At least 85 to 90 people died Thursday after an ISIS detachment attack on Kabul International Airport. US President Joseph Biden promised to avenge the deaths of 13 soldiers from his country. The flag over the White House flies at half-mast.
Two detonations were recorded in areas adjacent to the Afghan capital's Hamid Karzai International Airport, while civilians continued to desperately gather for a place on any of the flights to leave the now-Taliban-controlled country.
The explosions came after Western citizens were advised to stay away from the airport, due to the imminent threat of an attack by the Afghan branch of the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
The first detonation occurred around 6 pm local time (13:30 GMT), near the Baron Hotel, on the perimeter of the airport, where British officials were processing Afghans waiting to travel to the United Kingdom. After the detonation and an exchange of gunfire, a second explosion occurred near Abbey Gate, one of the main entrances to the airport, near a sewer canal where Afghans were waiting to go through the paperwork phase.
At least 72 civilians were reportedly killed in the two explosions. Twenty-eight Taliban also perished, according to a source quoted by Reuters: We have lost more people than the Americans, said the Taliban representative who declined to be named. He added that there was no reason to extend the August 31 deadline for foreign forces to leave the country.
An Afghan branch of ISIS known as ISIL, or the Islamic State in Khorasan province, ISKP (ISIS-K), claimed responsibility for the attack and said its suicide bombers targeted translators and collaborators of the US military.
Confirming that ISIS-K was behind the attacks, Biden said revenge was inevitable: “We will hunt you down and we will make you pay. I will defend our interests in our people with all the measures at my disposal,” he said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday that his country had already completed its evacuation operations in Afghanistan. The country withdrew its troops from Kabul just before Thursday's events, after receiving very clear information of an imminent attack. We were able to secure the departure of the remaining Australian personnel over the course of last night, not long before the terrible events that unfolded last night, Morrison told a news conference.
Meanwhile, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide announced that her country could no longer assist in evacuations from the Afghan capital. The airport gates are now closed and it is no longer possible to get people in. Norway had previously agreed to provide air support to Afghan evacuees from the Gulf region to tracking points in Europe, according to a statement from the US State Department.
Since August 14, the United States has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 100,100 people, the White House said in a statement Thursday after the blasts.
The Taliban have given the United States until August 31 to withdraw its troops and evacuate its citizens, as well as Afghans with proper travel documents.
For those who carried out this attack, as well as for anyone wanting harm to America, know this: we will not forgive, said Biden, who admitted to having directed military chiefs to develop operational plans to attack the assets, leadership and facilities of ISIS-K: We will respond with force and precision in our moment, in the place we choose and in the moment we choose. Biden also said evacuations would continue until the Aug. 31 deadline.
Eighteen wounded US servicemen were evacuated from Afghanistan in specially equipped C-17 aircraft with surgical units, according to military sources who confirmed there was a gunfight after the attacks.
The attack also led to a last-minute postponement of Biden's meeting with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
The political climate in Washington DC quickly heated up and Republican members of Congress blamed Biden for what had happened and called for his resignation.
Many of the injured arrived at the Kabul Emergency Hospital on Thursday, assisted by an international non-governmental organization that treats victims of war and landmines. Afghan news channels reported images of civilians carrying the wounded in wheelbarrows.
The government of neighbouring Pakistan has asked that starting Friday, hotels in the capital Islamabad cancel reservations and keep all rooms at the disposal of the authorities for at least three weeks to accommodate the thousands of foreigners who are being evacuated from Afghanistan.