After the devastating attack near Kabul airport, U.S. President Joe Biden has threatened the terrorists responsible for it with retaliation. "We will hunt you down and make you pay," Biden said at the White House on Thursday.He announced U.S. military operations against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia responsible for the attack - and continued evacuations from Afghanistan. The terrorists could not make the U.S. stop its "mission," Biden stressed, referring to the remaining Americans in the country. "We're going to find them, and we're going to get them out of there," he said.
Many Afghans were killed in the attack, in addition to 13 U.S. soldiers. Unconfirmed media reports and videos from the scene indicate dozens of local fatalities, in addition to countless injured. The U.S. Defense Department said 18 soldiers were also wounded. The injured would be flown out in specially equipped aircraft, it said.
For U.S. forces, it was the first soldiers to die violently in Afghanistan since last February - and the heaviest casualties there in a decade. Biden ordered U.S. flags over the White House and on all public buildings to be flown at half-mast by Monday evening to commemorate the victims.
The offshoot of the IS terrorist militia active in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the attack. Referring to the group, Biden said the U.S. had information on where the masterminds of the attacks were located - and would find ways to bring them to justice "wherever they are" even without large-scale military operations. His urgent words to the terrorists: "We will not forgive. We will not forget."
According to U.S. reports, at least two suicide bombers had blown themselves up. According to the report, one of the detonations occurred at a gate to the airport compound where U.S. soldiers were on duty. A number of fighters from the IS terrorist militia subsequently opened fire on civilians and soldiers, said U.S. General Kenneth McKenzie, who leads U.S. Central Command Centcom. He warned that more attacks should be expected. "We are doing everything we can to be prepared for these attacks," he said. It is an "extremely active threat situation," he added.
The rescue mission in Kabul continued nonetheless. U.S. Air Force and allied aircraft evacuated some 7500 people from mid-morning until shortly before midnight (Kabul local time) on Thursday, he said. That brought to 100,100 the number of Afghans and Western nationals flown out since mid-August, a White House official said.
The German air force flew out all Bundeswehr soldiers, diplomats and remaining police officers from the crisis-hit state on Thursday, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) said. According to the minister, 5347 people from at least 45 countries were evacuated, including about 500 Germans and more than 4,000 Afghans.
The evacuation mission of the good 5000 U.S. troops in Kabul is to end as planned on Tuesday of next week, despite recent events, Biden stressed. This means that allies will also no longer be able to evacuate their nationals and former local personnel. However, the federal government and the United States are counting on the Taliban to continue to cooperate after Aug. 31 to allow departures. In return, they may hope for some aid from the international community, the logic goes. Biden stated, "They are not good guys, the Taliban. I don't mean that at all. But they have a clear interest."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking on the occasion of the end of the German evacuation mission, said, "We are working hard and vigorously to negotiate precisely conditions with the Taliban about how further departures will also be possible."The militant Islamist Taliban control Kabul and thus also the area around the airport. The security situation there had recently become even more acute. The Bundeswehr had already reported on Tuesday that potential IS suicide bombers were increasingly on the move in Kabul. Biden had made similar comments. The terrorist militia is also a "declared enemy" of the Taliban, he had declared earlier in the week. Biden also justified his adherence to the withdrawal of U.S. troops with this terror threat, among other things.
Thousands of people continue to try to flee the violence abroad. For more than a week, they have been gathering around various entrances to the airport to get on an evacuation flight. In the process, dramatic conditions prevailed around the airport.Meanwhile, more and more Afghans are leaving overland for Pakistan. At least 10,000 Afghans crossed the border at Spin Boldak/Chaman daily, a border official said. Previously, there had been about 4,000 on normal days, he said. Most were on their way to relatives in towns and regions not far from the border, he said.The Taliban had seized power in Afghanistan in mid-August. Most units of the Afghan security forces surrendered without a fight, and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
Photo by Chuanchai Pundej