US pulls diplomatic staff from Kabul and issues travel alert

Embassy withdrawal comes as foreign forces quit Afghanistan after two decades

An Afghan policeman keeps watch at a checkpoint near the US embassy in Kabul. AFP
An Afghan policeman keeps watch at a checkpoint near the US embassy in Kabul. AFP

The US on Tuesday ordered some staff at its embassy in Kabul to leave Afghanistan and advised US citizens there to do the same, because of threats including kidnappings, terrorism and Covid-19.

The travel advisory came only weeks after US President Joe Biden said the Pentagon would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and end its two-decade mission to the country by mid-September.

The US State Department notice ordered all “US government employees whose functions can be performed elsewhere” to leave the embassy.

It said US citizens should not travel to Afghanistan and those already there who want to depart “should leave as soon as possible on available commercial flights”.

“Travel to all areas of Afghanistan is unsafe because of critical levels of kidnappings, hostage taking, suicide bombings, widespread military combat operations, landmines and terrorist and insurgent attacks,” the department stated.

“Terrorist and insurgent groups continue planning and executing attacks in Afghanistan.

"These attacks occur with little or no warning and have targeted official Afghan and US government convoys and facilities.”

The embassy’s ability to help Americans facing emergencies was “severely limited, particularly outside of Kabul”, it said.

“Evacuation options from Afghanistan are extremely limited due to the lack of infrastructure, geographic constraints and the volatile security situation.”

Afghanistan has had a sharp increase in violence in recent months and peace talks between the government and the Taliban have made little progress.

A US-backed Afghan peace conference to be hosted in Istanbul by Turkey, Qatar and the UN was postponed after the Taliban refused to take part.

The top US and Nato forces commander in Afghanistan, US Army Gen Scott Miller, said on Sunday that an orderly withdrawal of foreign forces had started.

Mr Biden this month said the battle in Afghanistan was no longer aligned with US priorities.

He said he would withdraw troops from Afghanistan before September 11, the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon that led to the US invasion in 2001.

Updated: April 27, 2021 11:45 PM

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