WASHINGTON (SBG) — President Joe Biden praised the bravery of U.S. troops helping evacuate Americans and Afghans from the Kabul airport following deadly suicide bombings Thursday and promised a strong response to those responsible.
President Joe Biden addresses the nation on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, after a pair of suicide bombings erupted at the airport in Kabul, killing a dozen U.S. troops. (POOL, CNN Newsource)
Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds at the Kabul airport, where U.S. troops are working to evacuate thousands of Afghans following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Thirteen U.S. troops were killed in the blast. Afghan officials told The Associated Press that more than 140 Afghans were wounded.
“They were heroes,” Biden said. “Heroes who’ve been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others.”
The president said those who planned Thursday’s attack and wish to carry out others in the future will be brought to justice.
“We will not forgive. We will not forget, we will hunt you down — and make you pay,” Biden said.
Both the president and the Pentagon have said the evacuation will continue as the Aug. 31 withdrawal date approaches following the deadly attack.
“We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place of our choosing,” Biden said. “These ISIS terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans; we will get our Afghan allies out, and our mission will go on. America will not be intimidated.”
The Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the attack, and the U.S. does not have any evidence the Taliban was involved. The Pentagon has been instructed plans to strike the terrorist organization’s assets, the president said.
“We have some reason to believe we know who they are,” Biden said of the people involved. “Not certain.”
The evacuation mission is set to end Tuesday after Biden decided to stick to a self-imposed deadline to withdraw all troops. In explaining his decision to stick to the Aug. 31 deadline, Biden noted the possibility of terrorist attacks like the one carried out Thursday.
He defended his decision during and after his remarks, citing the risks troops faced on the ground.
“This is why from the outset, I’ve repeatedly said this mission was extraordinary and extremely dangerous, and why I’ve been so determined to limit the duration of this mission,” he said.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the president has not reconsidered changing his stance on the Tuesday deadline. She said the president is listening to his military commanders and intelligence, which have warned of further attacks on Americans and troops.
U.S. military officials said they expect more attacks on American troops and are preparing to protect themselves from that possibility.
Gen. Frank F. McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said he will not be request additional troops to finish evacuations. However, Biden did not rule out the possibility.
“I’ve instructed the military, whatever they need, if they need additional forces, I will grant it,” Biden said.
The White House has taken bipartisan criticism for the chaotic events that followed after the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan earlier this month. In the first few days after the collapse of the Afghan government, thousands of people went to Kabul’s airport in a desperate attempt to flee the country.
In the days following, tens of thousands of people have been safely taken out of the country in what White House officials say is the largest evacuation mission in U.S. history. However, as many as 1,000 Americans and thousands of Afghans still remain in the country with days remaining before the military completes its withdrawal.