KABUL (Reuters): US troops helping to evacuate Afghans desperate to flee Taliban rule braced for more attacks on Friday after Islamic State struck the crowded gates of Kabul airport, killing scores of civilians and at least 13 US troops.
Kabul health officials were quoted as saying 60 civilians were killed in the attack on Thursday. Video shot by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies strewn around a canal on the edge of the airport. At least two blasts and gunfire here rocked the area, witnesses said. Islamic State (ISIS) said one of its suicide bombers targeted “translators and collaborators with the American army”. US officials also blamed the group.
General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said US commanders were on alert for more attacks by Islamic State, including possible rockets or vehicle-borne bombs targeting the airport. “We’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” he said.
Read more: India will soon realise Taliban’s capability to run govt: leaders
US forces are racing to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by an August 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden, who says the United States had long ago achieved its original rationale for invading the country in 2001: to root out al Qaeda militants and prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Biden said he had ordered the Pentagon to plan how to strike ISIS-K, the Islamic State affiliate that claimed responsibility. “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down here and make you pay,” Biden said during televised comments from the White House.
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 US 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.