Afghans trying to leave the country continue to wait around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 26, 2021.
Haroon Sabawoon | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
The US and its allies have warned that further terrorist attacks are likely in Kabul as the deadline for military withdrawal from Afghanistan draws nearer.
Two suicide bombers struck on Thursday near the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where thousands of people are still hoping to be evacuated after the Taliban came to power.
The Pentagon confirmed Thursday evening that 13 U.S. soldiers were killed and 18 wounded. More than 100 Afghan civilians were also killed in the explosion.
ISIS-K, an Afghan-based branch of the terrorist group, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The warnings came as the US and allies resumed evacuations from Kabul. About 12,500 people have been flown out of the country in the past 24 hours. Coalition forces have evacuated around 105,000 people in the past two weeks. Around 110,600 evacuations have been carried out since the end of July.
President Joe Biden previously said that ISIS-K was a growing threat to the airport, adding that the United States will be pulling its military out of Afghanistan by the end of the month as a result.
“I have repeatedly said that this mission is extraordinarily dangerous, and that is why I was so determined to limit the duration of this mission,” Biden said at the White House on Thursday.
“We will not be deterred by terrorists. We won’t let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation, “said Biden, adding,” America will not be intimidated. “
Addressing those responsible for the attack, the president said: “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.” He said he had ordered the Pentagon to “develop operational plans to meet ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities”.
“We will respond with force and precision at our time, in the place we choose and at the moment of our choice,” Biden said, indicating that the US had clues about the ISIS leaders who ordered the attack.
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said Thursday that ISIS will likely attempt to continue the attacks before the evacuations are complete.
“We believe that it is their desire to continue these attacks and we expect these attacks to continue,” the four-star general told Pentagon reporters, adding that the US has an “extremely active threat stream against the US Airfield “monitored.
McKenzie, who oversees US military operations in the area, said threats against Western forces and civilians at the airport ranged from gunshots to missiles to suicide bombings.
“So, at any time, there can be very, very real streams of threats that we would call tactical and imminent,” he said. McKenzie said he did not plan to call in additional US troops for the mission.
The US has approximately 5,400 military personnel helping with the evacuation effort in Kabul. Great Britain has the second largest military presence in Kabul with around 1,000 soldiers.
The UK Ministry of Defense said Thursday there were no reported casualties with the government and the military.
On Friday, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the threat of further attacks in the region increased as the deadline for Western troops to leave the country drew near.
“The threat will obviously increase the closer we get to our exit,” he told Sky News. “The narrative will always be that certain groups like IS want to claim when they leave the US that they have driven the US or the UK.”
Wallace also shot at the Biden administration, saying that the West “seems to think that it is fixing problems; it is not, it is managing them”. He added that nation-building support should be done “as an international force for the long term”.
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Meanwhile, the UK approved the closure of its processing center at the Baron’s Hotel in Kabul and evacuated its officers. Wallace told BBC News that the last 1,000 eligible people at the airfield would be processed and flown out on Friday.
However, he admitted that not everyone can get out and told LBC radio that up to 150 UK nationals may not have made it yet as evacuation efforts are in their final hours.
Australia has suspended all evacuation flights from Afghanistan following the bombings, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday, claiming it is no longer safe to continue evacuation.