European countries have issued stern warnings on the last days of a massive airlift to get people out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, one British official saying there were credible reports of an “imminent attack” at Kabul International Airport.
France said it would stop its evacuations on Friday while Denmark said its latest flight had already left Kabul airport, which has seen thousands crowding around it since the Taliban took over the capital. .
Overnight, new warnings emerged from Western capitals about a possible threat from the Afghan affiliate to the Islamic State, which has likely seen its ranks swell with the Taliban releasing prisoners across the country. Already, military cargo planes leaving Kabul airport have fired flares to disrupt any potential surface-to-air missile fire as fleeing Afghan troops ditch heavy weapons and equipment across the country in their subsequent collapse. withdrawal of American troops, reports AP.
British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told the BBC on Thursday that there were “very, very credible reports of an impending attack” at the airport, possibly within “hours.”
Heappey conceded that people were desperate to leave and “there is an appetite for many in line to try their luck, but the reporting of this threat is indeed very believable and there is real imminence.”
“We will do our best to protect those who are there,” he said. “There is every chance that as more reports come in we will be able to change advice again and treat people again, but there are no guarantees about that.”
Apart from a missile attack, the troops worried about the uncontrolled and swarming crowd outside the airport. While the Taliban and others have tried to control them, there is no formal screening process on the way to the airport as was the case under the former Afghan government. This means that someone carrying a suicide bomb could pass through – or a vehicle loaded with explosives could pass through.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a security alert warning U.S. citizens to move away from three specific airport gates, but gave no further explanation.
Senior U.S. officials said the warning was linked to ongoing and specific threats involving ISIS and potential vehicle bombs. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss ongoing military operations.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex told French radio RTL on Thursday that “from tomorrow evening we will not be able to evacuate people from Kabul airport” due to the US withdrawal on August 31.
Meanwhile, Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen bluntly warned: “It is no longer safe to enter or leave Kabul. Denmark’s last flight, carrying 90 people as well as soldiers and diplomats, had already left Kabul.