Home News Terrorists could try to exploit Afghan evacuations: US, UK officials

Terrorists could try to exploit Afghan evacuations: US, UK officials

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Fears are mounting in the US and UK that ISIS terrorists could try to exploit the chaotic Afghanistan evacuations by targeting troops in Kabul or by boarding flights to carry out violent attacks in other countries.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned on Monday that ISIS posed a “serious threat” to US troops trying to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghans from Kabul’s airport.

“What is present in Afghanistan right now to our forces at the airport is a serious threat from ISIS-K that we’re trying to deal with,” he said at a White House press briefing.

Sullivan described the ISIS threat as “real, acute and persistent” in a CNN interview a day earlier, adding that “it is something that we are focused on with every tool in our arsenal.”

The UK’s top defense official James Heappey issued a similar warning just hours earlier on Monday, saying there could be suicide bombers near the airport and that terrorists had already tried to use the ongoing chaos in Kabul to board British rescue flights.

Taliban fighters in a vehicle patrol the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned on Monday that ISIS posed a “serious threat” to US troops trying to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghans from Kabul’s airport.
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

Heappey told BBC Radio 4 that a number of people on the UK’s terrorist “no fly list” had tried to board Royal Air Force flights in the last week amid the evacuations.

“The checks that are being done are entirely necessary because there are people trying to take advantage of this process to get into the UK to cause us harm,” he said.

“There is a real threat that our troops are facing and we have to therefore execute this as a military mission, at the same time as being as humane as possible.”

US and UK troops are evacuating citizens and Afghans out of the same area in Kabul’s airport.

The UK defense official’s warning was similar to the one issued by President Biden a day earlier in which he said the security environment on the ground was changing rapidly.

Evacuees from Kabul sit inside a military aircraft.
Biden said Sunday the US had made some changes on the ground in relation to evacuations but declined to give details due to security concerns.
Bundeswehr via Getty Images

“We know that terrorists may seek to exploit the situation and target innocent Afghans or American troops,” Biden said.

“They’re maintaining constant vigilance — we’re maintaining constant vigilance … to monitor and disrupt threats from any source, including the likely source being ISIS, ISIS-K, the Afghan affiliate.

“We’re under no illusions about the threat.”

Officials in both the US and UK have not revealed specific terror threats they are aware of in relation to Kabul airport.

The commander-in-chief said Sunday the US had made some changes on the ground in relation to evacuations but declined to give details due to security concerns.

“Every day we have troops on the ground, these troops and innocent civilians at the airport face the risk of attack from ISIS-K from a distance, even though we’re moving back the perimeter significantly,” he said.
 
“We’re working hard and as fast as we can to get people out. That’s our mission. That’s our goal.”

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