US strikes IS group ‘planner’ in eastern Afghanistan following Kabul attack
The United States launched a drone strike against an Islamic State group attack “planner” in eastern Afghanistan, the military said on Friday, a day after a suicide bombing at Kabul airport killed 13 US troops and scores of Afghan civilians.
President Joe Biden vowed on Thursday that the United States would hunt down those responsible for the attack, saying he had ordered the Pentagon to come up with plans to strike at the perpetrators.
US Central Command said the strike took place in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul and bordering Pakistan. It did not say whether the target was connected with the airport attack.
“Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties,” a US military statement said.
Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), an affiliate of militants who previously battled US forces in Syria and Iraq, said it had carried out Thursday’s attack, which killed dozens of people – including Afghans who were trying to leave the country.
In addition to the 13 US troops killed, 18 injured were flown to Germany.
There are roughly 5,000 US troops at Kabul’s airport, helping to evacuate American citizens, at-risk Afghans and other nationalities before Biden’s Tuesday deadline.
Thursday’s attack marked the first US military casualties in Afghanistan since February 2020 and represented the deadliest incident for American troops there in a decade.
“We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said.
He appeared to be fighting back tears and his voice cracked with emotion as he talked about the American “heroes” who died. He ordered flags at the White House and public buildings around the country to be lowered to half-staff.
Biden defended his handling of his most serious foreign policy crisis, saying ultimately it is his responsibility, while assigning some blame to his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, for the 2020 agreement Trump negotiated with the Taliban.
US forces in Kabul have been anticipating another attack from Islamic State group militants.
Late on Friday the US Embassy warned that Americans should avoid traveling to the airport because of security threats, and those at the Abbey, East, North or Ministry of Interior gates should leave immediately.
France, Britain, Spain end evacuations
About 109,000 people have been flown out of Afghanistan since August 14, the day before the Taliban swept to power, according to the US government.
Some Western allies, including France, Britain and Spain, announced an end to their airlifts on Friday, following other nations such as Canada and Australia earlier in the week.
The United Nations said Friday it was bracing for a “worst-case scenario” of up to half a million more refugees from Afghanistan by the end of 2021.
With the Taliban poised to take over when the last US plane leaves, discussions have begun on resuming normal flight operations.
Turkish officials have held initial talks with the Taliban in Kabul about helping get the airport back up and running.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Taliban offer was for them to oversee security at the airport, while Ankara runs logistical operations.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
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