Kabul Airport Is Targeted By Rockets As The Deadline For U.S. Troops To Leave Nears
Updated August 30, 2021 at 6:06 AM ET
The international airport in Kabul was targeted by rockets early Monday morning local time as the deadline for U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan is nearing.
On Monday morning local time, the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul was the target of a rocket attack. President Biden was briefed on the attack by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chief of Staff Ron Klain, the White House said.
The military hasn't said if anyone was injured in the attack.
Some news outlets reported the rockets had been intercepted by a U.S. counter missile system. The administration's statement, however, made no mention of this.
Evacuation operations at Kabul's airport continued uninterrupted and there were no changes to efforts to protect on-the-ground forces, the White House said.
It's unclear who is responsible for the rocket attack.
The U.S. launches a second strike against ISIS-K
Monday's rocket attacks followed a tense weekend in Kabul.
The U.S. conducted a second strike against suspected members of ISIS-K in the country on Sunday.
A military official confirmed the strike to NPR on Sunday, saying it was conducted to eliminate an "imminent" threat to the airport. Biden had warned Saturday of continued danger to U.S. operations in Afghanistan as evacuations there continue ahead of the planned U.S. withdrawal deadline of Aug. 31.
"U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to [Hamid] Karzai International airport," said Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command.
"We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material," according to Urban. "We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time."
Some media outlets report that as many as nine people were killed. A neighbor told The Associated Press that he collected bodies of several children.
The U.S. Central Command acknowledged it was aware of reports of civilian casualties. In a statement, Capt. Urban said, "We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life."
On Friday, the U.S. conducted a drone strike in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. Pentagon officials said Saturday that "a planner and a facilitator" of ISIS-K were killed in that strike, with one other person injured. That attack was in retaliation for last week's attack at the Kabul airport that killed more than 170 people, including 13 U.S. service members.
Evacuations are continuing from Afghanistan
President Biden and the first lady traveled Sunday to Dover, Del. to observe the "dignified transfer" of the remains of the 13 service members killed in Kabul last week. Biden also met with the families of the service members who were killed.
Evacuations out of Kabul have continued despite the chaos, with a White House official saying more than 114,400 people have been evacuated since Aug. 14 — a day before the Taliban took control of Kabul and, effectively, Afghanistan. Around 5,500 Americans are among those who have been evacuated, according to a State Department spokesperson.
The State Department said Sunday that some 250 Americans are still trying to make their way out of Afghanistan. Officials say another 280 self-identified Americans are undecided about leaving Afghanistan or have said they wish to stay.
Nearly 100 nations say they have assurances from the Taliban
The U.S. on Sunday joined 97 other countries in pledging to accept Afghan evacuees after the U.S. military completes its withdrawal.
"We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country," according to the State Department.
Absent from the list of countries that signed on to the statement were Russia and China, who have both pledged to help the Taliban rebuild Afghanistan, according to The Sunday Times of the UK.
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