Joe Biden has vowed to keep up airstrikes against the Islamic extremist group whose suicide bombing at the Kabul airport killed scores of Afghans and 13 American service members. He warned another attack was highly likely and the State Department called the threat.
The Pentagon said the remaining contingent of U.S. forces at the airport, now numbering fewer than 4,000, had begun their final withdrawal ahead of Biden’s deadline for ending the evacuation on Tuesday. After getting briefed on a U.S. drone mission in eastern Afghanistan that the Pentagon said killed two members of the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate early Saturday, Biden said Saturday the extremists can expect more.
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This strike was not the last in a statement. We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay. He paid tribute to the “bravery and selflessness” of the American troops executing the hurried airlift of tens of thousands from Kabul airport, including the 13 U.S. service members who were killed in suicide bombing at an airport gate. And then the evacuation proceeded as tensions rose over the prospect of another IS attack. The State Department issued a new security alert early Sunday morning Kabul time instructing people to leave the airport area immediately “due to a specific, credible threat.
Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours,” Biden said, adding that he has instructed them to take all possible measures to protect their troops, who are securing the airport and helping bring onto the airfield Americans and others desperate to escape Taliban rule.
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The remains of the 13 American troops were on their way to the United States, the Pentagon said. Their voyage marked a painful moment in a nearly 20-year American war that cost more than 2,400 U.S. military lives and is ending with the return to power of a Taliban movement that was ousted when U.S. forces invaded in October 2001.
The remains of troops killed in action overseas are usually flown back to the U.S. via Dover Air Base in Delaware, where fallen troops’ return to U.S. soil is marked by a solemn movement known as the “dignified transfer, The White House on that day did not say if Biden would travel to Dover for the troops’ return. Biden’s press secretary, said shortly after the attack that the president would do everything he can to honor the sacrifice and the service of those killed.
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The Pentagon released the names of those killed — 11 Marines, one Navy sailor and one Army soldier. Twelve of them were in the 20s; some were born in 2001, the year America’s longest war began.
They were the first U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan since February 2020, the month the Trump administration struck an agreement with the Taliban in which the militant group halted attacks on Americans in exchange for a U.S. agreement to remove all troops and contractors by May 2021. Biden announced in April that the 2,500 to 3,000 troops who remained would be out by September, ending what he has called America’s forever war. With Biden’s approval, the Pentagon this month sent thousands of additional troops to the Kabul airport to provide security and to facilitate the State Department’s chaotic effort to evacuate thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans who had helped the United States during the war. The evacuation was marred by confusion and chaos as the U.S. government was caught by surprise when the Afghan army collapsed and the Taliban swept to power Aug. 15.
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About 5,400 Americans have been evacuated from the country so far, including 300 in the last day. The State Department believes about 350 more want out; it said there are roughly 280 others who have said they are Americans but who have not told the State Department of their plans to leave the country, or who have said they plan to remain. Untold numbers of vulnerable Afghans, fearful of a return to the brutality of pre-2001 Taliban rule, are likely to be left behind. Biden and the leaders of other Western countries have said they would try to work with the Taliban to allow Afghans who had worked with them to leave after the U.S.-led evacuation ends.
The Pentagon said that about 6,800 people, mostly Afghans, were flown out in the 24 hours that ended Saturday morning, bringing to 113,500 the total number of people of all nationalities evacuated since the hurried exit was begun Aug. 14.
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