No civilians were injured in the Saturday morning attack, which followed the suicide bombing at Kabul airport on Thursday – claimed by the ISKP – which killed at least 175 people, including 13 US soldiers, a Major General Hank Taylor said at a press conference later Saturday.
The Pentagon declined to say whether the people targeted by the US attack were directly involved in the suicide bombing or to identify them, but said the US knew who they were.
“They were ISIS-K planners and facilitators. That’s reason enough out there alone, ”said spokesman John Kirby.
“The fact that two of these individuals are no longer walking on the surface of the Earth is a good thing,” Kirby added.
But the Taliban condemned the US drone strike against ISKP members, a spokesman calling the operation a “clear attack on Afghan territory.”
Zabihullah Mujahid also told Reuters news agency on Saturday that the Taliban expected to take full control of Kabul airport very soon, once US forces left, and would announce a full cabinet in the coming days.
Thursday’s suicide bombing, which targeted crowds of Afghans gathered outside the airport in hopes of fleeing the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, opened a deadly new chapter in the then unfolding drama as the frenzied US evacuation campaign nears its Tuesday deadline.
U.S. officials have said more attacks on the evacuation effort are likely.
More than 5,000 people remained inside Kabul airport awaiting evacuation on Saturday.
There are no longer crowds of thousands around the perimeter of the airport hoping to be let pass and allowed to board a plane, as the Taliban have cordoned off the roads leading to the airport and will not let pass. that the buses sanctioned.
“We have lists of Americans (…) if your name is on the list, you can pass,” a Taliban official told AFP news agency near the civilian passenger terminal.
Thursday’s carnage injected more stress and tension into a situation already fraught with panic and desperation for those who wanted to leave and at high risk for US forces tasked with securing the operation.
On Friday, the Pentagon corrected its initial report that there had been suicide bombings in two locations. He said there was only one – at or near the abbey gate – followed by gunfire. The initial report of a second bombing at the nearby Baron Hotel turned out to be false, Taylor said.
The bombing followed a chorus of warnings of an imminent threat and, as people gathered outside the airport on Saturday, the United States issued a new alert for its citizens to leave the areas around of the main doors “immediately”.
President Joe Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki said at the White House on Friday that US national security experts considered another attack “likely” and that the next few days would be “the most dangerous time. nowadays “.
Evacuations enter “end of game”
Under huge criticism at home and abroad for his handling of the Afghan crisis and the US military withdrawal, Biden pledged to meet the airlift deadline and punish those responsible for the suicide bombing.
About 112,000 people have left the country by plane since August 14, the day before the Taliban came to power, according to the US government.
Many Western allies have announced the end of their airlifts, with some admitting that at-risk Afghans eligible for evacuation have been left behind.
Rob McBride of Al Jazeera, reporting from Kabul, said that since Friday evening, the US military withdrew its forces and ceded guard posts to the Taliban on the outer perimeter of Kabul airport and in some positions in the area. inside the airport before final withdrawal. of his troops before August 31.
“You have the feeling this Saturday evening here in Kabul that this long, interminable, often chaotic and traumatic evacuation process [is] finally at the end of the match, ”he said.
The race to meet Tuesday’s withdrawal deadline required close U.S. cooperation with the Taliban on evacuation moves and the ISKP threat.
And with the Taliban set to take over when the last US plane leaves, talks have started about resuming normal flight operations.
Turkish officials have held initial talks with the Taliban in Kabul to help get the airport back to working order.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Taliban’s offer asks them to oversee security at the airport, while Ankara heads logistics operations.
The Taliban promised an inclusive regime from their first term in power from 1996 to 2001, which ended when the United States invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
But many Afghans fear a repeat of their blunt interpretation of Islamic law, as well as retaliation against those working with foreign servicemen, Western missions or the previous US-backed government.
The role of women in society has been one of the biggest concerns, as they were banned from work and education and confined to their homes during the group’s previous rule.
The UN has said it is preparing for a “worst case scenario” of half a million more refugees from Afghanistan by the end of 2021.