Washington has called on Americans to leave Afghanistan “as soon as possible” as the country they have occupied since 2001 faces a sharp uptick in coronavirus cases and deaths.
The call was made by the US Embassy in Kabul in a health alert issued on Thursday. The alert to US citizens warned of the COVID-19 surge and overwhelmed hospitals.
The embassy statement said hospitals in Afghanistan are experiencing shortages of supplies, oxygen and beds are flooded with patients and Americans should find flights and leave the country.
“Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited,” the alert reads.
The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) published their travel alert, which urges Americans to get fully vaccinated before going to Afghanistan. But then it went on to warn that “even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Afghanistan.”
The US State Department also issued a travel advisory calling for Americans not to visit Afghanistan due to COVID-19, crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and armed conflict.
The US invaded and occupied Afghanistan in 2001, claiming that the Taliban were harboring al-Qaeda. The invasion removed the Taliban regime from power but prompted widespread militancy and insecurity across the country. The war has taken countless lives, mostly of Afghan civilians.
All foreign troops were supposed to have been withdrawn from Afghanistan by May 1, as part of an agreement that the US had reached with the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha, last year.
But US President Joe Biden last month pushed that date back to September 11.
The Taliban warned that the passing of the May 1 deadline for a complete withdrawal “opened the way for” the militants to take every counteraction they deemed appropriate against foreign forces in the county.