Kabul explosions leaves 13 US marines dead, while Biden prepares for potential response
Twin blasts outside Kabul's airport killed 75 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops Thursday. However, President Joe Biden said evacuation plan will continue.
Thursday's ISIS attack outside the Kabul airport, killed 13 U.S. soldiers, 72 Afghans and left more than 100 wounded during the chaotic twin blast, including Taliban fighters.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Kabul airport’s attacks shortly after the disaster happened.
U.S. General Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, confirmed on Thursday that two suicide bombers assessed to be from Islamic State carried out an attack at Kabul's airport that killed 12 U.S. troops and injured 15 others, with US death toll confirmed later to be increased by 1 —13 US deaths—.
He told a news briefing at the Pentagon that the bombing was followed by a gunfight and that, while the military is saddened by the deaths, evacuations from Afghanistan are continuing.
The United States would press on with evacuations despite the threat of further attacks, McKenzie said, there were still around 1,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan.
In the past 12 days, Western countries have evacuated nearly 100,000 people. But they acknowledge that thousands will be left behind when the last U.S. troops leave at the end of the month.
Several Western countries said the mass airlift of civilians was coming to an end and announced their last remaining troops had left the country.
The American casualties in Thursday's attack were believed to be the most U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan in a single incident since 30 personnel died when a helicopter was shot down in 2011.
The U.S. deaths were the first in action in Afghanistan in 18 months, a fact likely to be cited by critics who accuse Biden of recklessly abandoning a stable and hard-won status quo by ordering an abrupt pullout.
“Today I saw doomsday, I witnessed it with my own eyes'
Even for a city as used to violent death as Kabul, the scenes after twin blasts tore through crowds thronging outside the airport in hope of evacuation were apocalyptic.
For one man, a former employee of an international development group with a U.S. special immigrant visa, the day began early.
He joined thousands of people around the airport hoping to clear the gates and get onto one of the flights ferrying when at around 5 p.m., a powerful explosion went off.
'It was as if someone pulled the ground from under my feet; for a moment I thought my eardrums were blasted and I lost my sense of hearing,' said the man.
'I saw bodies and body parts flying in the air like a tornado taking plastic bags ... into the air. I saw bodies, body parts, elderly and injured men, women and children scattered in the blast site.
'It is not possible to see doomsday in this life, but today I saw doomsday, I witnessed it with my own eyes.'
Kabul has endured frequent suicide attacks in the 20 years since the Taliban were first driven from power, and the city's residents have grown used to police and security teams sealing off the blast sites and carrying away the dead and wounded.
Today, as the wounded were helped away or carried off in wheelbarrows, it was shocked survivors who were left to stumble over the bloodstained corpses of dozens flung by the blast into a sewage ditch.
'Physically, I am OK ... but I don't think the mental wound and the shock I sustained from today's blast will ever let me live a normal life.'
Biden: “We will hunt you down and make you pay”
President Joe Biden, his voice breaking with emotion, vowed on Thursday the United States would hunt down the attackers of twin explosions at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan and said he has asked the Pentagon to develop plans to strike back at them.
Biden spoke hours after the two blasts killed 13 American troops and wounded more, the worst day of casualties for U.S. forces there in a decade.
'We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,' he said in remarks at the White House.
Biden said U.S. evacuations would continue. He gave no indication of a change in next Tuesday's U.S. pullout target.
'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.
Finally, US president alleges he doesn’t regret relying on Taliban’s help for a safe evacuation as there is no evidence thus far to believe tat there has been collusion between The Taliban and ISIS.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday it is not going to be possible to evacuate every Afghan who wants to get out of the county before the U.S. military withdraws on Aug 31, also stating the president never considered changing the withdrawal deadline.
However, Psaki said there is no end date on any commitment to evacuate any American who wants to get out of Afghanistan, even after the military withdrawal.
The Taliban speaks on the bombing
“The Taliban warned the foreign forces the repercussions of the large gathering at Kabul airport,' Taliban’s spokesman Mohammad Naeem, said Thursday.
Moreover, another Taliban official added that there is no reason to extend the deadline for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan, despite the tragic event that has taken place outside the airport.
Western countries fear that the Taliban, who once sheltered Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, will allow Afghanistan to turn again into a haven for militants. The Taliban say they will not let the country be used by terrorists.
“Taliban leaders should investigate the islamic network in Kabul. They allowed thousands of prisoners to walk out of jails indecent weeks, security is their responsibility,” a NATO diplomat said Thursday.
Biden forced to postpone meeting with Israeli Prime Minister
Thursday's Islamic State attack occurred just hours before the Biden-Bennett meeting, aimed at resetting the tone of U.S.-Israeli relations and finding common ground on Iran, initially causing a delay.
But as the U.S. death toll mounted, U.S. and Israeli officials said the meeting had been called off and rescheduled for Friday. Israeli media reported the two leaders would meet at 10:25 a.m. ET Friday.
In a statement early on Friday, Bennett expressed his deepest condolences over the attacks and said Israel shared with the U.S. in its sorrow.
Blasts speed evacuations
Several countries including New Zealand, Australia, UK and Spain have already concluded their evacuation plan at a risk of further terrorist attacks. All of their evacuation personnel from Afghanistan and all its diplomatic staff are safe.
'It is with deep regret that not everyone has been able to be evacuated during this process,' UK defence minister Ben Wallace said in a statement.