Following the successful Friday night announcement of the drone attack on an 'ISIS-K planner' who was plotting 'future attacks' on US forces in Kabul, according to the Pentagon announcement, defense officials followed up on Saturday by confirming the American troops guarding Kabul international airport have begun to be flown out. President Biden has also as of Saturday afternoon issued a statement telling the US public to brace for the likelihood of more attacks to come:
"The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high. Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours. I directed them to take every possible measure to prioritize force protection," Biden said in a statement posted to WhiteHouse.gov.
Regarding that prior strike on 'high-profile' ISIS planners, the operation appeared but the Biden administration's symbolic attempt to claim some level of "revenge" - despite it being anything but clear at this point that the targets were actually "ISIS-K" (or some other terrorist or jihadist group), or whether those struck had anything to do with planning the deadly airport attack. Regardless, it seems some level of minimal 'vengeance' was declared, and now it's official: US forces have begun the pullout.
"US troops have begun their withdrawal from Kabul airport, the Pentagon said on Saturday, following a two-week scramble by Washington and its allies to fly out their nationals and Afghans at risk of reprisals under Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers," Reuters reports.
The US will attempt to pull the multiple thousands of troops and supporting US personnel - including State Department staff who were the last to man the relocated temporary embassy - by Tuesday. If not, it's likely all hell will break loose... even more so than what's already happened.
A mere three days from deadline, US officials are now warning we're entering the 'highest risk' moment for the evacuation and pullout operation.
"American officials also warned of a high risk of further attacks by the group - enemies of both the West and the Taliban - as it winds up its mission," Reuters continues, following the Thursday suicide bombing which was by far the most lethal single attack incident on Americans in Afghanistan in a decade.
Meanwhile it appears the security situation at the perimeter of the airport is worsening, as the Taliban is taking increased control of some sectors, along with reports of a deal for Turkish and Qatari troops to maintain a security presence...
•Kabul Airport gates are almost sealed. Zero access to Afghan visa/permit holders since yesterday.— Nafiseh Kohnavard (@nafisehkBBC) August 28, 2021
•Aid groups are now looking for road travel options for the evacuation which is not safe. Lots of Taliban checkpoints.
•Reports of Taliban shooting randomly into the crowds.
JUST IN - Turkey and Qatar will jointly operate the #Kabul airport, according to a draft deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan, two sources familiar with the issue told Middle East Eye (MEE)— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) August 28, 2021
Middle East Eye is the first to report on the deal Saturday, said to still be in the final phases:
Turkey and Qatar will jointly operate the Kabul international airport, with Ankara providing security through a private firm, according to a draft deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan, two sources familiar with the issue told Middle East Eye (MEE) on Saturday.
The draft deal will be finalized after the US withdrawal is completed next week.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan still needs to approve the deal. He is expected to hold consultations on the matter with his Nato allies, chiefly the United States.
Despite the coalition of Western troops, including the British forces also targeted in the prior blast, now constantly warning people not to congregate at the heavily fortified airport entrances, footage on Friday showed that throngs continued to crush against the entrance areas, with thousands of Afghans still clinging to desperate hopes of catching a final airlift out of the country and outside the reach of the Taliban.