President Joe Biden said during a White House press briefing on Sunday that the Islamic State terror group could attack U.S. troops as they work to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies out of Afghanistan.
“The security environment is changing rapidly,” Biden said. “There are civilians crowded at the airport, although we have cleared thousands of them. We know that terrorists may seek to exploit this situation and target innocent Afghans or American troops.”
“We’re maintaining the constant vigilance to monitor and disrupt threats from any source, including the likely source being ISIS — ISIS-K, the Afghan affiliate referred to as ‘ISIS-K,'” Biden said.
ISIS-K, or ISIS-Khorasan, is the Afghan branch of ISIS.
“We are under no illusions about the threat,” Biden said. “I said on Friday, ISIS-K is a sworn enemy of the Taliban, and they have a history of fighting one another. But every day we have troops on the ground, these troops and innocent civilians at the airport face the risk of attack from ISIS-K from a distance, even though we’re moving back the perimeter significantly.”
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also warned about ISIS threats in Afghanistan during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“The threat is real. It is acute. It is persistent. And it is something that we are focused on with every tool in our arsenal,” Sullivan said. “Our commanders on the ground have a wide variety of capabilities that they are using to defend the airfield against a potential terrorist attack. We are working hard with our intelligence community to try to isolate and determine where an attack might come from.
“It is something that we are placing paramount priority on stopping or disrupting. And we will do everything that we can for as long as we are on the ground to keep that from happening. But we are taking it absolutely deadly seriously.”
Biden and Sullivan’s warnings about the threats posed by ISIS came just hours before at least one unknown attacker opened fire on security personnel outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday morning. One Afghan soldier was killed and three others were injured in the ensuing firefight.
“The incident appeared to begin when an unknown hostile actor fired upon Afghan security forces involved in monitoring access to the gate. The Afghans returned fire, and in keeping with their right of self-defense, so too did U.S. and coalition troops,” CENTCOM spokesman Navy Capt. William Urban said in an emailed statement to American Military News on Monday.