President Biden warned ISIS-K members that the United States will continue to retaliate for a bombing near Kabul airport on Thursday that killed a number of people, including 13 U.S. troops. He also warned that military commanders believe another attack is “highly likely” in the next “24-36 hours.”
“This strike was not the last,” the president said in a statement Saturday afternoon, renewing a vow he made in a speech Thursday. “We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay.”
A U.S. military drone strike killed two “high profile” Islamic State leaders in Afghanistan on Friday night, the Pentagon said. The move was retribution for a terrorist attack carried out by ISIS-K that killed many people, including 13 U.S. troops, near the Kabul airport where evacuations are taking place. Thursday’s attack marked the deadliest day for the U.S. military in Afghanistan since 2011.
According to Army Maj. Gen. William “Hank” Taylor, who spoke at a Pentagon press conference on Saturday, one of the Islamic State members killed by the drone strike was known as a “planner,” while another was a “facilitator.” Another person was wounded, Taylor said, but he refused to identify any of the targets or say whether they were directly connected to the Kabul attack. When reporters asked for more details, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said, “They were ISIS-K planners and facilitators and that’s enough reason there alone.”
Pentagon officials admitted that it was possible some people killed after the bomb may have died from bullets shot by the U.S. military following the detonation. Investigators are now determining whether the gunfire came from the U.S. or from members of the Islamic State.
The Pentagon announced that more than 117,000 people — most of whom were Afghans — have been evacuated from the country by U.S. and coalition forces, including more than 5,000 American citizens. The evacuation continues but is winding down as the August 31 deadline approaches. A military official told The New York Times that approximately 4,000 U.S. troops remain on the ground in Kabul.
The Defense Department has released the names of the 13 members of the U.S. military who were killed in the terrorist attack. One was 20-year-old U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum. “He was a son, a brother, a husband and a father with a baby due in just three weeks,” his sister, Roice McCollum, said in a statement to CNN.
“The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others,” Biden said.