US President Joe Biden has said that he will avenge the twin bombings at the Kabul airport that have killed at least 103 people, including 13 American service member, adding the ongoing evacuation in Afghanistan will continue uninterrupted.
The number of US service members killed in the attacks has risen to 13, with 18 more injured troops currently in the process of being flown out of the country, according to the latest update by Bill Urban, public affairs officer of the US Central Command.
“We will respond with force and precision in our time, in a place we choose in a manner of our choosing,” Biden said when delivering remarks from the White House late Thursday, following the bombings at the Hamid Karzai International Airport earlier in the day.
The blast at the airport was followed by another one at the adjacent Baron Hotel, whose details are being figured out by the US military.
The Wall Street Journal, citing a senior Afghan health official, reported that the explosions left at least 90 Afghan civilians dead.
The Afghan Ministry of Public Health previously confirmed the attacks had resulted in over 60 deaths and 140 injuries among Afghans, and were claimed by ISIS-K, a radical affiliate of the Islamic State.
Active in Afghanistan, the terror group has been fighting enemies, including the Taliban.
Biden said he had ordered US military commanders to “strike ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities”, stopping short of elaborating on the specifics.
“These IS terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans. We will get our Afghan allies out. And our mission will go on,” he added.
Answering a reporter’s question as to whether he’ll deploy additional troops to Afghanistan in the wake of the attacks, Biden said if the military needs additional force, “I will grant it”.
Asked about whether he considered it a mistake to depend on the Taliban to secure the perimeter of the Kabul airport given the mass casualty bombings, Biden said it’s not a matter of trust but rather the Taliban’s “self-interest” that led to US coordination with the Taliban.
The President said he has thus far been shown no evidence of collusion between the Taliban and IS in masterminding both what happened in the morning and what was expected in the future.
The Taliban issued a statement condemning the attacks in their aftermath.
Close to the end of his White House appearance, Biden said he would “bear responsibility for fundamentally all that’s happened” during the chaotic withdrawal in Afghanistan, while also shifting the blame on his predecessor Donald Trump, whose administration negotiated a deal with the Taliban to get all US forces out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021.
The attacks came as the US has been scrambling to evacuate Americans and its Afghan partners from the war-torn country since the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15.
After seizing Kabul, the Taliban said all US troops must leave Afghanistan no later than August 31, and Biden has upheld that deadline.
“The President relies on the advice of his military commanders and they continue to believe that it is essential to get out by the 31st (of August). That is their advice,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing following Biden’s televised speech.