ISIS’ news agency identified a bomber among their Khorasan Province fighters who they said “managed to penetrate all the security fortifications” to attack U.S. troops and Afghan civilians outside the Kabul airport, as the CENTCOM leader warned they “expect those attacks to continue.”
Thirteen U.S. service members were killed along with at least 169 Afghan civilians, and 18 U.S. service members wounded along with at least 180 Afghans wounded, in the suicide bombings at an airport gate and nearby Baron Hotel.
Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that the attack on the Abbey Gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where U.S. citizens and residents along with Afghan allies have been waiting to be airlifted to safety, “was followed by a number of ISIS gunmen who opened fire on civilians and military forces.”
“While we’re saddened by the loss of life, both U.S. and Afghan, we’re continuing to execute the mission. Our mission is to evacuate U.S. citizens, third-country nationals, Special Immigrant Visa holders, U.S. embassy staff, and Afghans at risk,” he said, adding to “please remember that we have screened over 104,000 people.”
“The threat from ISIS is extremely real. We’ve been talking about this for several days. It has now actually manifested itself here just in the last few hours with an actual attack. We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks, and we expect those attacks to continue. And we’re doing everything we can to be prepared for those attacks,” McKenzie said. The U.S. has reached out to the Taliban, who are running outer security checkpoints for people trying to get to the airport, “to make sure they know what we expect them to do to protect us.”
“If we can find who’s associated with this, we will go after them. We’ve been clear all along that we’re going to retain the right to operate against ISIS in Afghanistan,” he said. “And we are working very hard right now to determine attribution, to determine who is associated with this cowardly attack, and we’re prepared to take action against them. 24/7, we are looking for them.”
In a statement released by ISIS’ Amaq News Agency, the terror group released a photo of a man with his face mostly covered and gave the bomber’s name as Abd al-Rahman al-Lughari.
The bomber “managed today to penetrate all the security fortifications that the American forces and the Taliban militia impose around the capital of Kabul,” the ISIS report said. “And he managed to reach a big gathering of the translators and those cooperating with the American army at the ‘Baran camp’ near Kabul airport, and from there he blew up his explosive belt in their midst.”
Amaq added that “the person who carried out the attack managed to reach a distance of no less than 5 meters from the American forces that were overseeing the procedures of gathering the documents from hundreds of translators and those contracted with them, in preparation for their evacuation from the country.”
“It is to be noted that since more than a week the American forces have been conducting in partnership with the Taliban militia the procedures of evacuating hundreds of foreign employees and translators and spies who worked for the interest of the American army during the past years,” the ISIS report continued.
President Biden, speaking at the White House — where the flag was lowered to half-staff — on Thursday, sent a message “to those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm”: “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
“We’ve been made aware by our intelligence community that the ISIS-K — an arch-enemy of the Taliban, people who were freed when both those prisons were opened — has been planning a complex set of attacks on the United States personnel and others,” Biden said. “…We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation.”
Biden said he had ordered commanders “to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership, and facilities,” and vowed the U.S. would “respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose, and the moment of our choosing.”
“Here is what you need to know: These ISIS terrorists will not win,” he added. “We will rescue the Americans who are there. We will get out our Afghan allies out, and our mission will go on. America will not be intimidated.”