August 28 Afghanistan-Taliban news

By Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 10:59 PM ET, Mon August 30, 2021
3 Posts
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8:08 a.m. ET, August 28, 2021

About 6,800 people evacuated from Kabul over 24-hour stretch

From CNN's Arlette Saenz and Jason Hoffman

Evacuations continue from Kabul in the waning days of the US mission in Afghanistan, with approximately 6,800 people evacuated from the country from 3 a.m. ET Friday to 3 a.m. ET Saturday, according to a White House official.

Those evacuations were carried out by both US military and coalition flights, with 32 US military flights evacuating approximately 4,000 people and 34 coalition flights which evacuated 2,800 people, the White House said.

The latest numbers are noticeably smaller than those from recent days, something White House press secretary Jen Psaki should be expected in the final days of the mission.

“What it will also mean, as they move to this retrograde phase, is that there will be a reduction of numbers over the next couple of days,” Psaki said at Friday’s White House press briefing. "Those numbers will go down in the next couple of days, and you should anticipate that. That is a result of the retrograde process that needs to take place, but also, I will note that, of course, force protection is front and center and is vital to the mission."

Approximately 12,500 people were evacuated from Afghanistan during the same time period the day prior.

8:09 a.m. ET, August 28, 2021

US diplomatic presence expected to be reduced to skeletal crew in next 24 hours, source says

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh

A source directly familiar with the situation at the airport said only a skeletal diplomatic crew of staff to process evacuees would remain after the bulk expected to depart in the next 24 hours.

The source said that some individuals or small families were still “being pulled through the gates somehow” as of Saturday. The gates have been closed for days. The numbers getting on were thought to be “a very tiny subset, consisting of single people or families. The US has said they had alternate routes to the airport.

The source said US airport staff were “still getting hit up by tons of people trying to get in."

"All Afghans, either SIV or no credentials. They feel bad but there is literally nothing they can do," the source added.

The source said it was unclear if the evacuation of local embassy employees had finished, but that hundreds more had been reported as having got to the airport and that “hundreds more have departed for interim locations."

 

9:15 a.m. ET, August 28, 2021

Officials warn of possible threats to US in wake of Afghanistan attack and mass evacuation

From CNNs Geneva Sands

Volunteers and medical staff unload bodies at a hospital after a bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 26, 2021.
Volunteers and medical staff unload bodies at a hospital after a bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 26, 2021. Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

Federal officials are on high alert for threats to the United States following the mass evacuation from Afghanistan and devastating attack in Kabul this week.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is tracking three primary threats -- including whether individuals abroad in Afghanistan, who are associated with ISIS or al Qaeda, could use the relocation process as a way to enter the US, according to a federal government call with law enforcement partners obtained by CNN.

"To counteract that, there's an extensive screening and vetting process that is in place for those who are being relocated to the United States," DHS intelligence chief John Cohen said on the call Friday.

An official with the FBI said on the call that though there is no specific intelligence on terrorist organizations using relocation as an opportunity, "we cannot discount that it is a possibility."

There is "a very small number of individuals who've been flagged for concern," said an official with the National Targeting Center on the call, who appeared to be referring to people at so-called "lily pad" transfer point locations like Doha and Qatar.

CNN reached out to the DHS for comment on the call, including for details on the individuals flagged for concern. 

The relocation process: Upon departing Kabul, Afghans are sent to several overseas locations, where they provide biographic and biometric information and are checked against US databases. 

Once these subjects are determined to be "green," meaning there is no derogatory information, they are placed on US-bound flights.

They go through additional screening once arriving in the US. If they fail primary screening, they undergo a secondary screening, which includes FBI support, US Customs and Border Protection official James McCament said on the call.  

"Now, those who do pass secondary screening will then of course be pulled into the US. Those who do not, however, we will evaluate this further option," he added. 

It's unclear what would happen if someone does not pass secondary screening after landing in the US.  

Homegrown threat: The second significant security threat is whether people already in the US, who may be inspired by narratives associated with al Qaeda, ISIS or other foreign terrorist groups, "will view the events in Afghanistan as an opportunity to engage in violence here at home," Cohen said.

The ability to detect threats from homegrown violent extremists represents a challenge for officials because there may not be direct intelligence prior to an act of violence being committed.

White supremacists: The third threat concern is individuals who are inspired or motivated to violence based on their connection with a domestic violent extremist narrative.  

Some anti-government and white supremacist groups have expressed concern on online platforms that the arriving Afghans would degrade the control and authority of the white race, Cohen said -- which "may incite violent activities directed at immigrant communities, certain faith communities, or even those who are relocated to the United States."

Additionally, there are narratives framing the activities of the Taliban as a success with commentary focusing on potential acts of violence directed at US government, law enforcement, and others who are symbols of the current government structure.