Biden: Terror attack ‘highly likely’ in next 24-36 hours

U.S. Marines assist with security at an Evacuation Control Checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan on August 26. (U.S. Marine Corps handout via Reuters — Parts of this image have been blurred) 

KEN MORIYASU, Nikkei Asia chief desk editor | Afghanistan

NEW YORK — U.S. President Joe Biden said on Saturday that a terrorist attack in Afghanistan was highly likely in the next day and a half and that he had given orders to prioritize force protection.

“This morning, I met with my national security team in Washington and my commanders in the field,” the president said in a statement.

“The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high,” he said. “Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours. I directed them to take every possible measure to prioritize force protection, and ensured that they have all the authorities, resources and plans to protect our men and women on the ground.”

The president and his national security team also discussed the drone strike they conducted against an Islamic State attack “planner” in eastern Afghanistan on Friday that killed two militants and injured another.

“This strike was not the last. We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay,” Biden said, referring to bomb attacks near the Kabul airport on Thursday that killed more than 170 people including 13 U.S. service members.

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Aug. 28 that the situation in Kabul “continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high.”   © AP

“Whenever anyone seeks to harm the United States or attack our troops, we will respond. That will never be in doubt.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Saturday that the U.S. military has begun its final withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The remains of the 13 American troops killed in the attack Thursday by the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate, known as ISIS-K, were also on their way to the U.S., the Pentagon said.

The U.S. and its allies have taken about 111,900 people out of Afghanistan in the past two weeks. Many still remain outside Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, despite calls from the U.S. Embassy and others not to travel to the airport or to stay near the airport gates.

Hopes for those seeking to leave are diminishing as countries wrap up their mission ahead of Biden’s stated deadline of August 31. The U.K.’s final Royal Air Force flight left Kabul Saturday night, ending the country’s 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan.

Japan has airlifted one Japanese citizen and 14 Afghans to Islamabad in neighboring Pakistan. Self-Defense Force planes are parked in Islamabad seeking to further assist in the evacuation, but with the U.S. deadline approaching and with the fear of terrorist attacks, it is becoming increasingly difficult to fly back into Kabul.

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