A U.S. drone strike on a vehicle in Kabul on August 29 thwarted an imminent attack by Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) on the ongoing evacuation at Kabul's airport, U.S. officials said.
A spokesman for U.S. Central Command said there were “multiple suicide bombers” from Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) in the vehicle, and secondary explosions indicated there was a substantial amount of explosive material present.
“We are confident we successfully hit the target,” the spokesman, U.S. Navy Captain Bill Urban, said, adding that the military was investigating whether there were civilian casualties.
He said there were “no indications at this time” of civilian casualties.
Rashid, an Afghan police chief in Kabul who goes by one name, told the Associated Press that a child was killed in the attack. AP later quoted an unidentified Afghan official as saying three children were killed.
Initial reports said a missile hit a house near the airport. That was believed to be a separate incident, but it became clear later that it was the attack on the vehicle.
Reports of the explosion circulated on social media showed black smoke rising from a building that appeared to be a home and people on the roof attempting to douse flames using buckets of water.
A district representative quoted by AP said the strike ignited a fire that made it difficult to rescue people.
The strike came two days after an IS-K suicide attack outside the airport killed some 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops. The U.S. carried out a retaliatory drone strike in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar Province on August 28 that the Pentagon said killed two members of IS-K.
The drone strike on August 29 occurred as U.S. forces were in the final phase of pulling out of Kabul. Just over 1,000 civilians remained at the airport on August 29 to be flown out before the troops finally leave, a Western security official told Reuters
U.S. President Joe Biden has said he will stick by his deadline to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by August 31, ending two decades of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan that began shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
The situation at the airport has been tense since the suicide bombing. Biden said on August 28 that commanders in the field and had informed him that an attack “is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours.”