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IS threat forces US changes to evacuations at Kabul airport

Posted at 2:04 PM, Aug 21, 2021

KABUL, Afghanistan — A U.S. official says potential Islamic State threats against Americans in Afghanistan are forcing the U.S. military to develop new ways to get evacuees to the airport in Kabul.

The official says small groups of Americans and possibly other civilians will be given specific instructions on what to do, including movement to transit points where they can be gathered up by the military.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.

The changes come as the U.S. Embassy issued a new security warning Saturday telling citizens not to travel to the Kabul airport without individual instruction from a U.S. government representative.

Officials declined to provide more specifics about the IS threat but described it as significant. They have noted that there have not yet been any confirmed attacks.

The Islamic State group — which has long declared a desire to attack America and U.S. interests abroad — has been active in Afghanistan for a number of years, carrying out waves of horrific attacks, mostly on the Shiite minority.

The group has been repeatedly targeted by U.S. airstrikes in recent years, as well as Taliban attacks. But officials say fragments of the group are still active in Afghanistan, and the U.S. is concerned about it reconstituting in a larger way as the country comes under divisive Taliban rule.

On Friday, President Joe Biden promised to evacuate all Americans, Afghans who have been granted special immigrant visas and others who may be in danger under Taliban rule.

In a peace agreement brokered with the Taliban, the U.S. has agreed to evacuate Afghanistan by Aug. 31. On Friday, Biden expressed a willingness to extend that deadline but noted that he believed the evacuation mission could be completed before then.