U.S. Marines provide assistance at an Evacuation Control Checkpoint (ECC) during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, August 22, 2021.
US Marines | Reuters
WASHINGTON – The United States carried out a military strike on Sunday against an ISIS-K target in Kabul, a development that comes in the final days of an immense humanitarian evacuation mission.
“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 Hamad Karzai International airport,” U.S. Central Command spokesman Navy Capt. Bill Urban wrote in a statement.
“We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material,” he added.
There were no known civilian casualties following the strike.
The latest strike follows a Friday drone strike that killed two high-profile ISIS-K members believed to be involved in planning attacks against U.S. forces in Kabul. Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor said that there were no known civilian casualties following the strike.
Friday’s strike came less than two days after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive near the gates of Kabul’s airport, resulting in the deaths of 13 American service members.
The White House said Sunday that the president and first lady will meet with the families of the fallen and observe a dignified transfer of the remains at Dover Air Force Base.
A dignified transfer is a solemn process in which the remains of fallen service members are carried from an aircraft to an awaiting vehicle. A dignified transfer is conducted for every U.S. service member killed in action.
Several international bodies intend to meet Monday to discuss various aspects of the situation in Afghanistan.
The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet on Monday. The last time the full UN Security Council met was on Aug. 16, a day after a stunning Taliban takeover of the country.
Foreign ministers of the G-7, along with Turkey and Qatar, are also planning to hold a virtual meeting, CNBC confirmed Sunday with a state department official.
Sunday’s strike comes in the wake of a warning from President Joe Biden’s national security team a day earlier that an attack at the airport in Kabul is “highly likely in the next 24-36 hours.”
“The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Saturday, adding that he directed U.S. commanders to “take every possible measure to prioritize force protection.”
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters Thursday that ISIS is likely to try to continue attacks before the evacuations conclude.
“We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks and we expect those attacks to continue,” the four-star general told reporters at the Pentagon, adding that the U.S. was monitoring an “extremely active threat stream against the airfield.”
McKenzie, who oversees U.S. military operations in the region, said the threats against Western forces and civilians at the airport ranged from gunfire to rockets to suicide bombings.
“So very, very real threat streams, what we would call tactical that means imminent, could occur at any moment,” he said. McKenzie said that he did not foresee requesting additional U.S. troops for the mission.
In the last 24 hours, Western forces evacuated 2,900 people out of Kabul on 41 military cargo aircraft flights. Since the mass evacuations began on August 14, approximately 114,400 people have been airlifted out of Afghanistan.
About 120,000 people have been evacuated since the end of July, including about 5,500 U.S. citizens and their families.
A State Department spokesman said Saturday that approximately 250 Americans are still seeking evacuation.
“Our team on the ground continues to coordinate assistance around the clock for this group, while taking the current security situation into account,” the spokesman said.
“Additionally, we have been in regular contact with a group of roughly 280 individuals who have self-identified as Americans in Afghanistan but who remain undecided about whether to leave the country or who have told us they do not intend to depart,” the spokesman added.