Western forces are now bracing for another terror attack after the United States carried out a drone strike against an Islamic State (IS) “planner” in eastern Afghanistan.
The strike was launched a day after a suicide attack outside Kabul’s airport killed 13 US troops and at least 169 Afghans.
“Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties,” a US military statement said.
On Thursday (local time), an explosion ripped through the crowds outside Kabul’s main airport, killing US troops and Afghans.
An Afghan offshoot of the IS group, ISIS-K – an enemy of the Islamist Taliban as well as the West – claimed the attack.
US President Joe Biden had declared soon after that the perpetrators of the attack would not be able to hide.
Mr Biden, his voice breaking with emotion, vowed that the United States would hunt down those responsible, and said he had ordered the Pentagon to come up with plans to strike at the perpetrators.
“We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said.
On Friday (local time), the US military said it launched a drone strike that it believed had killed an IS attack planner.
But officials have cautioned that beyond a symbolic act or limited operation, the United States could in fact do little to degrade ISIS-K.
Western forces running the Afghan airlift are now bracing for more terrorist attacks as they try to evacuate citizens and vulnerable Afghans.
ISIS-K claimed airport suicide attack
Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), an affiliate of IS militants who previously battled US forces in Syria and Iraq, said it had carried out Thursday’s attack, which killed dozens of people — including at least 169 Afghans who were trying to leave the country, according to two US officials.
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 Mr Biden’s Tuesday deadline for evacuation.
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.
The US President was warned on Friday to expect another lethal attack in the closing days of a frantic US-led evacuation.
The race out of Afghanistan
An unnamed Western official has told Reuters that “swift passage” is now being provided for “every foreigner” seeking to leave Afghanistan in the next 48 hours.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the next few days of the mission to evacuate Americans and others, including vulnerable Afghans fleeing Taliban rule, “will be the most dangerous period to date”.
US and allied forces are racing to complete evacuations of their citizens and vulnerable Afghans as the Pentagon warns of more terrorist attacks during the last days of America’s withdrawal.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters the US military was monitoring credible, specific Islamic State threats “in real time”.
The Biden administration has promised to withdraw completely from Afghanistan by Tuesday, August 31.
Australian troops had already left Afghanistan before the suicide bombing of the airport, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said, but there were still Australians and visa-holders stuck in Kabul.
They have been asked to keep away from Kabul airport, as Mr Dutton has said intelligence showed more terrorist attacks were planned.
The White House said that as of Friday morning (local time), about 12,500 people were airlifted from Kabul in the last 24 hours on US and coalition aircraft; in the 12 hours that followed, another 4,200 people were evacuated.
The administration has said it intends to push on and complete the airlift despite the terror threats.
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