President Joe Biden vowed Saturday to keep up airstrikes against the Islamic extremist group ISIS-K, whose suicide bombing at the Kabul airport killed scores of Afghans and 13 American service members. Another terror attack, he said, is “highly likely” this weekend as the U.S. winds down its evacuation.
The Pentagon said the remaining contingent of U.S. forces at the airport, now numbering fewer than 4,000, had begun their final withdrawal ahead of Biden’s deadline for ending the evacuation on Tuesday. After getting briefed on a U.S. drone mission in eastern Afghanistan that the Pentagon said killed two members of the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate early Saturday, President Biden said the extremists can expect more.
The Pentagon released the names of those killed — 11 Marines, one Navy sailor and one Army soldier. Twelve of them were in the 20s; some were born in 2001, the year America’s longest war began. The oldest was 31. They were the first U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan since February 2020, the month the Trump administration struck an agreement with the Taliban in which the militant group halted attacks on Americans in exchange for a U.S. agreement to remove all troops and contractors by May 2021. Biden announced in April that the 2,500 to 3,000 troops who remained would be out by September, ending what he has called America’s forever war.
“This strike was not the last,” President Biden said in a statement. “We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay.” He paid tribute to the “bravery and selflessness” of the American troops executing the hurried airlift of tens of thousands from Kabul airport, including the 13 U.S. service members who were killed in Thursday’s suicide bombing at an airport gate. The evacuation proceeded as tensions rose over the prospect of another ISIS-K attack.
I said we would go after the group responsible for the attack on our troops and innocent civilians in Kabul, and we have. My full statement on the strike that U.S. forces took last night against the terrorist group ISIS-K in Afghanistan: https://t.co/hOb6xQ4ZZv
— President Biden (@POTUS) August 28, 2021
With Biden’s approval, the Pentagon this month sent thousands of additional troops to the Kabul airport to provide security and to facilitate the State Department’s chaotic effort to evacuate thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans who had helped the United States during the war. The evacuation was marred by confusion and chaos as the U.S. government was caught by surprise when the Afghan army collapsed and the Taliban swept to power on August 15th.
Apparently Trump doesn't remember all the times he talked about negotiating with the 'smart,' 'sharp' Taliban pic.twitter.com/fGMe6vFLRw
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 28, 2021
About 5,400 Americans have been evacuated from the country so far, including 300 in the last day. The State Department believes about 350 more want out; it said there are roughly 280 others who have said they are Americans but who have not told the State Department of their plans to leave the country, or who have said they plan to remain.