US withdraws from Kabul despite deadly ISIS attacks – .

US withdraws from Kabul despite deadly ISIS attacks – .

WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden on Thursday pledged to complete the evacuation of US citizens and others from Afghanistan despite the suicide bombing at Kabul airport during the day. He promised to avenge the deaths of 13 US servicemen killed in the attack, telling the extremists responsible: “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

Speaking emotionally from the White House, Biden said the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State group was to blame for the attacks that killed Americans and scores of other Afghan civilians. He said there was no evidence that they colluded with the Taliban, who now control the country.

He asked for a minute’s silence to honor the military, nodding his head, and ordered American flags to be half-masted across the country.

As for the bombers and gunmen involved, he said: “We have reason to believe that we know who they are… not certain. He said he had asked military commanders to draw up plans to strike “ISIS’s property, leadership and facilities.”

General Frank McKenzie, the head of the US Central Command, said further attempted attacks were expected.

ISIS’s affiliate in Afghanistan has carried out numerous attacks against civilian targets in the country in recent years. He is much more radical than the Taliban, which took power less than two weeks ago. The most publicized American attack on the group came in April 2017, when the United States dropped the largest conventional bomb in its arsenal on an IS cave and tunnel complex. More recently, the group is believed to have focused in urban areas, which could complicate efforts by the United States to target them without harming civilians.

“We will respond forcefully and precisely at our time, at the location of our choosing,” Biden said. “These ISIS terrorists will not win. We will save the Americans, we will bring out our Afghan allies, and our mission will continue. America will not be intimidated. “

Biden said U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan told him it was important to complete the evacuation mission. “And we will,” he said. “We will not be deterred by terrorists. “

Indeed, General McKenzie, who is overseeing the evacuation operation from his Florida headquarters, told a Pentagon press conference shortly before Biden spoke: continue to carry out the mission, “He said there were around 5,000 evacuees at the airfield on Thursday awaiting flights.

No less than 1,000 Americans and many more Afghans are still struggling to get out of Kabul.

McKenzie said 12 U.S. service members were killed and 15 were injured. Later, his spokesman, Captain William Urban, said the toll had risen to 13 dead and 18 injured. Urban said the injured were being evacuated from Afghanistan on Air Force C-17 transport planes equipped with surgical units.

The Marine Corps said 10 Marines were among those killed. The central command did not identify the deaths by service.

In gloomy, sometimes hesitant remarks, Biden praised the American forces and asked for a minute’s silence. When asked about other actions later, press secretary Jen Psaki said personal appeals to families would await notification from the next of kin and that Biden could travel to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware when the remains of the fallen soldiers would be returned.

They were the first US servicemen killed in Afghanistan since February 2020, the month the Trump administration struck a deal with the Taliban that called on the militant group to end attacks on Americans in exchange for a US deal to withdraw. all US troops and contractors in May 2021. Biden announced in April that he would have all forces out by September.

Thursday’s attacks came 12 days after the rushed evacuation began and five days before its planned completion. Some Republicans and others are pleading to extend the evacuation beyond next Tuesday’s deadline.

The administration has been widely blamed for a chaotic and deadly evacuation that only began in earnest after the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government and the takeover of the country by the Taliban. More than 100,000 people have been evacuated to date, Afghans, Americans and others.

Thursday’s attack was certainly going to intensify political pressure from all sides on Biden, who was already the subject of strong criticism for not starting the withdrawal earlier. He had announced in April that he was ending the U.S. war and that he would have all the forces deployed by September.

Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. Has called on President Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., To bring the House back to session to consider legislation that would ban the U.S. withdrawal until all Americans are out. Pelosi’s office dismissed these suggestions as “empty stunts.”

After the suicide bombing at the Abbey Gate of the airport, a number of ISIS gunmen opened fire on civilians and military forces, he said. There was also an attack at or near the Hotel Baron near that gate, he said.

“We thought it would happen sooner or later,” McKenzie said, adding that US military commanders were working with Taliban commanders to prevent further attacks.

As details of the day’s attack emerged, the White House rescheduled Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with the new Israeli prime minister on Thursday and canceled a video conference with governors on the resettlement of Afghan refugees arriving in the states. -United.

A number of U.S. allies have said they are ending their evacuation efforts in Kabul, at least in part to give the United States the time it needs to complete its evacuation operations before withdrawing 5 000 of their soldiers by Tuesday.

Despite intense pressure to extend the deadline, Biden has repeatedly cited the threat of terrorist attacks on US civilians and military personnel as a reason to stick to his plan.

In an interview with ABC News, Ross Wilson, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, said, “There are safe ways to get” to the airport for Americans who still want to leave. He added that “there will undoubtedly be” Afghans at risk who do not come out before the Biden deadline.

The airlift continued on Thursday, although the number of evacuees declined for a second day as the terror attack and other threats kept people from the airport and other countries began to stop their efforts. From 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. Washington time, about 7,500 people were evacuated, a White House official said. Fourteen United States military flights carried approximately 5,100 and 39 coalition flights carried 2,400.

The total compared to 19,000 in a 24 hour period near the start of the week.


Associated Press editors Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Boca Raton, Florida contributed to this report.


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