During an address to the nation Thursday evening, President Biden vowed to “hunt down” the terrorists behind the bombings at the Kabul airport and said the U.S. military will continue to evacuate American citizens and allies despite the disruption.
Biden spoke hours after two bombs were detonated outside the Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul, killing at least twelve U.S. Marines and at least 60 Afghans. One suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device at the airport’s central Abbey gate, while a second bomber detonated his device outside the Baron Hotel, near the airport’s perimeter.
ISIS-K, an Iranian offshoot of the Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the attacks Thursday afternoon, confirming the Pentagon’s assessment.
“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said, addressing the terrorists.
“With regard to finding and tracking down the ISIS leaders who ordered this, we have some reason to believe we know who they are — not certain — and we will find ways of our choosing, without large military operations, to get them. Wherever they are,” he added.
Biden said that the U.S. military would retaliate against the responsible parties “at our time.”
“I’ve also ordered my commanders to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership & facilities. We will respond with force & precision at our time,” he said.
Evacuation flights have continued to take off from the airport, according to the Pentagon, but it remains unclear whether any would-be evacuees are able to make it through the surrounding gates to access the airfield.
Biden vowed to continue the evacuation mission during his address, saying that his administration would ensure that all American citizens would be evacuated before the military withdrew, but suggested that not all Afghan allies would be evacuated by the August 31 deadline.
“I know of no conflict, as a student of history, no conflict when a war was ending one side was able to guarantee that everyone who wanted to be extracted from that country was able to get out,” he said. “Getting every single person out can’t be guaranteed.”
The State Department estimates that roughly 1,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan, not including green-card holders. Thousands of Afghan special immigrant visa applicants reportedly remain in the country, as well as tens of thousands of Afghans who assisted U.S. forces but don’t qualify for a visa.