The American military carried out a second drone strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, this time targeting a car carrying “multiple suicide bombers” intending to attack the Kabul airport, U.S. officials said, according to the AP.
An earlier drone strike this weekend in Nangarhar Province killed two ISIS-K targets. Both are retaliation for a suicide bombing carried out Thursday by the Islamic State affiliate that killed 13 American service members and scores of Afghan citizens on Thursday near the capital city’s airport. The Kabul airport is the hub for evacuations of U.S. and Afghan citizens, which are slowing down as President Biden’s August 31st deadline to remove all troops approaches. The Taliban have also warned that delaying the withdrawal of troops would be crossing a “red line” and may “provoke a reaction.”
On Saturday, after the first U.S. drone strike, President Biden warned that another attack against Kabul airport was “highly likely in the next 24-36 hours.” Later that evening, the American Embassy in Kabul issued a statement saying there was a “specific, credible threat” and urging U.S. citizens to “avoid traveling to the airport and avoid all airport gates at this time.”
A U.S. official who spoke with Reuters said that secondary explosions after the drone strike indicated the car with the suicide bombers was carrying a “substantial amount of explosive material.”
Approximately 350 American citizens remain in Afghanistan who wish to leave, while another 280 “self-identified” Americans have said they intend to stay, the State Department said Saturday, according to NBC News. The agency has worked to contact all Americans living in the country. So far around 5,400 U.S. citizens have been evacuated since August 14th.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday that the U.S. has made a “commitment” to get certain groups — specifically American citizens, locally employed staff, and Afghans who hold Special Immigrant Visas — safely out of the country.
At a press briefing Saturday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that the U.S. has already reduced the number of troops on the ground.
“We are going to complete this mission by the end of the month,” Kirby said. “We’ve said that nothing has changed about the timeline for us. And we will do this in as safe and orderly way as possible. And that includes being able to continue to evacuate right up until the end.”