Afghanistan: US strike against IS target, evacuations are nearing end

The United States carried out a drone strike on a target of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan on Saturday, as the airlift at Kabul airport enters its final phase under extreme tension, with the risk of further attacks continuing. .

“The unmanned airstrike occurred in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan. According to the first indications, we killed the target “, specified in a statement Bill Urban, of the central command, saying not to have knowledge” of no civilian victims “.

The strike, launched from outside Afghanistan, is the first by the US military since the attack on Thursday at Kabul airport. This attack left more than a hundred dead, including 13 American soldiers, according to a new report established by health sources.

Two health officials from the former Afghan administration told AFP that around 90 people brought to hospitals in Kabul had died, and 150 were injured. Some local media reported a death toll of 170.

After the attack claimed by the Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K), President Joe Biden had promised retaliation. “We will hunt you down and we will make you pay,” he said to the perpetrators of the deadliest attack on the US military in Afghanistan since 2011. “We will respond with force and precision when we decide, where and when we choose it, ”he added from the White House.

The risk of further attacks persists, according to Washington. “We believe that there are always (…) specific and credible threats,” John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, warned on Friday. President Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki, citing security experts, said another attack was “likely.” The next few days will be “the most dangerous time yet,” she added.

Airport control

On Friday evening, like the day before the attack, the United States Embassy in Kabul asked American nationals to leave the vicinity of the airport “immediately” because of “security threats”.

A pass of communication weapons between the Taliban and the Americans on Friday evening increased the already very strong tension, a few days before the deadline of August 31, scheduled for the withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, and synonymous end of evacuations.

The Taliban announced that they had taken control of several parts of the airport: “Today, three important places of the military part of the Kabul airport have been evacuated by the Americans and are under the control of the Islamic Emirate” , tweeted one of their spokespersons, Bilal Karimi.

The country’s new rulers “do not take care of any of the boarding gates or any of the operations at the airport. It’s still under the control of the US military, ”John Kirby immediately denied.

As the deadline for the end of the evacuations approaches, there are only a few hundred people on Saturday, compared to several thousand the previous days, to demand access to the airport, according to two people who were able to get there. in the morning.

Western-chartered flights continue on the tarmac at the airport, the last enclave occupied by Western forces in Afghanistan.

109,000 people evacuated

Some 5,400 people are currently taking refuge in the airport, waiting to board a plane, said US General Hank Taylor, adding that the exfiltrations would take place “until the last moment”.

In total, around 109,000 people have been evacuated since August 14, the day before the Taliban took power in Kabul, according to the latest figures from the US government.

NATO and the European Union had called for the evacuations to continue despite the attack.

France put an end to its airlift on Friday evening, which evacuated “nearly 3,000 people, including more than 2,600 Afghans” according to the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly.

A French delegation met with representatives of the Taliban on Thursday in Doha for the first time since they took power on August 15. These discussions focused on the situation at Kabul airport and the evacuation operations, according to the two parties.

Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Sweden also announced on Friday that they had completed their evacuation flights, like Germany, the Netherlands, Canada or Australia before them.

“The innate right” to work

British side, the exfiltrations know their “last hours”, estimated the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. But London will move “heaven and earth” “to help get out” asylum-eligible Afghans, he said.

A rival to the Taliban, IS is responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks in Afghanistan in recent years and could use the current vagueness to thrive.

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Saturday “not to let our guard down in front of ISIS before a regional conference in Baghdad which is to focus in particular on Afghanistan, and where the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers are also expected. , and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

The Taliban have endeavored since their return to display an image of openness and moderation. But many Afghans, often urban and educated, fear that they would only establish the same kind of fundamentalist and brutal regime when they were in power between 1996 and 2001.

Those who have worked in recent years with foreigners or the deposed pro-Western government, in particular, are afraid of being silenced or even hounded, and have fed the flood of many candidates to leave.

Women have “the innate right” to work, sought reassurance Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, a former Taliban negotiator in the Doha peace talks. “They can work, they can study, they can participate in politics and they can do business,” he said Friday during a press conference.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has summoned the permanent members of the Security Council for a meeting on Monday on the situation in Afghanistan.

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