More than 90 Afghans and at least 13 American servicemen were killed by two explosions at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where U.S. and allied forces have been handling a chaotic evacuation from the Taliban-controlled country.
The attacks consisted of a suicide bombing at the airport’s Abbey Gate, which was followed up by gunfire, as well as a bombing at a hotel near the airport. The Pentagon said that 18 U.S. troops were injured in the attacks, which made Aug. 26 the U.S. military’s deadliest day in Afghanistan since 2011.
ISIS, the terror group known for its apocalyptic flavor of Islamist extremism, said it had carried out the attack, and bragged that its suicide bomber had managed to get past the “security fortifications” of both the U.S. forces and the Taliban.
Just days earlier, U.S. officials had warned of the potential for groups like ISIS to take advantage of the chaos at the airport and undertake terrorist operations there.
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John Sullivan, U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said on Aug. 22 that the ISIS “threat is real. It is acute. It is persistent. And it is something that we are focused on with every tool in our arsenal.”
The Taliban movement — which also follows a radical interpretation of Islam — regards ISIS’ doctrines as heresy and actively fights the group, recently killing Abu Omar Khorasani, a former leader of ISIS in Afghanistan. ISIS is known as ISIS-K, for Kabul, in the Afghan capital.
U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would retaliate against ISIS for the attack. “We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he told reporters in Washington, D.C.
Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said that evacuation efforts would continue past Aug. 31, the date Biden had previously set as the deadline to withdraw all American forces. On Aug. 25, an estimated 1,500 American citizens were still in Afghanistan.
“We will not be dissuaded from the task at hand,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a written statement. “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.”
However, the message was contradicted by Biden, who maintained that the deadline would be honored.
“Every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both US forces and allied forces and innocent civilians,” Biden stated.