Suicide bomb threats hung over the final phase of the US military’s airlift operation from Kabul Sunday, with President Joe Biden warning another attack was highly likely before the evacuations end.
More than 112,000 people have fled Afghanistan via the massive US-led airlift since the Taliban movement swept back into power a fortnight ago, and the operation is winding down despite Western powers saying thousands may be left behind.
What had already been a chaotic and desperate evacuation turned bloody on Thursday when a suicide bomber from the local chapter of the Islamic State group targeted US troops stopping huge crowds of people from entering the airport.
More than 100 people died in the attack, including 13 US service personnel, slowing down the airlifts ahead of Biden’s deadline for evacuations to end by Tuesday.
– Unthinkable co-operation – The IS attack has forced the US military and the Taliban into a form of cooperation to ensure security at the airport that was unthinkable a fortnight ago.
On Saturday Taliban fighters escorted a steady stream of Afghans from buses to the main passenger terminal, handing them over to US troops for evacuation.
The troops were seen throughout the civilian side of the airport grounds and annexe buildings, while US Marines peered at them from the passenger terminal roof.
Also in view of the US troops were the Taliban’s “Badri” special forces in American Humvees gifted to the now-vanquished Afghan army.
Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi tweeted that the group’s fighters had already moved into parts of the military side of the airport, but the Pentagon stressed that US forces retained control over the gates and airlift.