WASHINGTON – President Biden issued a warning to those responsible for the Kabul airport attack in Afghanistan today that killed 12 US service members, saying, “we will hunt you down and make you pay.”
“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone wishes America harm, know this: 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 will every measure at my command,” Biden said at the White House Thursday evening.
At least 15 additional US service members were injured, and an official with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health said that more than 60 Afghans were dead and 140 wounded in the attack.
US officials believe the group ISIS-K was likely behind today’s attack but are still working to confirm its involvement, according to a senior US official and another source briefed on initial assessments.
The President revealed that he has ordered military commanders “to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities.”
“We will respond with force and precision in our time, in a place we choose in a manner of our choosing,” Biden said, declining to give specifics on timing.
“These ISIS terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans. We will get our Afghan allies out. And our mission will go on,” the President said. “America will not be intimidated.”
During the remarks on the attack, Biden held a moment of silence, “for all those in uniform and out of uniform, military and civilian, of giving the last full measure of devotion.”
“Jill and I, our hearts ache like I’m sure all of you do as well, for all those Afghan families who lost loved ones including small children, or have been wounded with this vicious attack and we’re outraged as well as heartbroken,” Biden said from his remarks at the White House.
Biden said he could relate to the families loss, referring to his experience with losing his son Beau Biden, a military veteran who died of brain cancer after returning from serving in Iraq.
He continued, “We have some sense like many of you do, what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today. You get this feeling like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. There’s no way out. My heart aches for you. And I know this, we have a continuing obligation, a sacred obligation to all of you families of those heroes. That obligation is not temporary. It lasts forever.”
When asked if he thought it was a mistake to depend on the Taliban to secure the perimeter of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport in the wake of deadly attacks, Biden said, “No, I don’t.”
“It’s not what you would call a tightly commanded regimented operation like the US military is, but they are acting in their interests … I’ve asked this very same question to military on the ground whether or not it’s a useful exercise,” Biden furthered.
During a Pentagon briefing earlier today, US Central Command head Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie was asked whether he trusts the Taliban.
“As to whether or not I trust them … that’s a word I use very carefully. You’ve heard me say before, ‘it’s not what they say; it’s what they do.’ They have a practical reason for wanting us to get out of here by the 31st of August. They want to reclaim the airfield. We want to get out by that day, too, if it’s possible to do so. So we share a common purpose. As long as we keep that common purpose alive, they’ve been useful to work with. They’ve cut some of our security concerns down and they’ve been useful to work with going forward,” McKenzie said.