Wednesday, May 18, 2022

US military continues airlift under high threat alert

by Syed Ziarmal Hashmi, Lolita C. Baldor, Kathy Gannon and Ellen Nickmeyer

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. forces operating under tight security and the threat of another attack in the closing days of a U.S.-led evacuation from Afghanistan following a devastating suicide bombing, and U.S. officials said they had killed extremists was killed a member of the group that the United States blames for it.

US Central Command said a US drone strike in eastern Afghanistan early Saturday killed a member of the country’s Islamic State affiliate. President Joe Biden has blamed Thursday’s suicide attack on an extremist group that is an enemy of both the West and Afghanistan’s Taliban, and is known to be particularly deadly.

The death toll in Thursday’s suicide bombing rose to 169 Afghans, a number that could rise as officials examine the dismembered remains and 13 US service members.

US Central Command said US officials believe the terrorist killed in Saturday’s drone strike was involved in planning an attack against the United States in Kabul, and there were no other known casualties in the drone strike.

The US retaliation comes amid increasingly dire warnings from the White House and the Pentagon that there could be more extremist attacks targeting US forces ahead of President Joe Biden’s Tuesday deadline for ending the airlift and withdrawing US personnel. can.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the next few days would be “the most dangerous time ever”, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, hours before the US issued a security alert for the airport’s four gates. .

Thursday’s bombing is one of the deadliest attacks in the country to date. The US said it was the deadliest day for US forces in Afghanistan since 2011.

With a call for prayer in Kabul on Friday as well as the roar of departing planes, eager crowds at the airport in hopes of escaping the Taliban regime appeared as large as ever, though scenes of victims packed together after the bombing Had gone. .

Across the world, newly arrived Afghan evacuees, many children and a bare handful of luggage in plastic bags, went off evacuation flights into the United States, in Albania, Belgium and beyond. In Kabul on Friday, Afghan families searched for their loved ones among bodies that were laid on the sidewalk of a hospital for identification, pleading for a seat in a US-run airlift that killed bombing victims Were were

Afghans, American citizens and other foreigners were all well aware that the window to exit the airlift was closing.

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Jamshad had gone to the airport on Friday with his wife and three young children. He grabbed an invitation from a Western country he didn’t want to be recognized.

“After the explosion I decided I would try. Because I am afraid there will be more attacks, and I think now I have to go,” said Jamshad, who, like many Afghans, uses only one name. .

The Pentagon said Friday that there was just one suicide bomber – not two – at the airport gate, as US officials initially said. A US official said the suicide bomber carried a larger-than-usual load of about 25 pounds of shrapnel-laden explosives.

The US official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the initial assessment of the attack. Officials giving the death toll in Afghanistan also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Afghan victims ranged from a hardworking young journalist to a poor father who was taken to the airport hoping for a better life.

The American casualties were 11 Marines, one Navy sailor and one Army soldier. When US forces first entered Afghanistan in 2001, many of them were young children.

One, Marine Lance Cpl. Karim Mai’lee Grant Nikoi sent a video to a family friend in the United States hours before his assassination, showing himself smiling and greeting Afghan children.

“Want to take a video together, friend?” Nikoi asked the young boy, bending over, to be in the picture with him. “Okay, now we’re heroes, man.”

British officials said two civilians and another British child were among those killed in the bombings.

The morning after the attack, the Taliban used a pickup truck full of fighter jets and three Humvees to set up a barrier 500 meters (1,600 ft) from the airport, allowing the crowd to move closer than before. At the gate the American soldiers were taken away.

US military officials said some gates had been closed and other security measures in place. He said Taliban posts are strictly restricted and there are few people around the gate. The military said it had also asked the Taliban to close some roads because vehicles were likely to carry suicide bombers.

The Pentagon said the US will maintain manned and unmanned flights, including the use of AC-130 gunships, at the airport for surveillance and security.

US officials said evacuees with proper credentials were still being allowed through the gates. Inside, about 5,400 were waiting for evacuation flights.

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US commanders briefed Biden on Friday about developing a plan to strike back at Islamic State and fulfilling the president’s resolve to “hunt you down and pay you” for attackers.

Biden described the US effort to remove most at-risk Americans, Afghan allies and others from the Taliban as a “worthy mission”.

“And we will accomplish the mission,” he said.

The UN Security Council called the fleeing civilians and those trying to help them “particularly disgusting”.

The Taliban have regained control of Afghanistan, two decades after being ousted in a US-led offensive following the 9/11 attacks. His return to power has terrified many Afghans, who have fled the country ahead of the US withdrawal.

According to the US, more than 100,000 people have been evacuated through Kabul airport, but thousands are struggling to board one of the largest airfare in history.

The White House said Friday afternoon that US military planes have evacuated 2,100 people in the past 24 hours. Another 2,100 people left on other coalition flights.

That number was a fraction of the 12,700 people carried by US military aircraft the day before the week, when the now two-week-old airlift not only met but exceeded the intended capacity for a few days.

France ended its own evacuation effort and bet on a temporary French embassy at the airport leaving Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. American allies and others have ended or are ending their airlifts, to give the US time to end its own operations.

The Taliban have said they will allow Afghans to travel via commercial flights after the US withdrawal, but it is not clear which airlines will return to the airport controlled by the militants.

Untold numbers of Afghans, especially those who had worked with the US and other Western countries, are now hiding for fear of retaliation, despite the group’s offer of a full apology.

The new rulers have in recent weeks sought to project an image of restraint – in contrast to the harsh rules they imposed from 1996 to 2001, when they forbade girls from access to education, banned television and music and public execution.

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Akhgar reported from Istanbul, Gannon from Islamabad and Anna from Nairobi, Kenya. Darlene Superville in Washington and Raheem Fayez in Turkey and Elaine Gunley in Paris contributed along with other Associated Press writers from around the world.

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More Afghanistan coverage of AP: https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan

Nation World News Desk
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