WASHINGTON, D.C. (CN) — President Joe Biden vowed to exact revenge following a terror attack at Kabul’s international airport that killed Afghan civilians and 12 U.S. service members on Thursday.
“A tough day,” Biden solemnly began his remarks on Thursday evening before acknowledging the sacrifice of U.S. service members who “have been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others.”
Some Afghan health officials estimated that more than 60 people are dead and at least 140 wounded after two suicide bombers attacked crowds scrambling for a chance of evacuation near the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan’s largest city.
In addition to the 12 U.S. service members killed, 15 others were injured in the explosions as they aided evacuation efforts, according to the Pentagon.
“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden asserted.
ISIS-K, an Afghan-based associate of the Islamic State terrorist organization, claimed responsibility for the deadly attack earlier on Thursday.
Biden said that he has ordered commanders to develop plans to strike the group’s key assets, leadership and facilities.
According to U.S. intelligence, he said, the group has been planning a complex set of attacks on U.S. personnel and others.
Biden added that he has been determined from the outset to limit the duration of the evacuation mission due its “extraordinarily dangerous” nature.
As the Taliban swiftly overran Kabul earlier this month, the Biden administration sent 6,000 additional troops to secure the capital city’s international airport.
According to the president, more than 100,000 American citizens and Afghan allies have been evacuated from the Taliban-controlled area in the last 11 days, and about 7,000 more were taken to safety within the last 12 hours.
The process, however, has been riddled with chaos.
During a Pentagon news conference earlier on Thursday, General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie of the U.S. Central Command had mentioned knowledge of “other active threats against the airfield,” but confirmed that troops are still attempting to evacuate those in danger of retaliation from the Taliban.
Speaking to reporters in the East Room of the White House, Biden reinforced that statement, noting that “the situation on the ground is still evolving.”
“We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission,” he said, “we will continue the evacuation.”
Having previously lost his son to brain cancer, the president compared the heartache likely felt by the victims’ families to being “sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest.”
He also doubled-down on his promise to evacuate U.S. citizens and allies who wish to leave, stating that there will be “numerous opportunities” for many to get out in the coming weeks.
Last year, the Trump administration struck a deal with the Taliban, agreeing to pull U.S. forces from Afghanistan by May 2021 if Taliban leaders agreed not to serve as a safe harbor for groups like the Islamic State group and al-Qaida.
Expressing a desire for an “orderly” departure, Biden later pushed the withdrawal deadline to mid-September. But last month the administration sped up the withdrawal, resolving to remove all forces by the end of August.
Despite criticism from some world leaders and U.S. lawmakers, the president on Thursday was resolute in his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Aug. 31.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it was time to end the 20-year war," he said.Follow @@ErikaKate5
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