President Biden condemns attack and vows to find those responsible
Two suicide bombers struck a crowd outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 13 U.S. service members and dozens more Afghans.
The attack came as the U.S. continued its evacuations out of the airport in Kabul, where thousands of Afghans and several hundred U.S. citizens are waiting to be airlifted. The Islamic State Khorasan, also known as ISIS-K, took responsibility for the attack late Thursday.
The Pentagon confirmed that one bomb was detonated near the Abbey Gate and another occurred near the Baron Hotel, both of which are located in close proximity to the Kabul airport.
According to U.S. officials, 15 U.S. service members were among the scores injured in the attack. Afghan health officials estimated Thursday that there were between 40 to 60 Afghans killed and 120 to 140 injured in the attack.
The American troops killed in the attack were among the 5,800 President Joe Biden deployed to help evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans after the country fell to the Taliban. Of the 13 U.S. troops who died, the majority were members of the Marines, U.S. officials said.
“Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a statement Thursday. “We mourn their loss. We will treat their wounds. And we will support their families in what will most assuredly be devastating grief.”
President Biden spoke at the White House on Thursday, condemning the violence and vowing to hunt down those responsible for the attack. The president said he would direct commanders to target those in ISIS-K who caused the attack.
“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive,” the president said. “We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
Addressing the nation from the East Wing of the White House, Mr. Biden held a somber moment of silence in honor of those who lost their lives in the attack.
Following Thursday’s attack, Gen. Frank McKenzie, who is overseeing the Afghanistan evacuation, told reporters that the U.S. is monitoring additional “active threats to the airfield.” The night before Thursday’s attack, officials were warned by an affiliate of the Islamic State of a “credible” threat to the airport, according to national reports.
Despite Thursday’s violence, U.S. officials remained confident that the evacuation efforts would continue in the four days leading up to the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
“We will not be dissuaded from the task at hand,” Mr. Austin, the secretary of defense, said as an indication that the U.S. would continue its efforts on the ground in Afghanistan.
“To do anything less — especially now — would dishonor the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan,” he added.