Signifying the grave situation in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US and NATO forces, the US Embassy in the country has urged American citizens to leave the country immediately. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has issued a security alert to US citizens living in Afghanistan, urging them to leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options. The alert came amid fears that the airports in the country will have to be shut down as the Taliban captures one city after another.
The US Embassy also said that if some Americans can’t afford to purchase an air ticket, they can approach the US govt for a repatriation loan. They also said that if some US citizens are waiting for an immigrant visa for their spouse or minor child, they such people can contact the embassy.
However, the embassy said that its ability to assist US citizens is limited at this time due to the situation. “Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul,” the statement issued by the embassy on its website said.
The statement added that the travel advisory for Afghanistan remains Level 4- Do Not Travel, due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict, and COVID-19. It said that Domestic flights and ground transportation routes outside of Kabul are severely limited and subject to cancellation or closure.
The Embassy also reminded that the Department of State had already ordered those employees from U.S. Embassy Kabul whose functions can be performed elsewhere due to increasing violence and threat reports in Kabul.
The embassy has also asked the US citizens in Afghanistan to enrol in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security updates and ensure the Embassy can contact them in an emergency. If the US govt organises official evacuation flights in future, the govt will inform the citizens who have registered in the STEP database. However, the embassy asked the citizens not to wait for and rely on such evacuations, and urged them to leave the country immediately using commercial transportation.
This is the second alert issued by the US embassy in Kabul in a week, as it had already issued such an alert on August 7. The first alert had also asked the US citizens to leave the country immediately using available commercial transportation, and not to wait for government assistance.
The alerts come amid the rapid gains made by the Taliban in the war-torn country. The group has captured around a dozen provincial capitals and now control more than two-thirds of the country. It is estimated by US intelligence that it will take just 30 more days to isolate capital Kabul and 90 days to completely capture it for the Taliban.
As the US Embassy continues to urge its citizens to leave Afghanistan, the embassy of the USA and several countries themselves are preparing to leave the country. According to reports, the US and other western military allies have already begun preparing for the emergency evacuation of embassies in Afghanistan, in the event Kabul is threatened by the Taliban.
While most embassies are reducing the number of staff, the US and Turkey are negotiating for the security of Kabul Airport, which will be vital in any such evacuation. Turkey has been in charge of the military and logistical operations at Kabul airport for the past six years as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission. Now the Turkish govt has offered to deploy troops at Kabul airport for its security after NATO withdraws, and has held talks with the United States in this regard.