WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Pentagon says the military has begun its final withdrawal from Afghanistan amid a heightened threat of terrorist attacks.
President Joe Biden said Saturday that commanders told him an attack was “highly likely” over the next 24 to 36 hours. Biden said in a statement that he directed the commanders to take “every possible measure” to prioritize force protection.
“Despite the treacherous situation in Kabul, we are continuing to evacuate civilians. Yesterday, we brought out another 6,800 people, including hundreds of Americans,” wrote Biden. “And today, we discussed the ongoing preparations to help people continue to leave Afghanistan after our military departs.”
An official says the number of U.S. troops remaining has dropped to 4,000 or fewer, three days before Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline for getting out and ending the longest war in American history.
Army Maj. Gen. William D. "Hank" Taylor confirmed in a Pentagon press conference Saturday that a U.S. drone strike on Friday killed two members of the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate, identified as ISIS-K.
“Yesterday, U.S. military forces conducted an over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation against an ISIS-K planner and facilitator. The airstrike occurred in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. I can confirm as more information has come in that two high-profile ISIS targets were killed and one was wounded, and we know of zero civilian casualties.”
Biden said that strike “was not the last.”
“We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay. Whenever anyone seeks to harm the United States or attack our troops, we will respond. That will never be in doubt,” wrote Biden.
The remains of 13 U.S. troops killed Thursday in a bombing Kabul are headed home. The Department of Defense also identified the American service members killed on Saturday.
“The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others. Their bravery and selflessness has enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far. May God protect our troops and all those standing watch in these dangerous days,” Biden ended his statement.