President Joe Biden pledged to hunt down ISIS-K following a terror attack outside Kabul’s airport that left at least a dozen American service members dead, including 10 United States Marines and one U.S. Navy hospital corpsman. More than a hundred Afghans were wounded in the suicide bombing and at least 60 are believed dead, though the Taliban has so far refused to provide up-to-date numbers.
Speaking late Thursday afternoon, Biden, who appeared visibly exhausted, said it was a “tough day” and praised the U.S. military before pledging to “hunt down” ISIS-K and make them pay for the loss of American lives.
“They are part of the bravest, most capable, the best, selfless military on the face of the earth, and they are part of simply what I call the backbone of America,” Biden said. “They are the spine of America — the best the country has to offer.”
Although the Pentagon initially said that there were two explosions, on Friday morning, officials walked back the claim and said there was only one explosion.
Biden vowed Thursday that the United States “will not forgive,” and “not forget.”
“We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said.
“I’ve also told my commanders to attack ISIS-K assets. And we will respond with precision, at our time, at a place that we choose, and the moment of our choosing,” Biden said. “Here’s what you need to know. These ISIS terrorists will not win.”
Biden said that the U.S. has “some reason to believe” that the terrorists belong to a Taliban splinter organization called ISIS-K, which is affiliated with the larger Islamic State terror network. The U.S. and coalition forces had warned, over the last several days, that there were indications of a coming terror attack outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, where thousands were being evacuated ahead of the U.S.’s official withdrawal on August 31st.
Biden pledged to continue that process, saying that the U.S. “will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation,” but outlets on the ground late Thursday reported that some gates of HKIA were being “welded shut,” and the U.S. military was moving up the timeline for getting forces out of Kabul. The Daily Wire reported earlier Thursday that the 82nd Airborne Division was moving out ahead of schedule.
“I know of no conflict, as a student of history, no conflict when a war was ending one side was able to guarantee that everyone who wanted to be extracted from that country was able to get out,” Biden said.
The president took questions from a pre-selected group of reporters, according to Biden’s own words, and again committed to withdrawal by August 31st. At one point, he repeated his allegations that the Trump administration forced his withdrawal from Afghanistan on a protracted timeline, but he did not mention that the Biden administration itself set September 11, 2021, as the deadline for leaving Afghanistan and later, moved that timeline up.
Biden also said that his military advisors suggested he shutter Bagram airport, a more secure location than HKIA. He said the Pentagon “concluded that Bagram was not much value added.”
“The situation on the ground is still evolving and I’m constantly being updated,” Biden said before calling an end to the press conference to attend “another meeting.”
This article has been updated to include additional information.