Washington: The US State Department is in touch with around 500 US citizens in Afghanistan who wish to leave the country, even as the White House warned that ”another terror attack is likely”, as the August 31 deadline for troop withdrawal approaches.
While the US administration has said there is no plan to extend the deadline, President Joe Biden suggested on Thursday that efforts may continue past the August 31 date to bring some Americans home.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that “another terror attack in Kabul is likely” before the end of the month.
“The threat is ongoing, it is active, our troops are still in danger,” she added.
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, said on Thursday that the US expects the terror attacks to continue and added that there is an ”extremely active threat stream against the airfield.”
”So very, very real threat streams, what we would call tactical that means imminent, could occur at any moment,” he said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the US has a “commitment” to get specific groups, including American citizens, locally employed staff and Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas, out of Afghanistan.
On Thursday the State Department said they are in touch with Americans who remain in Afghanistan, but added that “we know that dozens more do not wish to leave Afghanistan for a range of reasons”.
Price also said that the Taliban has asked the US to keep its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan beyond the August 31 deadline, which is an option the US is “actively discussing”.
Price said: “There are approximately 500 American citizens we are currently working with who want to leave and with whom we are communicating directly to facilitate their evacuations.”
“Last night alone, we reached out to every American who we believe may be in Afghanistan and attempting to leave. We continue to reach out to anyone who makes contact with us through multiple means, which over the past week, has included tens of thousands of calls, emails, texts, WhatsApp messages and other tactics,” Price added.
In a related development, the US admitted on Thursday that it had been relying on the Taliban as a ”security partner” in handling evacuations, and reports have emerged of the Taliban blocking all but American nationals from entering the airport grounds.
The suicide bomber of Thursday’s deadly attack was reportedly able to slip past Taliban soldiers and made it through to the final checkpoints before entering the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
According to reports, some gates of the Kabul airport were being ”welded shut”, and the US military was planning to move out the forces ahead of the August 31 deadline.