WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - Late Thursday afternoon at a Pentagon briefing, the top U.S. General vowed the U.S. will find those responsible for the suicide attacks outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan and says the military will continue its mission of evacuating Afghans.
Department of Defense officials released more details now about how these attacks unfolded the information on the death toll, which stands at 13 U.S. military members and 60 Afghans. No names have been released at this time.
Another 12 service members were wounded along with 140 Afghans and officials warn that the toll could grow.
The commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine General Kenneth Mckenzie, says there were two attacks, one at the airport’s "Abbey Gate" where U.S. Marines were searching people entering and another at a hotel nearby. General Mckenzie then went on to detail what took place.
"The attack occurred at a gate and at the gate, we have to check people before they get on the aircraft. We have to ensure they’re not carrying a bomb or any other kind of weapon that could ultimately make its way onto an aircraft. So that requires physical screening," General Mckenzie said.
"You ultimately have to get very close to that person. So while the airbase itself is surrounded by walls, we’re well-bunkered in, we‘ve got a variety of things to protect ourselves, at these interface points--these gates where people actually come on the airfield--there is no substitute for a young United States man or woman standing up there conducting a search of that person before we let them on."
U.S. officials believe this attack was the work of "ISIS-K" an offshoot of the terror group based in Afghanistan which is also at odds with the Taliban itself.
The question now is what happens next? General Mckenzie says while U.S. military officials are still investigating this attack, he said at this time, more U.S. military forces are not needed to continue the evacuation mission that is underway at the airport and he insisted that mission, despite this deadliest day for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since February 2020, will go on.
"If we can find who is associated with this, we will go after them. We’ve been clear all along that we’re going to retain the right to operate against ISIS in Afghanistan, and we are working very hard right now to determine attribution--to determine who is associated with this cowardly attack," Gen. Mckenzie said.
Gen. Mckenzie added that the attacks would not stop the U.S. evacuation efforts and that flights out of Afghanistan were continuing.
President Joe Biden also spoke Thursday evening. Biden has been under heavy criticism for what some say was poor planning of the U.S. pullout, the evacuation, and his deadline of ending the operation on Aug. 31, which he’s said this week he’s sticking by.
"To those that carried out this 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. "I’ll defend the interest of our people with every measure at my command."
Biden said the Islamic State group's Afghanistan affiliate was to blame for the attacks and said there was no evidence they colluded with the Taliban, who now control the country.
"We have some reason to believe we know who they are," he said of the bombers and gunmen involved. "Not certain."
Already, some countries have ended their evacuations and begun to withdraw their soldiers and diplomats, signaling the beginning of the end of one of history's largest evacuations. Canada ended its evacuations, and European nations halted or prepared to stop their own operations.
The Taliban has pledged not to attack Western forces during the evacuation, but insist the foreign troops must be out by the Aug. 31 deadline.