President Joe Biden warned on Saturday that it was “highly likely” the Kabul airport — the scene of an attack on Thursday that left nearly 200 people dead — would see another attack in the next 24 to 36 hours.
The president’s statement came the same day the Pentagon identified all 13 U.S. service members killed in the airport attack by ISIS-K and announced that a retaliatory drone strike on the group had killed two members and wounded one, up from the previous tally of one death.
The 13 service members included 11 Marines, one Navy corpsman and one Army soldier. At least 169 Afghans were also killed in the airport bombing, for which President Joe Biden had vowed revenge.
And with only three days left until Biden’s Aug. 31 withdrawal, evacuations continued for Americans, Afghan allies and others seeking to escape the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban, even as many acknowledged the window to be airlifted out was closing.
Another attack on the Kabul airport is “highly likely” in the coming days, President Joe Biden warned on Saturday, as the U.S. continues to evacuate Americans and Afghans in a frantic scramble before the Aug. 31 withdrawal of all U.S. forces.
Biden also said the U.S. is likely to launch another attack against those involved in Thursday’s deadly suicide bombing, which left 13 American service members and 169 Afghans dead amid a chaotic evacuation effort at the Kabul airport. The Pentagon launched a retaliatory drone strike Friday night against Islamic State operatives.
“This strike was not the last,” Biden said in a statement on Saturday after meeting with his national security team. “We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay.”
The president said the situation on the ground in Afghanistan “continues to be extremely dangerous” and military commanders told him an attack on the airport “is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours.” He said he has directed Pentagon leaders to prioritize the protection of American troops.
“Despite the treacherous situation in Kabul, we are continuing to evacuate civilians,” Biden said, noting the U.S. military evacuated 6,800 people on Friday. “And today, we discussed the ongoing preparations to help people continue to leave Afghanistan after our military departs.”
Statement by President Joe Biden on the Evacuation Mission in Kabul
“This morning, I met with my national security team in Washington and my commanders in the field. We discussed the strike that U.S. forces took last night against the terrorist group ISIS-K in Afghanistan. I said we would go after the group responsible for the attack on our troops and innocent civilians in Kabul, and we have. This strike was not the last. We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay. Whenever anyone seeks to harm the United States or attack our troops, we will respond. That will never be in doubt. I thanked General McKenzie for his leadership of that mission, and for his commitment to the safety of our troops in Afghanistan.
“The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high. Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours. I directed them to take every possible measure to prioritize force protection, and ensured that they have all the authorities, resources and plans to protect our men and women on the ground. They assured me that they did, and that they could take these measures while completing the mission and safely retrograding our personnel.
“Despite the treacherous situation in Kabul, we are continuing to evacuate civilians. Yesterday, we brought out another 6,800 people, including hundreds of Americans. And today, we discussed the ongoing preparations to help people continue to leave Afghanistan after our military departs.
“The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others. Their bravery and selflessness has enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far. May God protect our troops and all those standing watch in these dangerous days.”
The family of a 23-year-old Marine who grew up in southwest Iowa said Friday he was among 13 U.S. service members killed in the deadly bombing at the Kabul airport earlier this week.
Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, served in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment based at Camp Pendleton, California. He died along with 12 other service members — 10 from the Marines, a Navy hospital corpsman and an Army soldier — when a suicide bomber detonated explosives near the airport gate.
Flags flew at half-staff in Utah as more flags lined the street outside the family home of Taylor Hoover, a Marine Corps staff sergeant who was among the 13 American troops killed in a suicide bombing Thursday near Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Hoover, 31, was remembered by family as a hero who lived to serve.
“He gave his life protecting those that can’t protect themselves, doing what he loved: serving his country,” his father Darin Hoover said.
Taylor Hoover served in the Marines for 11 years. His father said he was best friends with his two sisters and left behind a girlfriend in California. He described his son as someone who “lit up a room.”
Thirteen U.S. service members were killed in a suicide bombing attack near Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday as thousands sought to flee following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
Names and other details of the service members killed were released by the Department of Defense on Saturday:
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyoming
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas
- Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio
- Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California
- Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah
- Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska
- U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee
- Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana
- Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts
- Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California
Mounting counter-terrorism strikes against ISIS-K terrorists, like Friday’s drone strike east of Kabul, are likely to continue but will become increasingly difficult, experts say.
That’s because, after the U.S. military completes its retreat from Afghanistan in coming days after 20 years of war, intelligence leads will diminish and missions will have to be conducted from greater distances.
“The reality is that the United States has put itself in a terrible situation to conduct a sustained campaign against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” said Seth Jones, a foreign policy expert at the Center for International and Strategic Studies and former adviser to the military in Afghanistan. “It will have no bases in the region, no allies on the ground, and little intelligence infrastructure.”
Read the full story here:US likely to continue strikes against ISIS-K, even as challenges mount after Afghanistan exit
–Tom Vanden Brook
ISTANBUL – Turkish media says an evacuation flight from Afghanistan has landed in the U.K. with an extra passenger — after cabin crew delivered a baby girl mid-air.
When the traditional cry of “Is there a doctor on the flight?” went unanswered on Saturday, Turkish Airlines staff helped 26-year-old Afghan Soman Noori give birth at 30,000 feet, Demiroren News Agency said.
Soman and her husband had been evacuated from Kabul to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where they caught a flight to Birmingham.
Shortly after the plane took off on Friday night, Soman’s labor pains started and crew members stepped in to deliver the couple’s third child.
The flight landed in Kuwait as a precautionary measure and mother and baby were deemed healthy enough to carry on to the U.K.
The baby girl was named Havva, which translates as Eve in English.
–The Associated Press
The State Department said Saturday it is in contact with about 350 Americans who remain in Afghanistan and want to be evacuated.
“These roughly 350 individuals are currently the only Americans we can confirm are in Afghanistan and seeking to leave,” the agency’s press office said in a statement. “Our team on the ground has this information and continues to provide assistance around the clock. We believe that some of these people are nearly or already out of the country.”
The U.S. says it has evacuated approximately 5,400 Americans since Aug. 14, including about 300 Americans over the last 24 hours.
The State Department said there are “roughly 280 additional individuals who self-identify as Americans in Afghanistan but who have not informed us of their plans to leave the country, or who have told us they do not intend to leave at all.”
The Biden administration is scrambling to evacuate U.S. citizens amid ongoing security threats around the Kabul airport. Pentagon officials say evacuation efforts are ongoing even as the military remains on track to withdrawal all American forces by Aug. 31.
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said the U.S. did not share any information about the airstrike on the ISIS targets with the Taliban.
The Biden administration has come under fire for coordinating security at the airport with the militant Islamic group.
ISIS-K considers the Taliban, noted for its brutality, to be insufficiently devout in its adherence to Islam. The two militant groups have engaged in attacks on each other.
Kirby said the threat to U.S. military personnel at the airport in Kabul remains “active” and the military would conclude its withdrawal on Aug. 31 as scheduled.
“The threats are still very real, they’re very dynamic and we are monitoring them in real time,” Kirby said of possible additional attacks from the Islamic State group.
“Our mission to continue evacuating those as required and to meet the mission requirement by Aug. 31 is what commanders are executing,” Kirby said. “We will maintain the ability to defend ourselves and our operations all the way through.”
WASHINGTON – Two high-profile members of the terrorist group ISIS-K were killed in a U.S. drone strike Friday and a third was wounded, the Pentagon said Saturday.
The Pentagon announced the drone strike Friday night and initially said one ISIS-K official was killed. Military officials updated the death toll Saturday morning.
The names of those killed were not released.
“We know of zero civilian casualties,” said Army Maj. Gen. William D. “Hank” Taylor, joint staff deputy director for regional operations.
Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby said the two ISIS-K members killed and the one ISIS-K member wounded were planners and facilitators for the organization.
– Michael Collins
Army Maj. Gen. William D. “Hank” Taylor said the U.S. would continue to conduct counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, though he did not offer specifics.
“Without specifying any future plans, I will say that we will continue to have the ability to defend ourselves,” he said. Taylor said the Pentagon would leverage its “over-the-horizon capability” to conduct strikes as needed. That refers to operations launched from bases outside of Afghanistan.
“We’re going to defend ourselves,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby added later.
Afghans are facing economic crises as many Western governments withhold support from Taliban rule.
The Taliban cannot access almost any of the central bank’s $9 billion in reserves, most of which is held by the New York Federal Reserve. The International Monetary Fund has also suspended the transfer of some $450 million. Without a regular supply of U.S. dollars, the local currency is at risk of collapse, which could send the price of basic goods soaring.
In Kabul, hundreds of protesters, including many civil servants, gathered outside a bank while countless more lined up at cash machines. The protesters said they had not been paid for the past three to six months and were unable to withdraw cash. ATM machines are still operating, but withdrawals are limited to around $200 every 24 hours.
Later Saturday, the central bank ordered commercial bank branches to open and dispense up to $200 a day to customers, calling it a temporary measure.
Afghanistan is heavily dependent on international aid, which covered around 75% of the toppled Western-backed government’s budget.
–The Associated Press
Italy said its final evacuation flight had landed in Rome but that it would work with the United Nations and countries bordering Afghanistan to continue helping Afghans who had worked with its military contingent to leave the country.
“Our imperative must be to not abandon the Afghan people,” especially women and children, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Saturday. He said 4,890 Afghans were evacuated by Italy’s air force on 87 flights, but did not say how many others were still eligible.
–The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with his national security team at the White House on Saturday, just hours after a U.S. drone strike killed a key member of the terrorist group behind a deadly airport bombing in Kabul.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will huddle with national security officials at 11 a.m. to hear intelligence, security and diplomatic updates on the evolving situation in Afghanistan, the White House said.
The Pentagon announced late Friday that a military drone strike targeted a planner for ISIS-K, the first American attack on the terrorist group following a bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Thirteen U.S. service members and at least 169 Afghan people died in Thursday’s bombing.
The terrorist group ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack.
The ISIS-K official killed in Friday’s drone strike was believed to be planning future attacks, the Pentagon said. The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangahar Province of Afghanistan. There are no known civilian casualties, the Pentagon said.
WASHINGTON – The White House on Saturday released the latest stats on evacuations from Afghanistan.
From about 3 a.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday, about 6,800 people were evacuated from Kabul. The evacuees left the country on 32 U.S. military flights carrying about 4,000 people and 34 coalition flights holding 2,800 people.
Since Aug. 14, the U.S. has evacuated or helped evacuate about 111,900 people. Since the end of July, 117,500 people have been moved out of the country.
LONDON — Britain’s defense ministry says the final U.K. evacuation flight for Afghan nationals has left Kabul, as the country’s ambassador announced that it’s “time to close this phase of the operation.”
The U.K. military says further flights over the weekend will bring home British troops and diplomats, though they may also carry some remaining U.K. or Afghan civilians.
Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow, said from Kabul airport it was “time to close this phase of the operation now.”
“But we haven’t forgotten the people who still need to leave,” he said in a video posted on Twitter. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to help them. Nor have we forgotten the brave, decent people of Afghanistan. They deserve to live in peace and security.”
–The Associated Press
The Taliban have deployed extra forces around Kabul’s airport to prevent large crowds from gathering after a deadly suicide attack two days earlier.
The massive U.S.-led airlift is winding down ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline, with many allies having completed their own operations.
The Taliban on Saturday set up new layers of checkpoints on roads leading to the airport, some manned by uniformed fighters with Humvees and night-vision goggles captured from Afghan security forces.
Areas where large crowds have massed for the past two weeks were largely empty. A suicide attack Thursday by an Islamic State affiliate killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, and there are concerns that the group could strike again.
–The Associated Press
Names and other details of the 13 U.S. service members killed in Thursday’s Kabul airport attack began to become public on Friday through family and friends:
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyoming
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Missouri
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Laredo, Texas
- Navy Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, of Berlin Heights, Ohio
- Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Riverside County, California
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California
- Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31, of Daggett County, Utah
- Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Red Oak, Iowa
- U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee
President Joe Biden commended the “bravery and sacrifice” of the U.S military Friday, calling the 13 deaths “tragic” but saying they died for a “worthy mission.”
Biden said US would ‘hunt’ down Kabul airport attackers. A day later, a drone strike killed an ISIS-K planner.
President Joe Biden warned those behind a deadly terrorist attack that killed and wounded American service members and Afghan civilians in Kabul on Thursday that the U.S. would “hunt you down and make you pay.”
A day later, he followed through on that threat.
The Pentagon announced late Friday that a military drone strike targeted a planner for ISIS-K, the first American attack on the terrorist group following a bomb attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The airport attack – one of America’s deadliest days in the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan – drew fierce censure from Republicans, stoked fears about the final days of America’s evacuation mission and threatened to define Biden’s still-young presidency as one of chaos instead of the competence he promised on the campaign trail.