The US military has said it believes it killed an Isis-K “planner” in its first reprisal strike in Afghanistan after the Kabul attack that left at least 170 people dead, including 13 US military personnel.
Approximately 36 hours after the suicide bombing that also wounded hundreds, quickly followed by president Joe Biden’s vow to hunt down those responsible, the US said an unmanned drone had been dispatched to attack a suspected member of Isis’ Afghanistan branch.
It did not say whether the individual was believed to be linked specifically to the attack on Thursday at Hamid Karzai international airport.
However, the US military said it believed the mission to kill the militant had been successful.
“US military forces conducted an over-the-horizon counter-terrorism operation today against an Isis-K planner,” Capt Bill Urban, a spokesperson for the US Central Command, said in a statement, referring to the Afghanistan-based Isis franchise that claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack.
“The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.”
He added: “Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.”
On Thursday, Mr Biden insisted the US would continue its evacuation mission, even as the nation mourned the service members killed, along with the Afghans who were killed and wounded. More than 110,000 people have been flown out since the Taliban seized control of the country on August 15.
“We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place of our choosing,” said Mr Biden. “These Isis terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans, we will get our Afghan allies out, and our mission will go on. America will not be intimidated.”
He said military commanders in Afghanistan had told him it was important to complete the evacuation mission. “And we will,” he said. “We will not be deterred by terrorists.”
CENTCOM Statement on Counterterrorism Strikehttps://t.co/L3UgtvPa6k
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) August 28, 2021
There had been questions about how the US would manage to launch such a strike, given it was ending its military presence in the country. The answer appears to have come quickly, in what was termed an “over-the-horizon operation”, potentially launched from outside of Afghanistan itself.
While former president Barack Obama used hundreds of unmanned drones to target suspected militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan, critics say the US’s claims that civilians are rarely killed is untrue.
Indeed, verifying not only correct targets, but also the outcome of such strikes is notoriously difficult in hard-to-reach regions.
Additional reporting by Associated Press