Kabul airport blasts: Joe Biden promises to retaliate; evacuations to continue
President Joe Biden vowed to continue evacuations from Afghanistan after explosions in Kabul killed 12 US service members, and said the US will retaliate against those responsible for the bombings.
“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,” Biden said Thursday in an address from the White House.
The two explosions outside Kabul’s airport killed 12 US service members, and The Associated Press said at least 60 Afghans died. Biden said US intelligence had determined that militants from ISIS-K, an affiliate of Islamic State in Afghanistan, were likely behind the blasts.
General Kenneth McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said he expects more attacks as the US moves to continue evacuations and pull American forces out of Afghanistan by Aug. 31. The US State Department said it’s in contact with about 1,000 Americans it believes remain in Afghanistan and over two-thirds of them indicated they’re taking steps to exit the country.
“We will rescue the Americans who are there,” Biden said. “We will get our Afghan allies out.”
Biden was briefed on the attacks earlier Thursday by his national security team. The violence disrupted his schedule for the day, with the White House scrapping a planned virtual meeting between the president and governors over resettling Afghan refugees and delaying a meeting between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
The US and other nations had warned their citizens not to congregate near the airport in recent hours, citing a credible threat of a terrorist attack. Earlier in the week, Biden had warned that continued US operations in the country faced a growing risk of targeting by ISIS-K. It was unclear in the immediate aftermath of Thursday’s bombings who was responsible.
Biden had previously said that he planned to withdraw all US forces by Aug. 31, but left open the possibility of a continued presence if needed to evacuate American citizens seeking to flee the country after the Taliban takeover earlier this month.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring Congress back into session to address Wednesday’s attack, adding that “our enemies have taken advantage of the chaotic nature of the withdrawal.”
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Chaos erupted in Kabul as several explosions and gunfires were reported close to the hall where the 'Loya Jirga' or the grand assembly of religious scholars and elders is underway, local media reported. The exact cause and location of the gunfire is not clear yet. The Freedom Fighters Front in its statement said that its 'special forces' had attacked the Taliban gathering. But the Taliban regime has not said anything, Aamaj News English, reported.