The Pentagon said Saturday that a drone strike in Afghanistan killed two members of ISIS-K and wounded one, updating from the one death reported earlier.
The American airstrike came just a day after President Joe Biden vowed revenge for the Kabul airport bombing Thursday, in which 13 U.S. service members were killed along with at least 169 Afghans. America began learning more about those fallen service members - 11 Marines, one Navy corpsman and one Army soldier -- on Friday and into Saturday.
And with only three days left until Biden's Aug. 31 withdrawal, evacuations continued for Americans, Afghan allies and others seeking to escape the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban, even as many acknowledged the window to be airlifted out was closing.
The State Department said Saturday it is in contact with about 350 Americans who remain in Afghanistan and want to be evacuated.
“These roughly 350 individuals are currently the only Americans we can confirm are in Afghanistan and seeking to leave,” the agency’s press office said in a statement. “Our team on the ground has this information and continues to provide assistance around the clock. We believe that some of these people are nearly or already out of the country.”
The U.S. says it has evacuated approximately 5,400 Americans since Aug. 14, including about 300 Americans over the last 24 hours.
The State Department said there are “roughly 280 additional individuals who self-identify as Americans in Afghanistan but who have not informed us of their plans to leave the country, or who have told us they do not intend to leave at all.”
The Biden administration is scrambling to evacuate U.S. citizens amid ongoing security threats around the Kabul airport. Pentagon officials say evacuation efforts are ongoing even as the military remains on track to withdrawal all American forces by Aug. 31.
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said the U.S. did not share any information about the airstrike on the ISIS targets with the Taliban.
The Biden administration has come under fire for coordinating security at the airport with the militant Islamic group.
ISIS-K considers the Taliban, noted for its brutality, to be insufficiently devout in its adherence to Islam. The two militant groups have engaged in attacks on each other.
Kirby said the threat to U.S. military personnel at the airport in Kabul remains “active” and the military would conclude its withdrawal on Aug. 31 as scheduled.
“The threats are still very real, they’re very dynamic and we are monitoring them in real time,” Kirby said of possible additional attacks from the Islamic State group.
“Our mission to continue evacuating those as required and to meet the mission requirement by Aug. 31 is what commanders are executing,” Kirby said. “We will maintain the ability to defend ourselves and our operations all the way through.”
WASHINGTON – Two high-profile members of the terrorist group ISIS-K were killed in a U.S. drone strike Friday and a third was wounded, the Pentagon said Saturday.
The Pentagon announced the drone strike Friday night and initially said one ISIS-K official was killed. Military officials updated the death toll Saturday morning.
The names of those killed were not released.
“We know of zero civilian casualties,” said Army Maj. Gen. William D. “Hank” Taylor, joint staff deputy director for regional operations.
Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby said the two ISIS-K members killed and the one ISIS-K member wounded were planners and facilitators for the organization.
– Michael Collins
Army Maj. Gen. William D. "Hank" Taylor said the U.S. would continue to conduct counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, though he did not offer specifics.
“Without specifying any future plans, I will say that we will continue to have the ability to defend ourselves,” he said. Taylor said the Pentagon would leverage it’s “over-the-horizon capability” to conduct strikes as needed. That refers to operations launched from bases outside of Afghanistan.
"We’re going to defend ourselves," Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby added later.
Afghans are facing economic crises as many Western governments withhold support from Taliban rule.
The Taliban cannot access almost any of the central bank’s $9 billion in reserves, most of which is held by the New York Federal Reserve. The International Monetary Fund has also suspended the transfer of some $450 million. Without a regular supply of U.S. dollars, the local currency is at risk of collapse, which could send the price of basic goods soaring.
In Kabul, hundreds of protesters, including many civil servants, gathered outside a bank while countless more lined up at cash machines. The protesters said they had not been paid for the past three to six months and were unable to withdraw cash. ATM machines are still operating, but withdrawals are limited to around $200 every 24 hours.
Later Saturday, the central bank ordered commercial bank branches to open and dispense up to $200 a day to customers, calling it a temporary measure.
Afghanistan is heavily dependent on international aid, which covered around 75% of the toppled Western-backed government’s budget.
--The Associated Press
Italy said its final evacuation flight had landed in Rome but that it would work with the United Nations and countries bordering Afghanistan to continue helping Afghans who had worked with its military contingent to leave the country.
“Our imperative must be to not abandon the Afghan people,” especially women and children, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Saturday. He said 4,890 Afghans were evacuated by Italy’s air force on 87 flights, but did not say how many others were still eligible.
--The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with his national security team at the White House on Saturday, just hours after a U.S. drone strike killed a key member of the terrorist group behind a deadly airport bombing in Kabul.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will huddle with national security officials at 11 a.m. to hear intelligence, security and diplomatic updates on the evolving situation in Afghanistan, the White House said.
The Pentagon announced late Friday that a military drone strike targeted a planner for ISIS-K, the first American attack on the terrorist group following a bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Thirteen U.S. service members and at least 169 Afghan people died in Thursday's bombing.
The terrorist group ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack.
The ISIS-K official killed in Friday’s drone strike was believed to be planning future attacks, the Pentagon said. The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangahar Province of Afghanistan. There are no known civilian casualties, the Pentagon said.
WASHINGTON – The White House on Saturday released the latest stats on evacuations from Afghanistan.
From about 3 a.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday, about 6,800 people were evacuated from Kabul. The evacuees left the country on 32 U.S. military flights carrying about 4,000 people and 34 coalition flights holding 2,800 people.
Since Aug. 14, the U.S. has evacuated or helped evacuate about 111,900 people. Since the end of July, 117,500 people have been moved out of the country.
LONDON — Britain’s defense ministry says the final U.K. evacuation flight for Afghan nationals has left Kabul, as the country’s ambassador announced that it’s “time to close this phase of the operation.”
The U.K. military says further flights over the weekend will bring home British troops and diplomats, though they may also carry some remaining U.K. or Afghan civilians.
Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow, said from Kabul airport it was “time to close this phase of the operation now.”
“But we haven’t forgotten the people who still need to leave,” he said in a video posted on Twitter. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to help them. Nor have we forgotten the brave, decent people of Afghanistan. They deserve to live in peace and security.”
--The Associated Press
The Taliban have deployed extra forces around Kabul’s airport to prevent large crowds from gathering after a deadly suicide attack two days earlier.
The massive U.S.-led airlift is winding down ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline, with many allies having completed their own operations.
The Taliban on Saturday set up new layers of checkpoints on roads leading to the airport, some manned by uniformed fighters with Humvees and night-vision goggles captured from Afghan security forces.
Areas where large crowds have massed for the past two weeks were largely empty. A suicide attack Thursday by an Islamic State affiliate killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, and there are concerns that the group could strike again.
--The Associated Press
Names and other details of the 13 U.S. service members killed in Thursday's Kabul airport attack began to become public on Friday through family and friends:
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyoming
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Missouri
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Laredo, Texas
- Navy Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, of Berlin Heights, Ohio
- Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Riverside County, California
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California
- Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31, of Daggett County, Utah
- Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Red Oak, Iowa
- U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee
President Joe Biden commended the "bravery and sacrifice" of the U.S military Friday, calling the 13 deaths “tragic” but saying they died for a "worthy mission."
Biden said US would 'hunt' down Kabul airport attackers. A day later, a drone strike killed an ISIS-K planner.
President Joe Biden warned those behind a deadly terrorist attack that killed and wounded American service members and Afghan civilians in Kabul on Thursday that the U.S. would “hunt you down and make you pay.”
A day later, he followed through on that threat.
The Pentagon announced late Friday that a military drone strike targeted a planner for ISIS-K, the first American attack on the terrorist group following a bomb attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The airport attack – one of America's deadliest days in the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan – drew fierce censure from Republicans, stoked fears about the final days of America's evacuation mission and threatened to define Biden's still-young presidency as one of chaos instead of the competence he promised on the campaign trail.