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US top security officials have warned Joe Biden that another terror attack in Kabul is likely, a day after a suicide bombing at the capital’s international airport killed dozens before Tuesday’s deadline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
The White House said Friday that the US president was told during a morning briefing that “a new terror attack in Kabul is likely,” and Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said there were still “specific, credible threats” were for the airport.
After Biden’s meeting with national security officials in the White House situation room, he told reporters he stood by his decision to continue the evacuation until Tuesday’s withdrawal deadline.
“The mission they are carrying out there is dangerous and now involves a significant loss of American personnel, but it is a worthy mission,” Biden said in the Oval Office. “We will complete the mission.”
The new warnings came as thousands of people were still on the airport grounds awaiting evacuation and the death toll from Thursday’s attack continued to rise. The dead include two British citizens and the child of another British citizen, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Friday. At least 13 members of the US military and more than 100 Afghan civilians were also killed.
US officials now believe the attack was carried out by just one suicide bomber who detonated close to the Abbey Gate entrance to the airport. Officials had initially said there was a second explosion at the nearby Baron hotel, where evacuees have gathered.
“We’re not sure how that report was misrepresented, but we do know that it’s no surprise that the confusion of highly dynamic events like this can sometimes cause information to be misreported or distorted,” Major General William Taylor, the American military leadership. deputy director for regional operations, said on Friday.
US officials said they still plan to complete their withdrawal efforts by August 31, and said 5,400 people are still waiting to be evacuated at the Kabul airport.
The Pentagon also said late Friday that Kabul’s airport remained under US military control, denying reports that the Taliban were now operating some airport gates. “The Taliban do not control part of Hamid Karzai International Airport,” Kirby said.
The White House said on Friday that about 12,500 people have been evacuated from the Afghan capital by US forces and coalition partners in the past 24 hours, despite the bombing, which has disrupted Western efforts to end the evacuation process as the Taliban block access to the airport. .
About 110,600 people have been evacuated since the end of July, according to the US. That includes more than 5,100 U.S. citizens, 300 of whom have left in the past 24 hours.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US and allied forces were assessing the airport with a view to returning it to commercial operations “as soon as possible” once Western forces left next week.
The US considered whether it could allow diplomats to operate “safe and secure” in Afghanistan after its military withdrawal, and discussed with allies the prospect of maintaining a diplomatic presence, he added. “We work with our international partners to exchange ideas [and] to make sure we send the right signals and messages to the Taliban,” Price said.
The British government said on Friday it had entered the “final phase” of its evacuation program and had closed processing facilities at the Baron hotel. Other NATO allies, including Germany and Canada, have already halted evacuation flights.
Isis-K, an Afghan affiliate of the terrorist group Isis, claimed responsibility for the attack, and Kirby said “thousands” of Isis-K inmates had been released from two prisons recently taken over by Taliban fighters.
On Thursday, General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the Pentagon’s central command, said he expected IS to strike again. “We believe it is their wish to continue those attacks”. . . and we are doing everything we can to be prepared.”
Biden promised to “find out” and punish the perpetrators of the attack. Thursday was the deadliest day for the US military in Afghanistan in a decade and marked the first time US troops had been killed there since February 2020.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry tweeted Friday evening that it
completed its own evacuation of Turkish soldiers. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there are now only a small number of “technical personnel” left at the airport.