The United States is continuing to fly people out of Afghanistan in the final hours before its planned total withdrawal from the country on Tuesday.
As evacuation efforts continued Monday at Kabul airport, a series of rockets targeted the area. U.S. Central Command spokesman Bill Urban said five rockets were fired at the airport, but were stopped by a missile defense system. He said there were no U.S. casualties and the airfield remained open.
The Islamic State group in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks. The extremist group also claimed responsibility last week for a suicide bombing at an airport gate that killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members.
Islamic State is far more extreme than the Taliban, which seized power in Afghanistan earlier this month after capturing most of the country in a matter of days. The two groups have fought each other in the past, and the Taliban has said it will not provide shelter to terrorist groups.
The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan was launched in 2001 to oust the Taliban for providing refuge to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. Al-Qaida was the extremist group that led the September 11 terrorist attacks in America that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Getting the last Americans out
The U.S. evacuation effort is centered on getting the last Americans out of Afghanistan before President Joe Biden’s promise to withdraw all U.S. forces by August 31. U.S. officials said Sunday there were about 300 remaining American citizens who want to leave.
Officials said Monday that about 1,200 people were evacuated from Kabul during the past 24 hours aboard U.S. military flights and two allied flights. The officials said about 114,000 people have been flown out of Afghanistan since August 14.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC News on Sunday the final evacuation effort will be “the most dangerous time in an already extraordinarily dangerous mission these last couple of days.”
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the U.S. does not plan to have an ongoing embassy presence in Afghanistan after the final U.S. troop withdrawal. But, he promised, the U.S. “will make sure there is safe passage” for any American citizen or legal permanent resident, after Tuesday. In addition, he said safe passage would be provided to “those Afghans who helped us.”
Blinken said the U.S. was working with other countries in the area to either keep Kabul airport open after Tuesday or to reopen it “in a timely fashion.” He noted that while the airport was important, there were other ways to leave Afghanistan, such as by road. “Many countries border Afghanistan,” Blinken said.
He added that the U.S. was “making sure that we have in place all of the necessary tools and means to facilitate the travel for those who seek to leave Afghanistan" after Tuesday.
Qatar to help with plans for Afghanistan
As the U.S. completes its withdrawal, officials will be looking to work with the Gulf nation of Qatar to help shape the country’s future. This is because Qatar has close ties with both the U.S. and the Taliban.
On Monday, Qatar was taking part in a virtual meeting led by Blinken and attended by major U.S. allies. Officials said the purpose of the meeting was to map out a cooperative plan for Afghanistan in the coming days.
Reports say Qatar has also been asked by the Taliban to provide civilian technical assistance at the airport once U.S. troops leave. Officials in Qatar have not commented on the reports.
United Nations agencies recently sought help from Qatar to support its humanitarian aid efforts in Afghanistan.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press and Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
evacuation – n. the act of moving people from a dangerous place to somewhere safer
casualty – n. someone who is injured or killed in an accident or war
extraordinary – adj. very special, unusual or strange
mission – n. an important job a group of people are sent to do
fashion – n. the way in which something is done
facilitate – v. to make something possible or easier
virtual – adj. used to describe something that can be done or seen using computers or the internet instead of happening in a physical place