US President Joe Biden has vowed to retaliate against the… attack in Kabul and said he will find those responsible and pay them.
Biden confirmed in a White House speech on Thursday that the bombings were carried out by Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), an affiliate of ISIL in Afghanistan.
Dozens of people were killed in the attack, including Afghan civilians and at least 13 US service members.
It is believed to be the most US troops killed in Afghanistan in a single incident since 30 personnel were killed when a helicopter was shot down in August 2011.
“To those who carried out this attack, as well as to anyone who wishes America harm, know this: we will not forgive; we won’t forget,” Biden said.
“We’ll track you down and make you pay. I will defend our interests in our people by whatever measure is at my command.”
Biden added that despite the attack, the US will continue to evacuate US citizens and US allies. “We are not deterred by terrorists; we won’t let them stop our mission. We will continue with the evacuations,” he said.
American soldiers hadn’t been murdered in the fight against Afghanistan since February 2020.
Biden had postponed his appointments for today, including a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, to focus on the situation in Afghanistan.
General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command, confirmed earlier on Thursday that the airlift will not stop after the attack.
“Our mission is to evacuate US citizens, third-country nationals, special immigrant visa holders, US Embassy personnel and Afghans at risk,” McKenzie said. “Despite this attack, we continue the mission.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, the top US general, also said the US military “remains focused and steadfast on this mission”.
“These brave men and women are taking risks to save lives of the vulnerable and protect Americans,” Milley said. “They have rescued more than 100,000 people. I couldn’t be more proud of their service. They gave their lives to save others; there is no higher noble calling.”
In Washington, politicians from both major parties condemned the attack, with Republicans targeting Biden over the withdrawal decision.
Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican, called for Biden to resign.
“To say that the loss of American lives in Kabul today is sickening does not do justice to what has happened,” Hawley wrote on Twitter.
“It is furious. And Joe Biden is responsible. It is now clear beyond any doubt that he has neither the capacity nor the will to lead.”
Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, said enemies of the US were taking advantage of the “chaotic nature of Biden’s withdrawal”.
He called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to convene Congress to “ban the withdrawal of our troops until every American has left safely.”
Awful. Our enemies have taken advantage of the chaotic nature of Biden’s withdrawal.
Speaker Pelosi must bring Congress back by August 31 so that we can be thoroughly briefed by the administration and prohibit the withdrawal of our troops until every American is safely out of it.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) August 26, 2021
For her part, Pelosi called on the White House to keep lawmakers in handling the situation.
“As we work with the Biden administration to bring stability to the situation, Congress must be kept well informed, so I have asked the executive branch to continue to inform members,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“At the same time, our relevant committees will continue to hold briefings on Afghanistan.”
Congressman Ilhan Omar, a progressive Democrat, called for an intensification of evacuations after the attack.
Today’s terrorist attack on Afghans and US military personnel was horrific, yet another reminder of the terror the Afghan people still face.
Now is the time to redouble our evacuation efforts and do everything we can to get the people most at risk out.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) August 26, 2021
ISKP had claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement identifying the bomber by name and calling the Taliban “renegades”.
McKenzie said US forces are working with the Taliban to address the “extremely real” threat of attacks by ISKP.
But earlier in the day, Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned against trusting the Taliban.
“While we wait for more details, one thing is clear: we cannot trust the Taliban with the security of the Americans,” Menendez wrote on Twitter.
Biden defended coordination with the Taliban in his speech on Thursday, saying the relationship with the group is one of convenience, not trust.
“It is in their best interest that we leave when we say so, and that we get as many people out as possible,” the US president said.
He also reiterated his defense of the withdrawal decision. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Biden said, “it was time to end a 20-year war.”