Washington, Aug 28 (EFE).- The process of withdrawing the 5,000 United States military personnel deployed to Kabul’s airport for the evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies is under way in the face of “very real” threats of additional attacks such as the one two days ago that left some 200 people dead, the Pentagon said Saturday.
“The retrograde has begun,” Defense Department press secretary John Kirby told a news conference, though stressing that evacuations will continue right up to the final minute of Aug. 31, the deadline for completing the US pullout.
“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.”
The fatalities from Thursday’s suicide bombing at the Abbey Gate entrance to Kabul airport included 13 US service members.
The US is monitoring “very dynamic” threats of further attacks at the airport, Kirby said.
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 US President Joe 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