Biden Pledges To Strike Back After Attack Kills 12 U.S. Service Members In Kabul
President Biden on Thursday evening delivered a message to those who carried out the deadly attacks outside the airport in Kabul that left 12 U.S. service members dead: "Know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay."
Biden called the American service members who lost their lives "heroes" and "the best the country has to offer."
"The lives we lost today were lives given in the service of liberty, the service of security, the service of others, in the service of America," he said.
Biden said the situation on the ground in Kabul is still evolving and said the U.S. will target the assets, leadership and facilities of ISIS-K, the terror group that has claimed responsibility for the attack.
"We will respond with force and precision, at our time, at the place we choose and at the moment of our choosing."
Biden also defended relying on the Taliban to provide security outside the Kabul airport.
"We are counting on them to act in their own self-interest," he said. "And it's in their interest that we leave when we said we would. There is no evidence thus far from our commanders in the field that there has been collusion between Taliban and ISIS."
Two blasts, one outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport and the second at the nearby Baron Hotel, wounded more than 150 people.
At a Pentagon press conference, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said 15 U.S. troops are among the injured. An Afghan official told the Associated Press at least 60 Afghans were killed and another 143 were wounded in the attack outside Kabul airport.
He said the attacks were carried out by two suicide bombings, followed by gunfire. A U.S. official told The Associated Press the attack is "definitely believed" to have been carried out by the Islamic State group. While McKenzie didn't blame ISIS-K, he did say "the threat from ISIS-K is very real."
McKenzie added the evacuation has now taken 104,000 people out of Afghanistan, including nearly 5,000 Americans. He estimates about 1,000 Americans remain. Aug. 31 — this coming Tuesday — is the administration's planned withdrawal deadline.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed Thursday afternoon "a number of U.S. service members" were killed in the attacks.
"A number of others are being treated for wounds. We also know that a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack," Kirby said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and injured."
This marks the first U.S. casualty in Afghanistan since February 2020, before the U.S. and the Taliban signed a deal in which the Taliban agreed to not attack American troops if the U.S. withdrew its forces.
The Taliban have condemned the attack outside the airport, claiming the area of the explosion is controlled by the U.S.
Biden has faced criticism from members of both political parties for the way in which his administration withdrew U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
But Biden has defended his administration's actions.
"The idea that somehow, there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don't know how that happens," Biden told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.