US troops helping to evacuate Afghans desperate to flee Taliban rule braced for more attacks on Friday (August 27) 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 August 26. 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 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 and vowed retribution. General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said US commanders were on alert for more attacks by Islamic State, including possibly rockets or vehicle-borne bombs targeting the airport. “We’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” he said.
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 September 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 and make you pay,” Biden said during televised comments from the White House.
Corpses were in the canal by the airport fence, video from the scene showed, some being fished out and laid in heaps while wailing civilians searched for loved ones. “I saw bodies and body parts flying in the air like a tornado blowing plastic bags,” said one Afghan who had been trying to reach the airport. “That little water flowing in the sewage canal had turned into blood.”