The U.S. State Department is advising American citizens to “leave Afghanistan immediately” as Taliban-backed violence and concerns about COVID-19 continue to mount there, the Washington Examiner reports.
The warning came via a security alert sent out by the U.S. embassy in Kabul on Saturday.
Time to go
In the alert, officials urged U.S. citizens “to leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options.” The embassy explained that “given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul.”
“Domestic flights and ground transportation routes outside of Kabul are severely limited and subject to cancellation or closure,” officials added. “The U.S. Embassy can provide a repatriation loan for U.S. citizens who cannot afford at this time to purchase a commercial ticket to the United States.”
The embassy also reiterated a statement from April advising U.S. government employees working in Afghanistan to leave the country if their jobs can be performed elsewhere.
In the security alert, the embassy said that the travel advisory for Afghanistan remains at “level 4,” which means “do not travel.”
According to the embassy, the reasons for the advisory include “crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict, and COVID-19.”
The violence escalates
The warning comes as President Joe Biden is continuing to follow through on former President Donald Trump’s promise to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Biden wants to have the withdrawal completed by Sept. 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that prompted U.S. forces to get boots on the ground in Afghanistan. At this point, roughly 95% of the troops who were deployed in the country have already left, as the Examiner notes.
While in Afghanistan, American forces were able to keep the Taliban under control. But as more and more troops leave the area, the militant group is reemerging and seizing power, even launching attacks on both Afghan officials and civilians.
Just this past week, the Taliban captured the provincial capital of Zaranj and assassinated the head of the Government Media and Information Center, the Examiner reported separately. Not long thereafter, the Taliban captured its second provincial capital, Sheberghan.
The violence is only expected to continue as America’s military pulls out of the country completely.