WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The security situation at the Afghan capital’s airport is changing rapidly, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said on Sunday, and there were reports of shootings as the U.S. military witnessed the evacuation of American personnel.
“There were reports of a fire at the airport, so we have ordered American citizens to take cover immediately,” the embassy said in a security note.
A source familiar with the situation could not confirm the news of the fire.
Foreign Minister Anthony Brinken said on Sunday that as Taliban insurgents entered Kabul, embassy staff had left the diplomatic compound and moved to the airport.
Diplomats are flown to the airport by helicopter, where the US military provides security, while Americans and their local and other foreign allies are evacuating.
Brinken insisted that the situation in the Afghan capital was “clearly not Saigon”.
A senior Interior Ministry official told Reuters that Taliban fighters had arrived in Kabul “from all directions” and sporadic gunshots were reported across the city.
Sources told Reuters that most American employees are expected to be evacuated from Kabul within the next day or two.
“We are working very hard to ensure the safety of our employees. We are transporting men and women from the embassy to the airport location,” Brinken told ABC News.
When asked if the evacuation was reminiscent of the US withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, he said, “Let’s take a step back. This is clearly not Saigon.”
A NATO official said the organization maintains a diplomatic presence in Kabul and helps keep the airport operating.
France, Germany and the Netherlands are members of NATO and said on Sunday they would move diplomats from their embassies.
A US intelligence assessment earlier this week said Kabul could be besieged within 30 days and could fall into Taliban hands within 90 days, but the militants had occupied most major areas of Afghanistan in less than a week. Capital Sunday.
About 4,200 people remained at the US embassy until Thursday, when the rapid rise of the Taliban forced the Biden government to send thousands of soldiers to help withdraw many of the remaining diplomats.
The US State Department insisted that the embassy would not be closed, but sources said on Sunday that nearly all US personnel would be evacuated from the country within a day or two.
US officials said they are studying whether they need more troops to help with the evacuation, but added that capacity will become an issue for the airport at some point. About 5,000 soldiers have been allowed in, but 3,000 more are waiting in Kuwait.
Blinken told CNN that Washington has invested billions of dollars in the four US governments for Afghan government forces, which gives them an advantage over the Taliban, but it cannot defend the country against attacks by militants.
“This happened faster than we expected,” Brinken said.
Brinken said that the original mission of the United States in Afghanistan was to expel al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attack, the task had been completed and that Washington had prevented the Taliban from favoring Taliban-defended militants.
But US President Joe Biden is facing growing domestic criticism after sticking to the exit plan approved by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
Republican Congressman Michael McCaul said on Sunday that taking control of the Taliban would once again endanger the United States.
We’ll be back in the country before 9/11. He told CNN that the outbreak of terrorism.
Chuck Schumer, the US Senate Majority Leader and Democrat like Biden, said Washington’s first priority should be to safely leave Americans and Afghans who support the United States.
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