U.S. Urges Citizens to Exit Afghanistan in Week's Second Security Alert as Taliban Advance

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a security alert on Thursday to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan, imploring them to exit the country immediately. The announcement, the second in a week, comes as the Taliban continue seizing control of cities throughout Afghanistan.

The alert said that American citizens "should leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options." It added that anyone who cannot afford an airline ticket should contact the U.S. Embassy at KabulACS@state.gov for help getting a repatriation loan.

"If you are a U.S. citizen and delaying your departure while you await an immigrant visa for a spouse or minor child, please contact us immediately. Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy's ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul," the alert added.

Herat
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has issued a second alert urging U.S. citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately. Above, an Afghan security force member stands guard along the roadside in Herat on Thursday. Getty Images

The news of the latest alert comes as the Taliban captured the 10th provincial capital in a week. On Thursday morning, the extremist group seized Ghazni, which provides a link between Kabul and strategic militant strongholds in the south, according to the Associated Press.

The Taliban currently controls almost one-third of the 34 provincial capitals in Afghanistan. On Thursday afternoon, it reportedly broke through defensive lines at the country's third-largest city, Herat.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said on Twitter it had received reports of the Taliban executing some surrendering Afghan troops. The message added that such executions were "deeply disturbing" and "could constitute war crimes."

We're hearing additional reports of #Taliban executions of surrendering Afghan troops. Deeply disturbing & could constitute war crimes.

— U.S. Embassy Kabul (@USEmbassyKabul) August 12, 2021

In a follow-up tweet, the embassy wrote, "Don't erase Afghanistan's human rights gains of the last 20 years."

The State Department previously ordered U.S. government employees who were capable of doing their jobs outside of the country to leave the Kabul embassy on April 27. The reason cited for the announcement was the increasing violence and reported threats.

The current travel advisory for Afghanistan is at "Level 4-Do Not Travel," which was prompted by an elevated risk of crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict and COVID-19.

"Domestic flights and ground transportation routes outside of Kabul are severely limited and subject to cancellation or closure," the alert also noted.

The embassy had already issued a similar security alert last Saturday that encouraged U.S. citizens to try to find commercial flights and leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Thursday's alert also urged U.S. citizens in the country to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides regular security updates and allows the embassy to contact users in the event of an emergency.

Should there be an official evacuation flight, the embassy would use STEP to provide U.S. citizens with available assistance. Even with the program and other assistance and guidance provided on the embassy's website, Americans were asked not to rely on U.S. government-provided flights and find their own ways out immediately.