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State Dept. Dials Back Dire Kabul Attack Warning: Doesn't Pertain to 'U.S. Interests'

The State Department appeared to attempt to dial back the urgency of today’s warning from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul about an imminent terrorist attack.

In a message to U.S. citizens today, the embassy said it had “received credible reports of an imminent attack in Kabul City, Kabul Province, Afghanistan within the next 48 hours.”

“During this period of heightened threat, the U.S. Embassy strongly urges U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution if moving around the city,” the warning continued. “There were no further details regarding the targets, timing, or method of the planned attack.”

A travel warning already advises Americans against traveling to Afghanistan, but Kabul hosts many foreign workers including from the business community, NGOs and government contracting.

“The security situation in Afghanistan is extremely unstable, and the threat to all U.S. citizens in Afghanistan remains critical. U.S. citizens currently visiting or residing in Afghanistan may wish to consider departing,” today’s message said. “The Embassy strongly urges U.S. citizens who decide to remain in Afghanistan to review your personal security plans, take appropriate steps to enhance your personal safety, remain aware of your surroundings, monitor local media for updates, and maintain a high level of vigilance.”

At the State Department, spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said there’s been “misunderstanding on the nature of this” embassy warning.

“So, you know, we’ll start with the premise which we always start with, which is the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas. That’s one of the departments highest priorities,” Trudeau said. “The U.S. embassy in Kabul issued an emergency message on November 30th, informing U.S. citizens in Kabul it had received credible reports of an imminent attack in Kabul City. The U.S. embassy in Kabul received these reports of a specific and credible imminent threat, but it does not — not pertain to the U.S. embassy, U.S. citizens or U.S. interests.”

“The message, however, strongly urges U.S. citizens to exercise caution if moving around the city.”

Asked if the imminent Kabul attack was tied to the Paris attacks, Trudeau replied, “So what we do is while I’m not going to tie the two together we are continually assessing our information around the world at any time. So I don’t believe there’s a link.”

Hotels in Kabul have heavy security to protect foreign guests, but these defenses have been breached before. Four Taliban gunmen killed nine, including two children, after storming the five-star Kabul Serena Hotel last year. This spring, Taliban attacked the Park Palace Hotel in Kabul; one American was among the 14 killed.

Since those attacks, ISIS has gained a foothold in the country, battling the Taliban for turf and trying to lure away their fighters.

Still, the U.S. today was championing the inclusion of the Taliban in a reconciliation process.

“You know, I’m not going to link this or characterize this with any perceived growth of, you know, certain groups there, but what I would say is that this does focus on how important this long-term dialogue is, an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process that will bring people to the table so, you know, the security and the stability of Afghan is guaranteed for its citizens,” Trudeau said.

Asked if it was a Taliban or ISIS threat, she replied, “I’m not going to speak specifically on that… It’s hard for us from a public podium to detail sort of threat reporting the details of this, but what I would say is that it was sufficient enough that we did feel that an email and a message should go out to U.S. citizens in Kabul.”

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said Saturday that it had foiled a Haqqani network terror plot in Kabul “after arresting two masterminds along with a suicide bomber before they could carry out their attack,” Tolo News reported.

Another suicide bombing on Saturday in Kabul claimed the life of one civilian.