Kabul, SAEDNEWS: The latest alert underscores the persisting security issues facing Americans and others as they seek to evacuate Afghanistan following the Taliban's takeover, The Hill reported.
“Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising US citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a US government representative to do so,” the alert stated.
The State Department has repeatedly told Americans not to come to the airport unless the embassy contacts them.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers on a call Friday afternoon that he was “aware” that Afghans and Americans who were trying to make their way to the airport in Kabul “have been harassed or even beaten by the Taliban”.
Austin's remarks contrasted with President Joe Biden's comments earlier Friday at the White House when he claimed “where we have seen challenges for Americans we have thus far been able to resolve them".
"We have no indication that they haven't been able to get in Kabul through the airport," Biden asserted of Americans, despite reporting on the ground indicating chaos at Taliban checkpoints.
"We've made an agreement with the Taliban. Thus far, they've allowed them to go through," he continued.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman earlier this week also acknowledged "reports that the Taliban, contrary to their public statements and their commitments to our government, are blocking Afghans who wish to leave the country from reaching the airport".
Still, she stressed that a good number of people were able to ultimately reach the airport.
The Pentagon announced Saturday that approximately 17,000 people have been evacuated by the US from Afghanistan in the past week as the administration seeks to ramp up evacuation efforts.
Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Joint Staff stated there have been around 22,000 people total evacuated from Afghanistan since the end of July, including approximately 2,500 Americans. The majority of the evacuations have taken place since mid-August.
Biden in his speech on Friday vowed to evacuate all Americans and Afghan civilians who have helped the US during the 20-year conflict while acknowledging an unpredictable situation and certain risks amid the large-scale evacuation.
“Make no mistake, this evacuation mission is dangerous. It involves risks to our armed forces, and it's being conducted under difficult circumstances,” Biden said, adding, “I cannot promise what the final outcome will be or ... that it will be without risk of loss. But as commander in chief, I can assure you that I will mobilize every resource necessary.”
Amid efforts to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghan civilians, flights out of Kabul were paused on Friday because a processing facility in Qatar had reached capacity; however, those flights were resumed after six or seven hours.
The embassy alert Saturday followed another issued three days earlier that warned the US “cannot ensure safe passage” to the airport in Kabul.
“The security situation in Kabul continues to change quickly, including at the airport,” that alert read.
Biden noted on Friday that the US would do “everything that we can to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies, partners and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States".
Embassy staff on Saturday urged Americans and their relatives who have not filled out their repatriation assistance requests to fill out the form as quickly as possible and told US citizens not to contact the embassy about details regarding their flights.
“We will contact registered US citizens as the security situation changes to provide further instructions,” the embassy announced.
The Pentagon is reportedly looking to enlist help from major US commercial airlines in the Biden administration’s ongoing evacuation effort from Afghanistan, with thousands of American citizens and Afghan allies still waiting to board flights in Kabul.
Defense Department officials told The New York Times that the US could soon activate the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), created in 1952 following the Berlin Airlift.
Under the program, up to five airlines would provide a total of nearly 20 commercial jets to boost evacuations as the Biden administration is struggling to meet the demand from droves of people desperate to leave following the Taliban's takeover, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing information from US officials.
The commercial planes would add to the more than 150 military cargo aircraft currently in use by the Biden administration, which faces growing pressure to quickly evacuate remaining Americans and Afghan allies amid reports of growing security threats.
The Times reported that unlike the US military planes, the commercial airlines would not fly in or out of Kabul, but instead would help transport Afghan refugees who have traveled to US bases in surrounding countries, including Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Calls are growing for the US military to do more to help people get to the Kabul airport so they can flee Afghanistan now that it is under Taliban control.
As chaos continued to unfold on the streets of Kabul from people trying to make their way to the airport in recent days, administration officials stated they are keeping options open for US troops to go further out into the capital city to collect people. But for now, they are still relying on negotiations with the Taliban to allow people to get through.
Lawmakers in both parties say more needs to be done to ensure no one is left behind, with a growing chorus demanding the Biden administration allow the military to expand the perimeter at the Hamid Karzai International Airport and go into Kabul to extract US citizens (Source: FARS NEWS).