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Updates On The Evacuation Efforts In Kabul

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The days that U.S. troops have left in Afghanistan can now be counted on one hand. And while people inside Hamid Karzai International Airport are still being evacuated, those gathered at the gates outside are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Yesterday, the U.S. military launched an unmanned airstrike on an ISIS-K target. That group has claimed responsibility for Thursday's deadly bombing at the airport.

Al-Jazeera correspondent Ali Latifi joins us now from Kabul. Thanks for being with us.

ALI LATIFI: Thank you.

SIMON: What do we know about that airstrike?

LATIFI: We don't know very much. We just know that Biden claimed that it was on a top planner of the so-called Daesh forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar. And if it pans out to be true, which, you know, will be hard to prove, one, it seems a lot like what Bill Clinton did after his whole scandal, you know, trying to divert attention by striking a target in Afghanistan, and, two, it's actually a blow to the rhetoric of the former government of Afghanistan, of former President Ashraf Ghani, who in 2018 had claimed that they had eradicated so-called Daesh forces from Afghanistan, especially from the eastern province of Nangarhar. So, you know, it's really a claim that doesn't really add up to much at this point.

SIMON: We should explain that Daesh is another phrase for ISIS. Does this apparent drone strike increase the possibility of another ISIS-K attack on U.S. troops that are still in Afghanistan over the next couple of days?

LATIFI: Well, if we remember the last attack, only 13 U.S. troops were killed and, you know, 170 Afghan civilians were killed. But, yes, the threat of imminent attack - it is real. You know, the U.S. has said this. Afghan officials have said this. The threat is very real.

But the question is, what is the U.S. doing, and what is the Taliban doing to try and avert that? Are they sharing that information with the Taliban? Are the Taliban doing anything with that information? Are they in any sort of a state to try and prevent anything like this because they were unable to prevent the attack on Thursday, which they were still the de facto government at the time, and there was already four warnings ahead of that about a potential attack carried out by these so-called Islamic State forces? So these threats are out there, but what is being done to try and thwart them?

SIMON: So we mentioned the U.S. embassy has told Americans to avoid the airport. From what you've seen, are people, Afghans in particular or Americans, avoiding the airport because of that suicide attack?

LATIFI: There are still people there, but there are fewer people there. The Taliban has extended its perimeter by about 500 meters to try and keep more people out. And even before the Thursday bombing, the U.S. had sent a directive to the Taliban and the CIA-backed former Afghan intelligence forces to, you know, keep anyone who didn't have a foreign passport or U.S. green card away. So getting in has always been difficult, and I think now they're just trying to make it even more difficult to sort of reduce that risk so you don't have another incident like Thursday's with such a massive toll.

SIMON: Al-Jazeera's Ali Latifi in Kabul, thanks so much.

LATIFI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.