Washington, Aug 28 (EFE).- President Joe Biden said Saturday that Kabul international airport will probably be targeted again after the suicide bombing that left 13 United States military personnel and more than 180 civilians dead amid the ongoing effort to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies.
“The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high. Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours,” he said in a statement released by the White House.
Biden said that the commanders assured him they had “all the authorities, resources and plans to protect our men and women on the ground.”
The commanders are confident that they can bolster force protection “while completing the mission” and safely withdrawing US personnel ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline, the president said.
“Despite the treacherous situation in Kabul, we are continuing to evacuate civilians,” Biden said, adding that the US government is busy with “ongoing preparations to help people continue to leave Afghanistan after our military departs.”
The process of withdrawing the 5,000 US military personnel deployed to Kabul’s airport for the evacuation is under way in the face of “very real” threats of additional attacks, the Pentagon said earlier Saturday.
“The retrograde has begun,” Defense Department press secretary John Kirby told a news conference, though stressing that evacuations will continue.
“We are going to complete this mission by the end of the month and we’ve said that,” he said. “We will do this in as safe and orderly a way as possible – and that includes being able to continue to evacuate up until the very end.”
Responsibility for Thursday’s blast was claimed by Islamic State Khorasan (once denoting a region including parts of what are now Afghanistan and Iran), known as ISIS-K, a group that regards both the US and the Taliban as its enemies.
Hours after Biden vowed retribution for Thursday’s attack, the American military launched a drone strike targeting members of ISIS-K in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar.
After initially reporting that one terrorist died, the Pentagon subsequently said that two ISIS-K operatives perished in the strike.
“I can confirm now that two high-profile ISIS targets were killed, one wounded, and we know of zero civilian casualties,” Maj. Gen. William “Hank” Taylor, the Joints Chiefs of Staff deputy director for regional operations and force management, said during Saturday’s briefing.
In response to a reporter’s question, Kirby declined to say whether the people killed by the drone had any role in Thursday’s bombing.
“They were ISIS-K planners and facilitators and that’s enough reason there alone. I won’t speak to the details of these individuals and what their specific roles might be,” he said.
“The fact that two of these individuals are no longer walking on the face of the earth, that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for the people of Afghanistan and it’s a good thing for our troops and our forces at that airfield,” Kirby said.
More than 117,000 people have departed from the Kabul airport since the “massive military, diplomatic, security and humanitarian undertaking” began following the fall of the capital to the Taliban on Aug. 15, Taylor said. EFE