Two suicide bombings rocked Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan on Thursday as the rush to rescue Americans and Afghans continued. The attack by the terror group known as “ISIS-K” has killed at least sixty people, including 12 American service members. It is one of the deadliest days for American troops since the war began in 2001.
President Biden addresses the nation
“It’s been a difficult day,” said President Biden as he approached the podium.
“These American service members who gave their lives were heroes; heroes who were engaged in a dangerous and selfless mission to save the lives of others.”
The President, whose late son Beau was an American service member, became emotional as he spoke about the pain families were facing today. Biden said his “heart aches” for both American and Afghan families who lost loved ones today.
“You get this feeling like you’re getting sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest,” Biden said, empathetically. “Like you can’t get out. My heart aches for you.”
The President reiterated his commitment to completing the mission of evacuating American citizens and allies.
“We can and we must complete this mission, and we will,” he told reporters. “We will not be deterred by terrorists.”
The President also made clear he has authorized the military to strike ISIS-K terrorist headquarters and hideouts in response to the attack.
“For those who carried out this attack, know this,” Biden said forcefully. “We will not forgive. we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
Bombing in Kabul coordinated; more attacks are likely
According to officials, the attack today took place while security officials were searching one of the bombers at an airport entrance gate. American military leaders called the attack “complex”, including coordinated bombings and gunfire. They warned that “very real threats remain”.
“We expect these attacks to continue,” said General Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of the US Central Command. The General said that American troops will be undeterred in their mission to get Americans and allies out of the area.
“The plan is designed to operate while under stress and under attack,” McKenzie said. “Our mission remains. If we can find those who are responsible for this, we will go after them.”
Attack comes amid massive evacuation effort
Just hours before the bombing, intelligence officials issued a public warning that a terror attack on the airport was “imminent“.
Officials warn that US troops and Afghans continue to face an “extremely dangerous” situation on the ground from ISIS. Evacuation efforts have continued in the wake of the Taliban taking control of the country last week. After nearly 20 years of war and US occupation, the siege erased much of the progress made in ousting the extremist regime.
Since the takeover, the United States has screened over 104,000 people to get them on flights out of Afghanistan. Pentagon officials today confirmed the US Military is coordinating with Taliban officials to get Americans out. NBC News is reporting that Taliban officials may have already stopped several ISIS attacks around the airport.
Despite this collaboration, concern remains about the safety of Afghans who supported American officials over the last two decades. Reports suggest that Taliban fighters are targeting these individuals and their families for persecution. The rapid takeover of the country has lead to an outpouring of concern for Afghan people from across the world.
In addition to threats against American supports, many fear the fates of women and girls across Afghanistan. Multiple journalists report restrictions increasing on female Afghans being able to attend work, school or financial institutions.
Rescue operation continues to unfold
Even as thousands of Americans and Afghan refugees begin reach the United States, concerns remain for the many still unaccounted for. Pentagon officials estimate as many as 1,000 Americans are still somewhere in Kabul awaiting rescue. These officials, however, admit they are still unsure where many of these Americans are.
Other nations, including France, are supporting the evacuation efforts and maintain their commitment to see the operation through. America will reach its agreed upon deadline to withdraw troops on August 31st, though some Republicans are pushing for American troops to remain in the nation longer.
Meanwhile, national security experts describe this moment as a “nightmare scenario” with Kabul’s airport remaining a “soft target”. In a speech earlier this week, Biden warned about the need to rapidly evacuate the country to avoid American troops becoming vulnerable to these sorts of attacks.
“This is why I have been so determined to limit the duration of this mission,” Biden said in his address to the nation after the bombing today. The President said he will authorize whatever the military needs to respond. However, he made clear his desire to stick to the August 31st timeline.
Biden said to any Americans who want to get out, “we will find you and we will get you out.”