August 30, 2021
On Friday, August 27, hundreds of Afghans picked their way, through the carnage left behind by the previous day’s deadly suicide bombings outside Kabul airport in a last-ditch effort to flee the country, as the United States. and its allies rushed to complete their final evacuation flights, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The official Afghan death toll from the attack, claimed by Islamic State, was expected to rise above the current figure of 90. One hospital alone, the Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital in central Kabul, said it had received the bodies of 145 people killed.
The United States, which lost 13 members of its armed services, vowed a retaliatory strike against Islamic State’s local offshoot, known as ISIS-K.
On Friday, the Taliban, which has been manning checkpoints around the airport, criticized Washington for lax security that it said opened the way for the bombers. The Taliban have for years fought the Islamic State as the two Islamist militant groups have battled for supremacy in Afghanistan.
“The incident did not happen in an area controlled by the Islamic Emirate,” as the Taliban refer to themselves, said Habib Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission. “That area is controlled by the Americans. We blame the Americans for it.”
amangani said Taliban intelligence officials were investigating the attack, but that the probe was still at a “preliminary stage.”
Marine Corps Geeral. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said in a press briefing Thursday after the explosions that the threat from Islamic State, along with “other active threat streams,” remained.
“We believe it is their desire to continue these attacks and we expect those attacks to continue,” he said.
Thursday’s violence appears to have sped up the pace of evacuations from Kabul airport, with the U.K. saying it would finish flights on Friday morning. Other countries expressed regret that they wouldn’t be able to airlift all citizens and Afghans who worked with their forces and embassies.
As crowds queued up in the street outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in the early morning, dozens of Afghan men waded through open sewers lining the street to get closer to the gates.
“There was still blood and pieces of flesh and torn-off clothes on the ground,” 29-year-old man who lives near Kabul airport told the Journal. “People stepped on it trying to get to the airport.”
The crowd was smaller than it appeared to be on Thursday—with many apparently wary in the wake of the attack.
Later Friday, rumors spread of another explosion, sending people running away from the airport in all directions, leaving only Taliban fighters guarding the gates, according to a shopkeeper in the area. Taliban militants have since prevented would-be evacuees from getting near the airport, several witnesses said.
President Biden in a speech Thursday evening said he had instructed his military commanders to develop response plans to the attack.
“We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said, adding that U.S. evacuations would continue despite the attack, and that efforts to extract Americans who want out of Afghanistan would continue beyond an August 31 deadline he set for withdrawing the last remaining American troops.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials and activists stepped up efforts to get as many Westerners and Afghans out of the country as they could. In recent days, access to the airport had been impeded by Taliban checkpoints and bureaucracy at the airport, leaving several evacuation flights to take off with significant numbers of empty seats.
Americans held tense negotiations with Taliban leaders to get approval to bring busloads of Afghans to the airport for flights to places such as Ukraine and Albania.
Research contact: @WSJ