As the US has been evacuating people from the Kabul airport, US officials have warned of a potential attack from the local ISIS affiliate, known as ISIS-K, a sworn enemy of the Taliban.
President Biden has cited a possible ISIS-K attack as one of the reasons he is sticking to the August 31st withdrawal deadline. “Every day we’re on the ground is another day that we know ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both us and allied forces and innocent civilians,” Biden said Tuesday.
US officials speaking anonymously to the media have claimed they have knowledge of more specific threats. A Pentagon official told CNN Wednesday that security concerns around the airport have increased due to a “very specific threat stream” from ISIS-K against crowds outside the airport.
ISIS-K has taken credit for dozens of attacks in Afghanistan in recent years, including a shooting at Kabul University that killed 22 people last year. While the group is small, one suicide bomber could do some damage to the crowds surrounding the Kabul airport.
ISIS-K shares a name with the Islamic State that once controlled swaths of Iraq and Syria, but the Afghanistan affiliate is viewed as more of a local group rather than an international terrorist organization. ISIS-K was started by mostly Pakistani militants who previously fought under the umbrella of the Tehrik-e Taleban Pakistan (TTP).
The US and the Taliban have fought together against ISIS-K in the past. Last year, a report from The Washington Post revealed that the US had been providing air support to the Taliban in its fight against ISIS-K in the northeastern Kunar province. The unit of the Joint Special Operation Command that operated the drones called itself the “Taliban air force.”