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US Allies Halt Evacuations From Kabul Airport Over Another “Imminent” ISIS Threat

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

Once again, the US, UK and France are warning that ISIS might carry out an attack – perhaps a suicide bombing – at the Kabul airport to target crowds of departing westerners, and have thus halted evacuations once again on Thursday. This is particularly troubling news for more than 1,000 Americans who have yet to be evacuated, as well as the thousands of Afghans with special immigrant visas who will likely be left behind to face the wrath of the Taliban.

According to the NYT, several European nations announced on Thursday that they planned to halt their evacuations from Kabul airport following reports of the ISIS threat, despite the looming Aug. 31 deadline (which the Taliban have insisted must be met or the west will face "consequences). President Biden has reportedly been briefed on the matter.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark all said they would no longer be able to facilitate airlifts from the Hamid Karzai International Airport, which continues to be surrounded by crowds of thousands of desperate Afghans (and foreigners) struggling to get through. The US embassy warned Americans on Wednesday to "leave immediately," and stay away from the airport.

The UK and Australia issued similar warnings, with Australians describing an "ongoing and very high threat of terrorist attack".

The warnings came as the last of the estimated 1.5K Americans and countless other foreigners still in Afghanistan scramble to board the last flights out of the country before the US withdrawal is officially complete on Aug. 31. Thousands of Afghan nationals are camped outside the perimeter of the airport in desperate attempts to escape on the last flights out, some with the special visas allowing them to leave.

Then again, we can't help but wonder: is this "threat" actually credible? Or merely an excuse for Biden & Co. when they inevitably fail to get everybody out in time.

A senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about confidential assessments, told the NYT that the US is monitoring a "specific" and "credible" ISIS threat. Apparently, ISIS has carried out dozens of attacks in Afghanistan in recent years (and a regional ISIS leader was one of the few prisoners executed by the Taliban following their takeover).

British armed forces minister James Heappey told the BBC radio that intelligence of a suicide bombing by ISIS had become "much firmer" since the weekend.

"I can't stress the desperation of the situation enough. The threat is credible, it is imminent, it is lethal. We wouldn't be saying this if we weren't genuinely concerned about offering Islamic State a target that is just unimaginable," Heappey said.

Australia also issued a warning for people to stay away from the airport while Belgium ended its evacuation operations because of the danger of attack. The Dutch government also issued a warning and said it expected to carry out its last evacuation flight on Thursday, leaving behind some who are eligible to travel to the Netherlands.

But despite the warnings, a Western diplomat in Kabul told Reuters that the areas outside the airport gates remained "incredibly crowded".

Even the Taliban are reportedly worried about the prospect of an ISIS attack.

"Our guards are also risking their lives at Kabul airport, they face a threat too from the Islamic State group," said a Taliban official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Civil aviation official Ahmedullah Rafiqzai told Reuters that people continued to crowd around the gates despite the attack warnings because "[p]eople don't want to move, it's their determination to leave this country that they are not scared to even die."

An attack would put the remaining western forces in Afghanistan in a difficult position, since they're not exactly prepared to attack or defend anything, or anyone.

"Western forces, under no circumstances, want to be in a position to launch an offensive or a defensive attack against anyone," the diplomat added.

11 days have passed since the Taliban swept into Kabul, and in that time, the US and its allies have mounted one of the biggest air evacuations in history, bringing out more than 88K people, including 19K on Tuesday alone, out of the country. The American military says planes are taking off roughly every 39 minutes on average.

And as the evacuation winds down, western reporters have continued to report on rumors out of Panjshir, a mountainous district not far from Kabul where the last remnants of Taliban opposition have gathered. The Taliban claim their fighters are working on getting the situation under control, but on Thursday, the Huffington Post published a story about the "National Resistance Front" - a group made up of former Afghan National forces hiding out in the mountains.

At least 1,000 displaced people are currently hiding in the area. But it's not clear how many soldiers are there to actually fight the Taliban, which already has 75K fighters.

The resistance is reportedly being led by Ahmad Massoud, son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, the famous guerrilla commander who helped fight off the Soviets.

Massoud is so brazen, he published an op-ed in the Washington Post last week calling for aid to the mujahideen resisting the Taliban.

Of course, Americans of a certain age likely remember how well arming the last two rounds of anti-government resistance fighters worked out for the US.

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