US says more attacks likely as Biden vows to avenge deadly Kabul airport blasts

Updated on Aug 27, 2021 07:38 AM IST

US force's Central Command head said that potential attacks could include rockets being fired at the Kabul airport or car bombs trying to get in.

Wounded people lie on beds at a hospital after a deadly attack outside the airport in Kabul. (AP Photo)
Wounded people lie on beds at a hospital after a deadly attack outside the airport in Kabul. (AP Photo)
By | Written by Meenakshi Ray

US forces in Kabul were bracing for more Islamic State attacks after at least two explosions ripped through the Kabul airport killing scores of Afghans and 13 US troops in Thursday's suicide bomb explosions even as President Joe Biden vowed to hunt down those responsible. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the twin explosions in a statement and said one of its suicide bombers had targeted "translators and collaborators with the American army."

A US official told Reuters the number of US personnel killed was likely to rise even higher. Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, head of the US military's Central Command, told reporters the explosions were followed by gunfight. McKenzie said the threat from Islamic State persists alongside "other active threat streams." "We believe it is their desire to continue these attacks and we expect those attacks to continue - and we're doing everything we can to be prepared," McKenzie said, according to Reuters.

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McKenzie also said that potential attacks could include rockets being fired at the Kabul airport or car bombs trying to get in. They were the first US troops killed in Afghanistan since February 2020 and were the deadliest incident for American soldiers in the country in a decade.

The Trump administration struck an agreement with the Taliban in that month last year that called for the hardline Islamist group to halt attacks on Americans in exchange for a US agreement to remove all American troops and contractors by May 2021. Biden announced in April that he would have all US troops out by August.

"We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay," an emotional Biden said in remarks at the White House adding that US evacuations would continue. "I have also ordered my commanders to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities. We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose and the moment of our choosing," Biden said.

Also read | Trump, Republican lawmakers lash out at Biden after Kabul attack

He gave no indication of a change in the August 31 US pullout target. He asked for a moment of silence to honour the service members, bowing his head, and ordered US flags to fly at half-staff across the country.

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The United States has been racing to airlift American and other foreign nationals and their families as well as some Afghans before its troops are set to fully withdraw from the country.

McKenzie also said the US evacuation mission was not going to stop. "I think we can continue to conduct our mission, even while we are receiving attacks like this," McKenzie said, adding that US forces will "go after" the perpetrators of Thursday's attack. McKenzie said there were about 1,000 US citizens estimated to be still in Afghanistan.

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Afghan health officials were quoted as saying 60 civilians died, but it was not clear whether that was a complete count. Video uploaded by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies and wounded victims strewn around a canal on the edge of the airport.

Thursday's attacks came after the US and allies had urged Afghans to leave the area around the airport because of a threat by Islamic State. The US embassy in Kabul a day earlier advised Americans to avoid travelling to the airport and said those already at the gates should leave immediately, citing unspecified "security threats."

(With agency inputs)

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