The Biden administration said military commanders have informed the president that an attack on soldiers in Afghanistan is "highly likely" within the next 24 to 36 hours. 13 US service members and at least 169 Afghani residents were killed Thursday at Hamid Karzai International Airport following an attack by ISIS-K, an Islamic militant group.
"This morning, I met with my national security team in Washington and my commanders in the field. We discussed the strike that US forces took last night against the terrorist group ISIS-K in Afghanistan," said Biden via press release. "I said [on Thursday] we would go after the group responsible for the attack on our troops and innocent civilians in Kabul, and we have."
A day later, he followed through on that threat.
The Pentagon announced late Friday that a military drone strike targeted a planner for ISIS-K, the first American attack on the terrorist group following a bomb attack at the Kabul airport.
Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby confirmed in an update Saturday that two ISIS-K members were killed and one ISIS-K member wounded in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. They were planners and facilitators for the organization.
The Pentagon added that the target ISIS-K official killed was supposedly planning future attacks. They would not release the names of the two "high-profile" ISIS planners who died in the strike.
Biden continued: "This strike was not the last. We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay. Whenever anyone seeks to harm the United States or attack our troops, we will respond. That will never be in doubt."
Kirby said the threat to US military personnel at the airport in Kabul remains "active" and confirmed the military would conclude its withdrawal on schedule. "The threats are still very real, they're very dynamic, and we are monitoring them in real-time," said Kirby of ISIS-K.
Major General Hank Taylor said the US would continue to conduct counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. "Without specifying any future plans, I will say that we will continue to have the ability to defend ourselves," he said.
Taylor acknowledged the Pentagon would leverage its "over-the-horizon capability" to conduct strikes as needed from bases outside of Afghanistan. "We're going to defend ourselves," he added.
"The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high," added Biden. "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. I ensured that they have all the authorities, resources and plans to protect our men and women on the ground."
Biden confirmed that despite the deteriorating situation in Kabul, his administration continues to evacuate civilians. "Yesterday, we brought out another 6,800 people, including hundreds of Americans. And today, we discussed the ongoing preparations to help people continue to leave Afghanistan after our military departs."
He also commended the "bravery and sacrifice" of the US military Friday. He said while the 13 deaths were "tragic," they died for a "worthy mission."
"The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others," said Biden. "Their bravery and selflessness have enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far. May God protect our troops and all those standing watch in these dangerous days."