by Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns
WASHINGTON (AP) – Acting swiftly on President Joe Biden’s promise to retaliate for the deadly suicide bombing at Kabul airport, the US military said it had attacked the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan in a drone strike in the group’s eastern bastion. Killed two members associated with
The attack took place on Saturday local time as the White House indicated that IS plans to strike again as the US-led evacuation from Kabul airport went into its final days. Biden has set his deadline for completing the exit on Tuesday.
Biden authorized the drone attack and it was ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a defense official said, on condition of anonymity, to provide details that have yet to be publicly announced. It was not immediately clear whether the targeted IS members were directly involved in Thursday’s airport attack. The US military initially said one person had been killed.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a Defense Department briefing on Saturday, “It was a single mission to achieve these goals and, as assessments and information over time, we were able to identify that another also struck.” Went and one got injured.”
“They were ISIS-K planners and facilitators and that reason alone is enough there. I will not go into details of these individuals and what their specific roles might have been,” Kirby said. He continued: “We have Horizon is the capability and means to advance counter-terrorism capabilities and we are going to defend ourselves.”
He declined to identify those killed, but said the United States knew who they were.
The airstrikes were launched from outside Afghanistan less than 48 hours after the devastating Kabul attack, which killed 13 Americans and left only a few days before the final US withdrawal after 20 years of war. US Central Command said it believed no civilians were killed in its attack.
The speed with which the US military retaliated reflects its close surveillance of IS and years of experience targeting extremists in remote parts of the world. But it also shows the extent of US power to eliminate extremist threats, which some believe will lead to greater freedom of movement in Afghanistan now while the Taliban is in power.
The airstrikes came after Biden declared on Thursday that the perpetrators of the attack would not hide. “We will hunt you down and pay you,” he said. Pentagon leaders told reporters Friday that they were ready to retaliate against whatever the president ordered.
The president was warned on Friday to expect another deadly attack in the final days of a frantic US-led evacuation. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s national security team offered a serious view.
“They advised the President and the Vice President that there is a possibility of another terrorist attack in Kabul, but they are taking maximum security measures at Kabul airport,” said Saki, who attended the Pentagon at Kabul airport on Thursday. Been saying since the bombing.
Late Friday, the State Department again urged Americans to stay away from airport gates, including the “new Ministry of the Interior.”
Few new details about the airport attack emerged a day later, but the Pentagon corrected its initial report that suicide bombings had occurred at two locations. It said there was just one at or near the abbey gate – after which the shots were fired. Major General Hank Taylor of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff said initial reports of a second bombing at the nearby Barron Hotel proved false; He attributed the mistake to initial confusion.
Based on preliminary assessments, US officials believe the suicide vest used in the attack, which killed at least 169 Afghans in addition to 13 Americans, was carried about 25 pounds of explosives, a US official said on Friday. and were laden with shrapnel. A suicide bomb typically contains five to 10 pounds of explosives, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a preliminary assessment of the bombing.
Biden still faces the long-term problem of containing a range of potential extremist threats in Afghanistan, which will be tough with little US intelligence assets and no military presence in the nation.
On Friday, Biden once again offered his condolences to the victims of the attack in the Oval Office. The repatriation of the remains of US military members in the coming days will be a painful and poignant reminder not only of the devastation at Kabul airport but also of the costly way to end the war. More than 2,400 American service members have been killed and thousands injured in war over the past two decades.
The Marine Corps said that of the 13 Americans killed, 11 were Marines. One was a navy sailor and one was an army soldier. Their names have not been released pending notification of their families, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, adding that the lengthy process sometimes involves “difficult negotiations.”
Nevertheless, tragic details of those killed were beginning to emerge. A Marine from Wyoming was on his first visit to Afghanistan and his wife is expecting a baby in three weeks; The other was a 20-year-old man from Missouri, whose father was devastated by the loss. A third, a 20-year-old from Texas, had joined the armed services by high school.
Biden ordered American flags to half-staff across the country in honor of 13.
He was the first US service member killed in Afghanistan since February 2020, the month the Trump administration struck a deal with the Taliban in exchange for a US deal to remove all US troops and contractors to allow the terrorist group to stop attacks on Americans. was called upon. May 2021. Biden announced in April that he would pull out all forces by September.
Saki said the next few days of the mission to evacuate Americans and others, including vulnerable Afghans fleeing the Taliban regime, “will be the most dangerous times ever.”
The White House said that as of Saturday morning, about 6,800 people had been airlifted from Kabul by US and coalition planes in the last 24 hours. According to the White House, about 112,000 people have been airlifted in the past two weeks. The administration has said it intends to proceed and complete the airlift despite terrorist threats.
Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani, Darlene Superville and Noman Merchant contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected and shown that the name of the province where the drone attack took place is Nangarhar, not Nangarhar.