US urges citizens in Afghanistan to avoid going to the Kabul airport due to security threats.
The emergency airlift from Kabul hit stumbling blocks on Friday and Saturday as flights were delayed, bottlenecks appeared in reception centres and thousands of Afghans continued to struggle to reach safety.
The United States on Saturday urged its citizens in Afghanistan to avoid travelling to the Kabul airport for now, citing “potential security threats” near its gates.
Most roads in the capital were largely deserted save for the route to the airport, which was choked with people scrambling to join a US-led evacuation.
Conditions outside Hamid Karzai International Airport have been chaotic, with reports of people seeking to leave being beaten by Taliban fighters.
“Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising US citizens to avoid travelling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time,” the alert said.
The US military on Friday said it sent helicopters to rescue more than 150 Americans unable to reach the airport gates, in the first evidence that its forces were willing and able to go beyond the compound to help people seeking evacuation.
US aircraft flew about 6,000 people, including a couple of hundred US citizens, out of Kabul in the 24 hours to early Friday, until flights had to be halted because of a lack of space at transit bases.
Officials confirmed that evacuation operations stalled for several hours on Friday because a receiving base in Qatar was overflowing and could not take any more evacuees.
More than 7,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan to Qatar, an official from the Gulf state said on Saturday.
The US and Germany had agreed on Friday to use the Ramstein US military base in western Germany to ease pressure on Doha.
The base can accommodate about 5,000 people.
Around 1,150 people landed there from Kabul on Saturday, from where they are expected to depart for the US in “a few days”, according to a spokeswoman for the base.
Meanwhile, more than 8,500 people have transited the UAE so far, according to the government
Switzerland said the worsening security had delayed an evacuation flight they had organised from the Uzbek capital of Tashkent because too few people had been able to get there from Kabul.
They said the Germans had also postponed evacuation flights from Tashkent.