He reaffirmed the continuity of the mission to evacuate Americans and allied Afghan civilians from the country and said that “these Islamic State terrorists are not going to win. Let’s rescue the Americans. Let’s take out our Afghan allies. And our mission will continue. America will not be intimidated.”
“I also ordered my commanders to develop operational plans to attack key ISIS assets, leadership and facilities,” added the president. “We will respond with strength and precision in our time, in the place we choose, in the moment of our choice.”
“I instructed the military in whatever they needed – if they need additional strength, I will grant it,” he assured.
Biden even called the 12 servicemen who “gave their lives” to save people in an operation that has evacuated more than 100,000 from Afghanistan in the past 11 days heroes, and said they are the best in the US.
“Heroes who have embarked on a dangerous and selfless mission to save other people’s lives,” the president said.
The Pentagon speaks of a “complex attack” and says there are 12 US military personnel among the dead and at least 15 agents wounded. Afghan government sources say at least 60 civilians died and 140 were injured.
US President Joe Biden speaks after a terrorist attack at Kabul airport on Aug. 26 — Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Asked whether he trusts the Taliban, with whom an agreement was reached to guarantee security at the airport and the evacuation of foreigners from the country by the 31st, Biden said he believes the group should keep its share as a matter of self-interest.
“It’s not a question of trust. It’s a matter of mutual self-interest,” he summed up.
“We are just counting on your self-interest to be able to continue your activities. And it’s in their interest that we leave when we say and that we pull out as many people as possible,” he said.
“They are not good people, the Taliban. I’m not suggesting that,” he assured.
Video: See footage of injured after explosion outside the airport
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) confirmed that the attack on Kabul’s international airport was a terrorist attack, condemned by the Taliban (see below).
The EI-K, responsible for the explosions, is more radical than the Taliban and criticized the peace agreement responsible for the foreign withdrawal from Afghanistan.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III deplored the deaths of military personnel acting in control of the airport in a statement but confirmed that the withdrawal is continuing, as Biden later corroborated.
“Terrorists took their lives just as troops were trying to save other people’s lives,” Austin wrote. “We will not be dissuaded from the task at hand.”
Hamid Karzai International Airport is the country’s only exit point for thousands of foreigners and Afghans desperately trying to board the withdrawal flights organized by Western countries (see below).
“We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in several American and civilian casualties,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
“We can confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from the Abbey gate.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “vehemently condemns the horrific terrorist attack outside Kabul airport”. “Our priority remains to evacuate as many people to a safe location as quickly as possible.”
Map identifies area of explosions near Kabul airport on August 26, 2021 — Photo: Art G1
Two US government sources told Reuters news agency that at least one of the explosions appeared to have been a suicide bombing.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that “the Islamic Emirate [do Afeganistão] strongly condemns the bombing of civilians at Kabul airport, which took place in an area where US forces are responsible for security.”.
Injured man transported on stretcher after two strong explosions at Kabul airport, Afghanistan, Aug 26, 2021 — Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP
VIDEO: Explosion victims at Kabul airport arrive at hospital
‘Imminent’ risk of attack
The President of the USA, Joe Biden, was informed of the attack during a meeting with security authorities about the situation in Afghanistan, according to Reuters.
Earlier, the US, UK and Australia warned of the risk of an “imminent” attack at the site and asked their citizens to immediately leave the airport area due to a terrorist threat.
“The information obtained over the week is increasingly serious and refers to an imminent and serious threat,” British Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, James Heappey, earlier said. “It’s a very serious threat, very imminent.”
Among the threats were a possible attack by the Islamic State (see more at the end of the text).
Afghanistan: even with terrorist threat, crowd remains at Kabul airport
Hamid Karzai International Airport is the country’s only gateway for foreigners and Afghans. More than 100,000 people have been evacuated since the Taliban regained power on 15 August, but a crowd still gathers in and around the site, including in ditches (see the video below).
According to The New York Times, at least 250,000 Afghans who worked for the US have not yet been removed from the country — and the current evacuation rate is not enough to evacuate everyone by Tuesday (31).
The deadline was set by US President Joe Biden in early July, who refused requests from allies to delay the definitive exit from Afghanistan. The Taliban has repeatedly said that it would not accept an extension of the deadline.
Germany announced on Thursday, after the explosions at Kabul airport, that it had completed the withdrawal of its soldiers and diplomatic staff from Afghanistan.
VIDEO: People in ditch try to board one of the planes leaving Kabul, Afghanistan
Threat from the Islamic State
Among the reasons given by Biden for denying the request was the “acute” terrorist threat from the regional wing of the Islamic State terrorist group, responsible for some of the most violent attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years.
The terrorist group has carried out attacks on mosques, shrines, squares and even hospitals in both countries, as well as attacks against Muslims from wards it considers to be heretics, such as the Shiites.
“Every day, operations pose an additional risk to our troops,” the US president said, citing the likelihood of an Islamic State attack in Kabul. “The Taliban’s number 1 enemy targets the airport to attack US and Allied forces as well as innocent civilians.”
While the Islamic State and the Taliban are radical Sunnis, the two extremist groups are rivals.
The Islamic State criticized the US-Taliban peace agreement signed in 2020, who established the guidelines for the withdrawal of foreign troops, and accused the Taliban of abandoning the jihadist cause.