Biden warns Kabul airport attackers: ‘We will hunt you down’

Y3VFZ2ROYNPIHOBKV2O4NERLU4 Biden warns Kabul airport attackers: 'We will hunt you down'

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden, his voice breaking with emotion, vowed on Thursday the United States would hunt down those responsible for twin explosions at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan and said he had asked the Pentagon to develop plans to strike back at them.

Biden spoke hours after the blasts killed at least 13 American troops and scores of civilians, the worst day of casualties for US forces there in a decade.

Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), an affiliate of militants who previously battled US forces in Syria and Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay, ”Biden said in remarks at the White House.

He promised US evacuations would continue.

“We will not be deterred by terrorists, we will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuations, ”he said.

Vice President Kamala Harris canceled her plan to campaign for California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsroom, who is facing a recall election on September 14, on her way home from a trip to Asia, and will instead return to Washington, her staff said.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Biden was sticking to his Tuesday pullout target for withdrawing US forces, saying he was doing so on the advice of military advisers concerned about more attacks.

She said Biden was working to get out every American who wanted out by the deadline. “Our commitment to them does not end,” she said.

Biden said he had ordered US military commanders to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership, and facilities. “We will find ways of our choosing, without large military operations, to get them,” he said.

He appeared to be fighting back tears and his voice cracked with emotion as he talked about the American “heroes” who died. He ordered flags at the White House and public buildings around the country to be lowered to half staff.

“It’s been a tough day,” he said.

The president said he had told the US military: “Whatever they need, if they need additional force, I will grant it.”

Biden defended his handling of his most serious foreign policy crisis, saying ultimately it is his responsibility while assigning some blame to his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, for the 2020 agreement Trump negotiated with the Taliban.

He said he did not trust the Taliban but believed it was in the group’s interest to let the evacuations continue.

Psaki said the United States also had “an enormous amount of leverage” – including economic leverage – over the Taliban, which are subject to US and UN sanctions.

The Afghan government has also long relied on transfers of dollars from their central bank assets, many of which are held in the United States. An administration official said any such assets would not be made available to the Taliban.

MILITARY DEATHS IN AFGHANISTAN NIGHTMARE SCENARIO FOR BIDEN:

President Joe Biden, anxiously seeking to complete the US evacuation from Afghanistan, watched a nightmare scenario unfold on Thursday when suicide bomb explosions outside the Kabul airport killed at least 12 US troops and wounded 15 others.

Biden had already gathered in the White House Situation Room with his top military and diplomatic advisers for a daily update on the chaotic evacuation effort early on Thursday when the blasts occurred outside the airport in the Afghan capital.

The team did not emerge from the Situation Room until more than two hours later, then Biden migrated to the Oval Office, as a steady stream of Pentagon personnel, some in uniform, filed in and out of the White House.

Some staff learned of the growing numbers of US military dead from mounted television screens in the White House West Wing as the day progressed, and let out cries of despair as the numbers multiplied.

“We’re outraged as well as heartbroken,” Biden said of himself and his wife Jill in public remarks late on Thursday. The couple had “some sense what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today” after the death of his Army major son Beau from brain cancer, which Biden has previously linked to his son’s military service.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack which also killed scores of civilians.

Biden, facing criticism over the US evacuation after the rapid Taliban takeover of Afghanistan as American forces were pulling out after two decades, has sought to hammer home a message in days before the attacks that the United States was leaving Afghanistan in order to save the lives of US troops.

The US military death toll in the Afghan war since 2001 is roughly 2,500.

Remaining any longer, the Democratic president told reporters on Aug. 20, could mean he would need to “send your sons, your daughters – like my son was sent to Iraq – to maybe die. And for what? For what? ”

Thursday’s US military casualties were the first in Afghanistan since February 2020 and represented the deadliest day for American troops there in a decade.

‘THE NIGHTMARE WE FEARED’:

Some critics blamed the rushed evacuation, which threatens to leave some Americans behind in Afghanistan, for the deaths among the roughly 5,200 Americans providing security at Kabul’s airport to close out US involvement in Afghanistan after 20 years of conflict. US officials said on Thursday about 1,000 Americans remained in Afghanistan.

“This is the nightmare we feared – and it’s why for weeks, military, intelligence and congressional leaders from both parties have begged the president to stand up to the Taliban and push out the airport perimeter,” said Republican US Senator Ben Sasse.

“As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security,” added Democrat Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in an implicit criticism of Biden’s strategy.

Biden, who took office in January, pushed a May withdrawal target set by former President Donald Trump to August 31. But, under pressure from Pentagon officials who warned that security risks from Islamist militants were rising at the airport, Biden refused to move it back. further, despite pressure from allied nations.

A Biden adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deaths of American troops underscored both why Biden made the decision to withdraw in the first place and the risks of an extended engagement in the country.

There are further risks to the president, including worsening internal Democratic Party divisions that have been brewing, the adviser said.

Until now, the White House has tried to push back on hostile media coverage, the adviser said, by citing the lack of US deaths in the evacuation effort.

A long-term skeptic of the 20-year military presence in Afghanistan, Biden has said the United States long ago achieved its original rationale for invading the country in 2001: to root out al Qaeda militants and prevent another attack on the United States like the one launched on Sept. 11, 2001. read more

The mastermind of that attack, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was killed by a US military team in neighboring Pakistan in 2011. Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers had harbored al Qaeda militants ahead of the 2001 attack before being toppled from power after the 2001 US-led invasion.

After Trump orchestrated a peace deal with the Taliban before leaving office, Biden and his team stayed in constant contact with the group to try to ensure a smooth US evacuation.

Due to the day’s events, Biden was forced to postpone – at least until Friday – his first face-to-face meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and canceled a meeting with a bipartisan group of state governors about temporarily housing or helping resettle Afghan refugees. .

Author: faisal