WORLD NEWS

US military begins final pullout amid Kabul terror threats

Aug 28, 2021, 1:16 PM
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, right, and Army Maj. Gen. William "Hank" Taylor, left, listen to que...
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, right, and Army Maj. Gen. William "Hank" Taylor, left, listen to questions during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — On alert for new terror attacks, the U.S. military has begun its final withdrawal from Afghanistan in the closing stages of a frantic airlift of Americans, Afghans and others desperate to escape Taliban rule before the evacuation shuts down.

The remains of 13 American troops killed in a suicide bomb attack Thursday by the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate, known as ISIS-K, were on their way to the United States, the Pentagon said Saturday. Their voyage marked a painful moment in a nearly 20-year American war that cost more than 2,400 U.S. military lives and is ending with the return to power of a Taliban movement that was ousted when U.S. forces invaded in October 2001.

The Pentagon released the names of the 13 killed — 11 Marines, one Navy sailor and one Army soldier. Twelve of them were in the 20s; some were born in 2001, the year America’s longest war began. The oldest was 31. They were the first U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan since February 2020, the month the Trump administration struck an agreement with the Taliban in which the militant group halted attacks on Americans in exchange for a U.S. agreement to remove all troops and contractors by May 2021. Biden announced in April that the 2,500 to 3,000 troops who remained would be out by September, ending what he has called America’s forever war.

With Biden’s approval, the Pentagon earlier this month sent thousands of additional troops to the Kabul airport to provide security and to facilitate the State Department’s chaotic effort to evacuate thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans who had helped the United States during the war. The evacuation was marred by confusion and chaos as the U.S. government was caught by surprise when the Afghan army collapsed and the Taliban swept to power Aug. 15.

About 5,400 Americans have been evacuated from the country so far, including 300 in the last day. The State Department believes about 350 more want out; it said there are roughly 280 others who have said they are Americans but who have not told the State Department of their plans to leave the country, or who have said they plan to remain.

Untold numbers of vulnerable Afghans, fearful of a return to the brutality of pre-2001 Taliban rule, are likely to be left behind. Biden and the leaders of other Western countries have said they would try to work with the Taliban to allow Afghans who had worked with them to leave after the U.S.-led evacuation ends.

The Pentagon said that about 6,800 people, mostly Afghans, were flown out in the 24 hours that ended Saturday morning, bringing to 117,00 the total number of people of all nationalities evacuated since the hurried exit was begun Aug. 14.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. military force at the Kabul airport, which peaked at about 5,800, had begun its final withdrawal. The number had dropped below 4,000 on Saturday, according to a U.S. official who discussed details not yet publicly released on condition of anonymity. Kirby said that for security reasons the Pentagon will not provide a day-by-day description of the final stages of the military’s withdrawal, which includes flying home troops as well as equipment.

The Pentagon said an airstrike early Saturday in the eastern province of Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan, killed two ISIS-K “planners and facilitators,” but Kirby said the killings had not ended the terror threat at Kabul airport.

“They have lost some capability to plan and to conduct missions, but make no mistake, nobody’s writing this off and saying, ‘Well, we got them. We don’t have to worry about ISIS-K anymore.’ Not the case,” Kirby told a news conference, adding, “We aren’t thinking for a minute that what happened (Saturday) gets us in the clear — not a minute.”

Biden also faces the problem over the longer term of containing an array of potential extremist threats based in Afghanistan, which will be harder with fewer U.S. intelligence assets and no military presence in the nation. Critics say Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan leaves the door open for al-Qaida, ISIS-K and other extremist groups to grow and potentially threaten the United States. It was al-Qaida’s use of Afghanistan as a base, with the Taliban’s acquiescence, that prompted the United States to invade the country in October 2001, beginning the longest war in U.S. history.

Saturday’s drone mission was authorized by President Joe Biden and ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin less than two days after the Kabul attack and a public pledge by Biden that he would make ISIS-K “pay” for their suicide bomb attack. Officials made no claim that the two individuals killed played a direct role in Thursday’s Kabul airport attack.

Kirby declined to release the names and nationalities of the two killed. He said one other person was wounded in the strike. The speed with which the U.S. retaliated reflected its close monitoring of IS and years of experience in targeting extremists in remote parts of the world. But it also shows the limits of U.S. power to eliminate the threat from extremists, who some believe will have more freedom of movement in Afghanistan now that the Taliban is in power.

Saturday’s drone mission seemed unlikely to be the last attempt by the Biden administration to degrade ISIS-K’s leadership and attack capability.

“We have the ability and the means to carry over-the-horizon counterterrorism capabilities and we’re going to defend ourselves,” Kirby said, referring to the military’s use of aircraft based in the Persian Gulf area and elsewhere to carry out strikes in Afghanistan.

___

Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani and Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

World News

The eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk is now "completely under Russian occupation," according...
Tim Lister, Oleksandra Ochman, Olga Voitovych and Jeevan Ravindran, CNN

Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk now ‘completely under Russian occupation’ after months of fighting

The eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk is "completely under Russian occupation," the city's head of military administration said Saturday, following months of grueling and bloody fighting.
1 day ago
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 08: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada arrives alongside his wi...
ROB GILLIES, Associated Press

Trudeau: US abortion ruling could mean loss of other rights

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn a constitutional right to abortion could lead to the loss of other rights.
1 day ago
Security forces at the site of a shooting outside the London Pub in central Oslo, Norway, on June 2...
Jessie Yeung, CNN

Shooting at Oslo gay bar leaves at least two people dead ahead of Pride parade

At least two people were killed and 10 others wounded after a shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Oslo, Norway on Saturday, Reuters reported, citing public broadcaster NRK.
2 days ago
Authorities stand guard by a fence outside the Supreme Court following Supreme Court's decision to ...
DÁNICA COTO and CARA ANNA Associated Press

US abortion ruling sparks global debate, polarizes activists

The end of constitutional protections for abortions in the United States has pemboldened abortion opponents around the world, while advocates of abortion rights worry the Supreme Court ruling could threaten recent moves toward legalization in their countries.
2 days ago
Meeting of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with representatives of foreign media. (Ukrainia...
Associated Press

NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts
2 days ago
In 1991, when actor Mila Kunis moved to the United States, her family left their home in what was t...
Gabriel Kinder, CNN

Mila Kunis responds to the war in Ukraine by raising millions of dollars to aid those who are suffering

In early March, Mila Kunis and her husband, Ashton Kutcher, launched Stand With Ukraine, with the goal of raising $30 million. To date, the campaign has raised more than $36 million, and more than 75,000 people have donated.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
US military begins final pullout amid Kabul terror threats