The airstrikes, following up on the Drone attack that killed two alleged ISIS-K operatives, came as the August 31 deadline for American withdrawal from Afghanistan ticked into view. It heralded the start of a new “over-the-horizon” warfare that suggested the US won’t be intimated by the 300 or so Americans who are still stranded in Afghanistan and who face the prospect retaliatory action by militants.
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There were unconfirmed casualties from the airstrike — including that of a child — which came after US agencies had said a second suicide attack was imminent and asked Americans to stay away from the airport. US officials said only about 300 or so Americans remained in Afghanistan. Many are believed to be Afghan-Americans or dual citizens who do not want to leave. Retired US veterans and private contractors are said to be engaged in exfiltrating those who do want to get out.
The Pentagon said the unmanned strike was conducted in self-defense and it eliminated an imminent ISIS-K threat to the airport. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material, it added.
The airstrikes took place even as President Biden was heading to the Dover AirForce Base for the dignified transfer ceremony that will see the slain US military personnel being honored. The personnel include female marines: Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, from the marines’ Female Engagement Team who was in Kabul interacting with Afghan women barred by custom from talking to male strangers, and Nicole Gee, 23, who had posted an August 20 Instagram picture of herself cradling an Afghan baby with the caption “I love my job.”
Biden, who has attended dignified transfer ceremonies as vice-president, was earlier trolled by right wing extremists who claimed that he had not gone to Dover even though the bodies had arrived several hours before and that families of slain members did not want him there. The President and his aides continued to face attack from the right questioning their competency with calls for the resignation of National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Sullivan pushed back on Sunday morning talks shows, specifically rejecting allegations that the Biden administration had naively handed over lists of people it wanted safe passage for to the airport for evacuation, which some critics claimed simply enabled Taliban to hunt them down.
“We’ve given no list of all the American SIV holders to the Taliban or any other kind of big list… Some idea that we’re handing databases or lists to the Taliban is unfounded and inaccurate,” Sullivan told CNN.