WASHINGTON – (AP) – The U.S. military struck back against the Islamic State on Saturday, bombing an ISIS member in Afghanistan less than 48 hours after a devastating suicide attack alleged by the group killed 169 Afghans and 13 American soldiers have the airport of Kabul.
US Central Command said the US carried out a drone attack against a member of the Islamic State in Nangahar who is believed to have been involved in planning attacks against the US in Kabul. The attack killed one person and Navy spokesman Captain William Urban said they knew of no civilian casualties.
It was not clear whether this person was specifically involved in the suicide explosion outside the gates of Kabul airport on Thursday, which masses of Afghans desperately tried to invade as part of the ongoing evacuation of the country following the Taliban’s swift takeover.
The air strike fulfilled a vow President Joe Biden made to the nation Thursday when he said the perpetrators of the attack would be unable to hide. “We’ll hunt you down and make you pay,” he said. Pentagon leaders told reporters Friday that they were prepared for any retaliation the president ordered.
“We have options right now,” said Maj. General Hank Taylor of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
THIS IS A LATEST UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
WASHINGTON (AP) – With a promise to beat the extremists who killed 13 Americans and dozen of Afghans, President Joe Biden now faces the reality of them in an unstable country with no US military and intelligence teams on the ground and without assistance from a. to find and attack friendly government in Kabul.
The president was warned on Friday to anticipate another deadly attack in the final days of a hectic US-led evacuation. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s national security team has a grim outlook.
“They told the President and Vice-President that another terrorist attack in Kabul is likely, but that they are taking maximum protective measures at Kabul Airport,” said Psaki, reiterating what the Pentagon has done since the bombing on Kabul Airport on Thursday said drove the White House deeper into crisis over a chaotic and deadly conclusion to a war that began nearly 20 years ago.
Late on Friday, the State Department again urged Americans to stay away from airport gates, including the “new home office gate”.
Few new details emerged about the attack a day later, but the Pentagon corrected its initial report that there had been suicide bombings in two locations. It was said there was only one – at or near Abbey Gate, followed by gunfire. The first report of a second bomb attack on the nearby Baron Hotel turned out to be false, said Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff; he attributed the error to initial confusion.
Based on a preliminary assessment, US officials believe the suicide vest used in the attack, which killed at least 169 Afghans in addition to the 13 Americans, carried about 25 pounds of explosives and was laden with shrapnel, a US official said Friday. A suicide bomb usually carries five to ten pounds of explosives, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss preliminary assessments of the bombing.
In a speech to the nation after the attack, Biden said the perpetrators could not hide and vowed to strike back against the Afghan branch of the Islamic State Group. “We’ll hunt you down and make you pay,” he said.
Taylor said the Pentagon would be prepared.
“We have options there right now,” Taylor said.
Aside from the prospect of a one-off retaliation in response to Thursday’s suicide bombing, Biden faces the problem of containing a number of potential extremist threats in Afghanistan in the longer term.
During an appearance in the Oval Office on Friday, Biden again expressed his condolences to the victims of the attack. The return of the remains of the US military in the coming days will be a painful and poignant reminder not only of the devastation of Kabul airport, but also of the costly manner in which the war ended. More than 2,400 U.S. soldiers have died in the war and tens of thousands have been injured over the past two decades.
The Marine Corps said 11 of the 13 Americans killed were Marines. One was a marine and one was an army soldier. Their names were not released until their families were notified, a sometimes lengthy process that, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, involves “difficult conversations”.
Even so, sad details about those killed came to light. A Wyoming Marine was on his first tour of Afghanistan and his wife is expecting a baby in three weeks; another was a 20-year-old Missouri man whose father was devastated by the loss. A third, a 20-year-old from Texas, had entered the military after high school.
Biden ordered U.S. flags in honor of the 13th
They were the first U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan since February 2020, the month the Trump administration reached an agreement with the Taliban calling on the militant group to stop attacks on Americans in exchange for a U.S. agreement , all American troops and contractors by May 2021. Biden announced in April that all forces would be resigned by September.
Psaki said the next few days of the mission to evacuate Americans and others, including vulnerable Afghans fleeing Taliban rule, “will be the most dangerous time yet”. Biden has set Tuesday as the deadline for completing the airlift.
The White House said that on Friday morning around 12,500 people were flown out of Kabul on US and coalition planes in the past 24 hours; Another 4,200 people were evacuated over the next 12 hours. Psaki said about 300 Americans have left and the State Department is working with about 500 others who want to leave. The government has announced that it will press ahead with and complete the airlift despite the terrorist threats.
Kirby told reporters that the US military is monitoring credible, specific threats from the Islamic State “in real time”.
“We are definitely prepared and would expect future trials,” said Kirby. He declined to provide details of the additional security measures that were being taken around the airport gates and perimeters, including those taken by the Taliban. He said there were fewer people in and around the gates on Friday.
Biden promised that the Islamist extremist perpetrators would “pay” for their actions, and Psaki said on Friday that this was his way of saying “he doesn’t want them to live on earth anymore”.
However, effective retaliation will be more difficult with fewer US intelligence resources and without a military presence in Afghanistan.
Emily Harding, a former CIA analyst and assistant director of staff on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she doubts Biden’s assurances that the United States will be able to monitor and combat terrorist threats from outside Afghanistan. The Pentagon also insists that this so-called “Beyond the Horizon” capability, which includes surveillance and attack aircraft in the Persian Gulf area, will be effective.
Harding says she flinches when she hears Biden repeat that assurance.
“It’s far too rosy an assessment of what’s possible,” said Harding, now a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The US is still trying to build bases closer to Afghanistan while removing people who have worked with the CIA and other intelligence agencies in the country, former officials said.
The IS branch in Afghanistan has carried out many attacks on civilian targets in the country in recent years. It is more radical than the Taliban, who took power less than two weeks ago and are an enemy of IS. The most heralded American attack on IS came in April 2017 when the US dropped the largest conventional bomb in its arsenal on an IS cave and tunnel complex. The group is said to have recently focused on urban areas, which could complicate U.S. efforts to attack them without harming civilians.
General Frank McKenzie, the chief of US Central Command overseeing the airlift and responsible for all US military operations in the Middle East, told reporters Thursday that the first step will be to ascertain with confidence who carried out the attacks .
“Yes, if we can find out who is connected, we will go after them,” he said. “We knew all along that we had the right to take action against ISIS in Afghanistan and we are currently working very hard to determine the attribution, to find out who has been linked to this cowardly attack, and we are ready to to take action against it. “You – 24/7, we are looking for you.”
Associated press writers Aamer Madhani, Darlene Superville and Nomaan Merchant in Washington contributed to this report.
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