On 7 August 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows: “The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options.  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 U.S. Embassy can provide a repatriation loan for U.S. citizens who cannot afford at this time to purchase a commercial ticket to the United States.  Please contact the Embassy’s American Citizen Services Unit at KabulACS@state.gov for further information.

“The U.S. Embassy reminds U.S. citizens that on April 27, 2021, the Department of State ordered the departure from U.S. Embassy Kabul of U.S. government employees whose functions can be performed elsewhere due to increasing violence and threat reports in Kabul.  The Travel Advisory for Afghanistan remains Level 4-Do Not Travel due to 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.

“U.S. citizens should enroll in the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security updates and ensure the Embassy can contact you in an emergency. In the event of a future official evacuation flight, the Embassy would notify U.S. citizens enrolled in STEP of available assistance.  However, the Embassy reiterates that U.S. citizens should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible using available commercial transportation and not plan to rely on U.S. government flights.

“Information about current travel restrictions world-wide can be found on the International Air Transport Association website.

Analyst Comment: The security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate amid an ongoing Taliban offensive and the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO military forces. Meanwhile, the Afghan government has shown an inability to slow the Taliban’s momentum in rural areas as well as in major cities.

On 6 August 2021, the Taliban captured Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz province located along the border with Iran, with minimal resistance. Heavy fighting is also ongoing in the capitals of Helmand, Herat and Kandahar provinces. The Taliban also claimed responsibility on 6 August for assassinating the director of the government media center in the capital Kabul. The assassination follows a 3 August attack claimed by the Taliban that targeted the home of the country’s defense minister, also in Kabul. Although the minister was unharmed due to being elsewhere at the time of the attack, at least eight civilians were killed and 20 more suffered injuries. The offensives directed at provincial capitals, as well as the attacks within Kabul, indicate an increasing assertiveness from the Taliban despite ongoing peace talks between the militant group and the government.

The Taliban leadership has thus far refused to accept the legitimacy of President Ashraf Ghani’s Western-backed government. Without air and ground support of foreign militaries, clashes between government forces and the Taliban are likely to worsen in the coming weeks and months as Taliban forces continue to capture strategic cities and border crossings in the south of the country before making their way north to Kabul.