A Taliban official on Sunday said the insurgent group is waiting for “the final nod” from U.S. forces to “secure full control” of the Kabul airport as the American military begins the process of drawing down its forces from the country.
“We are waiting for the final nod from the Americans to secure full control over Kabul airport,” the unidentified official told Reuters.
He also told the new service that the Taliban has a team of technical experts and highly qualified engineers who are prepared to take over control of the airport.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Saturday said the insurgent group would seize the airport “very soon” after U.S. forces leave the region, and unveil a full cabinet in the coming days, according to Reuters.
The news of the Taliban preparing to take over Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport comes after Pentagon press secretary John Kirby announced on Saturday that the U.S. has started its final withdrawal of forces from the facility.
Hours later the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a security alert telling Americans near the airport to “leave the airport area immediately,” citing a “specific, credible threat.”
“U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid all airport gates at this time,” the embassy added.
That alert came two days after an explosion outside the Kabul airport killed 13 U.S. service members and a number of Afghan citizens.
The Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack.
The U.S. as of Saturday evening has evacuated roughly 135,500 people from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, with approximately 2,000 individuals pulled in 12 hours on Saturday.
The Kabul airport has served as the main hub for the U.S. military as it works to evacuate all American citizens and Afghan allies from the region.