U.S. Strikes Explosive-Laden Vehicle in Kabul

WASHINGTON — A U.S. army drone strike blew up a car laden with explosives in Kabul on Sunday, Defense Department officers mentioned, hours after President Biden had warned that one other terrorist assault towards the Afghan capital’s airport was “highly likely.”

The strike, which got here two days earlier than Mr. Biden’s deadline to withdraw from the nation, eradicated an imminent risk to Hamid Karzai International Airport from the Islamic State Khorasan group, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command mentioned. The group had claimed duty for the suicide bombing at the airport on Thursday that killed 13 American service members and as many as 170 civilians.

The spokesman, Capt. Bill Urban, mentioned that Central Command was conscious of stories of civilian casualties after the strike on Sunday.

“We know that there were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties,” he mentioned. “It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further.”

He added, “We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, mentioned that civilians had suffered casualties in the strike and {that a} home had been focused. “We are investigating the reason of the airstrike and the exact number of casualties,” he mentioned.

The strike adopted a retaliatory strike on Friday for the suicide bombing, which was one of many deadliest in the almost 20 years because the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Earlier on Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul had mentioned that there was a “specific, credible threat” to the airport space. State Department officers have issued a number of similar warnings in current days.

As American troops transfer to finish their withdrawal, the Pentagon has shifted its focus from vetting and airlifting Afghan and American civilians to bringing its personnel residence. At the identical time, U.S. intelligence sources are refining goal websites for potential drone strikes on suspected Islamic State militants, in explicit suicide bombers aiming to assault the airport.

The strike on Sunday, which was carried out by an MQ-9 Reaper drone working from a base in the United Arab Emirates, demonstrated the diploma to which American intelligence officers have refined their goal checklist, protection officers mentioned. A Hellfire missile fired from the Reaper hit the car roughly two miles from the airport, a army official mentioned.

Based on the secondary explosions after the drone strike, the army assessed that there have been one to 3 individuals in the car carrying explosive vests. There could have been different explosives in the automobile, making it a vehicle-borne bomb itself, two protection officers mentioned.

In the previous 24 hours, the United States has evacuated about 2,000 individuals on army transport planes, together with greater than 100 American residents. The army decided that there have been nonetheless about 250 Americans in Kabul who had expressed a want to go away.

Jake Sullivan, the nationwide safety adviser, talking on “Fox News Sunday,” mentioned the variety of American residents in Kabul could also be nearer to 300. “There are some people who have chosen, so far, not to leave and that is their right,” he mentioned.

“They are not going to be stuck in Afghanistan” after Tuesday, Mr. Sullivan added. “We are going to ensure that we have a mechanism to get them out of the country should they choose in the future to come home.”

Military officers mentioned that they’d no indication that Mr. Biden would ask the army to remain previous Tuesday to get extra Americans or susceptible Afghans in another country.

But the drone strike on Sunday demonstrated how harmful the final two days in America’s 20-year conflict could be, protection officers acknowledged. The strike follows the one on Friday on a car in Nangarhar Province, close to the Pakistan border, which the Pentagon press secretary, John F. Kirby, mentioned killed two “high-profile” Islamic State militants — one a “planner” and one a “facilitator.”

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