Afghanistan: US will ‘hunt down terrorists,’ said Biden as 90 people killed in terror attack
By Jeyhun Aliyev, Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat, Kasim Ileri
KABUL, Afghanistan/ WASHINGTON / ANKARA (AA): US President Joe Biden confirmed Thursday that attacks outside Kabul airport in Afghanistan which killed at least 13 American soldiers were carried out by the ISIS-Khurasan terrorist group, the Afghan affiliate of Daesh/ISIS, and promised to respond with “force and precision.”
Multiple explosions shook Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Thursday, including two outside the airport serving the city, killing 90, including 13 US soldiers, and wounding 140, including 18 American soldiers.
The Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to a statement from the group’s Amaq News Agency.
Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesperson for the US Central Command (CENTCOM), said the casualties occurred when two suicide bombers — believed to be ISIS-K – detonated their explosives at an entry gate to Kabul International Airport and the nearby Baron Hotel.
He said the US is determined to retaliate against Daesh/ISIS, which he said was assessed to have carried out the attacks, adding the terror group was expected to attempt more strikes in the city.
Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the attack on Twitter.
“The Islamic Emirate strongly condemns the bombing of civilians at Kabul airport, which took place in an area where security is in the hands of US forces.”
“The Islamic Emirate is paying close attention to the security and protection of its people, and evil circles will be strictly stopped,” he added.
In a subsequent statement, Mujahid said several explosions had been heard in Kabul in the evening, accusing US forces of carrying out the blasts inside Kabul airport to destroy their equipment.
Referring to ISIS-K, “an archenemy of the Taliban,” Biden said “we will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay.”
Delivering remarks from the East Room of the White House on the terrorist attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport, he said the US “will continue evacuations” while making plans to strike the ISIS-K terror group.
“America will not be intimidated,” he underscored.
‘No collusion’ between Taliban, ISIS-K
In his address to the nation, Biden asked Americans to join him in a moment of silence “for all those in uniform.”
Those Americans who died were “heroes trying to save the lives of others,” he said. “We’re outraged as well as heartbroken.”
“We have some reason to believe we know who they are, [but we’re] not certain” and will find ways of choosing to get them, he said.
Biden underlined that there was no evidence of collusion between the Taliban and ISIS-K in the latest attacks in Kabul.
The president noted that ISIS-K, “the enemy of the Taliban,” was planning a complex set of attacks and that is why he was so determined to limit the scope of the operation in Afghanistan.
Turning to the Taliban, he said “no one trusts them. We’re just counting on their self-interest to continue to generate their activities, and it’s in their self-interest that we leave when we said and that we get as many people out as we can.”
The Taliban are “not good guys,” but they “have a keen interest’ in trying to keep Kabul airport open, he added.
On vulnerable Afghans, Biden went on to say that getting “every single person” out of Kabul “can’t be guaranteed.”
“I say we’re going to continue to try to get you out” past Aug. 31, he said.
Biden highlighted that there are additional US citizens, Green Card and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders and Afghans “who have helped us” and others who have contacted the US side that “expressly indicated they want to get out,” adding they “will try” to evacuate them “in the next several days.”
He noted that the number of people evacuated from Afghanistan since Aug.14 has exceeded 100,000.
The US will respond to the Kabul attacks “with force of precision at our time, place we choose, in a moment of our choosing,” he said.
Biden also emphasized that he ordered US commanders to develop operational plans “to strike ISIS-K assets, [its] leadership, facilities,” adding that they could send additional forces to Afghanistan if needed.
“I bear responsibility fundamentally for all that has happened of late,” he added.
“I have never been of the view of sacrificing American lives to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan, which has never been united and composed of tribes that have never gotten along,” the president said.
‘Will kill terrorists wherever they are’
Following Biden, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki also joined the news conference, speaking on the latest developments after the attack in Kabul.
“We will hunt down these terrorists and kill them wherever they are,” she said, referring to the ISIS-K terror group.
Psaki stressed that US military commanders continue believe that it is “vital” to leave Kabul by the Aug. 31 deadline.
She also said that some 7,000 people have been evacuated in the last 12-13 hours from Afghanistan, adding discussions with the Taliban are ongoing about how to coordinate on getting Americans and its allies out of Afghanistan after Aug. 31.
“We are in direct contact with every American citizen [in Afghanistan],” she said.
UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson tweeted: “I utterly condemn the barbaric terrorist attack in Kabul in which Afghans and members of the US military lost their lives. The threat of terrorist attack is one of the constraints we’ve been operating under, but our evacuation effort continues with over 12,000 extracted so far.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also took to Twitter to condemn the attacks.
“Strongly condemn the cowardly attacks at Kabul airport against people longing for safety. EU stands in solidarity with Afghan citizens.
“We will continue fighting terrorism together with international partners,” Borrell added.
At a press conference, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres is following the terrorist attacks around Kabul airport in Afghanistan with deep concern.
Guterres also condemned the attack, Dujarric said, adding it once again revealed the instability in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter that he discussed with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu the “security situation and strategic priorities” on Afghanistan.
“We will work closely with Turkey and international partners to safeguard regional stability and respond to the humanitarian situation,” he added.
US forces are in control of the airport as evacuations continue ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline — the only area of the country still under US control.
Thousands of people are waiting at the airport for evacuation, and large crowds have gathered outside the airport grounds, seeking a way inside to get a flight out.
[Photo: A view of the entrance of a hospital with the wounded after two suicide bombings outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan on 26 August 2021. Photographer: Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/aa]
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