The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan on Saturday warned Americans looking to evacuate not to head to Kabul airport unless directed to do so, citing “potential security threats.”
“Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so,” read a security alert from the embassy.
The alert came one day after President Biden claimed that the U.S. had not received reports of American citizens being unable to enter Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
“We have no indication that they haven’t been able to get in Kabul through the airport,” Biden said at the press conference. “We know of no circumstance where American citizens who are carrying an American passport are trying to get through to the airport” unsuccessfully.
Despite reporting from multiple outlets that some American citizens and Special Immigrant Visa applicants have been beaten by Taliban militants while attempting to get into the airport, Biden said the U.S. had made an agreement with the Taliban and “thus far, they’ve allowed them to go through.”
However, just hours after Biden’s remarks at the White House on Friday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin acknowledged that some Americans trying to evacuate have been beaten by Taliban militants, according to Politico.
“We’re . . . aware that some people including Americans have been harassed and even beaten by the Taliban,” Austin reportedly told House lawmakers during a briefing, Politico reported. “This is unacceptable and [we] made it clear to the designated Taliban leader.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby also said that the U.S. was aware of reports of beatings. “We’re certainly mindful of these reports and we’ve communicated to the Taliban that that’s absolutely unacceptable and we want free passage through these checkpoints for documented Americans,” Kirby told reporters. “By and large, that’s happening.”
Roughly 13,000 people have been evacuated since August 14, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Friday. He added that the military had evacuated 5,700 people within the last 24 hours.
The U.S. military has looked to ramp up operations in recent days to be able to evacuate between 5,000 to 9,000 passengers each day. Biden on Friday promised to evacuate all Americans and Afghan civilians who assisted the U.S. during the 20-year war, though he warned that the evacuation mission is “dangerous.”
“It involves risks to our armed forces and it’s being conducted under difficult circumstances,” Biden said. “I cannot promise what the final outcome will be or . . . that it will be without risk of loss. But as commander in chief, I can assure you that I will mobilize every resource necessary.”