(Washington) Increasingly dependent on the support of the Taliban, the US military continues to evacuate civilians from Afghanistan under even more dangerous conditions after a particularly deadly suicide attack on Kabul airport.
Posted on Aug 27, 2021 at 11:33 am Updated at 1:26 pm
Sylvie LANTEAUME Agence France-Presse
“We saw for ourselves how dangerous this mission is,” said US General Hank Taylor on Friday, one day after the death of 13 US soldiers in an attack by the Islamic State (IS) group on the edge of the airport in the Afghan capital. into which since August 14, crowds of people have been pouring away from the new Taliban regime.
“But ISIS will not dissuade us from fulfilling our mission,” added this US staff officer as thousands of people await evacuation as the deadline for the withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan, August 31, approaches .
“We believe, however, that there are still credible threats … specific and credible threats,” said Defense Department spokesman John Kirby.
The day before, the head of the American armed forces in the region, General Kenneth McKenzie, had mentioned in particular the danger of a car bomb and stressed that it was impossible to eliminate all threats to American soldiers on the ground.
Every candidate who leaves the airport must be searched to prevent a jihadist masquerading as an Afghan on the run from the Taliban from blowing himself up on a plane and causing an even more deadly disaster.
“You have to search people before they can enter the airport,” he said. “We have to make sure that they are not carrying a bomb or weapon that could be loaded onto an airplane. ”
This cannot be done remotely, you have to touch the clothes of the person who shows up. At the end of the day, you must put Americans at risk to conduct these searches. There is no other solution.
The chief of the American armed forces in the region, General Kenneth McKenzie
To reduce the risks, the US military has no choice but to rely on its 20-year-old enemy, the Taliban, who have established an initial security perimeter around the airport and control the crowds.
The Taliban as reinforcement
To strengthen security around the airport in the final days of the airlift, the US military will “contact the Taliban, who are currently providing the external security chain around the airport, so they know what we are waiting for,” said General McKenzie .
The head of the US Army’s Central Command (Centcom) was surprisingly full of praise for the Taliban.
“Some excavations have been done well, some not,” he noted, but “we think they thwarted several attacks”.
This collaboration with the old enemy was criticized in the United States, but for military professionals it was inevitable.
“I think it was appropriate to contact them and tell them what we were trying to achieve,” former General Joseph Votel, the immediate predecessor of General McKenzie, said on NPR radio on Friday.
Given the threat from ISIS, the last days of evacuations will be all the more difficult as security at the airport has to be maintained and the military personnel there has to be gradually reduced so that everyone is gone.
Kirby warned Friday that the U.S. military would not count its troops at Kabul airport and would remain discreet about its operations for the coming days.
When asked about the risk of ISIS trying to shoot down a plane, General McKenzie reassured him. “We don’t think they’re armed with rocket launchers,” he said. “They shot at our planes several times without success. We think it will go on. ”