Taliban add new layers of checkpoints on roads leading to the airport, largely sealing off the area
American forces working under heightened security and threats of another attack pressed ahead in the closing days of the U.S.-led evacuation from Afghanistan after a devastating suicide bombing.
The next few days “will be our most dangerous period to date” in the evacuation, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, hours before the U.S. issued a security alert for four of the airport gates.
The U.S. evacuation of vulnerable Afghans has continued, with Major General Hank Taylor saying there were around 1,400 at the airport on Saturday who have been “screened and manifested for flights today.”
Altogether, around 1,17,000 people have been flown out of Afghanistan since August 14, the day before the Taliban seized power.
The Taliban deployed extra forces around Kabul’s airport on Saturday to prevent large crowds from gathering.
New layers of checkpoints sprang up on roads leading to the airport, some manned by uniformed Taliban fighters with Humvees and night-vision goggles captured from Afghan security forces. Areas where large crowds of people have gathered over the past two weeks in hopes of fleeing the country following the Taliban takeover were largely empty.
The death toll rose to 169 Afghans, a number that could increase as authorities examine fragmented remains, and 13 U.S. service members.
Many Western nations have already completed their evacuation operations ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces.
An Afghan who had worked as a translator for the U.S. military said he was with a group of people with permission to leave who tried to reach the airport late Friday. After passing through three checkpoints they were stopped at a fourth. An argument ensued, and the Taliban said they had been told by the Americans to only let U.S. passport-holders through.
Sense of hopelessness
“I am so hopeless for my future,” the man told The Associated Press after returning to Kabul, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns. “If the evacuation is over, what will happen to us?”
Britain’s Defence Ministry said the final flight for Afghan citizens had left Kabul and further flights over the weekend will bring home British troops and diplomats, though they may also carry a few remaining U.K. or Afghan civilians.
Britain’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow, said in a video from Kabul airport that it was “time to close this phase of the operation now.”
“But we haven’t forgotten the people who still need to leave,” he said. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to help them.”
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