Correspondent in New York
“We’ll hunt you down and make you pay,” said Joe Biden. to the perpetrators of the massacre last Thursday at the Kabul airport. Almost two hundred people died, including thirteen US military personnel. “The president does not want them to live on the face of the earth,” his spokesman later added about the terrorists. Jen Psaki.
The Biden Administration wanted to show that they were not empty words and executed an attack early Saturday on Islamic State-Khorasan operatives, the affiliate of the terrorist group that has gained a presence in Afghanistan.
The circumstances of that counterterrorism operation are not very clear. The Central Command of the US Army, with responsibility for Afghanistan, said at first that there was one deceased. This Saturday, at the Pentagon’s daily appearance, el general Hank Taylor he corrected it and assured that the dead were two, in addition to one wounded. Taylor added that the dead were “planners” and “facilitators” of the Islamic State-Khorasan, who were eliminated in a single anti-terrorist operation called ‘beyond the horizon’, carried out remotely with a drone.
White House sources anonymously assured several US media that the attack occurred near the city of Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan, and that the deceased was in a car at the time of impact.
The Pentagon spokesman John Kirby acknowledged that the US had no evidence of the participation of the two deceased in the Kabul attack, but that their membership of the terrorist group and their roles within it are “sufficient reason” to make them an anti-terrorist target.
Two valid targets
Kirby said both are “high profile” members of the Islamic State-Khorasan, although he did not give their names or elaborate on what kind of responsibility they have. “We believe we are hitting two valid targets,” the spokesman said. “Two bad guys, who can do bad things and can plan bad missions.”
It is doubtful that the attack will serve to weaken Islamic State-Khorasan or to control other terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan. But it works a dual purpose for the Biden Administration, especially in the face of the American electorate: it is an immediate retaliation to fulfill Biden’s promise and shows that the United States can continue with long-distance counterterrorism operations even if it does not have a military presence in Afghanistan, one of the great concerns behind the withdrawal of troops and after the conquest of power by the Taliban.
A spokesman for the latter assured Reuters that they should have been warned by the US about the attack. Kirby assured that there was no coordination nor was there any information from the Taliban for this operation, contrary to what is happening to maintain security at the Kabul airport.
US response against Islamic State-Khorasan adds one more layer of tension to the evacuation of Kabul, which this Sunday enters its last three days.
The threat of another terrorist attack was today “very real” and “very dynamic,” according to Kirby. The Taliban have tightened controls around the airport, where the evacuation rate has dropped considerably.
Less access to Kabul airport
According to Pentagon data, in the 24 hours before this Saturday morning, 6,800 people left Kabul, half the previous day, and less than a third of the more than 20,000 who evacuated in the middle of the week, at the peak of departures. The reality is that fewer and fewer people are allowed access to the airport, despite the fact that Tens of thousands of Afghans remain who collaborated with the United States. or that they will be at risk in a government controlled by the Taliban.
Countries such as the United Kingdom or Spain made their last flights from Kabul this Saturday and those that the US army will continue to operate will gradually be dedicated to the withdrawal of troops and equipment.
On the US side, today there were about 350 of its nationals in Kabul seeking to leave the country, according to a government source told CNN.
The Pentagon assured that Americans with passports can still enter the airport and that Afghans with visas and others at risk who are at the airfield continue to be processed. There are only about 1,400 inside the complex waiting to be evacuated. The US diplomatic presence in the country is already “skeletal”, according to White House sources, after a good number of consular personnel left the country this weekend.
In total and as of this Saturday, 117,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul since the Taliban took control of the country on February 14. Of these, 5,400 are US citizens.
With the US and its allies phasing out of the airport, the question will be what will happen as of Tuesday and what future remains for Afghans seeking to leave but have not yet succeeded.
The Pentagon today denied information that the Taliban control part of the airport’s operations. But they will have to do it from Tuesday. The Taliban have held talks in recent days with Turkey and Qatar to manage and run the airport. The United States and other of its partners, such as the United Kingdom and Germany, have assured that they will provide assistance to Afghans seeking to leave. It is difficult to know how they will do it after their military and diplomats have closed the door on Afghanistan.