Biden and his wife receive the bodies of American soldiers killed in Kabul

by Trevor Hannict

Dover Air Force Base, Delaware (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden arrived at Dover Air Force Base on Sunday to honor American soldiers killed in a suicide attack during the evacuation of civilians from the airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul, last week.

The suicide attack carried out by the Islamic State-Khorasan Province outside Kabul airport on Thursday killed dozens of Afghans and 13 US soldiers after an airlift during which about 114,400 people were evacuated in the past two weeks.

US officials said US forces launched a military attack in the Afghan capital on Sunday, targeting a suspected car bomb on its way to carry out a suicide attack.

“We are going through a very dangerous period given the intelligence we are getting,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview with CNN broadcast on Sunday before the latest strike was announced.

“We are taking all possible measures at the direction of the president to ensure the protection of our forces on the ground until they complete their mission of returning the remaining American citizens and Afghan allies,” he added.

Biden, a Democrat, faces criticism from Republican lawmakers who accuse his administration of carrying out a chaotic evacuation of American soldiers from Afghanistan.

After arriving at the base in Delaware, Biden and his wife Jill met with the families of the soldiers killed in the attack.

The two watched 11 coffins wrapped in an American flag being transported to a minibus. Some of the audience cried and a woman collapsed and was taken by an ambulance. After the ceremony, a woman uttered sad cries.

The bodies of two other soldiers will be removed in a ceremony that will not be reported by the media, at the request of their families.

Thursday’s attack, for which the “Islamic State-Khorasan Province” group claimed responsibility, is the deadliest for the US military in Afghanistan in a decade.

The attack took place outside two airport gates, where thousands of people had gathered to try to find anywhere on a departing plane, as part of attempts to flee since the Taliban seized power on August 15.

The Taliban’s rapid seizure of power during the withdrawal of US and allied forces and the chaotic scenes at the airport constituted Biden’s biggest foreign policy challenge to date.

Biden vowed to punish those responsible for the attack. On Saturday, the US military said it had killed two militants of the group responsible for the attack in a drone attack in eastern Afghanistan.

Sullivan said the two participated in the planning and execution of the operation and the manufacture of improvised explosive devices, both of which are part of the Islamic State-Khorasan Province.

* US diplomatic representation “excluded”

A State Department spokesperson said that the United States has evacuated nearly 5,500 US citizens from Afghanistan since August 14, including 50 on the last day, and is still working to transport about 250 US citizens still in the country on evacuation flights.

NATO, the European Union and 97 other countries signed a joint statement with the United States on Sunday saying it would continue to issue travel documents to Afghans at risk and expected the Taliban to honor its commitment to allow them to travel.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in an interview with NBC that it is unlikely that the United States will then have any diplomats in the country to help vulnerable Afghans who have not been evacuated.

“As for a diplomat on the ground on September 1, that’s highly unlikely,” Blinken said.

Republican Senator Ben Sassi, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the administration had failed to develop a plan to deal with the Taliban’s takeover and criticized Blinken for giving a positive picture of the evacuation effort.

“Their plan was just sweet talk,” he said. (But) people died and people died because President Biden decided to rely on sweet talk rather than reality.”

Other members of Congress pledged to investigate what happened in Afghanistan.

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