Washington, Aug 26 (EFE).- President Joe Biden addressed the nation Thursday afternoon in the wake of the suicide bomb blast at the Kabul airport that killed 13 US troops, calling the fallen soldiers “heroes.”
Fifteen US soldiers were wounded in the huge blast, with responsibility for the attack being claimed by a faction of the Islamic State.
Although a definitive casualty count is not yet in, it appears that at least 60 people – most of them Afghans – were killed in the explosion and another 140 or more wounded at one of the gates to the Kabul airport where Afghans desperate to be evacuated from the country on board US military aircraft had gathered and US troops were guarding the gate to prevent them from surging into the airport grounds.
The 13 soldiers who died are the first US troops killed in combat in Afghanistan since February 2020, and it was the largest one-day combat death toll for the US military since 2011.
It was a double bomb attack, combined with an armed attack by other fighters who sprayed automatic weapons fire at troops and civilians in the area after the blasts.
US officials believe that a suicide bomber detonated explosives at the so-called Abbey Gate into the Kabul airport, while the other explosion occurred later near the Baron Hotel located near the airport. It is not yet known if the second blast was a suicide bombing.
Visibly emotional as he delivered his remarks to the nation, Biden addressed those who staged the attack, saying that “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
Biden also revealed in his remarks that he had asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare various plans and options for striking at the Islamic State in reprisal for the blast. He said that he wanted the plans prepared so that he could select from them and put them into operation at what he deems to be the proper time.
The president said that the attack reflected the warnings he had given in recent days about an ISIS-K attack by the so-called Islamic State-K group, and he added that he and the US military know who the perpetrators are.
“The situation on the ground is still evolving, and I’m constantly being updated,” Biden said, adding that the US soldiers who died were “heroes who were engaged in the dangerous selfless mission to save the lives of others.”
“Jill and I, our hearts ache, like I’m sure yours do as well,” said Biden, referring to first lady Jill Biden.
But Biden went on to say “To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
The president said that he is willing to dispatch additional troops to Afghanistan as added security amid the huge evacuation operation currently under way at the Kabul airport and elsewhere around the country, with US forces working to extract any of the 1,500 Americans remaining in the country who want to leave Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover last week.
Biden suggested, however, that the US military leadership backed his plan to withdraw all US troops from the Central Asian country by the Aug. 31 deadline that he had established.
“I’ve instructed the military, whatever they need – if they need additional force – I will grant it,” Biden said, nevertheless adding that Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with field commanders have told administration officials that they would rather continue with the current mission, which is to remove as many people as possible – both Americans and Afghans who aided coalition forces during the past 20 years, along with their families – from Afghanistan before the self-imposed Aug. 31.
Former President Donald Trump made an agreement with the Taliban to pull out all US troops from Afghanistan by May 1, and after Biden came into office, acting against the advice of US military commanders and overruling some of his top foreign policy advisers, he decided in April to fully withdraw US troops, although he extended the deadline.
Biden said that he could not ask more US troops to fight and perhaps die in a war he no longer believed was in the best interests of the US or its allies.
He decided that he would get all US military forces out of Afghanistan country before the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
Biden has said that he does not regret his decision to bring US troops out of the Central Asian country since, he has stated, it is time to end Washington’s 20-year war there.