U.S. military forces conducted a drone strike on Friday against the Islamic State terrorist group in Afghanistan in an apparent retaliatory attack against those who claimed responsibility for the attack outside Kabul’s airport.
“U.S. military forces conducted an over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation today against an ISIS-K planner,” said Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, in a statement. “The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.”
The ISIS-K, known as Islamic State Khorasan, claimed responsibility for the “martyrdom attack” on Thursday that involved a suicide bomber who detonated an explosive belt at the airport’s gate, killing 13 U.S. service members and more than 110 Afghans. More than 100 were wounded in the blasts.
The U.S military is not aware of any civilian casualties in the strike, the officials said.
President Joe Biden vowed in a Thursday speech that the U.S. would respond to the attacks “with force.”
“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said of the Kabul airport attack hours earlier that killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 100 Afghan civilians.
He went further in vowing that “we will rescue the Americans who are there, we will get our Afghan allies out.” U.S.
Two U.S. defense officials familiar with the strike told NBC News that the target of tonight’s drone strike was an ISIS-K fighter thought to be involved in planning for future attacks. The strike was in Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan, where ISIS-K had a large presence several years ago before being largely ousted by the Afghan military and the Taliban.
The unnamed ISIS-K planner was riding in a vehicle with one associate at the time of the strike, was driving in an isolated area. The defense officials said the strike was carried out by an MQ-9 Reaper drone and munitions that were selected for precision and in order to minimize any civilian casualties.
Pentagon officials said 5,000 troops remain on the ground in Afghanistan. Around 1,500 Americans remained in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday, with just a few days to complete airlifts before the Aug. 31 deadline. By Thursday, the U.S. had evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 100,100 people since Aug. 14.
Biden said earlier this week he had asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans if Afghanistan evacuations are not complete by the deadline.