Among the 1,500 US citizens still in Afghanistan are at least 20 students and as many as 16 parents from a southern California school district. Six families from El Cajon, a San Diego suburb with a large immigrant and refugee population, had taken separate summer trips to Afghanistan to visit grandparents and other relatives, the AP reports. They were all planning to be back for the school year that began August 17, but could not get to the airport after the abrupt Taliban takeover of the country, the Los Angeles Times reports. The kids range in age from preschool to high school, KTLA reports. "Nobody is doing well," says a community liaison for the El Cajon Valley Union School District who has spoken to the families and says children have witnessed violence including shootings at the Kabul airport. "The situation is very horrible."
Originally, 24 students were reported to be stuck, but CNN reports one family has since been able to get back to the US safely. The rest "are scared, stranded and trapped in the Kabul area," says a spokesperson for Rep. Darrell Issa, who is working with the State Department and the Pentagon to help the families. "So far, they've been unable to reach the airport. I know the President and his Press Secretary have previously said this isn't happening, but that's dead wrong. ... We have reason to believe that other California residents are very much in the same situation. This is real." Asked about the situation during a press briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki seemed confused and said she had no information on the incident. Similar stories can be found about other US families, like this one from Philadelphia. Meanwhile:
- Terror threat: The US embassy in Afghanistan issued what Fox News calls a "startling statement" early Thursday. "Because of security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport, we are advising US citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a US government representative to do so," it reads. "US citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately."
- Australia agrees: Australia also warned its citizens late Wednesday that the threat of a terrorist attack at the Kabul airport is high, Reuters reports.
- Who's behind it: CNN explains that a branch of ISIS known as ISIS-Khorasan or ISIS-K, a sworn enemy of the Taliban, is believed to want to create havoc at the airport and has planned attacks on groups waiting for flights out.
- Biden quote of the day: Controversy erupted after President Biden was asked during a Wednesday meeting what would happen if Americans remained in Afghanistan following the August 31 troop withdrawal deadline. The White House cut off Biden's audio feed before he responded, but the reporter confirmed the president told him, "You'll be the first person I call," Fox News reports. Many were outraged at the apparent snark. A Fox News reporter later grilled Psaki about the exchange, and all she said was, "I think what he conveyed is that he has not—well, what I can convey from here, I should say, is that, as he stated yesterday and as the secretary of state just stated, we're on track to complete our mission by August 31st."
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