President Biden mourned a devastating attack outside the Kabul airport on Thursday that killed 12 U.S. troops and dozens of Afghan civilians, and he issued a grave warning that the U.S. will punish its perpetrators.
The stunning attack — apparently conducted by two suicide bombers along with gunmen who unleashed a hail of bullets — represented the deadliest incident for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in a decade. And it marked a bloody ending to America’s two-decade war in the country.
“The lives we lost today were lives given in the service of liberty,” Biden said in a somber address from the East Room of the White House. “To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
The U.S. was rushing to evacuate American citizens and at-risk Afghans ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline when the explosions rocked dense crowds near the Abbey Gate of the Hamid Karzai International Airport. The gate is the main entrance to the airport, where people had gathered with hopes of escaping Afghanistan.
Corpses soaked in blood-filled a ditch near the airport, Reuters reported, as civilians looked for their loved one.
“Despite this attack, we are continuing the mission,” said Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command.
He also said he offered “profound condolences to the families of our servicemen and women and Afghan civilians who lost their lives today.”
The Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-K, took credit for the attack.
It came two days after Biden brushed off European allies who asked the U.S. to extend its deadline for the evacuation from Afghanistan. The president said Tuesday that the situation in the country was “tenuous,” noting the escalating risk of terrorists striking at the Kabul airport.
The attacks on Thursday seemed sure to increase the already intense pressure on Biden. He ordered the initial American withdrawal from Afghanistan that prompted the Taliban to take over the country.
He has steadfastly defended his decision to continue a pullout that was planned by his predecessor President Donald Trump. In April, Biden announced plans to bring U.S. troops home by September.
On Thursday, Biden said the attack would not deter the evacuation effort, and that the U.S. would respond forcefully to ISIS at a time of its choosing.
“These ISIS terrorists will not win,” the president said. “America will not be intimidated.”
NY DAILY NEWS