The Taliban deployed extra forces around Kabul’s airport Saturday in a bid to prevent large crowds as the US-led effort to evacuate people from Afghanistan races toward an Aug. 31 deadline.
The move to seal off the airport comes two days after a deadly attack which killed nearly 200, including 13 US service members.
Officials warned Americans to avoid the airport because of security threats, and told those desperately waiting at the gates to leave, Reuters reported.
Taliban forces on Saturday fired warning shots and deployed some kind of colored smoke on a road leading to the airport, sending dozens of people scattering, The Associated Press reported.
New checkpoints sprang up on roads leading to the airport, some manned by uniformed Taliban fighters with US-supplied Humvees and night-vision goggles captured from Afghan security forces.
Areas where large crowds of people gathered hoping to escape the country following the Taliban takeover were largely empty on Saturday.
Despite the drone strike, there are concerns that ISIS-K, a more radical group than the Taliban, could attack again amid the final days of the airlift.
More than 100,000 people have been evacuated through the Kabul airport, US officials say, but thousands more are desperate to leave. Other countries, including the U.K., are ending their evacuation efforts Saturday and sending their troops home, according to the BBC .
An Afghan who had worked as a translator for the US military told the AP he was with a group of people with permission to leave who tried to reach the airport late Friday. After passing through three checkpoints they were stopped at a fourth. An argument ensued, and the Taliban said they had been told by the Americans to only let US passport-holders through.
“I am so hopeless for my future,” the man said after returning to Kabul, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns. “If the evacuation is over, what will happen to us?”