US president Joe Biden has vowed to complete the evacuation of American citizens and others from Afghanistan despite a deadly suicide bomb attack at Kabul airport that killed at least 60 people, including 12 US military personnel, and injured many more.
e also promised to avenge the deaths, declaring to the extremists responsible: “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
Speaking with emotion from the White House, Mr Biden said the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate was to blame for the attacks that killed 12 American service members and many more Afghan civilians.
He said there was no evidence they colluded with the Taliban, who now control the country.
“We have some reason to believe we know who they are,” he said of the bombers and gunmen involved. “Not certain.”
The US leader described the U.S. servicemembers who were killed in attacks outside the airport in Kabulas “heroes.”
Addressing the nation from the White House, Biden says they were “engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others.”
Biden addressed those responsible for the attack, telling them, “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
As many as 1,000 Americans and many more Afghans are still struggling to get out of Kabul, but the attack shut down the airport.
Mr Biden was briefed on the attacks, which also killed dozens of Afghans and came 12 days into the rushed evacuation and five days before its scheduled completion. Some Republicans argued to extend the evacuation beyond next Tuesday’s deadline.
Mr Biden again defended the decision to pull US troops out of Afghanistan which allowed the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan after 20 years of foreign occupation.
The US general overseeing the evacuation, Gen Frank McKenzie, said after the attacks: “If we can find who is associated with this, we will go after them.”
He said it would be a mistake for the United States to call an early end to the evacuation, despite the risks.
The administration has been widely blamed for a chaotic and deadly evacuation that began in earnest only after the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government and the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
More than 100,000 people have been evacuated so far.
Thursday’s attacks were sure to intensify political pressure from all sides on Mr Biden, who already was under heavy criticism for not beginning the pullout earlier. He had announced in April that he was ending the US war and would have all forces out by September.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy called for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring the chamber back into session to consider legislation that would prohibit the US withdrawal until all Americans are out.
That is highly unlikely, and Ms Pelosi’s office dismissed such suggestions as “empty stunts”.
At the Pentagon, Gen McKenzie said the military believes the attacks on the airport’s perimeter were carried out by fighters affiliated with the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan arm. He said more attempted attacks were expected.
After the suicide bomber’s attack at the airport’s Abbey Gate, a number of Isis gunmen opened fire on civilians and military forces, he said. There also was an attack at or near the Baron Hotel near that gate, he said.
Mr Biden had pledged to get out of Afghanistan every American who wished to leave. As of Thursday, the State Department estimated there were as many as 1,000 Americans in Afghanistan who may want help getting out.
More than 30 Irish citizens and their dependents flew out of Kabul as the airport was shut down by the bombing today, however another 60, as well as 15 dependents, remain stranded in the country, and it may not be possible to evacuate them, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has vowed to continue the evacuation effort in Afghanistan following the “barbaric” terrorist attack.
Mr Johnson said the “overwhelming majority” of eligible people have already been helped to flee the Taliban by the RAF and “we are going to keep going up until the last moment” as the August 31 deadline to leave rapidly approaches.
The Times newspaper has reported that staff at Britain’s Foreign Office left documents with contact details of Afghans working for them scattered on the ground at the British embassy compound in Kabul that has been seized by the Taliban.
“The drawdown of our Embassy was done at pace as the situation in Kabul deteriorated. Every effort was made to destroy sensitive material”, a Foreign Office spokesperson said later.
The papers identifying seven Afghans were found by The Times on Tuesday as Taliban fighters patrolled the embassy, the newspaper said. The Times said it handed over the details of three Afghan staff and their eight family members to the Foreign Office.
“Crucially we have now been able to get these three families to safety”, a Foreign Office spokesperson said.