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US will keep striking Afghan ISIS targets, Biden aide says

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said two Islamic State members killed in an airstrike were planning additional attacks after the Kabul airport bombing and signaled that the U.S. will keep targeting the group.

President Joe Biden “will stop at nothing to make ISIS-K pay,” Sullivan said on “Fox News Sunday.” The group, an Islamic state offshoot, claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing on Thursday that killed at least 88 people, including 13 U.S. service members.

“He will ensure that we get the people responsible for this, that we continue to put pressure on the group responsible for this and that we continue to take targets off the battlefield,” Sullivan said.

Soon after Sullivan’s comments aired, the U.S. military said an airstrike on Sunday destroyed a vehicle with suspected explosives aboard that posed an “imminent threat” to Kabul airport. The U.S. strike in Afghanistan on Friday killed two ISIS-K targets and wounded a third, according to the Defense Department.

“These are individuals who are planning additional attacks,” Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And we believe that by taking them out, we have disrupted those attacks to the individuals involved in the facilitation and planning and production of explosive devices.”

Sullivan, Biden’s top national security aide, added to warnings — including by Biden himself on Saturday — about the threats faced by U.S. troops as they seek to complete an airlift of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies from Kabul by Tuesday.

“We are in a period of serious danger given what we are seeing in the intelligence,” Sullivan said. The U.S. has evacuated more than 5,000 of its citizens “and we believe that we’re down to a population of 300 or fewer” who have yet to get out, he said.

Sullivan renewed assurances by the Biden administration that it should still be possible for U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents and Afghan allies who have travel documents to leave Kabul after Aug. 31.

“After August 31st, we believe that we have substantial leverage to hold the Taliban to its commitments to allow safe passage” for those groups, he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell questioned that scenario, saying the Taliban are “not particularly concerned about international pressure” and the U.S. has “little or no leverage to get our people out or our allies.”

“I fear for the future in continuing the war on terror,” McConnell, R-Ky., said on Fox News.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated Biden’s position that the U.S. will still be able to strike threats against it after the withdrawal. He cited similar capabilities in place “where we don’t have boots on the ground on any kind of an ongoing basis” such as Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

“We have the capacity to go after people who are trying to do us harm,” Blinken said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We’ll retain that capacity in Afghanistan.”

Sen. Mitt Romney said the U.S. will lose intelligence capabilities and a buffer to prevent terror groups from regrouping and planning attacks on the U.S. He blamed decisions by both Biden and former President Donald Trump.

“We are in a much more dangerous position,” the Utah Republican said on CNN.


© 2021 Bloomberg L.P
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