By Andrew Restuccia
Reporter, The Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON—The U.S. warned that Islamic State poses a threat to Americans in Afghanistan as the Biden administration seeks to evacuate thousands of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.
“The threat is real. It is acute. It is persistent. And it is something we are focused on with every tool in our arsenal,” Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, told CNN on Sunday when asked whether crowds at the Kabul international airport are vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
President Biden, speaking from the White House, said: “We know that terrorists may seek to exploit the situation and target innocent Afghans or American troops. We’re maintaining constant vigilance to monitor and disrupt threats from any source.”
Mr. Austin, in his interview with ABC, confirmed that the U.S. had conducted limited operations in Kabul to get Americans to the airport.
Ms. Ernst also said that Mr. Biden, before withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, should have arranged for stronger coordination with other countries to vet Afghan partners of the U.S. and move them to safety. “This is where President Biden, unfortunately, has really, he’s messed it up,” she said, describing the U.S. withdrawal as haphazard and “one of the biggest debacles we have seen in the last several decades.”
“If we had been working with those allies, those partner countries, this would have been a lot easier. He knew this day was coming, and yet again he was very slow to respond,” she said of the president.
—Sadie Gurman and David Harrison contributed to this article.
Concerns over Islamic State attacks were one reason the U.S. Embassy warned Americans on Saturday to avoid traveling to the airport in Kabul and to avoid airport gates, defense officials have said.
Islamic State is among several terrorist groups present in Afghanistan, each with a different relationship with the Taliban. The Taliban had harbored al Qaeda before that group’s terrorist attacks on the U.S. in 2001, and reports have surfaced that the Taliban have freed al Qaeda fighters from prisons as they gained control of the country this month.
ISIS and the Taliban have sometimes fought over control of territory in Afghanistan. The Taliban, after taking over Kabul, executed the former head of Islamic State in South Asia, who had been in a government prison.
Assisting the U.S. evacuation effort, roughly two dozen countries have agreed to take in Afghan evacuees while they are processed. The Biden administration has also ordered commercial airlines to help evacuateAfghans from Europe and the Middle East after they are moved from Afghanistan.
Mr. Sullivan was one of several U.S. national security officials to appear on Sunday morning news programs to discuss the evacuation effort. The White House also announced that the leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations will hold a virtual meeting on Afghanistan on Tuesday.
U.S. officials said they were committed to evacuating every Americanwho wants to leave the country. The Biden administration hasn’t publicly provided a precise number of Americans who remain in Afghanistan, estimating that figure to be several thousand.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) said the U.S. should send convoys into Kabul to bring Americans and Afghan partners of the U.S. to the airport for evacuation.
“The Taliban needs to understand quite clearly that we have the right to get our American citizens out of Afghanistan. And if that means we need to escort them to our airport to get them out, then we will do so,’’ said Ms. Ernst, an Iraq war veteran, in an interview on ABC.