Two explosions hit the outskirts of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, where Afghans and Westerners are flocking to seek a place in the US-led evacuation under the Taliban.
According to Reuters, the radical group said there were at least 13 dead, including children, in the apparent suicide bombing, but US officials said the number could be even higher.
The attacks this Thursday morning (26 GMT) come after the White House and its allies warned of imminent risks of terrorist acts by the Afghan branch of ISIS, opposing the Taliban, which impacted the process parental withdrawal.
US officials told the Associated Press that they believed the terrorist group was responsible for what the Pentagon described as a “complex attack.”
There were two explosions: one at the main entrance to the airport, Abbey Gate, and another near the Baron Hotel, near the terminal, according to the Pentagon.
At least 60 injured were treated in a hospital in Kabul. Afghan civilians, Taliban soldiers and five US servicemen are among those affected – one of the US soldiers was seriously injured, US officials say. The country’s embassy in Kabul also reported gunfire.
The perception that the West is rushing to play down its fiasco in Afghanistan, as evidenced by the decision of some countries to suspend evacuation flights on Thursday, has spawned a new stampede of desperate people around the airport in the capital.
According to reports from Western diplomats who remain in the city to news agencies, the flow that had been contained by the Taliban blockades has increased dramatically. The deadline for action with a foreign military presence is next Tuesday (31).
Americans and Westerners alike have said there is a terrorist threat associated with Islamic State Khorasan, the Afghan branch of the notorious extremist group that has dominated large areas of Syria and Iraq in the middle of the last decade. . “I cannot be more emphatic about the desperation of the situation. The threat is real, imminent, deadly,” said British Secretary of State for the Armed Forces James Heappey, corroborating a Wednesday night account by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken responsible for the country situation. diplomacy.
Australia has issued a similar security alert, suspending operations.
The explosions crowned the Western fiasco in his Afghan retreat. It all started with President Joe Biden’s decision to speed up the departure of his troops. By the time the Taliban began their final offensive in early August, 95% of the Western military had already left the occupied country since 2001 – when the Taliban were overthrown for supporting al-Qaeda, which committed 9/11.
First, the United States did not anticipate the fall of the Afghan government in two weeks, with the Taliban victory on August 15. Then they failed to organize an orderly exit from the country, generating scenes such as people falling from planes on take-off. This debacle was accompanied by a change in tone from Biden. First of all, the American painted a rational and rosy scenario. Then he washed his hands. In the end, he returned to worry, stressing that “a lot of things could go wrong.” It’s finish.
The presumed paternity of EI has nuances. If, on the one hand, it helps the Taliban rhetoric that it will not allow the evacuation operation to pass the deadline, on the other, it goes against everything the group has preached. to try to gain international recognition.
That the Taliban lie is their story: they first came to power in 1996 promising the same stability and the same guarantees to adversaries, women and minorities. They left him the reputation of medieval butcher.
But the Afghan Islamic State is an adversary of the Taliban. Taliban guards, in turn affiliated with the allied terrorist network Haqqani, told Reuters reporters they also feared an attack in Kabul. So far, EI has never shown itself to be a constant opponent of the group.
It can, of course, become an asymmetric destabilizing force, but terrorism analysts are more likely to rate the likelihood of them joining the Taliban than to fight them.
A credible alternative is for the group to use the EI scarecrow to drive out Westerners altogether, as agents ensuring plausible denials of radicalism.
In any case, the danger helps justify Biden’s decision not to confront the Taliban and to extend the duration of the operation, as the UK, Germany and France wished.
Thursday, the effort of the countries of Northern Europe commanded by an airlift from Belgium had already been suspended, probably definitively.
Belgian C-130 Hercules freighters made an average of five round-trip flights to Islamabad, Pakistan. In six days, they removed 1,400 people from Kabul, on behalf of Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark.
In total, the military operation has already evacuated an impressive 95,700 people from the city since August 14, as the White House reported on Thursday. The figure gives a little more than 2% of the population of the capital.
On Wednesday, Blinken said the Taliban had pledged to allow those wishing to leave the country on commercial, Western or Afghan flights to do so after the 31st.
This seems doubtful, given the earlier statements of Zabihullah Mujahid. The Afghan spokesman had told the United States to stop encouraging the exodus of skilled Afghans because the new government would need them.
In addition, Taliban violence against people trying to get to the airport is reported, in addition to house-to-house searches of former Western collaborators. There is of course no figure, but it is likely that hundreds of interpreters and assistants were left behind – the United States alone had 18,000 people who had worked over the years at the Kabul Embassy.
With the final race to flee the capital, the United States began to withdraw even its 6,000 troops sent for the operation at the airport. With that, allies like France, Holland and Canada declared that their evacuation ends until Friday (27). After Thursday’s explosions, French President Emmanuel Macron said the country would still withdraw “hundreds more” of people from the country.