US officials on Sunday said a drone strike hit a suicide bomber in a vehicle who was targeting to attack Kabul airport, while US forces worked to complete a withdrawal that will end two decades of military involvement in Afghanistan.
The strike was the second by the US military since an Islamic State suicide bomb outside the airport on Thursday killed 13 US troops and scores of Afghan civilians.
The Hamad Karzai airport has been the scene of a massive airlift by US and allied forces evacuating their citizens and Afghans desperate to leave a country since the Islamist Taliban took control two weeks ago.
Officials said the strike targeted suspected militants from ISIS-K, a local affiliate of Islamic State that is an enemy of both the West and the Taliban.
The strike was carried out by an unmanned aircraft piloted from outside Afghanistan, US officials say, and that secondary explosions following the strike showed the target had been carrying a substantial amount of explosives.
US officials had said they were particularly concerned about the ISIS-K attacking the airport as American troops depart, in particular the threat from rockets and vehicle-borne explosives.
The Taliban also said the explosion was caused by a US missile strike.
“The vehicle and those inside it were killed in the drone strike,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
The drone strike took place while remaining civilians waited at the airport to be flown out before the last troops leave, a Western security official told Reuters. A US official told Reuters on Saturday that fewer than 4,000 troops remained.
President Joe Biden has said he will stick by his deadline to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Tuesday. He had said on Saturday that his military chiefs had told him another militant attack was highly likely.
The United States and allies have taken about 114,400 people – foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans – out of the country in the past two weeks, but tens of thousands who want to go will be left behind.
The airlift – one of the biggest such evacuation operations ever — marked the end of a 20-year Western mission in Afghanistan that began when US-led forces ousted a Taliban government that had provided safe haven for the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
The final chapter came after the United States and the Taliban made a deal to end the foreign involvement by Aug. 31. The Western-backed government and Afghan army melted away as Taliban fighters swept across the country, taking control of Kabul on Aug. 15. (Source: INQUIRER.net)