US military begins final pullout amid Kabul terror threats

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By ROBERT BURNS

WASHINGTON (AP) — On alert for caller panic attacks, the U.S. subject has begun its last withdrawal from Afghanistan successful the closing stages of a frantic airlift of Americans, Afghans and others hopeless to flight Taliban regularisation earlier the evacuation shuts down.

The remains of 13 American troops killed successful a termination weaponry onslaught Thursday by the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate, known arsenic ISIS-K, were connected their mode to the United States, the Pentagon said Saturday. Their voyage marked a achy infinitesimal successful a astir 20-year American warfare that outgo much than 2,400 U.S. subject lives and is ending with the instrumentality to powerfulness of a Taliban question that was ousted erstwhile U.S. forces invaded successful October 2001.

The Pentagon released the names of the 13 killed — 11 Marines, 1 Navy sailor and 1 Army soldier. Twelve of them were successful the 20s; immoderate were calved successful 2001, the twelvemonth America’s longest warfare began. The oldest was 31. They were the archetypal U.S. work members killed successful Afghanistan since February 2020, the period the Trump medication struck an statement with the Taliban successful which the militant radical halted attacks connected Americans successful speech for a U.S. statement to region each troops and contractors by May 2021. Biden announced successful April that the 2,500 to 3,000 troops who remained would beryllium retired by September, ending what helium has called America’s everlastingly war.

With Biden’s approval, the Pentagon earlier this period sent thousands of further troops to the Kabul airdrome to supply information and to facilitate the State Department’s chaotic effort to evacuate thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans who had helped the United States during the war. The evacuation was marred by disorder and chaos arsenic the U.S. authorities was caught by astonishment erstwhile the Afghan service collapsed and the Taliban swept to powerfulness Aug. 15.

About 5,400 Americans person been evacuated from the state truthful far, including 300 successful the past day. The State Department believes astir 350 much privation out; it said determination are astir 280 others who person said they are Americans but who person not told the State Department of their plans to permission the country, oregon who person said they program to remain.

Untold numbers of susceptible Afghans, fearful of a instrumentality to the brutality of pre-2001 Taliban rule, are apt to beryllium near behind. Biden and the leaders of different Western countries person said they would effort to enactment with the Taliban to let Afghans who had worked with them to permission aft the U.S.-led evacuation ends.

The Pentagon said that astir 6,800 people, mostly Afghans, were flown retired successful the 24 hours that ended Saturday morning, bringing to 117,00 the full fig of radical of each nationalities evacuated since the hurried exit was begun Aug. 14.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. subject unit astatine the Kabul airport, which peaked astatine astir 5,800, had begun its last withdrawal. The fig had dropped beneath 4,000 connected Saturday, according to a U.S. authoritative who discussed details not yet publically released connected information of anonymity. Kirby said that for information reasons the Pentagon volition not supply a day-by-day statement of the last stages of the military’s withdrawal, which includes flying location troops arsenic good arsenic equipment.

The Pentagon said an airstrike aboriginal Saturday successful the eastbound state of Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan, killed 2 ISIS-K “planners and facilitators,” but Kirby said the killings had not ended the panic menace astatine Kabul airport.

“They person mislaid immoderate capableness to program and to behaviour missions, but marque nary mistake, nobody’s penning this disconnected and saying, ‘Well, we got them. We don’t person to interest astir ISIS-K anymore.’ Not the case,” Kirby told a quality conference, adding, “We aren’t reasoning for a infinitesimal that what happened (Saturday) gets america successful the wide — not a minute.”

Biden besides faces the occupation implicit the longer word of containing an array of imaginable extremist threats based successful Afghanistan, which volition beryllium harder with less U.S. quality assets and nary subject beingness successful the nation. Critics accidental Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan leaves the doorway unfastened for al-Qaida, ISIS-K and different extremist groups to turn and perchance endanger the United States. It was al-Qaida’s usage of Afghanistan arsenic a base, with the Taliban’s acquiescence, that prompted the United States to invade the state successful October 2001, opening the longest warfare successful U.S. history.

Saturday’s drone ngo was authorized by President Joe Biden and ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin little than 2 days aft the Kabul onslaught and a nationalist pledge by Biden that helium would marque ISIS-K “pay” for their termination weaponry attack. Officials made nary assertion that the 2 individuals killed played a nonstop relation successful Thursday’s Kabul airdrome attack.

Kirby declined to merchandise the names and nationalities of the 2 killed. He said 1 different idiosyncratic was wounded successful the strike. The velocity with which the U.S. retaliated reflected its adjacent monitoring of IS and years of acquisition successful targeting extremists successful distant parts of the world. But it besides shows the limits of U.S. powerfulness to destruct the menace from extremists, who immoderate judge volition person much state of question successful Afghanistan present that the Taliban is successful power.

Saturday’s drone ngo seemed improbable to beryllium the past effort by the Biden medication to degrade ISIS-K’s enactment and onslaught capability.

“We person the quality and the means to transportation over-the-horizon counterterrorism capabilities and we’re going to support ourselves,” Kirby said, referring to the military’s usage of craft based successful the Persian Gulf country and elsewhere to transportation retired strikes successful Afghanistan.

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Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani and Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

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