While all-white airframes aren’t supposed to attract much attention, that paint scheme is also synonymous with clandestine operations, including „whitewashed“ aircraft often used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for low-profile operations abroad. With that reality in mind, keen observers keeping an eye on traffic at Hamid Karzai International rightfully started thinking this may be some CIA asset that was slipping in on a unique mission. It turns out, that wasn’t necessarily the case.
“We coordinated very closely with the US, in particular around the Isis-K threat, which we anticipated although tragically were not able to prevent, but it is certainly right to say we got our civilians out of the processing centre by Abbey gate, but it is just not true to suggest that other than securing our civilians inside the airport that we were pushing to leave the gate open.
“In fact, and let me just be clear about this, we were issuing changes to travel advice before the bomb attack took place and saying to people in the crowd, about which I was particularly concerned, that certainly UK nationals and anyone else should leave because of the risk.”
The British Ministry of Defence declined to respond to allegations they were to blame for keeping the gate open, but said in a statement: ‚Throughout Operation Pitting we have worked closely with the US to ensure the safe evacuation of thousands of people.
The Pentagon criticised the leaking of the call details reported in Politico, telling the news website: “This story is based on the unlawful disclosure of classified information and internal deliberations of a sensitive nature.
“As soon as we became aware of the material divulged to the reporter, we engaged Politico at the highest levels to prevent the publication of information that would put our troops and our operations at the airport at greater risk. We condemn the unlawful disclosure of classified information and oppose the publication of a story based on it while a dangerous operation is ongoing.”
Commanders calling in from Kabul relayed that the Abbey Gate, where American citizens had been told to gather in order to gain entrance to the airport, was “highest risk,” and detailed their plans to protect the airport.
“I don’t believe people get the incredible amount of risk on the ground,” Austin said, according to the classified notes.
On a separate call at 4 that afternoon, or 12:30 a.m. on Thursday in Kabul, the commanders detailed a plan to close Abbey Gate by Thursday afternoon Kabul time. But the Americans decided to keep the gate open longer than they wanted in order to allow their British allies, who had accelerated their withdrawal timeline, to continue evacuating their personnel, based at the nearby Baron Hotel.
President Joe Biden has decided, in consultation with his national security team, to stick with the August 31 deadline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, according to a senior administration official.
It’s not clear who started the fighting and German officials said the three Afghans were hurt by „unknown attackers“.
The Afghan forces are thought to be part of an army contingent who have been helping international forces, having refused to surrender to the Taliban.
Our first priority in Kabul is getting American citizens out of the country as quickly and as safely as possible. At my direction, the State Department continues to reach out to the remaining Americans we have identified by phone, e-mail, and other means to ascertain their whereabouts and their plans.
We’re executing a plan to move groups of these Americans to safety and to safely and effectively move them to the airport compound.
For security reasons, I’m not going to go into the detail of what these plans entail, but I will say again today that I have said before: Any American who wants to get home will get home.
We’ve also been evacuating the citizens of our NATO Allies and our partners, including their diplomats, their embassy staff who remain in Afghanistan and to get them back to their homes as well.
And as we do this, we’re also working to move our Afghan allies, who stood with us side by side, and other vulnerable Afghans such as women leaders and journalists, out of the country.
In recent days, the Qatari ambassador to Afghanistan has escorted small groups of Americans into the airport, according to two people familiar with the effort who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation. American citizens have been instructed to meet at rally points in the city, and the ambassador then accompanies them to guarantee safe passage, these people said. Qatar has served as an intermediary between the United States and the Taliban at several stages of the American withdrawal, sponsoring peace talks and serving as the first point of refuge for many evacuees.
Biden outlined how Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants who assisted the U.S. military are being transported from Kabul to transit centers in Qatar, Germany, Kuwait, and Spain so they can complete their paperwork and undergo background checks.
The US Embassy said on Saturday that American citizens in Afghanistan should stay away from Kabul’s airport, the only way out, “because of potential security threats outside the gates.”
The advisory directly contradicted President Biden’s insistence on Friday that Americans could proceed to the airport freely.
The Genius Media Nigeria reports that a security alert on Saturday told US citizens to stay away due to possible “security threats outside the gates”.
A new threat from the Islamic State’s (ISIS) branch in Afghanistan prompted a new warning from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that urged Americans to not come to the besieged airport in Kabul, officials confirmed to Fox News on Saturday.
The development directly contradicts President Biden’s insistence Friday that Americans could proceed to the airport freely from the Afghan capital and that an “agreement” with the Taliban had been reached over the issue.
„I didn’t hear a single thing that would give comfort to the very allies you spoke about. I’ve heard from people in the region. They are frightened by the American collapse—the American collapse of temerity and strength and power that we demonstrated for four years that had frankly kept the Taliban at bay and prevented precisely what you’re precisely seeing happen today, and I didn’t hear a single thing that would frighten a single Taliban who thinks there’s any risk that this administration would impose any cost on them for their activities, for what they are doing to Americans today and holding them hostage—not permitting them to get into the airport in Kabul so that we can get them home to their families. „
Now, Justin Sink of Bloomberg.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You just said that you would keep a laser-focus on counterterrorism efforts and that you don’t see as great of a threat of terrorism from Afghanistan as other parts of the world. But if you and your administration so badly misassessed how quickly the Taliban would sweep through Afghanistan and we no longer have an embassy there from which to run intelligence operations, how can you at all be confident of your assessment of the risk of terrorism and the ability of the U.S. to conduct over-the-horizon missions to keep it in check? Can you tell Americans that they’re safe and will remain safe from terror attacks in Afghanistan?
THE PRESIDENT: I think you’re comparing apples and oranges. One question was whether or not the Afghan forces we trained up would stay and fight in their own civil war they had going on.
No one — I shouldn’t say “no one” — the consensus was that it was highly unlikely that in 11 days they’d collapse and fall, and the leader of Afghanistan would flee the country.
The President is scheduled to speak to the nation at 1 p.m. ET from the East Room of the White House. His remarks will be broadcast live on television and online on C-Span, as well as on the White House’s YouTube channel.
He said: „The UK Government’s overriding priority has been to secure Kabul airport so that flights can leave.
„The call was delegated to a Minister of State because I was prioritising security and capacity at the airport on the direct advice of the Director and the Director General overseeing the crisis response.
„In any event, the Afghan Foreign Minister agreed to take the call, but was unable to because of the rapidly deteriorating situation.“
It has been reported that help for interpreters who supported British troops was delayed because Mr Raab was “unavailable” to make a call to call Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar on Friday.
Mr Raab reportedly delegated the call to a junior minister.
On Tuesday, Kaag told NOS broadcaster that although a Dutch military plane was able to land, the short turnaround time at the airport controlled by American troops meant that they were unable to board. ‘There was a half-hour slot to get people on the tarmac,’ she said. ‘Lots of people were there, and at the airport gates, with their families. I think it is awful.’ She had called for the 6,000 American troops, who have been sent back into Afghanistan after their withdrawal, to allow people more time for boarding.
The Biden administration has been considering using third countries to process the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and on Thursday the Pentagon announced it would send around 1,000 troops to Qatar in the coming days to facilitate the processing. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke with his Qatari counterpart on Thursday and the State Department said he thanked Qatar for supporting „U.S. efforts to provide safety and security to Afghan nationals.“
– Pentagon spokesman John Kirby insisted Monday that the Kabul airport chaos earlier in the day did not constitute a failure
– American troops killed two armed Afghan nationals on the airfield who had stormed to try to get on planes
– Three fell to their deaths after climbing onto the fuselage of a C-17 jet in the desperate hope of holding on as the plane took off
– The bloodied bodies of another three Afghan nationals were left on the runway after the plane took off
In another video, hundreds of people could be seen running alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it moved down a runway. Some clung to the side of the jet just before takeoff. Another video showed several falling through the air as the airplane rapidly gained altitude over the city.
Senior military officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing operation, told The Associated Press that the chaos left seven dead, including several who fell from the flight.
The British government vowed to evacuate hundreds of Britons and eligible Afghan nationals but their efforts have been suspended due to crowds of people invading the runway.
– Helicopter – believed to be US Air Force Chinook – seen flying over Kabul today from the US Embassy in Kabul
– It comes as Taliban closes in on the Afghan capital with shots heard on outskirts before fighters stormed city
– Around 3,000 US troops have been sent into city to aid with US evacuation, while British troops also deployed
– It is believed around 500 British staff needed to be evacuated and by Saturday the number was in ‚the tens‘
Taliban fighters entered the outskirts of the Afghan capital on Sunday and said they were awaiting a „peaceful transfer“ of the city after promising not to take it by force, but panicked residents raced to the leave, with workers fleeing government offices and helicopters landing at the U.S. Embassy.
The evacuation from Mazar-e-Sharif, the bustling city in the north which is situated close to the border with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, comes after Indian diplomats and staff left the Kandahar consulate last month.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: „Protecting British nationals and ensuring their safety as they leave Afghanistan is our top priority.
„Over the next few weeks, we shall all do our very best to support the Afghan government and those that have worked with us over 20 years.“
The memo to U.S. Embassy staff urged diplomats to destroy computers and other sensitive documents before they leave, as well as items featuring the American flag, embassy logos and other articles that „could be misused in propaganda efforts,“ according to CNN.
A State Department spokesperson said the notice was part of its „standard operating procedure“ for embassy drawdowns.
“We are evaluating all available options. We have no announcements to make on third country relocation sites for Afghan SIV applicants,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill in a statement, referring to special immigrant visas.
The Biden administration said Thursday there would be 1,000 U.S. troops going to Qatar to help process applications from Afghans already in the country. The Afghans are seeking visas to the U.S. for assisting the U.S. during the war.
NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said Saturday is likely to bring conditions more dangerous than New Year’s Eve, when bushfires left seven dead and thousands in peril.
„There’ll be real challenges and very real risks associated with what’s being forecast and predicted for fire spread under the sorts of weather conditions we’re expecting as we head into Saturday,“ he said.
Two officials familiar with the plans said Thursday that the U.S., Britain and Canada are spearheading the evacuation that would transport members of the White Helmets group to transit camps in neighboring countries. From there, they will be sent to third countries, including Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and possibly Canada, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
Syrian militants and their family members are leaving the Rastan area, in northern countryside of Homs province on Monday, May 7, as part of an evacuation deal struck with the Syrian government that will grant them safe passage to the northwestern Idlib province.
Reports have begun to emerge from Syrian state media (SANA) claiming that over one thousand rebel fighters are preparing to evacuate the city of Ad-Dumayr in northeastern Damascus province.
The militants are noted to all belong to the Jaysh al-Islam faction – a group which has seen its forces recently ejected from other areas east of the Syrian capital.
The 18th convoy carrying civilians and opposition fighters from the city of Douma in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta arrived in Aleppo’s Al-Bab district on April 11, according to state-run Anadolu Agency correspondents on the ground.
Buses evacuating fighters out of the Syrian town of Douma departed the area through the al-Wafedin checkpoint, near Eastern Ghouta, Tuesday. Footage shows the buses as they arrived and passed through al-Wafedin. They are reportedly then set to continue to Jarablus, in the north of Syria.
A hardline Islamist faction scuppered an evacuation deal for the besieged Damascus suburb of Douma just before it was hit with chemical weapons, The Times has learnt.
The Army of Islam, a band of Damascus-based extremist rebels, refused to hand over heavy weapons, a key element of an evacuation deal that would have resulted in elderly residents staying in their homes and young men of fighting age walking free.
Live picture from the Al-Wafideen corridor in East Ghouta on Monday, April 2, as evacuations ensue. The Russian Centre for the Reconciliation of Warring Parties in Syria reported that more than 153,000 people have been evacuated from Eastern Ghouta since the beginning of the humanitarian break.
(25.3.2018) Listen to this interview with a „rebel“ fighter evacuated from Ghouta towards Idlib as part of an agreement with the Syrian Government
Militants from Jaysh al-Islam have agreed to leave the enclave of eastern Ghouta near Damascus, Syria. They will have to clear barricades and provide maps of minefields they had laid in the area.