Friday's warning to the president indicated that he should be prepared for another deadly attack during the final days of an American-led evacuation. Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated that Biden's national Security Team offered a grim outlook.
"They advised the president, vice president, and the Kabul terrorist attack is possible, but that they are taking maximum force protective measures at Kabul's airport," Psaki stated. This echos what the Pentagon has been saying ever since Thursday's bombing at Kabul airport, which pushed the White House into deeper crisis due to the chaotic and fatal conclusion of a war that started nearly 20 years ago.
The Pentagon corrected its initial report that suicide bombers had attacked two locations, but there were no new details. The Pentagon stated that there was only one bombing at the Abbey Gate. It then added that gunfire followed it. Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, Pentagon's Joint Staff, confirmed that the initial report of another bombing at Baron Hotel was false. He attributed the error to confusion.
Biden addressed the nation following the attack and stated that perpetrators could not hide. He also promised to strike back against the Islamic State group's Afghanistan affiliate. He said, "We will hunt down you and make you pay."
Taylor stated that the Pentagon would be ready.
Taylor stated that "we have options there right now" in order to allow any retaliatory actions.
Biden expressed his condolences again to the victims of the attack in an Oval Office appearance on Friday. In the coming days, the U.S. military personnel's remains will be returned home. This will serve as a poignant reminder of not only the destruction at Kabul airport but also the cost of ending the war. Over 2,400 U.S. military personnel died in the conflict and many thousands were injured during the last two decades.
According to the Marine Corps, 11 of the 13 Americans who were killed were Marines. One of the victims was a Navy sailor, and one was an Army soldier. They have not been named pending notification to their families. This can be a lengthy process that, according to John Kirby, involves "difficult discussions".
Still, it was becoming clear that the sad details of the victims were beginning to emerge. One Marine from Wyoming was in Afghanistan on his first tour. His wife is due in three weeks. Another was a Missourian 20-year old man whose father was left devastated by the loss. The third, a Texas 20-year old, had just graduated high school and joined the armed forces.
In honor of the 13th, Biden ordered that all American flags be reduced to half-staff.
These were the first U.S. military personnel killed in Afghanistan since February 2020. This was the month that the Trump administration reached an agreement with Taliban to allow the militant group to stop attacking Americans and for the U.S. to withdraw all American troops and contractors from Afghanistan by May 2021. Biden declared in April that all American forces would be out of Afghanistan by September.
Psaki stated that the next few days of the mission, which included the evacuation of Americans and others including Taliban-ruling Afghans, would be "the most dangerous period to date." Biden has given Tuesday as the deadline to complete the airlift.
The Pentagon said that as of Friday morning, about 12,500 people were airlifted from Kabul in the last 24 hours, and that flights would continue for as long as possible. Psaki stated that about 300 Americans had left the last group and that the State Department was in contact with 500 others who wish to go. The administration has said it intends to push on and complete the airlift despite the terror threats.
Kirby stated to reporters that the U.S. military was monitoring specific Islamic State threats in "real time".