Kabul, Afghanistan — A senior U.S. official said Saturday that potential threats by the Islamic State group against Americans in Afghanistan are forcing the U.S. military to find new ways for evacuees to reach the Kabul airport.
The official said that small groups of Americans and possibly other civilians will be given specific instructions on what to do, including movement to transit points where they can be gathered up by the military. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.
The changes come as the U.S. Embassy issued a new security warning Saturday telling citizen not to travel to the Kabul airport without individual instruction from a U.S. government representative.
Officials declined to provide more specifics about the IS threat but described it as significant, and said there have been no confirmed IS attacks or incidents as yet.
The White House says President Joe Biden has been briefed by members of his national security team on the evolving situation in Afghanistan.
Biden and his team met on Saturday in the White House Situation Room to discuss the security situation and counterterrorism operations, including against the Islamic State group in Afghanistan.
Evacuations and efforts to finalize agreements with third-party countries willing to serve as transit hubs for evacuees were also discussed.
Vice President Kamala Harris joined the meeting by secure video teleconference during her travels to Singapore. They were joined by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and National Intelligence Director Avril Haines, among others.
The White House said Biden canceled plans to travel Saturday to his Wilmington, Delaware, home.
The IS affiliate – which has long declared a desire to attack America and U.S. interests abroad – has been active in Afghanistan for several years, carrying out horrific attacks, mostly on the Shiite minority.
The group has been repeatedly targeted by U.S. airstrikes in recent years, as well as Taliban attacks. But officials say fragments of the group are still active in Afghanistan, and the U.S. is concerned about it reconstituting in a larger way as the country comes under divisive Taliban rule.