A US official confirmed the CIA’s involvement in the evacuation, noting that the agency “worked closely with other agencies to provide various ways to facilitate access to the airport for American citizens and vulnerable Afghans”.
The New York Times first reported that the US was using the base for evacuations. However, the full scope of the operation in the final days of the evacuation effort was not previously reported. A CIA spokesman refused to comment on the operation.
At least some of the evacuees were brought to the airport by air from the secret base, Eagle Base, to avoid the chaotic crowds and the threat of terror around the gates. According to flight data from POLITICO, as of August 15, when the Taliban took control of the city, several helicopter flights by a US company flew from an area around Eagle Base to Kabul Airport.
Flight data indicate that some of the evacuees were flown to Germany. During the same period, aircraft operated by a US government contractor flew from Kabul Airport to Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
The effort was coordinated with US diplomats and staff relocated from the embassy to Hamid Karzai International Airport after the Taliban took control of Kabul. The diplomats had communicated directly with American citizens trying to leave Afghanistan but feared for their safety – especially after the embassy publicly urged Americans not to travel to the airport last week because of the threat of an attack by the ISIS-K terrorist group.
The Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command also helped reach hundreds of American citizens in Kabul and across the country.
The House Intelligence Committee was briefed on the operation in August, two of the sources said, as lawmakers from both parties requested details from the Biden administration about the evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan. A spokesman for the committee did not want to comment.
Eagle Base, the sprawling CIA compound less than three miles north of the airport, has a controversial history. Erected at the beginning of the Afghanistan conflict in a former brick factory, the base was used by the CIA from 2002 to 2004 for “intensified interrogations” of terror suspects. The CIA also used it to train Afghan counter-terrorism units.
But during the rush to leave Kabul in recent weeks, the site provided an important stopover for evacuees hoping to get out of Afghanistan – before it was demolished on August 27th As part of an effort to ensure that sensitive devices or intelligence information does not get into the hands of the Taliban.
As the entire evacuation effort continued, the threat of ISIS-K terrorists against certain gates of the airport grew. American officials began instructing US citizens to go to various gates to enter the airport for evacuation.
As the threat shifted, the officers “kept getting confused,” said the defense officer – one day he directed people to go to a gate and the next day they asked them to meet at a different location.
American officials also directed citizens and Afghans at risk, including commandos, to make their way to Eagle Base as a safer station en route to the airport.
During a 4pm call. on August 25 in Washington or 12:30 p.m. on August 26 in Kabul, Rear Admiral Peter Vasely, the commander of the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, estimated that about 1,000 of 2,000 Afghan commandos would be evacuated, along with a number of American citizens, that came from Eagle Base had been successfully directed to the airport.
These people got out just in time. Just a few hours later, around 6 p.m. On August 26, an IS-K suicide bomber detonated an explosive device directly in front of the airport in Kabul, killing 13 American soldiers and hundreds of Afghans.