U.S. President Joe Biden says the situation on the ground in Afghanistan “continues to be extremely dangerous” and the threat of terrorist attacks at the airport in Kabul “remains high.”
Biden said in a statement on August 28 that he had met with his national-security team and commanders in the field and was informed that an attack “is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours.”
He said he has directed U.S. military commanders “to take every possible measure to prioritize force protection, and ensure that they have all the authorities, resources, and plans to protect our men and women on the ground.”
Biden said despite the “treacherous situation in Kabul,” the United States is continuing to evacuate civilians, and brought out another 6,800 people, including hundreds of Americans, on August 27. Discussions on preparations to help people continue to leave Afghanistan after the U.S. military departs have taken place, he said.
Biden also commented on a U.S. drone strike that killed two Islamic State (IS) members in eastern Afghanistan earlier on August 28 in retaliation for a deadly suicide bombing outside Kabul airport two days earlier.
“I said we would go after the group responsible for the attack on our troops and innocent civilians in Kabul, and we have,” Biden said. “This strike was not the last. We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay.”
The strike in eastern Nangarhar Province killed a planner and a facilitator of the attack outside the airport, Major General Hank Taylor told a news conference. One other IS member was wounded. No civilians were hurt in the attack, Taylor said.
"We had intelligence that allowed us to conduct the strike," Taylor said, declining to provide other details about the drone strike.
The drone strike came less than two days after a suicide bombing claimed by IS killed as many as 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops outside Kabul’s airport at a gate where crowds of Afghans had gathered to try to get in as part of the evacuation.
U.S. Central Command said earlier that the drone strike targeted members of Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), which claimed credit for the airport attack.
The U.S.-led evacuation mission is entering its final phase as more NATO allies ended operations in the country after the IS-K suicide attack.
Most of the more than 20 allied countries involved in airlifting Afghans and their own citizens out of Kabul said they had completed evacuations by August 27. The British military ended its evacuation of civilians on August 28.
Biden's administration has been widely blamed for a chaotic evacuation after the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the Taliban's takeover of the country. But the president has repeatedly defended the decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war.
He said in his statement on August 28 that the 13 members of the U.S. military who lost their lives in the suicide bombing “were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others.”