Islamic State terrorists carried out a deadly attack in Kabul in the final days before the U.S.’s scheduled completion of its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, to the horror of millions around the world, and to the barely concealed glee of Republicans hoping to wield it as a political cudgel against Joe Biden.
>>> Two suicide bombers struck amid dense crowds outside the airport in Kabul on Thursday, killing 13 U.S. servicemembers and wounding 18 more. Dozens of Afghan civilians trying to flee the country were killed, including children, and more than 100 were wounded. The first explosion took place outside Abbey Gate, one of the airport’s main entrances, and the second at the nearby Baron Hotel. ISIS-K, the Islamic State’s Aghan affiliate, has claimed responsibility for the attack, which marked the first U.S. military casualties in Afghanistan since February 2020, when the ceasefire the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban took effect.
>>> The explosions came after repeated warnings from the Biden administration and other western governments that ISIS could pose a serious threat to the evacuation process. Late on Wednesday, the U.S. embassy in Kabul warned Americans to avoid traveling to the airport and to leave the perimeter immediately, citing security threats. The U.S. Marines at Abbey Gate had been briefed on the possibility of a suicide bomber, but continued to process people for evacuation. “Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement on Thursday.
>>> Austin also indicated that the military would continue its evacuation efforts: “We will not be dissuaded from the task at hand.” President Biden echoed that sentiment in an address on Thursday evening, and pledged to retaliate against those responsible for the bombings: “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.” Biden reiterated that he stands by his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, and took a moment to give Fox News’s Peter Doocy a well-deserved wedgie: “I bear responsibility for, fundamentally, all that’s happened of late. But here’s the deal: You know, I wish you’d one day say these things, you know as well as I do, that the former president made a deal with the Taliban.”
To nobody’s surprise, conservatives have wasted no time in dishonestly painting a foreseen terror attack on foreign soil as an egregious Biden administration goof-up.
>>> As the scope of the tragedy was still becoming clear, Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX)—who tried to overturn the 2020 election—piped up to claim that “Biden has blood on his hands,” and House Republicans dutifully retweeted him on their conference’s official account. Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) have called for Biden’s resignation, based on the very simple premise that Biden has proven himself unfit by withdrawing U.S. troops from a war zone and also by allowing U.S. troops to get hurt in a war zone. Anyway, here’s Hawley back in April revealing August Hawley to be full of shit: “President Biden should withdraw troops in Afghanistan by May 1, as the Trump administration planned, but better late than never.”
>>> The “late” August 31 deadline is fast-approaching, with more attacks still potentially ahead. Several U.S. allies announced over the last day that they were halting evacuation efforts from the Kabul airport, some even before the explosions took place. The State Department said on Thursday that it was in contact with the roughly 1,000 U.S. citizens believed to still be in Afghanistan, and that roughly two-thirds said they were taking steps to leave. (Some could be sticking around by choice.) Another 500 Americans were evacuated in the last 24 hours. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of the U.S. Central Command, warned that the danger isn’t over: “We have other active threats against the airfield.”
Thursday’s attack was a heartbreaking preview of the threats and instability that lie ahead for Afghans who aren’t able to leave, but disregard those who frame it as an indictment of the Biden administration’s withdrawal strategy: Biden has repeatedly cited the high risk of terror attacks as a reason to stick to the August deadline, under enormous pressure from the GOP and the press to extend it. The situation could deteriorate further in the next few days, but there are still ways to help Afghan refugees and those still in the country—if you’re able, here’s where you can donate.