ISIS Poses ‘Acute’ Threat to U.S. Evacuation Efforts in Kabul, Sullivan Says

President Biden’s national security adviser warned of mounting but unspecified terrorist risks to the U.S. mission to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghan allies.


By Eric Schmitt

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s national security adviser warned on Sunday that the threat of a terrorist attack by the Islamic State posed a serious danger to the administration’s evacuation of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies from the international airport in Kabul.

“The threat is real. It is acute. It is persistent. And it is something that we are focused on with every tool in our arsenal,” Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

His comments were the most urgent so far regarding a range of steadily increasing threats that intelligence and military officials have privately briefed Mr. Biden and his top aides on in recent days, officials said.

Neither Mr. Sullivan nor other senior American military or intelligence officials provided details about the threats or their specificity. Current and former officials say, however, that they range from a missile attack against a transport plane taking off or landing at Hamid Karzai International Airport to a bomb-laden truck or suicide bombers infiltrating the crowd outside the airport.

Mr. Biden said on Friday that U.S. military and counterterrorism officials were closely watching for threatened ISIS attacks, noting that thousands of prisoners had been released in Kabul and other locations. While the Taliban is unlikely to have consciously let out the Islamic State fighters, the chaos in Afghanistan in recent weeks allowed all manner of prisoners to be freed from custody, including the Taliban’s enemies.

“ISIS-K has been waiting for an opportunity like this, where its fighters can exploit the chaos of the situation on the ground for a chance to kill American soldiers,” said Colin P. Clarke, a counterterrorism analyst at the Soufan Group, a New York-based security consulting firm, referring to the Islamic State’s Khorasan affiliate in Afghanistan.

For the past week, U.S. officials have warned about threats against the airport and American operations to evacuate civilians from Kabul. By Friday, officials said, the threat reporting was growing more acute.

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