico by three congressional aides and another source familiar with the intelligence.
‘Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops,’ Biden said.
‘ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack U.S. and allied forces and innocent civilians.’
Joe Biden on Tuesday evening warned about the growing threat posed by ISIS-K in Kabul
The officials said that the security situation around the airport had significantly deteriorated in recent days, given the new terror threats, and contributed to Biden’s decision not to declare an extension of the August 31 deadline for all U.S. troops to leave.
ISIS-K is targeting airport gates and military and commercial aircraft evacuating people from the capital city, the sources told Politico.
They said the Defense Department officials told the meeting they are trying to mitigate the threats as best as possible.
Gates at the airport were closed because of the security threat, the sources said.
Captain Bill Urban, U.S. Central Command spokesman, confirmed that the threat remained high and that forces were on high alert at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA).
‘The U.S. has been transparent that there is an active and continuing threat from ISIS,’ he said.
A family is seen leaving Kabul airport on Tuesday. Pentagon officials warn that the terror threat has significantly increased in recent days
Taliban fighters stand guard outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport on Tuesday
A soldier stands guard on the perimeter of Kabul airport on Tuesday
Soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division escort a group of people to the terminal at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday
Two women are escorted by a U.S. Marine towards a U.S. Air Force plane, to depart Kabul on Tuesday
‘That said, the U.S. military can continue our mission at HKIA as long as we are ordered to be there, and we are not going to shut down the mission in response to a threat from ISIS.
‘We continue to be extraordinarily vigilant in regard to this ongoing threat and will take all measures necessary to defend our forces and the evacuees, as we continue the mission.’
Since Sunday, the U.S. has directed American citizens and green card holders to the Ministry of Interior, from where they are then escorted to the airport.
A Defense Department official told Politico it initially worked well, but by Tuesday had fallen apart and planes were taking off without being full.
‘It worked great on Sunday,’ said the defense official.
‘Monday was a mixed bag and a lot of green card holders didn’t get through.
‘Today, clearly, U.S. citizens are having a hard time getting through.’