A U.S. drone strike targeted an ISIS-K “planner” in Afghanistan one day after a suicide bombing claimed by the militant group killed 13 U.S. service members and 170 Afghan civilians outside Kabul’s airport. A U.S. Central Command spokesman said in a statement on Friday night that the “counterterrorism operation” was conducted in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province and that “initial indications are that we killed the target.” He also claimed that “we know of no civilian casualties.”
In a national address following Thursday’s bombing, President Biden vowed to retaliate against those responsible for the attack. “We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said, adding that he had directed the Pentagon “to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership, and facilities.”
The Associated Press reports that Biden authorized the airstrike, which was launched from outside Afghanistan, but that it remains unclear if the person whom the U.S. targeted was directly involved in the bombing.
National security advisers have warned the president that “another terror attack in Kabul is likely,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday. Meanwhile, the U.S. evacuation effort has resumed at Kabul’s airport on Friday, though virtually all access to the airport was reportedly locked down. Only four days remain before the August 31 deadline for the U.S. to pull out of the country.
Thursday’s bombing targeted Afghan civilians and American service members outside the Abbey Gate entrance to Hamid Karzai International Airport, and was one of the deadliest attacks of the two-decade war in Afghanistan. Eleven U.S. Marines, one Army soldier, and one Navy medic were killed in the blast; 15 U.S. service members were wounded and later flown to Germany for medical care.
As many as 170 civilians were killed in the attack and more than 200 injured, including men, women, and children — all of whom had massed outside the airport with the hope of leaving Afghanistan following the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country. The New York Times reported Friday that some Afghan American citizens were among the dead.