Kabul airport twin blasts: US braces for more possible attacks; 13 US military personnel killed as Biden warns ‘We will hunt you down’

Two bombs were detonated by apparent suicide bombers near the Abbey Gate to the airport where Afghans were lining up to enter the US-secured airport. The second bomb was close to the Baron Hotel where many British citizens had been awaiting evacuation.

The apparent suicide vest attack Thursday occurred at the Abbey Gate to the airport where US forces were screening Afghan civilians for admission to the airport, McKenzie said.

“The impact of these blasts has been huge,” said Rossella Miccio, president of Emergency, a non-governmental medical aid group.

US troops helping to evacuate Afghans desperate to flee Taliban rule braced for more attacks on Friday, a day after an ISIL (ISIS)-affiliated group struck the crowded gates of Kabul airport, killing at least 60 civilians and 13 US troops.

At least 13 United States military service personnel have been killed and 18 injured in the bomb attack at the Kabul airport that killed at least 60 Afghan civilians and wounded many more, a US official said. The 13th fatality was confirmed by the Pentagon late on Thursday.

Earlier, two US officials told The Associated Press that of the 12 initially killed, 11 were Marines and one a Navy medic. “A thirteenth US service member has died from his wounds suffered as a result of the attack on Abbey Gate,” Central Command spokesman Captain Bill Urban said in a statement.

It is believed to be the most US troops killed in Afghanistan in a single incident since 30 personnel died when a helicopter was shot down in August 2011.

The Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), an ISIL offshoot in Afghanistan, said one of its suicide bombers singled out “translators and collaborators with the American army”.

General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said US commanders were on alert for more possible attacks. “We’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” he said.

US President Joe Biden pledged to retaliate against the attack in Kabul, confirming that the bombings were carried out by ISIS-K. “We will hunt you down and make you pay. I will defend our interests in our people with every measure at my command.”

Despite the attack, Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie Jr, commander of the US Central Command, said that the US is “continuing to execute the mission,” to evacuate US citizens and as many Afghans, who have documents to leave the country.

“Our mission is to evacuate US citizens or third-country nationals, especially immigrant visa holders, US embassy staff and Afghans at risk,” McKenzie.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, the top US general, also said the American military remains “focused and steadfast on this mission”.

“These brave men and women are taking risks to save lives of the vulnerable and safeguard Americans,” Milley said. “They’ve moved more than 100,000 people to safety. I could not be prouder of their service. They gave their lives to save others; there is no higher noble calling.”

Biden confirmed in a speech from the White House on Thursday that the bombings were carried out by the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), ISIL’s affiliate in Afghanistan.

“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive; we will not forget,” Biden said.

“We will hunt you down and make you pay. I will defend our interests in our people with every measure at my command.”

Biden added that the US will continue the evacuations of American citizens and US allies despite the attack. “We will not be deterred by terrorists; we will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuations,” he said.

Biden had postponed his engagements for the day, including a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, to focus on the situation in Afghanistan.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday his country has already completed its evacuation operations in Afghanistan.

The country pulled out its troops out Kabul just before the bombings on Thursday, after receiving “very clear intelligence” of an impending attack.

“We were able to ensure the departure of the remaining Australian personnel over the course of last night, not that long before the terrible events that unfolded last night took place,” Morrison said at a news conference.

He also said that American and British forces had helped Australia over nine days to evacuate some 4,100 people, including 3,200 Australians and Afghan citizens with Australian visas.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide has announced that her country can no longer assist in evacuating remaining citizens from Afghanistan’s capital.

“The doors at the airport are now closed and it is no longer possible to get people in,” Soereide said in an interview with TV2.

Norway had earlier agreed to provide airlift support for Afghan evacuees from the Gulf region to follow-on points in Europe, according to a US State Department statement.

The US presently has 5,800 troops at the airport in Kabul working to evacuate thousands of US citizens, Afghans and others.

American service members had not been killed in combat Afghanistan since February 2020.

Eleven US service members were killed in 2020 and 24 in 2019 bringing the total of US military fatalities in Afghanistan to 2,218 since the US invaded after the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks, according to the Defense Department.

More than 71,000 Afghan civilians and 66,000 Afghan military and police forces have been killed in the war, according to Brown University and the Brookings Institution, which have tracked the data.

In Washington, politicians from both major parties condemned the attack, with Republicans taking aim at Biden over the withdrawal decision. Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican, called for Biden’s resignation.

“To say that today’s loss of American lives in Kabul is sickening does not begin to do justice to what has happened,” Hawley wrote on Twitter.

“It is enraging. And Joe Biden is responsible. It is now clear beyond all doubt that he has neither the capacity nor the will to lead.”

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, said enemies of the US were taking advantage of the “chaotic nature of Biden’s withdrawal”.

He called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to convene Congress to “prohibit the withdrawal of our troops until every American is safely out”.

Horrific. Our enemies have taken advantage of the chaotic nature of Biden’s withdrawal.

Speaker Pelosi must bring Congress back before Aug 31 so we can be briefed thoroughly by the Administration and prohibit the withdrawal of our troops until every American is safely out.

US troops are set to withdraw by the end of the month, and the administration says it is “on pace” to evacuate all Americans before August 31.

For her part, Pelosi called on the White House to keep lawmakers involved in the handling of the situation.

“As we work with the Biden Administration to bring stability to the situation, Congress must continue to be kept closely informed, which is why I have requested that the Executive Branch continue to brief Members,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Al Jazeera
Edited by Managing Editor LENS

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