Afghan citizens, refugees face uncertain future as explosions recall country’s violent past

Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — When Waheed Arian heard of the two bombings out Kabul’s airport in Afghanistan, he rushed to call his family members to ensure that they were safe. Arian is a doctor and ex-refugee, who fled Afghanistan during the Taliban’s rule in 1999, and now lives in the United Kingdom.

With sweaty palms, a racing heart and the memories of death and destruction from his time in Afghanistan as a child, he’s wary of what the future might hold for him and his family.

“When I get off the phone, I break down in tears because I feel helpless,” Arian told ABC News. “This is the case for so many Afghans whose families are over there. … It haunts you forever.”

The bombings, for which the terrorist group ISIS-K has claimed responsibility, left at least 60 Afghan civilians dead, as well as at least 13 U.S. service members, according to the Pentagon.

The attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport, the main source of hope for those trying to escape the city and seek refuge elsewhere, has left many Afghans feeling desperate.

Waiting for news from home

Shabnam, who asked ABC News to use only her first name for the safety of her family in Afghanistan, said she can’t concentrate. The ex-refugee, who is now a citizen living in the U.S., said she is numb and can’t focus on her work, her schooling or her responsibilities as she awaits news about her family’s fate.

When Shabnam was asked if her family was safe, she responded: “What does that mean? If I say that they are safe, they’re safe as prisoners. … The banks are closed. The businesses are closed. Everything is closed, and they don’t have freedom of speech anymore.”

Shabnam is calling on international forces to step up and help the Afghan people before the country reverts back to its old ways, particularly calling on the U.S. to take the lead.

“It is their responsibility as our leaders, the responsibility of the international community not to just not watch and be silent,” Shabnam said.

Uncertainty plagues Afghan families

With the Taliban taking over Afghanistan before the United States’ Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw troops, many citizens fear what could come of their country and their livelihood in the Middle Eastern nation.

Activist and Afghan journalist Mahbouba Seraj returned to Afghanistan from exile in 2003 with the mission to advance women’s rights in the country. In an interview with ABC News Live, she said she made a commitment to Afghanistan to continue to move the country forward and won’t leave the country despite the danger.

During the interview, her words were interrupted by a blast, later determined to be the U.S. military disposing of equipment before exiting the country.

“I cannot leave Afghanistan at this point,” said Seraj. “Everybody worked together to make this country really the way it is. … We all worked very hard, and then it disappeared, and I knew that I have to stick around. I have to stick around to prove it to myself, to prove it to whoever, as far as my young girls.”

Many women in the country fear that the Taliban will revert to the oppressive tactics they used when they ruled in the 1990s, like keeping women at home, out of work and out of schools.

Many also fear that the militant group will retaliate against citizens with connections to America, who’ve worked with the U.S. or Afghan government or who have criticized the Taliban in the past. Under the Taliban’s previous rule, citizens could be stoned to death, have their hands cut off or be publicly executed for violating the Taliban’s laws.

For Arian, the violence Thursday reminded him of the civil war he experienced as a child, when the Soviet Union withdrew from the country and mujahedeen forces turned on each other in 1992.

“Bullets flying, rockets flying and we had to just leave everything, abandon the house,” said Arian. “The schools were destroyed, the hospitals were destroyed, the whole infrastructure was gone.”

Arian believes he’s echoing the voice of the millions of Afghans who’ve lived through the civil war.

“They remember — that’s why they’re physically, mentally tired,” Arian said. “They’re exhausted from running. They’re exhausted from refugee camps, they’re on high alert constantly. And now we see today that there’s nowhere safe for them.”

The future of Afghanistan

For many, the future of Afghanistan and its people hangs in the balance as U.S. troops leave the country behind. While many continue to flock to airports and plan escape routes out of the country, some are hunkering down, determined to rescue the nation they call home.

Arian’s family is divided — his father wants to stay and his siblings want to flee.

“He just told me, ‘Son, I’m tired of running. I’ve spent my entire life running. I just want to die in peace here if there is any peace,'” said Arian. “When I speak to some of my sisters, they’re fearful for their lives. They don’t know whether we would go back again to the civil war that most of them had witnessed along with me, and they have children now.”

Seraj, who has dedicated her life to activism and bettering the conditions of Afghan women for decades, said that all her fears are coming true.

Without plans to leave Kabul, she’s faced with ongoing questions about what’s next for the nation.

“The control is getting out of everybody’s hands,” Seraj said. “We’ve lost a lot of our people. Our soldiers are no longer what they were and keeping us safe. The U.S. Army is no longer there. Nobody’s there. What is going to be happening?”

-ABC News’ Allie Yang contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

What we know about the Kabul airport attack that killed US troops

Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — An explosion that killed at least 13 U.S. service members in Afghanistan Thursday was part of a “complex” attack near the Kabul airport, the Pentagon said.

Two ISIS suicide bombers detonated in the vicinity of both the Kabul airport’s Abbey Gate and the adjacent Baron Hotel, according to Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command.

The U.S. service members killed in the explosion near the Abbey Gate included 10 Marines, one Army, one to be determined and one Navy hospital corpsman, or medic, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News. A 13th service member injured in the attack at Abbey Gate later succumbed to his wounds, a U.S. Central Command spokesperson said Thursday evening.

“We can confirm at this time 10 Marines were killed in the line of duty at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Additionally, several more were wounded and are being cared for at this time,” Maj. Jim Stenger, Marine Corps spokesperson, said in a statement Thursday night.

Another 18 service members were injured in the attack, U.S. Central Command said, up from the 15 initially confirmed by the command.

“We’re still working to calculate the total losses,” McKenzie said during a briefing at the Pentagon Thursday afternoon. “We just don’t know what that is right now.”

The attack marks the third-deadliest single day for American forces in Afghanistan in the 20-year war.

The injured troops are being evacuated from Afghanistan on C-17s equipped with surgical units.

At least 60 Afghan civilians were killed and over 140 others injured in the attack, according to the Associated Press.

The “complex” attack unfolded Thursday evening local time in Kabul, with one explosion at the Abbey Gate causing “a number of US and civilian casualties” and another explosion near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from the gate, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.

“The attack on the Abbey Gate was followed by a number of ISIS gunmen who opened fire on civilians and military forces,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie said it was his “working assumption” that a suicide bomber was going through the Abbey Gate — being searched and checked by U.S. service members — when the person detonated the vest. The general did not know the size of the bomb or have much information about the explosion near the Baron Hotel. No bomber got onto airport grounds, McKenzie said.

“Clearly there had been a failure” from the Taliban forces checking people outside the airport, the general said.

Hours after the explosions, the militant group ISIS-K, which stands for Islamic State Khorasan Province, claimed credit for the attacks, confirming a suicide bombing.

According to a translation from SITE intelligence group, the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency issued a report on the attack and provided a photo of the bomber.

The message said the Khorasan Province fighter overcame all security fortifications and reached a distance of “no more than five meters from the American forces.” The fighter detonated his explosive belt, killing 60 and wounding over 100 others, the militant group wrote, citing “military sources,” according to SITE.

McKenzie said the U.S. “will go after” those responsible for the attack “if we can find who’s associated with this,” and that “we believe it is their desire to continue those attacks.”

President Joe Biden reiterated that message during remarks on the attacks Thursday.

“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said.

Prior to the explosions, the U.S. Embassy had warned citizens on Wednesday to leave the airport.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson, on the ground in Kabul, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday morning before the explosions that the threat was “clearly regarded as credible, as imminent, as compelling.”

The airport has been the site of tragedy and chaos for days as people rushed to be evacuated since Afghanistan’s government’s collapsed and the Taliban seized control.

Approximately 104,000 people have been evacuated since the effort began on Aug. 14, the White House said Thursday, with a withdrawal deadline set for Aug. 31. The U.S. State Department said Thursday afternoon it believes around 1,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan, a majority of whom want to leave.

Biden said the U.S. “will not be deterred by terrorists” and vowed to pull the remaining Americans and allies out of Afghanistan.

“These ISIS terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans in there. We will get our Afghan allies out,” he said Thursday. “And our mission will go on. America will not be intimidated.”

Biden called the service members killed in the attack “heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others.”

The Pentagon is going through the next-of-kin notification process. Once that is completed, the president will call the troops’ families, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday.

“We have some sense … what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today. You get this feeling like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. There’s no way out,” Biden said. “My heart aches for you.”

-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson, Conor Finnegan, Luis Martinez and Cindy Smith contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Afghan refugees arrive in thousands to be processed in Germany

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock

(RAMSTEIN, Germany) — In one of the largest airlift operations in history, Ramstein, Germany, has become the central hub to evacuate and process Afghan evacuees. According to the U.S. Air Force, the vast majority of people fleeing Afghanistan will come through Ramstein, and the base has already received at least 15,000 people as of this morning.

Upon arrival to Ramstein, refugees are immediately given medical aid, food and shelter while they undergo a final security check. Air Force officials say the goal is to get people in and out as quickly as possible, and aim to have people on their way to America within three days.

According to an internal report obtained by ABC News on Monday, officials estimate that some 20% of evacuees at Ramstein lacked documentation.

Top U.S. general in Europe Tod Wolters spoke with Pentagon reporters Wednesday and said that overall European bases could potentially process as many as 25,000 evacuees.

“We’ve received 55 flights at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and we currently have 5783 evacuees on deck at Ramstein. We’ve received three flights at Naval Air Station Sigonella,” said Wolters on Wednesday.

The makeshift tent camp in Ramstein has the capacity to hold 10,000 evacuees, and 7,000 refugees have already been processed, according to Walters.

But, some are concerned that the increasing number of evacuees will overwhelm resources and facilities at the Ramstein base in coming days.

In addition to Ramstein, Germany has also agreed to let the U.S. use the nearby U.S. Army garrison in Kaiserslautern and a joint training facility in Grafenwoehr in eastern Germany to house evacuees, ABC News reported on Monday.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

ISIS-K claims responsibility for explosions at Kabul’s airport. What’s their agenda?

Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for two explosions that erupted near the Kabul airport on Thursday and killed at least 12 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans.

U.S. officials had warned of an ISIS attack over the past week in wake of the sweeping Taliban takeover. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie of the U.S. Central Command said Thursday that the attackers were two ISIS suicide bombers.

Experts say the group, dubbed the “mortal adversary” of the Taliban, pose the biggest threat to America’s presence in the country.

The U.S. is now racing against time to withdraw by President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline.

Biden warned Tuesday, “Every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both U.S. and allied forces and innocent civilians.”

What is ISIS-K?

ISIS-Khorasan, also known as ISIS-K, is an affiliate of the Islamic State (ISIS), which established a caliphate in Iraq and Syria that was later destroyed by the American forces. ISIS has geographical branches in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia and ISIS-K is its affiliate based in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.

Elizabeth Neumann, an ABC contributor and former U.S. homeland security official, said the group emerged about six years ago.

ISIS-K is the “mortal adversary” of the Taliban, Colin Clarke, a counterterrorism analyst with security consulting firm Soufan Group, told ABC News.

“It really tracked quite closely with the the evolution of Al-Qaeda and developed a similar kind of decentralized model really in response to U.S. counterterrorism pressure,” he said.

The group has an estimated 1,500 to 2,200 fighters, consisting of Arabs, Middle Easterners, Pakistanis and other South Asians, Clarke said.

He described them as a “transnational group” as opposed to the Taliban, which is predominantly comprised of Pashtuns, according to the Council of Foreign Relations.

There were 77 ISIS-K claimed or attributed attacks from January to April 2021 — three times as many ISIS-K attacks in Afghanistan than that same period last year, according to a June United Nations report. Last year the group attacked a maternity ward in Kabul on May 12 and Kabul University on Nov. 2.

ISIS-K “continues to pose a threat to both the country and the wider region” and is focused on recruitment, with its core base in small areas of the Kunar and Nangarhar Provinces, the UN report said.

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the group stands against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda as well as the U.S.

“Their objective is to wantonly attack the U.S. because they see the U.S. as their main enemy,” he said. “Also, I think it’s designed to embarrass the Taliban as well. ISIS attempted to move in and establish a base in Afghanistan to compete with the Taliban. Their ideologies are pretty much the same. It’s more of a power struggle than an ideological or religious one.”

Neumann described the group as much more violent than the Taliban.

“When I think of ISIS, I think extremely brutal. It’s not that the Taliban has a good record of not being brutal, but it’s a slightly different type of brutality,” Neumann said. “[ISIS] sounds as if they’re trying to stand up a government and run a country.”

What is their agenda?

The group has an objective to carve out some piece of territory that they can rule, Clarke said, citing ISIS’s motto to “remain and expand.”

“If they were ever to reach the point where they felt like they were governing a sufficient amount of territory, they may very well attempt to declare a caliphate again,” he said.

He went on, “The Taliban is not at risk of being overtaken by ISIS-K, they just don’t have the numbers. ISIS-K is playing more of a spoiler role, where they’ll be able to kind of launch attacks, keep the Taliban off balance. But I don’t ever expect them to get to the point where they’re threatening to take over Afghanistan in the same way the Taliban did.”

Hoffman, with the Council on Foreign Relations, said that any attacks from ISIS-K shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“Over the past year, they’ve spread to an additional seven provinces. So clearly, ISIS-K has become more active and threatening in recent months,” Hoffman said. “The current upheaval and chaos in Afghanistan presents them with a myriad of new opportunities to draw attention to themselves and their cause and basically punish all their enemies — the U.S. but also the Taliban and Al-Qaeda as well.”

What threat do they pose to the U.S.?

With the U.S. leaving Afghanistan, experts say future attacks by ISIS-K are likely to occur.

“There’s nothing they’d love more than to plot an attack on the U.S.,” Clarke said.

An attack on U.S. soil isn’t likely for the “foreseeable future” but may be in the “long term,” according to Hoffman.

As for Afghanistan, with the Taliban takeover and rising terror threats like ISIS-K, its future is murky.

“Afghanistan overall is being re-submerged into a very, very dark period,” Hoffman said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Afghanistan updates: At least 12 US service members among those killed outside Kabul airport

Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government’s collapsed and the Taliban seized control, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.

Approximately 95,700 people have been evacuated since the effort began on Aug. 14, the White House said Thursday, while the Pentagon said the military will keep the evacuation mission going until the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House last week, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden has also addressed the nation several times since.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

 

Aug 26, 3:52 pm
‘Working assumption’ that bomber detonated when being checked by Americans: Pentagon

Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said at a Pentagon briefing that it was his “working assumption” that a suicide bomber was going through the Abbey Gate — being searched and checked by U.S. service members — when he detonated his vest.

He said the military thought there was just one suicide bomber at the Abbey Gate and that they didn’t know if it was a man or woman. He said he didn’t know the size of the bomb.

They also didn’t “know much” about the second bomb, which went off in the vicinity of the Baron Hotel.

No bomber actually got onto airport grounds, McKenzie said.

“I know this: he did not get inside — he did not get on the installation,” McKenzie said of the Abbey Gate bomber. “It was at the interface point where they try to come in where this attack occurred. And we just don’t know more right now. We’re gathering that information. As you will understand, we’re investigating that.”

-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson

Aug 26, 3:51 pm
ISIS-K claims responsibility for attacks

The Islamic State has claimed credit for the attacks near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, confirming a suicide bombing.

According to a translation from SITE intelligence group, the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency issued a report on the attack and provided a photo of the bomber.

Their message said the Khorasan Province (ISKP) fighter overcame all security fortifications and reached a distance of “no more than five meters from the American forces.” The fighter detonated his explosive belt, killing 60 and wounding over 100 others, the militant group wrote, citing “military sources,” according to SITE.

-ABC News’ Cindy Smith

Aug 26, 3:35 pm
‘Extremely real’ threat of more attacks

Asked about the ongoing threat of ISIS, as officials believed the two suicide bombers in Kabul on Thursday are affiliated with the terror group, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters at the Pentagon it’s one that is “extremely real.”

“We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks, and we expect those attacks to continue,” he said via a videoconference.

He said the U.S. is doing everything it can to prepare for those attacks including reaching out to the Taliban, “who are actually providing the outer security cordon around the airfield, to make sure they know what we expect them to do to protect us.”

McKenzie reiterated that despite the attack, evacuations have continued on the airfield.

“The plan is designed to operate while under stress and under attack, and we will continue to do that,” he said.

The highest-ranking commander in the Middle East was also asked if the U.S. will go after the attackers.

“Yes, if we can find who’s associated with this, we will go after them,” he said. “We’ve been clear all along that we’re going to retain the right to operate against ISIS in Afghanistan. And we’re working very hard right now to determine attribution, to determine who is associated with this cowardly attack, and we’re prepared to take action against them.”

Aug 26, 3:24 pm
Evacuations to continue despite Kabul airport attack: Pentagon 

Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command and highest-ranking military official in the Middle East, said evacuations will continue “at best speed” despite the attack in Kabul that has resulted in 27 American casualties, including 12 killed and 15 wounded.

“Let me be clear: While we’re saddened by the life of loss, both U.S. and Afghan, we’ll continue to execute the mission,” McKenzie said via a videoconference. “Our mission is to evacuate U.S. citizens, third-country nationals, Special Immigrant Visa holders, U.S. Embassy staff and Afghans at risk.”

“As of today, we have approximately 5,000 evacuees on a ramp at the Kabul airport”

He said as of Thursday, there are 5,000 evacuees at the airport in Kabul awaiting airlift.

“We believe that there are about a thousand, probably a little more than a thousand American citizens left in Afghanistan at this point,” he said.
 

Aug 26, 3:15 pm
12 US service members killed, 15 others wounded: Pentagon 

Twelve U.S. service members were killed by two suicide bombers believed to have been ISIS fighters in Kabul on Thursday, U.S. officials confirmed at a Pentagon briefing.

“It’s a hard day today,” said Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command and the highest-ranking official in the Middle East, speaking via videoconference.

“As you know, two suicide bombers assessed to have been ISIS fighters detonated in the vicinity of the Abbey Gate and the Baron Hotel. It was followed by a number of ISIS gunmen who opened fire,” he said.

“We know that 12 U.S. service members have been killed in the attack and 15 more have been injured. A number of Afghan civilians were injured,” he said.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby in an earlier statement called the situation a “complex attack” with one explosion at the Abbey Gate outside Hamid Karzai International Airport causing “a number of US and civilian casualties” and another explosion near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from the Abbey Gate.

Aug 26, 2:06 pm
US Marines stationed close to crowds at site of Kabul airport attack

As the Pentagon confirmed that “a number of U.S. service members” were killed in the “complex attack” in Kabul, Senior Foreign Correspondent Ian Pannell recalled reporting from the Abbey Gate on Wednesday right alongside U.S. Marines working to control the crowds desperate to get inside.

“This almost defies words,” Pannell said of the attack. “It’s bewildering. It’s horrifying. It was already a very distressing scene down at the airport yesterday.”

Pannell described seeing thousands of people knee-dip in sewage water outside the airport. He said the evacuation operation at the Abbey Gate “relied on the bravery of individuals, of servicemen, women, going to the very front lines, going out, grabbing people who were eligible and pulling them in.”

“Anyone who got into that crowd and detonated that device was sure to carry out a mass casualty event,” he added.

Pannell pushed back against a statement from the Taliban suggesting U.S. forces securing the area were to blame for the attack.

“That’s totally untrue,” he said. “This bomb happened right outside the gate. The onus also depends on the Taliban for not controlling the crowds, not allowing people through, for creating this climate of fear and dread.”

Aug 26, 1:18 pm
Pentagon confirms ‘number of’ US service members killed

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby has confirmed in a statement that “a number of U.S. service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport.”

“A number of others are being treated for wounds. We also know a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack,” he said.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to loved ones and teammates of those killed and injured,” Kirby’s statement read.

An American service member hasn’t been killed in Afghanistan since Feb. 2020.

Aug 26, 12:50 pm
Taliban condemn attack in statement

A Taliban spokesman has released a statement condemning the attack in Kabul and saying that 13 people were killed and 52 were wounded, citing reports.

“I confirm two explosions in the assembly of people in the area managed by US forces have occurred. Initial reports say, 13 persons have been killed and 52 wounded. We strongly condemn this gruesome incident and will take every step to bring the culprits to justice,” the Taliban spokesperson said.

While it’s still unclear who is responsible for the attack, President Biden has warned for days of a security threat from ISIS-K, an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan whom he called “the sworn enemy of the Taliban.”

Aug 26, 12:20 pm
Biden, top officials monitor Kabul attack in Situation Room
 

President Biden monitored the Kabul attack in the White House Situation Room with his national security team, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, a White House official confirmed to ABC News.

Biden was already scheduled to meet with his national security team at 9:15 a.m. for an update on Afghanistan before the Pentagon confirmed an explosion outside the airport in Kabul in a tweet, prompting the delay of a 10:30 a.m. Pentagon briefing.

Vice President Kamala Harris, traveling from Vietnam back to Washington, joined the national security team meeting via video teleconference.

Biden’s 11:30 a.m. bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also has been postponed. A virtual meeting with a bipartisan group of governors who have volunteered to temporarily house or help vulnerable Afghans at 3 p.m. has been canceled.

Although it’s not clear who carried out the attack, it comes two days after Biden, in remarks from the White House on Tuesday, warned of threats from a terrorist group known as ISIS-K, an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan.

“Every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both U.S. and allied forces and innocent civilians,” he said.

The Pentagon on Thursday called the situation a “complex attack” with one explosion at the Abbey Gate outside Hamid Karzai International Airport causing “a number of US and civilian casualties” and another explosion near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from the Abbey Gate.

At least 60 have been wounded in the attack, including at least three service members, according to Kabul Emergency Hospital and a U.S. official.

Aug 26, 11:46 am
Images show wounded, devastation after explosions near Kabul airport

Some of the first photos of the scene of the explosions in Kabul — one which occurred at or near the Baron Hotel and the other at the Abbey Gate outside Hamid Karzai International Airport — show bloody and wounded people evacuating the area.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed there were “a number of US and Afghan civilian casualties.”

Kabul Emergency Hospital told ABC News in a statement, “Around 60 patients wounded in airport attack have arrived at our EMERGENCY NGO’s Kabul Surgical Centre so far.”

Smoke leftover from the blasts and gunfire was seen rising over the airport on Thursday.

Aug 26, 11:06 am
‘Complex attack,’ second explosion at hotel near airport: Pentagon

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed there was a second explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate, after earlier confirming an explosion outside the Abbey Gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties. We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update,” he said in a tweet.

The Turkish Defense Ministry, which has had forces helping to secure the airport, also tweeted that two explosions had occurred.

“There were two explosions outside of Kabul Airport. There is no damage or casualty in our unit,” it said, translated from Turkish.

Aug 26, 10:44 am
At least 3 US service members wounded in airport attack: Official

A U.S. official said that at least three U.S. military service members have been wounded in the explosion at the Abbey Gate outside Hamid Karzai International Airport. The official did not know the extent of the injuries. U.S. troops have been stationed near large crowds trying to get inside.

The development comes as the U.S. Embassy in Kabul sent another security alert to Americans, warning, “There has been a large explosion at the airport, and there are reports of gunfire.”

“U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time. U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” it said.

The Pentagon has delayed a briefing that was scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz said the explosion at the airport coming days before U.S. forces are set to leave the country has made for, “truly, a nightmare scenario.”

Raddatz, who is in contact with Afghans on the ground, said the explosion “devastates” the evacuation process and described the tone in the country as people try to get out in the coming days as “absolute panic.”

“Now today, they’re facing, either a stampede, the Taliban or ISIS bombers — and that really is what it comes down to for all Afghans,” she said.

Aug 26, 10:15 am
Before explosion, acting US ambassador to Afghanistan spoke on GMA about ‘credible’ security threat

Speaking before the explosion outside the Kabul airport, acting U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson, on the ground in Kabul, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday that the threat that prompted the U.S. Embassy to warn citizens to leave the airport on Wednesday was “clearly regarded as credible, as imminent, as compelling.”

“Being part of these huge crowds that remain around the gates and entrances to the airport is dangerous,” he said, adding the U.S. is working on “other ways on an individualized basis to assist them in getting to the airport in a safe and secure manner.”

“We will do as much as we possibly can, to get as many out as we possibly can for as long as we possibly can, while there is sufficient security that’s provided for us, and no less important, for the travelers themselves, provided by U.S. military forces,” Wilson said.

While the U.S. works to get as many Afghan allies and third-country nationals out of Afghanistan ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline, Wilson acknowledged that the “primary focus” is to evacuate American citizens and said some hopeful evacuees would be left behind.

“There undoubtedly will be people in this country who would like to get out who will be unable to,” he said, adding that the U.S. is talking with the Taliban on how to continue safe evacuations when troops are gone.

Aug 26, 10:05 am
Biden briefed on explosion outside airport in Kabul

A U.S. official confirms the explosion was at Abbey Gate — one of the main entrances to the airport — and that they are assessing casualty numbers right now.

A White House official told ABC News that Biden has been briefed on the situation.

The explosion outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul follows the U.S. Embassy in Kabul warning Americans on Wednesday night to leave the airport gates immediately due to a credible security threat.

Aug 26, 9:50 am
Explosion outside airport in Kabul: Pentagon

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed there was an explosion outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

“We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport.  Casualties are unclear at this time.  We will provide additional details when we can,” the tweet read.

U.S. officials had been warning of a credible security threat to the airport for several days.

Aug 26, 8:12 am
US, allies evacuate 13,400 people from Kabul in past 24 hours

The United States has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of some 95,700 people from Kabul since Aug. 14 when the Taliban closed in on Afghanistan’s capital, according to a White House official.

In a 24-hour period from Wednesday to Thursday, 17 U.S. military flights carried approximately 5,100 evacuees out of Kabul. Another 8,300 people were evacuated via 74 coalition aircraft. Since the end of July, approximately 101,300 people have been relocated from Kabul via U.S. military and coalition flights, the White House official said.

Aug 26, 6:31 am
‘Very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at Kabul airport, UK minister warns

U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey warned Thursday morning that there was “very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at the main international airport in Kabul, possibly within hours.

“There is now very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack and hence why the Foreign Office advice was changed last night,” Heappey said in interviews with BBC News. “The credibility of the reporting has now reached the stage where we believe that there is a very imminent, highly lethal attack possible within Kabul.”

As thousands race to evacuate Taliban-ruled Afghanistan before the Aug. 31 deadline for the United States to totally withdraw its troops, Heappey acknowledged that people are “desperate” and “there is an appetite by many in the queue to take their chances, but the reporting of this threat is very credible indeed and there is a real imminence to it.”

“There is every chance that as further reporting comes in, we may be able to change the advice again and process people anew but there’s no guarantee of that,” he added.

When asked in an interview with Sky News whether an attack could occur in the next few hours, Heappey replied: “Yes.”

The U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office released new guidance on Wednesday night telling people not to travel to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

“There is an ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack,” the office said. “If you are in the area of the airport, move away to a safe location and await further advice.”

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a security alert warning of “security threats outside the gates of Kabul Airport” and advising Americans “to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates,” unless they “receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.”

“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” the embassy said.

Aug 25, 8:05 pm
US Embassy alert tells people to avoid airport, leave certain gates immediately

The U.S. embassy in Kabul issued another alert, but this one with an urgent warning.

“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” it said.

The alert says U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid the airport gates “unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so” — the same instructions they have given in recent days.

In a statement later Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson said, “As a general rule, we do not speak to intelligence, but this is a dynamic and volatile security situation on the ground. We take seriously the priority we attach to the safety and security of American citizens.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Afghanistan updates: US, civilian casualties in explosions outside Kabul airport

Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government’s collapsed and the Taliban seized control, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.

Approximately 95,700 people have been evacuated since the effort began on Aug. 14, the White House said Thursday, while the Pentagon said the military will keep the evacuation mission going until the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House last week, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden has also addressed the nation several times since.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Aug 26, 11:46 am
Images show wounded, devastation after explosions near Kabul airport

Some of the first photos of the scene of the explosions in Kabul — one which occurred at or near the Baron Hotel and the other at the Abbey Gate outside Hamid Karzai International Airport — show bloody and wounded people evacuating the area.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed there were “a number of US and Afghan civilian casualties.”

Kabul Emergency Hospital told ABC News in a statement, “Around 60 patients wounded in airport attack have arrived at our EMERGENCY NGO’s Kabul Surgical Centre so far.”

Smoke leftover from the blasts and gunfire was seen rising over the airport on Thursday.

Aug 26, 11:06 am
‘Complex attack,’ second explosion at hotel near airport: Pentagon

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed there was a second explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate, after earlier confirming an explosion outside the Abbey Gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties. We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update,” he said in a tweet.

The Turkish Defense Ministry, which has had forces helping to secure the airport, also tweeted that two explosions had occurred.

“There were two explosions outside of Kabul Airport. There is no damage or casualty in our unit,” it said, translated from Turkish.

Aug 26, 10:44 am
At least 3 US service members wounded in airport attack: Official

A U.S. official said that at least three U.S. military service members have been wounded in the explosion at the Abbey Gate outside Hamid Karzai International Airport. The official did not know the extent of the injuries. U.S. troops have been stationed near large crowds trying to get inside.

The development comes as the U.S. Embassy in Kabul sent another security alert to Americans, warning, “There has been a large explosion at the airport, and there are reports of gunfire.”

“U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time. U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” it said.

The Pentagon has delayed a briefing that was scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz said the explosion at the airport coming days before U.S. forces are set to leave the country has made for, “truly, a nightmare scenario.”

Raddatz, who is in contact with Afghans on the ground, said the explosion “devastates” the evacuation process and described the tone in the country as people try to get out in the coming days as “absolute panic.”

“Now today, they’re facing, either a stampede, the Taliban or ISIS bombers — and that really is what it comes down to for all Afghans,” she said.

Aug 26, 10:15 am
Before explosion, acting US ambassador to Afghanistan spoke on GMA about ‘credible’ security threat

Speaking before the explosion outside the Kabul airport, acting U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson, on the ground in Kabul, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday that the threat that prompted the U.S. Embassy to warn citizens to leave the airport on Wednesday was “clearly regarded as credible, as imminent, as compelling.”

“Being part of these huge crowds that remain around the gates and entrances to the airport is dangerous,” he said, adding the U.S. is working on “other ways on an individualized basis to assist them in getting to the airport in a safe and secure manner.”

“We will do as much as we possibly can, to get as many out as we possibly can for as long as we possibly can, while there is sufficient security that’s provided for us, and no less important, for the travelers themselves, provided by U.S. military forces,” Wilson said.

While the U.S. works to get as many Afghan allies and third-country nationals out of Afghanistan ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline, Wilson acknowledged that the “primary focus” is to evacuate American citizens and said some hopeful evacuees would be left behind.

“There undoubtedly will be people in this country who would like to get out who will be unable to,” he said, adding that the U.S. is talking with the Taliban on how to continue safe evacuations when troops are gone.

Aug 26, 10:05 am
Biden briefed on explosion outside airport in Kabul

A U.S. official confirms the explosion was at Abbey Gate — one of the main entrances to the airport — and that they are assessing casualty numbers right now.

A White House official told ABC News that Biden has been briefed on the situation.

The explosion outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul follows the U.S. Embassy in Kabul warning Americans on Wednesday night to leave the airport gates immediately due to a credible security threat.

Aug 26, 9:50 am
Explosion outside airport in Kabul: Pentagon

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed there was an explosion outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

“We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport.  Casualties are unclear at this time.  We will provide additional details when we can,” the tweet read.

U.S. officials had been warning of a credible security threat to the airport for several days.

Aug 26, 8:12 am
US, allies evacuate 13,400 people from Kabul in past 24 hours

The United States has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of some 95,700 people from Kabul since Aug. 14 when the Taliban closed in on Afghanistan’s capital, according to a White House official.

In a 24-hour period from Wednesday to Thursday, 17 U.S. military flights carried approximately 5,100 evacuees out of Kabul. Another 8,300 people were evacuated via 74 coalition aircraft. Since the end of July, approximately 101,300 people have been relocated from Kabul via U.S. military and coalition flights, the White House official said.

Aug 26, 6:31 am
‘Very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at Kabul airport, UK minister warns

U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey warned Thursday morning that there was “very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at the main international airport in Kabul, possibly within hours.

“There is now very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack and hence why the Foreign Office advice was changed last night,” Heappey said in interviews with BBC News. “The credibility of the reporting has now reached the stage where we believe that there is a very imminent, highly lethal attack possible within Kabul.”

As thousands race to evacuate Taliban-ruled Afghanistan before the Aug. 31 deadline for the United States to totally withdraw its troops, Heappey acknowledged that people are “desperate” and “there is an appetite by many in the queue to take their chances, but the reporting of this threat is very credible indeed and there is a real imminence to it.”

“There is every chance that as further reporting comes in, we may be able to change the advice again and process people anew but there’s no guarantee of that,” he added.

When asked in an interview with Sky News whether an attack could occur in the next few hours, Heappey replied: “Yes.”

The U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office released new guidance on Wednesday night telling people not to travel to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

“There is an ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack,” the office said. “If you are in the area of the airport, move away to a safe location and await further advice.”

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a security alert warning of “security threats outside the gates of Kabul Airport” and advising Americans “to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates,” unless they “receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.”

“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” the embassy said.

Aug 25, 8:05 pm
US Embassy alert tells people to avoid airport, leave certain gates immediately

The U.S. embassy in Kabul issued another alert, but this one with an urgent warning.

“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” it said.

The alert says U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid the airport gates “unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so” — the same instructions they have given in recent days.

In a statement later Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson said, “As a general rule, we do not speak to intelligence, but this is a dynamic and volatile security situation on the ground. We take seriously the priority we attach to the safety and security of American citizens.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Afghanistan updates: Pentagon confirms explosion outside Kabul airport

Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government’s collapsed and the Taliban seized control, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.

Approximately 95,700 people have been evacuated since the effort began on Aug. 14, the White House said Wednesday, while the Pentagon said the military will keep the evacuation mission going until the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House last week, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden has also addressed the nation several times since.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Aug 26, 10:05 am
Biden briefed on explosion outside airport in Kabul

A U.S. official confirms the explosion was at Abbey Gate — one of the main entrances to the airport — and that they are assessing casualty numbers right now.

A White House official told ABC News that Biden has been briefed on the situation.

The explosion outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul follows the U.S. Embassy in Kabul warning Americans on Wednesday night to leave the airport gates immediately due to a credible security threat.

Aug 26, 9:50 am
Explosion outside airport in Kabul: Pentagon

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed there was an explosion outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

“We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport.  Casualties are unclear at this time.  We will provide additional details when we can,” the tweet read.

U.S. officials had been warning of a credible security threat to the airport for several days.

Aug 26, 8:12 am
US, allies evacuate 13,400 people from Kabul in past 24 hours

The United States has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of some 95,700 people from Kabul since Aug. 14 when the Taliban closed in on Afghanistan’s capital, according to a White House official.

In a 24-hour period from Wednesday to Thursday, 17 U.S. military flights carried approximately 5,100 evacuees out of Kabul. Another 8,300 people were evacuated via 74 coalition aircraft. Since the end of July, approximately 101,300 people have been relocated from Kabul via U.S. military and coalition flights, the White House official said.

Aug 26, 6:31 am
‘Very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at Kabul airport, UK minister warns

U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey warned Thursday morning that there was “very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at the main international airport in Kabul, possibly within hours.

“There is now very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack and hence why the Foreign Office advice was changed last night,” Heappey said in interviews with BBC News. “The credibility of the reporting has now reached the stage where we believe that there is a very imminent, highly lethal attack possible within Kabul.”

As thousands race to evacuate Taliban-ruled Afghanistan before the Aug. 31 deadline for the United States to totally withdraw its troops, Heappey acknowledged that people are “desperate” and “there is an appetite by many in the queue to take their chances, but the reporting of this threat is very credible indeed and there is a real imminence to it.”

“There is every chance that as further reporting comes in, we may be able to change the advice again and process people anew but there’s no guarantee of that,” he added.

When asked in an interview with Sky News whether an attack could occur in the next few hours, Heappey replied: “Yes.”

The U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office released new guidance on Wednesday night telling people not to travel to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

“There is an ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack,” the office said. “If you are in the area of the airport, move away to a safe location and await further advice.”

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a security alert warning of “security threats outside the gates of Kabul Airport” and advising Americans “to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates,” unless they “receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.”

“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” the embassy said.

Aug 25, 8:05 pm
US Embassy alert tells people to avoid airport, leave certain gates immediately

The U.S. embassy in Kabul issued another alert, but this one with an urgent warning.

“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” it said.

The alert says U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid the airport gates “unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so” — the same instructions they have given in recent days.

In a statement later Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson said, “As a general rule, we do not speak to intelligence, but this is a dynamic and volatile security situation on the ground. We take seriously the priority we attach to the safety and security of American citizens.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Afghanistan updates: ‘Very credible reporting of an imminent attack’ at Kabul airport

Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government’s collapsed and the Taliban seized control, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.

The U.S. has evacuated approximately 83,000 people since the effort began on Aug. 14, the White House said Wednesday, while the Pentagon said the military will keep the evacuation mission going until the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House last week, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden has also addressed the nation several times since.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Aug 26, 8:12 am
US, allies evacuate 13,400 people from Kabul in past 24 hours

The United States has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of some 95,700 people from Kabul since Aug. 14 when the Taliban closed in on Afghanistan’s capital, according to a White House official.

In a 24-hour period from Wednesday to Thursday, 17 U.S. military flights carried approximately 5,100 evacuees out of Kabul. Another 8,300 people were evacuated via 74 coalition aircraft. Since the end of July, approximately 101,300 people have been relocated from Kabul via U.S. military and coalition flights, the White House official said.

Aug 26, 6:31 am
‘Very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at Kabul airport, UK minister warns

U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey warned Thursday morning that there was “very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at the main international airport in Kabul, possibly within hours.

“There is now very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack and hence why the Foreign Office advice was changed last night,” Heappey said in interviews with BBC News. “The credibility of the reporting has now reached the stage where we believe that there is a very imminent, highly lethal attack possible within Kabul.”

As thousands race to evacuate Taliban-ruled Afghanistan before the Aug. 31 deadline for the United States to totally withdraw its troops, Heappey acknowledged that people are “desperate” and “there is an appetite by many in the queue to take their chances, but the reporting of this threat is very credible indeed and there is a real imminence to it.”

“There is every chance that as further reporting comes in, we may be able to change the advice again and process people anew but there’s no guarantee of that,” he added.

When asked in an interview with Sky News whether an attack could occur in the next few hours, Heappey replied: “Yes.”

The U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office released new guidance on Wednesday night telling people not to travel to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

“There is an ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack,” the office said. “If you are in the area of the airport, move away to a safe location and await further advice.”

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a security alert warning of “security threats outside the gates of Kabul Airport” and advising Americans “to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates,” unless they “receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.”

“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” the embassy said.

Aug 25, 8:05 pm
US Embassy alert tells people to avoid airport, leave certain gates immediately

The U.S. embassy in Kabul issued another alert, but this one with an urgent warning.

“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” it said.

The alert says U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid the airport gates “unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so” — the same instructions they have given in recent days.

In a statement later Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson said, “As a general rule, we do not speak to intelligence, but this is a dynamic and volatile security situation on the ground. We take seriously the priority we attach to the safety and security of American citizens.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Afghanistan updates: US alert tells people to avoid airport, leave certain gates

Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government’s collapsed and the Taliban seized control, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.

The U.S. has evacuated approximately 83,000 people since the effort began on Aug. 14, the White House said Wednesday, while the Pentagon said the military will keep the evacuation mission going until the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House last week, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden has also addressed the nation several times since.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Aug 26, 6:31 am
‘Very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at Kabul airport, UK minister warns

U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey warned Thursday morning that there was “very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at the main international airport in Kabul, possibly within hours.

“There is now very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack and hence why the Foreign Office advice was changed last night,” Heappey said in interviews with BBC News. “The credibility of the reporting has now reached the stage where we believe that there is a very imminent, highly lethal attack possible within Kabul.”

As thousands race to evacuate Taliban-ruled Afghanistan before the Aug. 31 deadline for the United States to totally withdraw its troops, Heappey acknowledged that people are “desperate” and “there is an appetite by many in the queue to take their chances, but the reporting of this threat is very credible indeed and there is a real imminence to it.”

“There is every chance that as further reporting comes in, we may be able to change the advice again and process people anew but there’s no guarantee of that,” he added.

When asked in an interview with Sky News whether an attack could occur in the next few hours, Heappey replied: “Yes.”

The U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office released new guidance on Wednesday night telling people not to travel to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

“There is an ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack,” the office said. “If you are in the area of the airport, move away to a safe location and await further advice.”

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a security alert warning of “security threats outside the gates of Kabul Airport” and advising Americans “to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates,” unless they “receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.”

“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” the embassy said.

Aug 25, 8:05 pm
US Embassy alert tells people to avoid airport, leave certain gates immediately

The U.S. embassy in Kabul issued another alert, but this one with an urgent warning.

“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” it said.

The alert says U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid the airport gates “unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so” — the same instructions they have given in recent days.

In a statement later Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson said, “As a general rule, we do not speak to intelligence, but this is a dynamic and volatile security situation on the ground. We take seriously the priority we attach to the safety and security of American citizens.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

The Taliban inherited a vast American-made arsenal after retaking Afghanistan

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock

(WASHINGTON) — The Taliban wrested control of more than just territory from Afghan forces as it tore through Afghanistan this month. By the time the militant group toppled Kabul on Aug. 14, images had emerged showing its fighters holding American-made rifles and posing next to Blackhawk helicopters.

Pentagon officials have told ABC News they don’t have a clear idea of just how much U.S.-made equipment is now in the hands of the Taliban, but government reports give clues to what the group could now have in its arsenal.

Since 2005, the U.S. has spent a total of about $80 billion on Afghan troops and police through the congressional Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, the main source of such money. More than $18 billion went specifically to “equipment and transportation,” according to a July report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.

The rest of the money went toward sustainment, training, operations and infrastructure.

The weapons given to Afghan forces between 2004-2016 included more than 25,000 grenade launchers, nearly 65,000 machine guns and about 360,000 rifles, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. The firearms consisted of U.S. service rifles like the M16 and M4 as well as some Russian-designed AK-47s and Dragunov sniper rifles.

Thousands of indirect-fire weapons such as mortars and 122mm howitzers were also given to the Afghans.

“We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters last week.

In addition to conventional weapons, the U.S. gave the Afghans a large fleet of air and ground vehicles.

ABC News Senior Foreign Correspondent Ian Pannell, who was in Kabul as the Taliban took over the city, reported seeing Taliban militants driving Humvees. This is perhaps not surprising when considering the defeated Afghan security forces were given some 22,000 Humvees during the course of the war, according to the GAO report.

Add to that 42,000 Ford Ranger pick-up trucks and about 1,000 MRAPs, the large, heavy vehicles used to protect troops against roadside bombs.

For air operations, the U.S. provided the Afghan air force with 40 scout/attack MD-530 “little bird” helicopters, more than 30 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and 23 A-29 Super Tucano propeller attack planes.

Not all of these were left for the Taliban. In a rare public appearance last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “I have received reports of a number of aircraft that were flown into Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.”

Videos have shown Taliban fighters posing by some of these aircraft, but a new Taliban air force is not likely to emerge, according to former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and ABC News contributor Steve Ganyard.

“The U.S. airplanes, they won’t be able to maintain — they’ll likely sell them for cash,” he said. “It’s the ground equipment they’ll use.”

Keeping advanced aircraft in flying condition takes serious maintenance ability and mechanical expertise — something the Afghan air force itself struggled with, even with American assistance.

While much U.S.-made materiel is now under Taliban control, it’s possible the military will try to remove some of it from the equation sometime after the expected Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline, according to Ganyard.

“The U.S. will have the option of bombing the storage areas and destroying equipment once the airlift of American citizens is complete,” he said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.