The U.S. military conducted a drone strike that targeted an “imminent” threat to the Hamad Karzai International Airport.
The Biden administration had warned Saturday of continued danger to U.S. operations in Afghanistan as evacuations there continue ahead of the planned U.S. withdrawal deadline of August 31.
“U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to [Hamid] Karzai International airport,” said Captain Bill Urban, the spokesman for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).
“We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material,” Urban added. “We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time.”
Unconfirmed reports from the ground say that as many as nine civilians, including children, were killed in the drone strike. CENTCOM said it was aware of the reports. Referring to them, Captain Urban said, “We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”
Speaking with China’s state television CGTN on Monday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid criticized the U.S. drone strike on foreign soil as unlawful. He claimed that the drone strike killed seven people.
“If there was any potential threat in Afghanistan, it should have been reported to us, not an arbitrary attack that has resulted in civilian casualties,” Mujahid said.
On Friday, in response to the suicide bombing at Kabul’s airport that killed more than 170 people including 13 American troops, the U.S. conducted an unmanned over-the-horizon attack on an ISIS-K “planner and facilitator” in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.
Mujahid also condemned Friday’s drone strike, saying that it killed two Islamic State militants in Nangarhar while also wounding a woman and a child.
Multiple Rockets Fired at Kabul Airport
The airport was targeted by as many as five rockets early on Monday morning. U.S. officials said that all of the rockets were shot down by American C-RAM counter-missile fire. There were no reported casualties.
President Biden was briefed on the rocket attack by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chief of Staff Ron Klain, the White House said in a released statement.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in light of the attack that the president “has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritize doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground.”
Afghan media reports from the ground said Monday’s rocket attack was launched from the back of a vehicle. The Pajhwok news agency said several rockets struck different parts of the Afghan capital.
The rocket attacks have not stopped the evacuation of Americans and Afghans from the airport. Up to 114,000 people have already been safely evacuated as American C-17s have been flying in and out of the airport non-stop.
The troop strength at the airport has now dropped to 4,000 from the initial 6,000. The deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan is tomorrow August 31.
On Sunday, President Biden and the first lady were in Dover, Delaware to observe the “dignified transfer” of the remains of the 13 servicemembers killed in Kabul last week. The president also met with the families of the killed servicemembers.