Evacuation flights from Afghanistan continued Friday under increased security. A day earlier, a suicide bombing at Kabul’s airport killed more than 100 people, including 13 American soldiers.
They were the first U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan since February 2020. That was the month the U.S., under former President Donald Trump, struck an agreement with the Taliban to end the 20-year war. The agreement called for the militant group to halt attacks on Americans in exchange for a U.S. troop withdrawal by May 2021. And U.S. President Joe Biden announced in April that he would have all forces out by September.
Islamic State attacks
In an emotional speech Thursday night, Biden blamed the Islamic State group, or ISIS, for the attacks. He said, “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
“We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place of our choosing,” Biden said. “These ISIS terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans; we will get our Afghan allies out.”
The ISIS group in Afghanistan is also known as ISIS Khorasan.
The group is made up of extremists who left the Taliban. They were unhappy that the Taliban, now in control of Afghanistan, had sought peace talks with the U.S. The Khorasan group has joined in the Islamic State’s call for a worldwide jihad, or holy war, against non-Muslims.
General Frank McKenzie is head of U.S. Central Command. He said U.S. commanders are watching for more attacks by Islamic State, including possible rocket fire or car bombs targeting the airport.
The Taliban’s return to power has terrified many Afghans. The group is asking Afghans to stay to rebuild the country. But many fear the group will establish the repressive rule it held when last in control, 20 years ago.
Unknown numbers of Afghans, especially ones who had worked with the U.S. and other Western countries, are now in hiding. Afghans have reported that the Taliban is barring girls from attending school. The group is also carrying out home searches, seeking Afghans who worked with western countries.
Some people hoping to flee arrived Friday at the Kabul airport. They came through an area set up by Taliban fighters about 500 meters away from the airport’s gate.
Ahmadullah Herawi told the Associated Press, “Believe me, I think that an explosion will happen any second or minute, God is my witness, but we have lots of challenges in our lives, that is why we take the risk to come here and we overcome fear.”
The U.S. says more than 100,000 people have been safely evacuated from Afghanistan, but thousands more are still struggling to leave. On Friday morning, US officials said that 8,500 people had flown out of the country on U.S. military airplanes since Thursday morning. Another 4,000 people left other Western flights.
Many American allies have already ended their evacuation efforts. They want to give the U.S. time to complete its operations before getting 5,000 of its troops out by Tuesday.
Afghans are expected to seek escape from the country over land also. The United Nations refugee agency said a half-million people or more could flee in the coming months.
The Taliban have said they will permit Afghans to leave on passenger flights after the U.S. withdrawal. But the group is still trying to find a way to operate the airport. And no airlines have said they would return to an airport controlled by the militants.
The airport bombing also raise questions about the Taliban’s ability to bring security to Afghanistan. The Islamic State has carried out a series of violent attacks in Afghanistan, mainly targeting its Shiite Muslim minority.
I'm Caty Weaver.
Hai Do adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting from The Associated Press, Reuters and VOA. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
evacuation - n. removal of people from a dangerous place
respond - v. to do something as a reaction to something that has happened
precision - n. exactness and precise
challenge - n. a difficult task