Biden vows to complete the evacuation of Afghanistan and hunt down ISIS leaders after the attack in Kabul

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President Joe Biden clasps his hands as he holds his first formal press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, USA on March 25, 2021.

Leah Millis | Reuters

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden promised Thursday to complete the evacuation of Americans and their allies from Afghanistan after a deadly terrorist attack near Kabul airport killed a dozen US soldiers and many Afghans.

“We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation,” said Biden from the White House. “We will save Americans, we will bring in our Afghan allies and the mission will continue. America will not be intimidated.”

The US has approximately 5,400 military personnel helping with the evacuation effort in Kabul.

U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, commandant of U.S. Central Command, said 11 U.S. Marines and one Navy medic were killed and 15 injured after two suicide bombers set explosives.

McKenzie, who oversees US military operations in the region, also said a number of Afghan civilians were also killed in the explosion, but could not provide an exact number. He added that the current assessment by the US military is that the bombers are ISIS fighters.

ISIS has admitted to the attack.

Addressing those responsible for the attack, the president said: “We will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay.”

“I will defend our interests and our people with every measure I command,” said Biden.

“I have also ordered my commanders to develop operational plans to meet ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities. This suggests that the US had clues about the ISIS leaders who ordered the attack.

“We have reason to believe we know who they are,” Biden said, although he found the US wasn’t sure. “And we’ll find ways of our choosing, without major military operations, to get them. Wherever they are.”

The president had already warned on Tuesday that a long stay in Afghanistan carries serious risks for foreign troops and civilians. He said ISIS-K, an Afghanistan-based branch of the terrorist group, posed a growing threat to the airport.

“I have repeatedly said that this mission is extremely dangerous, and that is why I was so determined to limit the duration of this mission,” Biden repeated on Thursday.

Earlier this week, the president told the leaders of the G-7, NATO, the United Nations and the European Union that the United States would withdraw its military from Afghanistan by the end of the month.

In the past 24 hours, Western forces evacuated 13,400 people from Kabul on 91 military cargo plane flights. Since the mass evacuations began on August 14, around 95,700 people have been flown out of Afghanistan.

About 101,300 people have been evacuated since the end of July, including about 5,000 US citizens and their families.

A State Department spokesman said Thursday that the US is currently in contact with approximately 1,000 Americans believed to be in Afghanistan.

“The vast majority – over two-thirds – have told us they are taking steps to exit,” added the spokesman.